Because the barbell hip thrust is the holy grail of glute exercises

If you’re looking to strengthen your glutes, don’t sleep on barbell hip thrusts. This popular lower body move effectively focuses on your booty, AND it gives you the added benefit of extending your hips. That dual activation is why barbell hip thrusts are often considered the holy grail of glute exercises, says Tonal coach Ash Wilking.

To perform the exercise, you lean against a bench or box, place a barbell or set of dumbbells at your sides, and raise and lower the weight while squeezing your glutes, says Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD, an ACE certified personal trainer. Pushing against the bar and squeezing at the top of the movement hits the glutes in a unique way, especially as you start adding more weight. Hip extension also minimizes the activation of your quads and hamstrings, Wilking tells Bustle, which means all of your energy comes from your booty muscles.

Hip thrusts are also great for the hip extensors, which are responsible for extending the hip joint. According to Sabat, stronger hip flexors will help you when you run, jump and squat. And, as with any glute-strengthening move, barbell hip thrusts are a good place to start if you’re looking to improve your overall stability.

Strong glutes help maintain proper pelvis alignment, which can reduce your risk of back pain and improve overall movement mechanics, explains Sabat. Here’s how to do the compound strength-training move and how to modify it, according to trainers.

How to do barbell hip thrusts

To start, choose a weight that’s heavy but still allows you to push off with good form. You should be able to complete reps with a challenging but manageable level of effort, says Sabat.

– Sit on the floor with your back against a bench, Swiss ball or box.

– Rest your shoulder blades against the edge of the bench.

– Place a barbell on your hips.

– Use a barbell pad or towel on your hips if needed to make it more comfortable.

– Bend your knees.

– Place your feet on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Your shins will be vertical.

– Engage your core and squeeze your glutes.

– Push through your heels to lift your hips off the ground. Keep your upper back and shoulders against the bench.

– Lift until your thighs and torso are in a straight line and your knees are bent 90 degrees.

– Squeeze your glutes briefly at the top of the movement, then slowly lower your hips.

– Beginners should aim for 8-10 reps. Slowly increase to 12-15 reps.

How to modify barbell hip thrusts

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Barbell hip thrusts can take some practice to nail. For ease, Wilking suggests reducing the weight or eliminating the barbell entirely, so it’s just bodyweight exercise while you focus on form. The beauty of this move is that it works and keeping it simple always works, he says.

To make the movement more challenging, add weight and/or slide a resistance band just above your knees. This will activate your glutes even more, says Matt Casturo, DPT, CSCS, trainer and strength coach. The rep can also be done slowly with a three-second up, three-second down tempo to progress, he tells Bustle. Adding reps, weight, and playing with your speed are all great ways to take exercise to the next level.

Sabat also suggests elevating your feet by placing them on another surface, such as a bench or step. This will increase the range of motion in your hips and make the movement much harder.

Common hip thrust mistakes to avoid

The key to a good hip drive is maintaining a neutral spine. Sabat says to avoid arching or rounding your lower back as this can strain your muscles. You also don’t need to push too high. While you want to fully extend your hips, he tries to avoid hyperextension.

Another tip? Make sure your knees don’t collapse inward. Keep your knees in line with your toes throughout the exercise, Sabat says. Avoid allowing them to bend inward as it can lead to poor alignment and potential knee problems.

It will help to keep both feet firmly planted to distribute weight evenly and ensure you activate your glutes. If your feet are out too far, you’ll end up activating your hamstrings, says Wilking. Keep your feet under your knees and the bar over your glutes and you should be good.

Also, make sure you resist the urge to force-feed too much. Concentrate on lifting the weight at a controlled and deliberate speed, without bouncing off the bottom to initiate a push. As Sabat says, a good hip drive relies on the power of your glutes and hips to perform the exercise.

Studies referred to:

Brazil, A. (2021). A comprehensive biomechanical analysis of barbell hip thrust. PLoS One. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0249307.

Netto, WK. (2019). Barbell hip thrust, muscle activation, and performance: A systematic review. J Sport Sci Med. PMID: 31191088; PMC ID: PMC6544005.

Sources:

Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD, ACE Certified Personal Trainer

Ash Wilking, manager of Tonal

Dr. Matt Casturo, DPT, CSCS, trainer, strength coach


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