If toned, strong glutes are your aim, then not only should glute bridges be a staple in your workout routine, but hip thrusts should be too.
There’s little difference between the glute bridge and hip thrusts.
In essence, hip thrusts are glute bridges with weight, with a slight alteration in form, but I’ll cover that in more detail later.
Regardless, hip thrusts should never be avoided and should be incorporated into everyone’s workout routines as it is a fantastic exercise to target the posterior chain, specifically the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
They’re also ideal for athletes who frequently do power movements like squatting, deadlifting, barbell rows, and even aerobic exercises like sprinting and jogging. They build both power and speed in the legs.
Therefore, if your priority is improving the lower half of your body, then welcome hip thrusts with open arms.
How Do You Do a Hip Thrust?
Perform hip thrusts as follows:
- Put your back against a bench or box (something with an elevated surface), with knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Ensure the bench is just below your shoulder blades and feet shoulder-width apart, with elbows resting on the bench.
- Tuck your chin throughout each rep and push through your heels until both thighs form a 90-degree angle, so they are parallel to the floor.
- Once you get to the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes, then return to the start.
While there is no hard and fast rule, I recommend beginners start with bodyweight only, aiming for between 12-15 reps for two to three sets, eventually working up to sets of 20 reps.
After that, the world is your oyster so add a little weight to make it more challenging. You can use a dumbbell, barbell, or plate to assist you here; however, I will cover this below.
What Muscles Do Hip Thrusts Work?
Hip thrusts predominantly target the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius; however, this is not all.
The hamstrings, quads, core muscles, and hip adductors get some action, too.
Many people forget that a weak core comes from underactive, underdeveloped glute muscles, and one of the most common reasons people suffer from low back pain and knee pain is because their glute strength is poor.
A byproduct of good glute strength is having more stability in the pelvis, core, and lower body.
Who Should Do Hip Thrusts?
Hip thrusts are suitable for the following type of people:
Hip thrusts are very beneficial even for those who don’t regularly exercise.
Unfortunately, many people do not stretch, which is why back pain and knee pain are so prevalent, which causes their spine, hips, and glutes to be out of whack.
Furthermore, the same people spend large amounts of time living a sedentary lifestyle both in and outside of their job, compounding the issue further.
A sedentary lifestyle consists of slouching, sitting, and generally not being very mobile, which is why hip thrusts are beneficial for this type of person.
If any sport demands glute activation, it’s weightlifting with the high amounts of volume done in squats and pulls.
These lifts require correct hip flexion and proper form, and hip thrusts are a great exercise to help warm up the glutes to assist the muscles to do just that.
Like weightlifting, the lifts associated with powerlifting also demand strong glute muscles.
Hip thrusts can improve performance in both the squat and deadlift by helping create a greater activation in the hips and glutes; plus, do not forget that they can also increase muscle mass in the glutes.
It’s a win-win when you’re doing a sport based on how much weight you can move from A to B.
Strongmen and Strongwomen
Hip thrusts are ideal for warming up before one gets stuck into movements like sled pushes, pulls, atlas stones, deadlifts, squats, and farmer’s walk, to name a few.
You will see many fitness athletes use hip thrusts as a warming-up exercise before they do anything that involves sprinting, jumping, rowing, and biking, as the glutes are necessary for all these things.
An athlete wouldn’t be an athlete if they didn’t have strong gluteal muscles and a healthy hip extension, as it is vital for maximum performance.
Hip Thrust Variations
If you’re especially new to hip thrusts and don’t yet have the confidence (or strength) to do barbell hip thrusts, then the following variations are great options to build up towards them.
Hip thrusts and glute bridges are very similar movements.
They both work on developing a solid hip extension; however, the difference with this exercise is that you are laid on the floor, not a bench, decreasing your range of motion.
Therefore, this is ideal for getting you started and becoming accustomed to the movement’s technique as a beginner.
Single-leg Glute Bridge
Again, this is an excellent exercise for working your way up to hip thrusts and a natural progression of the glute bridge.
An issue many people also have that they may not be familiar with is muscle imbalances between the left and right hip, so this movement is fantastic for addressing that.
Hip Thrust off Bench
For this exercise, you will need to use a bench or box as your feet will be elevated as there is a greater range of motion required on each repetition.
You will notice you are required to drop your hips and glutes lower than you would if they were on the ground.
Adding Weight to Hip Thrusts
If you’ve mastered bodyweight hip thrusts, and you’ve also tried the variations, and you feel ready to challenge yourself a little more, then adding some resistance the following ways can make a world of difference.
Using a Barbell
The starting point of this exercise should have the barbell resting in the crease of the hips with your hands on either side to balance it.
It’s always worthwhile having a gym partner or spotter loading the barbell onto your hips if the barbell weight is light enough.
Alternatively, you could have the barbell in a squat rack resting on the safety bars, unrack it as if you’re about to start doing a barbell row, sit on a bench, and get yourself into the starting position, then off you go.
However, if you have the luxury of using Olympic-sized plates, an effortless way around it is by rolling the barbell over your feet.
Using a Dumbbell or Weighted Plate
Like the barbell, try a dumbbell or weighted plate instead and rest it on your hip bones throughout each thrust.
Using a Hip Thrust Machine
This type of machine isn’t seen all too often in gyms, but if you have the pleasure of coming across one and feel confident enough, I recommend you give it a try.
There’s a slightly different feel to the exercise using a machine. The setup is very similar to the leg press machine, with feet resting on the platform in front of you.
The only difference, of course, is that instead of your knees tucking into your chest as they would during each leg press repetition, you rather drive from your hips, so your body comes up to the top and lies parallel with the floor.
Ensure you keep your chin tucked in at all times and engage your core.
This movement allows you to feel more isolation in the hip area, and if the weight is heavy enough, you may feel some discomfort or even pain where the bar sits across you; however, many of the machines use a pad to help counter this issue.
If the machine doesn’t have a pad, consider using a towel or something similar to provide some cushioned support across your hip line.
Common Mistakes With Hip Thrusts
Using Toes To Drive Up
To thrust effectively, you should always have firm heel contact throughout, and your legs should form a 90-degree angle once you reach the top.
I often see when some people reach the top of the movement, they have a habit of rising onto the balls of their feet, which is usually as a result of two things:
- They are quad-dominant, meaning their quads take on most of the load in various exercises as their glutes, hips, and hamstrings are weak and under-activated.
- Their foot placement isn’t correct. A slight adjustment can make all the difference.
Not Locking Out
Your hips should always be above your knees at the top of the movement, so if you aren’t using a full range of motion and your legs aren’t at a 90-degree angle, then your glutes aren’t getting the proper activation they require.
Hyperextending Lower Back
Your lower back should remain neutral, and your ribs should be down to achieve full hip extension.
However, suppose you do the opposite – arch or hyperextend your lower back and keep your ribs up – specifically at the start of the movement.
In that case, you are limiting the amount of glute activation by quite a lot, which means you are not achieving the required extension for the hips.
Incorrect Foot Placement
There’s no standard way where to place your feet during hip thrusts. What works for one person may not for another, so it’s a case of trial and error until you find the “sweet spot” for you.
That said, a widespread habit is some position their feet too far forward, which then neglects the hips and instead targets the hamstrings.
In the same breath, be mindful your feet are not tucked in too much into your body as then you’re targeting the quadriceps, again, neglecting the hips.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I hip thrust?
Including hip thrusts into your weekly workout regime will pay dividends; however, you do not need to do them daily as they activate your muscles just like any other exercise. I would therefore recommend training them twice per week, maximum, and allow the muscles worked to recover sufficiently.
How much weight should you use for hip thrusts?
The easy way to answer this question is that if you feel the weight is too heavy, your form is compromised, or you’re feeling discomfort or pain; you need to reduce the load. However, if you are breezing through each set without feeling the glutes working whatsoever, you need to increase the load. In other words, work yourself enough that you feel the muscles working while executing proper form.
Do hip thrusts make your bum bigger?
Hip thrusts can certainly add muscle to the glutes, making them bigger, stronger, and firmer as the glutes are working against gravity. However, all this is irrelevant if your nutrition is lackluster. No amount of exercise will outwork a bad diet, therefore, ensure you have adequate protein intake and rest to see results.
About the author
I'm Chris. I have a vast interest in all things relating to health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition. I also love to improve my mindset and learn how to increase my productivity. If you'd like to say hello or ask me a question, please visit my contact page, and I'd be glad to hear from you. Alternatively, you can find me on Twitter (@liveliftlife).