Hip thrusts are an often-forgotten exercise in many programs, but they’re a truly effective piece of a well-rounded strength training routine.
Whether you’re a future personal trainer looking to brush up on proper technique, or a veteran that’s building a program with hip thrusts, this article is for you.
We’ll break down what hip thrusts are, the muscles worked, how to perform them, and give you some hip thrust progressions and regressions.
What Is A Hip Thrust And What Muscles Does It Work?
Hip thrusts are a barbell exercise that primarily work the glutes (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus), and the hamstrings secondarily.
Glute Bridge Vs Hip Thrust
While both exercises are great for your glutes, the key difference between a glute bridge and a hip thrust is that in a bridge, you’re typically flat on the floor with no, or minimal, weight. Hip thrusts are usually done with your shoulders raised – on a bench or some sort of platform, and typically allows for the potential to move a lot of weight.
How To Do A Hip Thrust
Now that you know what they are, here are the steps in performing hip thrusts:
- Rest only your shoulders and upper back on a raised platform or bench. Place a barbell comfortably across your hips – you can use a pad or foam roller to cushion the bar if needed.
- Place your feet flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart.
- Drive your heels into the floor and raise your hips until your body is parallel with the floor, keeping a neutral neck and spine. Your body should form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Pause for a moment, then slowly lower your hips back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the entirety of the set.
To make the exercise more challenging, you can increase the weight of the barbell, increase the reps, or slow the movement down.
Hip Thrust Tips
Here are a few things to keep in mind for proper hip thrust form:
- Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise – this will help you maintain control throughout the movement.
- Keep your head and neck in a neutral position – looking up or down can put unnecessary strain on these areas.
- Avoid arching your back.
- Don’t let your knees cave in as you’re driving upward – they should stay in line with your hips and shoulders throughout the movement.
- Don’t use momentum to get the bar up – always have control over the lift.
Hip Thrust Variations
Once you’ve mastered a standard hip thrust or glute bridge, you can begin to add variety with a hip thrust alternative. Here is the “original” as well as a few new ones to try:
Barbell Hip Thrust
The barbell hip thrust is the most common variation and what we’ve described above. This can serve as a great progression from a bodyweight glute bridge.
Chaos Hip Thrust
With this variation, place your feet on an unstable surface – like a BOSU ball or TRX straps. This forces your stabilizing muscles to work harder to keep your body in control, leading to greater muscle activation.
Dumbbell Hip Thrust
Instead of using a barbell, you can lay a dumbbell comfortably across your hips. This can serve as an effective regression of a barbell hip thrust
Single Leg Hip Thrust
As the name suggests, this variation is done with one leg at a time. Simply place one foot on a raised platform and thrust your hips up, keeping your other leg off the ground. This variation is great for promoting symmetry and is a progression of a bodyweight glute bridge.
Hip Thrust with Resistance Band
For this variation, you’ll need a resistance band, and possibly two depending which variation you opt for. At a minimum, secure a resistance band to a bench or other secure surface, wrap the band around your hips and perform a hip thrust. You may also place a band just above your knees for additional glute activation. This is a great alternative when you don’t have weights available.
Isometric Hip Thrust
An isometric hold is when you maintain a certain position for a period of time. To do an isometric hip thrust, simply raise your hips into the air and hold the position for 10-30 seconds before resetting. Isometric holds can be a great way to progress a movement.
Plyometric Hip Thrust
This variation is also known as the jump hip thrust. To do it, simply thrust your hips up and jump into the air. Land softly back on the raised platform and repeat. This is a more advanced variation, so make sure you have the basic hip thrust form down before trying it.
As we mentioned, this exercise is similar to a hip thrust but is typically done on the floor, and with little to no weight. This exercise is great for beginners looking to work their glutes and core.
Swiss Ball Hip Thrust
This variation adds an extra challenge by placing a Swiss ball between your shoulder blades and the floor, rather than a flat platform. This challenges your stability and requires you to engage your core and glutes at an advanced level. Only use unstable surfaces to add variety and progression to a movement, but avoid it if the standard movement is not mastered.
Warming Up For Hip Thrusts
It’s important to warm up your body before any exercise, but it’s especially important when doing a hip-dominant movement like hip thrusts. Warming up will help prevent nagging injury and get your muscles ready for the exercise.
Here’s a quick and easy warm-up routine you can do before hip thrusts to prep your hip-dominant muscles for the movement:
- Jog or march in place for 2-3 minutes
- 20 bodyweight squats
- 10 push-ups
- 10 bodyweight lunges (5 each leg)
The Bottom Line (No Pun Intended)
Hip thrust form is key when performing this exercise. Make sure to keep your back flat, your body in control, drive through your heels, and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
You should feel the tension in your glutes rather than your lower back. If you feel tension in your lower back, that’s a sign that you may need to reassess your technique, or regress the movement to build more strength and stability.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different variations of the exercise to find what works best for you and your clients. And of course, as always, listen to your body.