- What Muscles Do Glute Bridges Work? Booty Burning 101
- What is a Glute Bridge?
- What Muscles Do Glute Bridges Work? — The Different Options
- Conclusion: What Muscles Do Glute Bridges Work?
- Glute Bridge: How to Do it, Benefits and Variations
- How To Do The Glute Bridge
- Benefits Of The Glute Bridge
- Glute Bridge Variations
- What’s the Difference Between a Glute Bridge and a Hip Thrust?
- Should Advanced Athletes Use the Barbell Hip Thrust?
- Barbell Hip Thrusts Develop Glutes for Size and Strength
- Problems With the Barbell Hip Thrust
- Is the Barbell Hip Thrust Dangerous?
- Is the Barbell Hip Thrust Effective for Athletes?
- EMG Readings: Let’s Be Honest About Activity and Recruitment
- Other Options for Hip Development I Like
- What We Learned from the Barbell Hip Thrust
- Choose What’s Best for You and Your Athletes
- No equipment? No time? How to get a great workout with no excuses!
- One example workout day
- Another workout day
- But can’t I just go for a walk?
- The real lesson: Keep it simple
- Eat, move, and live… better.©
- Hip Thrust: The Most Important Exercise You’re Not Doing
- What Is a Hip Thrust?
- Enter the Hip Thrust
- How to Hip Thrust For A Powerful Booty
- Bodyweight Hip Thrust (a.k.a. Back-Elevated Glute Bridge)
- Hip Thrust With Chains
- Hip Thrust With Bands
- Barbell Hip Thrust
- If you’re a health, fitness, or nutrition professional (or you want to be)…
What Muscles Do Glute Bridges Work? Booty Burning 101
The beauty of building a better booty is there are options. So, what muscles do glute bridges work?
That would almost primarily be… your butt! Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?
Well, the thing is, it works more than just your glutes — and it can be done in several ways.
The truth is, glute bridges aren’t done as often as they should be.
They aren’t commonly seen in most gyms and people should hop on board.
If you do join in, make sure to pick up a barbell foam pad from Dark Iron Fitness!
This barbell pad will allow you to do barbell glute bridges safely and very comfortably.
Glute bridges are a great resource to have in your arsenal; to strengthen up your arse, you know?
Ok, that was a terrible pun.
But, trust me, you’ll be behind me on this (another terrible joke).
So, if you’re asking yourself, what muscles do glute bridges work? Please, read on!
What is a Glute Bridge?
What Are Glute Bridges and What Muscles Do Glute Bridges Work?
Glute bridges will be one of your best sources for booty burning exercises.
The main muscles hit will be your gluteus maximus, thighs, hips, core, and hamstrings.
When going very heavy and extending your hips correctly, you’ll feel the squeeze under your glutes.
Essentially, a glute bridge is a floor exercise, and it can be done with or without weights.
When doing a glute bridge without weights, you can do high reps and get a nice stretch.
However, adding weights to the glute bridge will highly optimize your results and the booty burning sensation.
Most of you out there who pay for a commercial gym may feel self-conscious doing this exercise, but you shouldn’t.
Admittedly, they look funny — it can at times be a hassle to get into position for a heavy set — but they work!
Related: 10 Benefits of Glute Bridges
How to Properly Perform the Glute Bridge
Starting out, I would suggest lying on the floor or a yoga mat.
Practicing without weight beforehand will be much better for you in the long run.
While on the floor, bend your knees so they are arched up towards the ceiling.
Then, with your back on the floor, push your hips up and squeeze your glutes together.
You should feel a nice squeeze in your glutes and on the tops of your thighs.
Doing your glute bridges directly on the floor, without weight, is much more yoga oriented.
The slow, controlled repetitions you do this way will allow you to target your core more, as well.
I suggest starting out your glute bridges this way, so your form progressively gets better.
With a little time and practice, the position of being on the floor and thrusting up will feel natural.
Related: Ab Exercises | Glute Bridges
What Muscles Do Glute Bridges Work? — The Different Options
Resistance Band Glute Bridge
Bands are another great way to get a good, deep stretch without having to implement weights.
Using resistance bands for glute bridges will help add some variety and variation to your workouts.
For glute bridges, there are two types of resistance band workouts that I see as the most optimal.
The first exercise is putting your knees through your preferred band and when you thrust your glutes off the ground, you push out with your knees to spread the band.
Doing this will hit your glutes, hips and hip flexors at various angles; great for isolation and stretching.
Second, you can use a single strip resistance band and stretch it across the nook between your abdominals and hips.
Pulling down on the resistance band tight, you will now perform the glute bridge as normal.
What you’ll notice is this acts like a weight pressing down on you, forcing much higher resistance, without having to actually place a weight on your body.
These two resistance band glute bridges are highly safe, less obtrusive in the gym or at home and work well.
Give the resistance band options a try; using the bands is a good way to see if glute bridges are for you.
Related: The Best Glute Exercise – The Glute Bridge
What Muscles Do Glute Bridges Work? — Kettlebell/Weight Plate Glute Bridge
Now, when adding actual weight to your glute bridge, it’s best to start with something lighter.
Holding a kettlebell or a weight plate flat on your abdominals is a good way to get acquainted with the exercise.
With a kettlebell, you can grip the handle to keep it secure on your pelvis and have complete control during the glute bridge.
This also works with the weight plate, as it’ll be flat and lay even throughout the whole movement.
Using these types of weights will help break you into the heavier glute bridges and emphasize the strain on your glutes and thighs (which will be excellent).
Building up to heavy weighted glute bridges is how you can get the most out of this exercise, as far as strengthening your glutes.
But, what muscles do glute bridges work when you start adding in heavier weights (and weights in general)?
The truth is, adding weight will only further target the areas you would be working unweighted.
Sure, not as glamorous or groundbreaking as you’d like to hear, but it’s important to know.
As with doing bodyweight squats and then going to barbell squats — you’ll notice the difference.
So, give a kettlebell or weight plate glute bridge a try, you will appreciate the intensity.
Yet, that isn’t the top tier of glute bridges.
The true booty burning workout is what you want to hear about, and it includes a barbell.
Barbell Glute Bridge — King of Booty Burning
Many holy grail variations of workouts utilize a barbell.
The barbell is so versatile and effective — the same goes for using it during glute bridges.
Having the barbell across your abdominals with the weights to the side will keep you balanced.
The glute bridge is much easier to do with a fixed weight barbell, as it is easier to transport.
Choosing the correct weight for you is important, but usually, for fixed barbells, you can go very high in weight.
Using a standard Olympic barbell with weight plates you add yourself can become trickier.
You’ll have to load the plates and have the bar on the ground, then roll the loaded barbell on top of you.
The good thing about loading your plates is that you can continually increase the weight.
Most people will want to use a foam seat pad, wrap the barbell with a towel or use a barbell pad that is specifically made for comfort.
The reason for this is that the barbell becomes extremely uncomfortable when only the bar is coming into contact with your pelvic area.
Also, the thinner the barbell the more uncomfortable the strain becomes.
When you have something to bulk the bar up, it spreads the contact over more area and relieves pressure.
The Dark Iron Fitness barbell foam pad is the perfect addition to barbell glute bridges.
Once you work your way from unweighted to light weights, then all the way to heavyweight, you’ll begin to see great glute results and a stronger, toned booty.
What more could you ask for?
Related: Barbell Glute Bridge
Conclusion: What Muscles Do Glute Bridges Work?
Benefits of Glute Bridges and Targeted Workouts
Overall, glute bridges work well as a low-impact exercise, because there isn’t any impact.
It is a great exercise for those who want an alternative to squats or other standing leg workouts.
Another great thing is that you can perform them slow and controlled (you definitely should when weighed down), but also in a high-intensity manner when using resistance bands or going unweighted.
You can rep out several glute bridges with just a resistance band and get a great stretch and an even better cardio session — all while being on the floor.
Lastly, doing glute bridges and other targeted workouts are important to supplement more compound movements.
Targeted exercises can be done fairly quickly, they don’t take too long to learn and they are usually versatile in where you can perform them.
Anywhere there is a flat surface to sit or lay on, you can do your glute bridges.
Furthermore, if you aren’t someone who goes to the gym, these can be a perfect home workout staple.
Do not sleep on the various benefits you can experience from glute bridges.
Lastly, if you are interested in learning about similar workouts, you should read about hip thrusts and frog pumps, too.
Related: What Muscles Do Lunges Work? Leg Building 101
Safe and Sound — Form First, Comfort Second
Lastly, I want to make a point of speaking on the importance of safety.
Glute bridges are already a fairly safe exercise, which is awesome, but you still need to practice form.
Start slow and work diligently to master the basic movement before you go about adding weight.
Then, when you do decide to add weight, especially on a barbell, make sure to focus on safety and comfort.
You don’t want the bar to cause any crushing sensation or uncomfortable rubbing and friction.
With the Dark Iron Fitness barbell foam pad, you will have the best preparation for heavy glute bridges.
Always hold your form, safety, and comfort above all.
If you perform glute bridges and find the position to be uncomfortable for you, it doesn’t really matter to ask, what muscles do glute bridges work? because you won’t properly be able to target them.
For those who don’t feel comfortable with glute bridges, you can always find alternatives to do.
Squats, lunges, and hip thrusts are all great options — so don’t feel discouraged.
However, glute bridges are an amazing movement and you should definitely give them a chance to help you reach your fitness goals.
Related: Do Squats Help You Lose Weight on Your Thighs?
Glute Bridge: How to Do it, Benefits and Variations
There are three gluteal muscles – the maximus, medius and minimus – father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and so on. They’re important in hip flexibility and movement, as well as looking fabulous.
Spending all day sitting behind a desk is a surefire shortcut to weak glutes and lower back problems. The impulse is often to sit too far forward, which causes your hip flexors to become tight and also results in the glutes effectively switching off. Activating them as part of your training programme does wonders not only for your physique but for your structural health.
How To Do The Glute Bridge
- Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms at your side with your palms down.
- Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Squeeze those glutes hard and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back during the exercise.
- Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.
Make sure you’re not pushing from your heels – the power comes from the hips and nowhere else. Aim for two sets of ten bridges, two to three times a week, either as part of a wider bodyweight workout or on their own, if all you really care about is your derrière.
Benefits Of The Glute Bridge
You should feel the burn in your glutes and your hamstrings if you’re doing it correctly. The bridge is also great for improving hip mobility and strengthening your lower back, two things that any desk-bound worker can really benefit from.
Glute Bridge Variations
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
There are plenty of worthwhile variations to the glute bridge that don’t require any gym equipment. The best place to start is with the single-leg glute bridge, which halves the number of grounded legs to double the difficulty.
Lie on your back and bend your knees so your feet rest flat on the floor. Then raise one leg until it is stretched out straight. Brace yourself, then drive the heel of the foot still grounded into the floor and push your hips up until your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to the toes of your outstretched foot. Slowly lower yourself again, then repeat on the same side. Aim for ten reps on one leg, then switch to the other.
Medicine Ball Glute Bridge
This is best performed on a gym mat. Elevate your feet by placing them both on a medicine ball and, keeping your core engaged, drive through your heels until you’re extended. Pause for a second or two and squeeze your glutes. Slowly lower back to the start, but don’t let your glutes touch the floor because this would take the tension off the target muscles.
Barbell Glute Bridge
Once you feel you have sufficiently mastered the bodyweight glute bridge, step up to the bar. You’ll need to find yourself a flat bench, and lie horizontally on it supported by your upper back. Select a weight that allows you to perform six to eight reps with good form. Position the centre of the bar at your midriff level, with a squat pad or a towel between you and it. Slowly lower, and then initiate the pressing phase by driving through your heels. Extend vertically at the hips at the top portion of the lift.
Glute Bridge And Curl
You can also ramp up the challenge of the glute bridge by adding a towel into the mix. Put your feet on it and slide them out and back in slowly when in the bridged position, keeping your hips raised throughout. This is called the glute bridge and curl, and it’s tough.
Glute Bridge March
Another tough variation is the glute bridge march. Once you’re in the elevated position of a regular glute bridge, move one leg slowly up towards your chest in a high-knee “marching” motion. Then lower it and march with the other leg. Alternate until you reach a total of 40 marches, 20 on each side.
What’s the Difference Between a Glute Bridge and a Hip Thrust?
Photo: Vitalii Vitleo/Getty Images
Is it just us, or has the peach officially overthrown the eggplant as the most-used (food) emoji? Lately, everyone’s been obsessed with building their backsides.
While the squat may be the OG move for buns of steel, the glute bridge and hip thrust are officially rivaling the barbell squat for the spot of Best Glute Exercise. (BTW, here’s Why It’s Important to Have a Strong Butt-Besides Looking Good)
To the (ahem) untrained eye, the glute bridge and hip thrust may look the same, but they’re not identical exercises: “The hip thrust and glute bridge are very similar in that they’re both great for strengthening the gluteal muscles,” says John Gallucci Jr., M.S., A.T.C., D.P.T., CEO of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy. “But there are also a few key differences between the moves.”
Below, learn how to do both the glute bridge and the hip thrust–and what sets them apart. Then, let the fitness experts explain which you should be doing and when.
TLDR: Glute Bridges vs. Hip Thrusts
- Both exercises involve squeezing your glutes and lifting hips up towards the ceiling. They both engage the glutes, hamstrings, core, lower back, abdominals, obliques, and hip flexors.
- The glute bridge is typically done with shoulders on the floor, while hip thrusts are typically done with shoulders on a bench or platform.
- The hip thrust is typically loaded with weight and used as a strength training exercise; the glute bridge is more often done as a bodyweight move but can be weighted as well.
What exactly is a hip thrust?
This move is a fit-fluencer fave (even Chelsea Handler does it!) so you’ve probably seen it on your social feeds. But for the uninitiated, the hip thrust requires some kind of upper back support and usually includes weight-typically in the form of a barbell.
To do a hip thrust, start in a seated position with your knees and feet flat on the floor and with your shoulder blades against a bench (note: not your neck!). Add weight to your hip crease using a pad, if needed. Squeeze your glutes and core and lift hips up until your back is parallel to the floor, explains Gallucci. Hold for three seconds at the top, then lower back down to the start. (Check out this guide on the barbell hip thrust for more detailed instructions.)
“The biggest difference between the hip thrust and the glute bridge is that because your back is elevated, there’s an increased range of motion that your hips must travel for every rep,” explains Jill Belland, Co-Founder of Barre Belle.
Okay, so what’s a glute bridge?
You’ve probably done one of these before: Lie face-up on the floor, with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep arms at your sides with palms down. Lift hips off the ground, squeezing your glutes and core until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Hold for three seconds at the top, then lower back down to start, explains Gallucci.
To do it with weight, place a barbell (or mini barbell) on top of your hips and hold onto the load with both hands to stabilize it before lifting hips off the ground and driving hips up toward the ceiling. (For more in-depth glute bridge instructions check out this guide.)
The glute bridge-which has tons variations, including the single-leg bridge to the banded bridge kick-can be loaded or unloaded. However, it’s usually used as a body-weight activation exercise, as opposed to weighted, strengthening exercise, says Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of Movement Vault, a mobility and functional movement program.
“While you can add weight like a barbell or dumbbell to a glute bridge, some athletes find it awkward due to the angle of your body-the bar can roll down your stomach if you’re not holding on,” he says. “And because of the angle of your hips, the hip thrust allows you to add heavier weight than the glute bridge.”
That’s why the glute bridge is traditionally used as a bodyweight exercise to activate the glutes in a warm-up before taking on more range of motion and weight, explains Belland.
Don’t sleep the glute bridge, though, since activation is super important. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “dead butt syndrome.” (Luckily, this idiom sounds scarier than it really is.) “This phrase doesn’t mean you have no glute strength; usually it references the fact that your glutes aren’t properly activating,” explains Wickham. Translation: The muscle is there, it’s just not being used. (Here’s everything you need to know about glute activation and how to do it.)
And that’s where a bodyweight glute bridge comes in. “The glute bridges can help teach people how to activate the glute muscles and therefore actually access and use the glute strength they have,” he says.
Which should you be doing?
You can-and should-incorporate both into your routine. “Variety of exercises is key to a well-rounded glute building exercise regime,” says Belland. “I recommend utilizing both.” (And make sure you’re not only doing butt exercises.) As a general rule though, think of glute bridges for warming up, and hip thrusts as part of a strength circuit. More below.
To warm-up: glute bridge
Because the glute bridge is an effective glute and hamstring activation exercise, Wickham suggests using unloaded glute bridges to “wake up” those muscles before any hip hinge exercise like the deadlift, kettlebell swings, and good mornings.
“If you do a hip hinge exercise without first waking up your glutes, your lower back will compensate, which can cause lower-back issues over time,” he explains. Yikes. (If you already have lower back pain, consider deadlifting with a trap bar instead of a barbell).
If you’re working on mobility: hip thrust
The hip thrust requires a greater range of motion compared to the glute bridge, says Gallucci. As such, it may be trickier for people who lack hip mobility-a common issue for folks who sit all day. (Guilty!) But that’s exactly why doing hip thrusts can help you regain your hip mobility.
“Start by working through the range of motion of the hip thrust without weight. Get comfortable there. Then add weight, this will help you build strength within the new-found range of motion,” explains Wickham. (Related: The 7 Mobility Exercises You Should Do Before Every Workout).
The long term benefits are huge: Hip flexors that function properly so you can move in all directions. Wickham says you should notice a benefit within two weeks if you do 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps every other day.
If you’re a runner: glute bridge
Runners, in particular, struggle to activate their glutes. “Many runners get knee and hip pain because those parts of the body are compensating for sleepy glutes,” says Wickham. Try two sets of 10 to 15 reps of glute bridges before a run to help “turn on” your glutes so that you’re actually using them when you’re running. This will translate to more power per stride, and therefore faster times.
To build strength: hip thrust
The hip thrust is one of the best butt exercises of all times and it’s quite versatile. In addition to a barbell, you can add weight in the form of dumbbells, kettlebells, a weighted chain, or medicine ball to either exercise, says Gallucci. Because of the positioning of the hip crease, you’re able to add more weight with a hip thrust than you are with a glute bridge, which can lead to greater glute and hamstring gains, explains Belland.
And because you’re moving through a greater range of motion in the hip thrust, it strengthens your muscles to an even greater degree, says Wickham. In fact, research done by Bret Contreras (aka the “Glute Guy”) found that hip thrusts recruit more muscle fibers in the glutes than squats do, which suggests that the barbell hip thrust is better for building glute strength. (Watch Kate Upton Do 225-Pound Hip Lifts for Motivation?)
Bu, if for some reason you prefer the glute bridge, you can do them loaded and reap some extra benefit. “The strength gains will be less due to the shortened range of motion and the fact that it’s generally easier to load a hip thrust than glute bridge, but you’ll still get stronger,” says Wickham.
Just keep in mind: Because glute bridges are often done as bodyweight or with less weight, you’ll likely need to up the rep count to fatigue your muscles, says Belland.
If you have no equipment: glute bridge
The best part of the glute bridge is that it requires zero equipment or set-up, while the hip thrust requires a bench or box for back support, says Belland.
For an equipment-free booty burn try a glute bridge to single-leg glute bridge-which has been shown to be effective in strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, hip abductors, and core. Or try holding the contraction at the top of the rep for thirty seconds. *Insert chili emoji here*.
- By By Gabrielle Kassel
Should Advanced Athletes Use the Barbell Hip Thrust?
By Carl Valle
For total body actions in sport, the barbell hip thrust is not as potent as it was promised to be. It is a movement that adds strength to the posterior hip muscles and, accordingly, we should treat it like any other exercise and use it appropriately.
Those of us who work in sports training should not worship the exercise, but we also should not attack it without solid evidence. Like most exercises outside an actual sporting movement, the barbell hip thrust was doomed to fail as a magic bullet because the strength and conditioning community overacted. Programming the barbell hip thrust is not catastrophic nor reckless. It’s also not perfect and will not change the game for every athlete.
Having tried the exercise, I know it will benefit some athletes. In our program, we use many similar exercises as well as maximal velocity sprints, so the barbell hip thrust is not necessary for our athletes. If you want to use the barbell hip thrust, I’m not telling you to stop. If you don’t use the movement, don’t feel like you are missing out.
Barbell Hip Thrusts Develop Glutes for Size and Strength
Without question, the barbell hip thrust is an exercise that engages the posterior chain, specifically the glutes. The issue on trial is who benefits the most and how exactly do they improve? If you’re trying to improve speed and you have a holistic program, it won’t have much value. For a figure competitor judged on muscle development, this exercise provides an essential advantage. It also provides general strengthening which is always good for athletes.
Specificity is the ultimate challenge to all gym exercises, and the barbell hip thrust, while potentially useful, adds little to the equation. For years, I’ve been critical of its value for sprinting. Recent research has second-guessed the proposed idea that horizontal forces and horizontal exercises matter with athletes. My article on horizontal exercises reached thousands of coaches and athletes, and unless we see new data, it’s clear that all exercises are limited for speed development.
It’s not that the barbell hip thrust isn’t effective for maximal speed or acceleration, it’s just that the research so far illustrates that its effectiveness is population-specific.
Barbell hip thrusts will improve both the strength and size of the glutes, but these two variables alone are not enough to justify it as the Holy Grail for every situation. Calf hypertrophy or hamstring strength may not guarantee speed changes; the sport science research supports these conclusions. The movement may help one muscle get bigger and stronger, but for a total body action in sport, the hip thrust is not as potent as it was promised to be.
Early-stage athletes such as high school underclassmen may benefit greatly from the hip thrust. As an athlete advances, the hip thrust becomes good for balancing the body at the beginning of the training season and as a means to ensure the muscle is solid during the latter part of the year. Whenever we see any exercise have an impact (not just the hip thrust), the reason is likely due to the athlete’s lack of development rather than the movement pattern.
Problems With the Barbell Hip Thrust
Some aggressive disagreements and a set of dire warnings, along with smart questions about the exercise by Doug Kechijian, have made noise on the Internet. I’ve read them and found many of the points fair while some were extreme and lacked credibility. For example, one writer claimed the barbell hip thrust caused massive lumbar spine injuries. I’ve yet to see emergency rooms full of “hip thrust syndrome.” Perhaps the exercise is executed wrong locally, and the problem is someone’s backyard, but to this day I have not seen anything that appears as an epidemic of injuries from barbell thrusting.
Research on the hip thrust performed by rugby players for a few months showed the exercise provided no value. On the record, I’m saying we are likely to see additional conflicting research in the future. Why? Study design and populations. If I wanted to show that the hip thrust works, I could create a protocol and population that would respond since the exercise does have strength benefits. If I wanted to sabotage the hip thrust’s effectiveness, I could do that as well with some deceitful practices.
Science is our best tool, but agendas and bias always present a problem. Researchers sometimes want to be rock stars and tour the world with their findings. And coaches want to be innovators and get paid and recognized for being ahead of the curve. We are all human, and what keeps us honest is our peers.
As of early 2018, research shows that the barbell hip thrust works with specific populations and improves specific variables, but it’s not a panacea.
Image 1. The bridge and similar movements are old, and very few people strengthen them with a sufficient load. The question is how effective is strengthening the glutes outside of sprinting to the sporting world?
The two big questions coaches have for any exercise are how effective it is and is it worth the time and risk. In the coaching world, the big difference between acceptable risk and negligent risk (meaning if you were to get sued) is how likely it is that you’ll be found not guilty of negligence.
- If a not guilty finding is likely, the risk is acceptable since accidents do happen.
- Negligence occurs when something happens from an action that a layperson, including judge and jury, would say that anyone with a right mind would not have suggested doing.
- Effectiveness means that investing the time and energy provides a return that is competitive with other options.
Research is very useful when looking at the current impact of any intervention. Not be confused with impact factor, the magnitude (or effect size) of research simply indicates how much bang for the buck a variable has. With some smart statistical analysis, sport science informs coaches about what is showing up on the stopwatch and similar evaluation measures.
Is the Barbell Hip Thrust Dangerous?
Coaches worry about a direct injury when doing the exercise correctly and an indirect injury when doing the exercise incorrectly or due to an accident. The fear of direct injury focuses on the muscles near the hip and low back, and some worry about the neck and upper torso. Other fears, such as crush injuries when the bar goes into a very exposed area of the body, are brought up as well, so let’s look at them.
Hyperextension of the lumbar spine is possible with barbell hip thrusts. But ironically, the load and athlete egos can reduce the problem.
- When inexperienced athletes “lockout” of the movement, they may cause excessive extension. This is common with inexperienced athletes.
- Bridging and thrusting with two legs is more likely to occur than with a single leg, but anything is possible with variations.
- Most of the lift’s action occurs at the end of the movement range, meaning most of the stress happens when the movement is nearly completed. Terminal hip extension, where the femur completes movement, may create stress on the lumbar spine.
Although the concepts of possible and probable are similar, they are not the same. After ten years of hip thrusting, a rash of injuries has not shown up in the lumbar spine.
Image 2. The theory that the lumbar spine is at risk is valid, but so far no strong evidence of direct spinal injury exists in the research. Like any exercise, proper training should mitigate any possible risk. Currently, the barbell hip thrust appears to be reasonably safe.
Padding exposed areas of the body remedies the fears concerning compression of nerves and vascular regions, but again there is not much investigation here. Anatomically, I see some risk, but we can mitigate load compression with padding and change in absolute weight reduction. Accidents like slipping off a bench scare me, especially when athletes are in large groups, are sweaty, and are doing heavy loads. Because I find the position compromising, I choose not to program a maximal barbell lift.
Is the Barbell Hip Thrust Effective for Athletes?
How much time and energy one invests in an intervention is always a hot topic. For example, the technical demands of Olympic lifting are always discussed. It’s much harder to determine carryover or transfer with non-specific or general exercises. A study by Bishop and colleagues demonstrated that results in sprint performance from doing hip thrusts were too little to be valuable, causing a stir in the strength and conditioning community.
Barbell #hipthrusts don’t have a valuable impact on sprint performance, says @spikesonly.
Many smug coaches were happy to be proven right about the exercise’s limitations. Any intervention, however, that fails to help an athlete improve is a loss for everybody in the field. It’s good to know when something fails to be as effective as believed so we can move on, but it’s also disappointing because we need to evolve.
A good question is, if the barbell hip thrust exercise works in potentiation, why doesn’t it show up later with longitudinal training? While the fact that an exercise potentiates a body (or a specific muscle group) isn’t a cardinal sign of evidence of training effectiveness, it is a clue that there is value. Value to whom and how much is the question. A direct transfer may not happen with a strength exercise, but there may be other possible benefits, such as an increased distribution of work to the hamstrings as an injury reduction intervention.
On paper, stronger muscles have a chance to help. And while improvements in acceleration and top speed are never likely to occur, or may be too small to be meaningful, I don’t see how having weaker glutes is a good idea. A few minutes at the end of a workout a few times a week is not something to worry about. Having a stronger set of glutes may help out the hamstrings. It’s difficult to prove either way, but I always favor creating a strength reserve.
The barbell #hipthrust is valuable for athletes early in their career development, says @spikesonly.
If an athlete is early in their development and they don’t do sprinting, the hip thrust is likely to add immediate value. Advanced athletes still can do loaded bridges. As with any movement, a transfer becomes harder as specificity becomes more important. The barbell hip thrust is a viable option for early career development or early in the training season, but as the athlete advances, it’s likely to have less of an impact (like all modalities).
EMG Readings: Let’s Be Honest About Activity and Recruitment
When coaches love an exercise, EMG offers airtight evidence. When they don’t, they call EMG data “limited” and “subject to interpretation.” The promise of the barbell hip thrust came from great EMG readings. Both the mean and peak values, two crude but important indices in science, are nearly off the charts with the exercise.
With great data supporting muscle activation patterns, the barbell hip thrust was hyped to be a potent exercise. Squats, lunges, and even deadlifts looked pale in comparison due to EMG readings. In all fairness, this was good evidence upon which to make decisions. But challenges with barbell hip thrusts surfaced: the eccentric and end range dilemmas.
Image 3. Attacking EMG readings without expertise is a way to deflect reality. Electromyography is part of the process of discovering how muscles work in different exercises.
Many coaches like the barbell hip thrust because they can load it quickly, similar to the hex barbell deadlifts that plague high school football. It’s not the fault of the exercise, its baggage carried by all barbell movements. Ego infected the barbell hip thrust just as it did squats and other exercises. Athletes seem to concentrically blast the movement in the early range and let it drop like a horizontal-style deadlift.
It’s possible to lower the hip thrust movement slowly; the issue is that time under tension during the lowering is not true supramaximal eccentric overload. I’ve seen only one movement and one machine that incorporates assisted overload, meaning the machine created additional force demand on the legs’ hip extensors during the eccentric phase. As for barbell hip thrusts, the exercise becomes less demanding as the load descends.
I made my way into modified Nordic hamstring exercises by trying them and reading the research. Doing my homework, I learned the limitations of alternative exercises and how to modify the tried and true to improve them.
The barbell hip thrust’s main weakness is that mechanically, true eccentric overload is very hard to create in the gym. Some coaches have used flywheels, attempting to create overload, but this approach does not actually do what it looks like it does. While supramaximal eccentric overload is not easy, constant tension is enough to take advantage of the eccentric portion of the rep instead of dropping it like many hexagonal barbell lifts we see at gyms.
It’s up to the coaches to ensure athletes do the lift correctly on the decent with traditional bridge or hip thrust actions and to find ways to overload during peak ranges in the finishing zone.
Other Options for Hip Development I Like
I love plyometrics and sprinting. I also realize that these two options are not possible for everyone. Still, it’s worth noting that specific training transfers. Sometimes general or alternative options have surprising value; acceleration benefits from maximal speed training, for example.
For years, athletes were shocked to see their acceleration improve greatly after doing summers or winters of speed work. Upright running does influence acceleration with glutes and hamstrings working to improve output, and we need to research why this happens. Maximal sprinting does overload the hip extensors of the body, but it’s also risky for athletes who are unprepared to sprint at high speeds. Just as an athlete has to earn the right to load heavy with barbells, athletes must earn their right to sprint all-out with preparation.
Outside of sprinting and jumping, I do think exercises similar to the barbell hip thrust may help. I’ve learned that a general program with sprinting, jumping, lifting, and throwing will likely cover the bases in speed development. And a direct shot to the glutes from time to time does make sense. Many readers will gravitate to this section and think that these weight room options are superior. I don’t think they are. I think they are more palatable to many and just as convenient.
The intent of the barbell hip thrust is a good one–hip extension strength. It’s a fine movement for some, but for a sprint and jump program like mine, I prefer very similar movements and accessory exercises in the gym. Here is a sample of the exercises I use.
1. Single Leg Band Eccentrics
The barbell hip thrust directed the ship of strength and conditioning greatly from bodyweight bridges, but I find one leg with band-based resistance works best for my situation. In the future, I think we’ll see more equipment mimic the barbell hip thrust because it has a great connection to glute activity, and capitalizing on the eccentric movement is difficult.
Using a band will not overload the hips as resistance decreases during the decent, but when it’s paired with other gravity-based loads (sometimes a barbell), it is a nice hybrid. Bionic resistance is likely to be a future option when using the right waist harness, but bands are starting points. Although peak and average EMG values may not be better than the barbell scores, when we combine band work with other movements, it is more than sufficient.
It’s important to note that eccentric overload with bands is not truly possible with most movements as the resistance decreases, but two legs up and one leg down and other tweaks can create an overload.
Video 1. True eccentric work with bands isn’t possible, but training in specific joint angles increases the exposure time of the hip musculature. Slowly lowering during near end range decreases tension of the bands, but it’s better than dropping quickly as many do with barbells.
2. Single Leg Reverse Leg Presses
Good luck finding a good reverse leg press. If you do, buy it from the facility or gym. The reverse leg press is an endangered species because most of the attention now is on glute-hamstring machines. Similar to a conventional “butt blaster,” the equipment can use a weight stack but some use plate loading. You can use reverse hypers as workarounds since more of them exist now thanks to Louie Simmons, but I am not a fan of using a machine for what it was not intended. Those who don’t have access to a reverse leg press, rethink what equipment you need. You can mitigate the loss with higher-rep cable work.
Video 2. Cable loading is not ideal, but if you use a good attachment, super strict form, and higher reps at the end of a workout, hip extensions with a pulley system are a good option. Reverse leg presses are eventually needed if you truly want to get more loading and push the lower repetition ranges.
3. Single Leg Back Extensions
An earlier article on the Nordic hamstring exercise briefly explored the idea of using back extensions and RDLs (reverse deadlifts). Eccentric lengthening and hamstring recruitment occur with single leg back extensions, and they also work wonders for the glutes. Twenty years ago, we saw a decline in using single leg back extensions based on a misinterpretation of Stu McGill’s back rehabilitation materials. I left this exercise for a few years and came back to it with a fresh outlook. Adding a few sets a week is enough to change the posterior chain’s “strength and length.”
Video 3. Moderate loads and higher repetitions are great for extensions because you use one leg at a time. I give this exercise to any athlete who has a history of hamstring pulls, placing it into their program.
As you can see, all of these glute exercises are single leg movements, of which I’m a big fan. But not as a primary exercise. I like global systemic bilateral power and then isolating one leg at a time with strength movements using rep ranges near 6-8 reps. My approach is to attack leg development from both ends–not force dogma or trends onto an athlete’s body.
I like single leg exercises with medium loads so the athlete is focused on technique and not tempted to use other muscle groups to compensate. We often hear discussions about dissociation, but unless you train single leg exercises with great technique and a full range of motion, it’s just talk.
What We Learned from the Barbell Hip Thrust
I don’t dismiss the possibility that barbell hip thrusts help performance; a strong muscle is always an asset. History, though, has shown no radical advancement in sprinting since Bolt’s 2008 coming-out party in New York and Beijing. If the exercise were amazing, we would see legions of 9.6 sprinters coming out of college thanks to the availability of the exercise and simplicity of the intervention.
Usain Bolt has retired now, and it’s safe to say his improvements and success were a culmination of many things, not one exercise. Yet, the notion of one exercise having an impact on performance drove us to a better understanding of glute function, and we’ve all benefited from the attempt to improve performance with this exercise.
We need additional research, not just on the transfer of the barbell hip thrust but on other details like how the exercise interacts with other movements. Time will tell but after ten years, I am confident that we can make the barbell hip thrust a small part of the equation; it’s not a magic bullet. I’ve often chosen to take a specific side of an argument to balance out the absolutes of trends. With the barbell hip thrust, we need to treat it fairly like all exercises.
Coaches who defend the movement likely feel pressure to explain themselves after the research came out in the summer of 2017. While it’s a good idea to fight back against pendulum swings when there’s merit to do so, intellectually covering your tracks is frankly dishonest.
Choose What’s Best for You and Your Athletes
I don’t include the barbell hip thrust in my programs because I like other options better, and I prefer single leg options for glute work. Don’t listen to me or anyone else. Listen to your brain and what you read in the research. Trial and error, experimentation, deductive reasoning, and talking to other coaches are helpful when deciding what is right for you and your athletes.
Don’t ever feel pressured to take something out of your toolbox or to put something back in because of trends and popularity. Not everyone should do what I do, as my program surely has errors and mistakes I will write about later as I learn more. The barbell hip thrust is an option, and we should include or dismiss it based on the program’s purpose.
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Track and Field Coach at Spikes Only Coach Valle has coached Track and Field at every level, from high school to the Olympic level in the sprints and hurdles. He has had the privilege of working with great athletes that have been All-American and school record holders. A technology professional, Coach Valle has expertise in performance data as well as an understanding for practical application of equipment and software. Carl is currently the lead sport technologist for SpikesOnly.com, and focuses his time on testing elite athletes and using technology to help everyone on any level of human performance reach their goals.
Latest posts by Carl Valle (see all)
- The Top 10 Strength and Conditioning Books to Read in 2020 – January 29, 2020
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No equipment? No time? How to get a great workout with no excuses!
For the last two weeks I’ve been on vacation with my family, including two new moms and two new babies; one baby seven months old and one baby nine months old.
Now, for those of you who don’t have kids, babies this age are pretty awesome. But they are needy, with a capital N. Which means that as a mom or dad you’re pretty much giving care non-stop. Even when the babies are sleeping.
“Free time” – it’s a luxury. And getting to a gym that doesn’t provide daycare services – it’s a pipe dream.
But here’s the thing. Gyms aren’t actually required for a great workout. Neither is baby-free quiet time.
In fact, during this trip, we’ve worked out every single day. And in today’s article I’d like to show you how we did it with minimal time and no gym access.
One example workout day
One random weekday during our vacation, we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning. It was early and the temperature was perfect.
So, after breakfast, we grabbed the strollers and the babies, and we made up the following workout.
The moms and babies are ready for their workout.
We started off with walking lunges while pushing the strollers – 10 lunges per leg.
Then we stopped to knock out some push-ups – 15 push-ups each.
After 10 more walking lunges, we added 20 body weight (or baby-weighted) squats.
After the squats, we did 20 shoulder presses with the baby.
After shoulder presses, we did 10 straight leg deadlifts per leg.
After the deadlifts, we did 10 more walking lunges, this time with resistance.
Next, it was time to lay down and do 10 hip thrusts. Those were too easy, so we added 10 more hip thrusts – this time one leg at a time. Next up, 15 crunches – here’s what they look like with the legs extended. And here’s the 2nd half of the movement, with legs pulled in. Next we did TVA abdominal pull-ins. We simply blew out all the air from our stomachs. Then we sucked in our stomachs as hard as we could. We repeated this 10 times. After the ab work, we did 15 more push-ups. Next up, we grabbed a baby (or not), and did some side lunges. We did 10 to our right… And 10 more to our left. Next, we did 10 high knees on each side while pushing the stroller. Now some butt-kickers while jogging to the next station. Awesome, we found a playground! Time for some inverted rows at full extension while babies watch on (or sleep) – 15 reps. Here’s a picture of the top of the movement. Here’s a modification with the knees bent. Last exercise – 12 triceps extensions. The triceps extension at the top of the movement. And that’s it. We jogged to the pool for a post-workout dip (moms and babies included). I love to workout – great job mom! Whew, I’m exhausted from all this exercise!
So, as you can see from the sequence above, the busy moms just got out there and had some fun with exercise.
They pushed the strollers. They used their body weight. They lifted the babies for added resistance. (I even jumped in on the exercise too, after I snapped each picture).
There wasn’t a “workout program” or a specific sequence of movements with a pre-defined number of sets and reps. There was just movement. Some upper body moves. Some lower body moves. Some core moves. Until you’re pooped out.
Truly, it was a lot of fun. It was also a lot of hard work. But the entire workout took only 20 minutes. And all 3 of us adults, who are in pretty good shape already, were a little sore the next day.
Another workout day
If you’re a person who either needs a little structure (or doesn’t quite know which moves you should be doing), here’s another workout plan we used for the days when the weather wasn’t great or when we just felt like doing something simple at the condo.
This workout also takes 20 minutes or less. And no matter how good your conditioning is, it’ll prove a challenge if your form is good and you concentrate on really squeezing your muscles.
Dynamic warm-Up (3-5 minutes)
For the warm-up, we chose 5 or 6 dynamic stretches, mostly yoga moves that concentrate on each of our tight areas, and went through a circuit or two of these movements. The total warm-up duration is about 3-5 minutes. And usually the babies just watch in awe.
Workout sequence (10 minutes)
Air Squats x 20 reps
Push-Ups x 20 reps
Hip Bridges x 20 reps
Partner Assisted Seated Row with towel x 20 reps
One-Leg Deadlift x 10 reps per leg
TVA Stomach Exercise (above) x 10 reps
Repeat 2 more times (for 3 total rounds) with no rest between exercises
But can’t I just go for a walk?
Sure you can. And during our vacation we did go for a lot of walks with the babies. We even did quite a bit of swimming in the pool and in the ocean.
However, here’s the honest truth. Low intensity activity like walking, jogging, swimming, etc. – while better than nothing – just isn’t enough.
To look and feel your best you need both calorie-burning cardio exercise AND muscle preserving resistance exercise. So that’s why we included walking, swimming, and the resistance-based exercises above.
And here’s another important piece of advice.
If you’re even more time-crunched than we’ve been, skip the cardio stuff in favor of resistance exercise. When time is limited, the resistance exercises covered in this article are much more effective than cardio exercises.
The real lesson: Keep it simple
I think one of the reasons people skip workouts – when traveling, when on vacation, or even when they have a new baby at home – is that they think working out has to be this big event.
They think you need lots of time, the right clothes, the right equipment, and the perfect workout program. Well, frankly, that’s bullshit.
Sure, my regular workouts – which take me about an hour or so to complete – are performed at a gym. I do wear some nice workout wear. And I do follow training guidelines from one of my coaches. (The moms in this article are the same. They normally do longer workouts planned for them by their coaches).
However, when we don’t have the luxury of a gym, or even time, we don’t bail on the whole thing, “all-or-nothing” style. Instead, we subscribe to the “always something” philosophy.
We keep it simple and do the best we can. And here’s the funny thing. The best we can is usually good enough.
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Hip Thrust: The Most Important Exercise You’re Not Doing
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There are four leg exercises every athlete should do. You’re probably already doing three of them: Squats, Deadlifts and Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squats. But the fourth exercise—the Hip Thrust—isn’t so common. Though it most certainly should be.
What Is a Hip Thrust?
The Hip Thrust is a glute exercise designed to improve your strength, speed and power by teaching optimal hip extension. What is “optimal hip extension,” and why should you care about it? It’s all about the power in your glutes, which are among the most powerful muscles in your body. The glutes are designed to extend the hip or pull the leg behind the body. If your glutes are underdeveloped, your speed, power and strength are all compromised. That means you’ll have weaker Squats and Deadlifts as well as slower 40-Yard Dash times and lower vertical jumps than you could have otherwise. Aren’t those the things you’re trying to improve?
A lot of exercises that improve leg strength, like Leg Presses or Squats, don’t maximize hip extension. When we rack up the Leg Press with a bunch of 45’s, or only Squat halfway down—which is as far as people go when their thighs are parallel to the ground—we aren’t fully engaging our glutes. It may look cool to lift all that weight, but your glutes aren’t doing all of the work they could be or should be.
See how the Hip Thrust is performed.
Enter the Hip Thrust
If you want to learn how to properly perform this exercise, you should look no further than Bret Contreras. Contreras is the glute and Hip Thrust master. Everything that you’ll ever need to know about the exercise can be viewed here.
To perform the exercise, all you need is a low bench (16 inches or shorter) and a barbell. If you use lighter weights (less than 135 pounds), it can be hard to place the bar on your pelvis due to the size of the smaller plates. When you start lifting at least 135 pounds, it becomes a lot easier to set up for the lift, because your legs can slide under the bar.
The bar should go directly on your upper thigh, directly below your crotch. Be careful for obvious reasons! The pressure can greatly increase when you start lifting heavier weights. Using a pad or towel helps relieve the pressure. I like an Airex Pad.
Once you have the bar in your lap, the next thing to do is get set up for your first repetition. I find it most comfortable to place the edge of the bench pad across the middle part of the back—right below the shoulder blades. When you lift heavier weights, you need to use your elbows to raise your body to set up the lift. It’s almost like doing a Bench Dip but with your elbows. This can get tricky, so make sure you have weight clips on each side.
Here’s what it looks like:
Hip Thrust Starting Position
Hip Thrust Bridge Position
Placement of Feet, Neck and Hands
Your feet should be directly under your knees, so when you fully extend into the lift, your knees make a 90-degree angle with the ground. Your neck should always remain neutral. Pretend you have an egg under your chin throughout the lift—if you squeeze too hard, you’ll break it, or if you lift up your chin, you’ll drop it. Place your hands on top of the bar once you have lifted it off the ground.
Once you have taken the necessary steps to set up the thrust properly, use correct form throughout the lift. It’s important to engage your glutes throughout the lift. I spend a few seconds visualizing my brain sending messages to my glutes to help my body understand where I should be “feeling it.” It is common for some athletes to feel it in their quads, hamstrings and lower back. I suggest moving your feet around until you feel your glutes maximally engaged. Once you have completed the upward portion of the thrust, tuck your butt under the bar. This is referred to as a posterior tilt. The lift should be executed smoothly with the glutes lifting the majority of the weight. It’s not the end of the world if you feel it in your lower back—but that’s probably a sign that it’s weak. If you perform it properly, you should feel a nice strong pump in your glutes after the fourth or fifth set.
Rep Range and Rest Interval
Perform sets of 6-12 reps, resting 1-3 minutes between sets. I suggest an initial warm-up set and then 4-6 sets in a pyramid style, increasing the weight and lowering the reps on sets 1-3, resting 1 minute between sets until set 3, then resting 2-3 minutes between additional sets. On sets 4-6, lower the weight and increase the reps. It’ll look like this:
As with any lift, there are plenty of things you can do wrong when you do Hip Thrusts. The main mistakes I’ve observed include:
- Not maximizing the full range of motion or stopping short of thighs parallel to the ground
- Placing the feet too far in front or pressing through the toes, or heels come off the ground
- Putting the bar too close to the neck or lower back
- Hyperextending the lower back at the end of the lift and not maintaining a neutral spine
- Jerking the weight off the floor
The biggest problem I have seen with the Hip Thrust is using weight that is too light. Your glutes are strong; you need to lift heavy. Some of the female athletes I train can thrust more than 250 pounds for 10 reps—and that’s only 75 percent of their max It should also be noted that you can expect slight bruising if you do not use a pad.
- 4 Best Glute Exercises You’re Not Doing
- How to Master the Barbell Glute Bridge
- Why Your Squat Setup is Wrong and How to Fix it
No matter how well you think you know your body, there’s a good chance New York City board-certified plastic surgeon Matthew Schulman, MD, knows your butt type even better. Over the course of his career, he’s examined an estimated 50,000 butts from 35 countries and almost every U.S. state. And he’s personally augmented more than 2,000 of them.
Dr. Schulman says your butt shape is determined by the placement of your pelvis and hip bones, the amount of fat you have and its distribution, the size of your underlying gluteal muscles, and the way your butt muscles attach to the thigh bone. The outcome is a butt that fits into one of five categories.
And in the same way that knowing your breast shape can help you find a flattering bra fit, nailing down your butt shape can determine which underwear styles fit best, according to HerRoom.com lingerie expert Tomima Edmark. So ID your butt shape below, and stick with the recommended underwear styles listed for the most comfortable, flattering fit.
If the line between your hip bone and outer thigh runs perpendicular to the ground, congrats, your butt is square, according to Dr. Schulman.
The best bottoms for you: While styles designed to hit high on the thigh can ride up and result in a wedgie, boy shorts, bikinis, tangas, and thongs can be comfortable and flattering for women with square, flat butts. Just steer clear of panties with elastic-edged leg holes, which tend to have extra fabric that can cause awkward bunching.
If the line between your pelvis and hips angles inward, your butt takes on a “V” shape from behind, according to Dr. Schulman, who says this butt shape is common among women with broad shoulders and very narrow hips.
The best bottoms for you: Stick with briefs, boy shorts, hipsters, or bikinis without high-cut leg holes, which won’t provide quite enough coverage for your butt cheeks. Because a V-shaped butt can make your cheeks look like they’re sagging, make sure your underwear’s leg opening cups the bottom of your buns for extra definition.
“Pear-shaped” women tend to have A-shaped butts that widen below the hip bones, according to Dr. Schulman.
The best bottoms for you: Because A-shaped butts tend to stem from fuller thighs, the most comfortable underwear styles have high-cut legs with larger leg holes. Stick with tangas, bikinis, or boy shorts made from stretchy lace, or seamless, laser-cut edges — and avoid styles with elastic-edged leg holes, which can be binding and uncomfortable.
This one is pretty much self-explanatory, but mostly because you’ve seen this shape on Kim Kardashian, Queen Bey, and J Lo. If you want a rounder butt — which tends to be a popular sentiment among Dr. Schulman’s patients — strengthening the butt muscles can give your backside “more projection” without surgical intervention. (May I recommend the #CosmoButtChallenge?)
The best bottoms for you: A round butt requires extra fabric in the back for full coverage — otherwise, the crotch of your underwear will just shift backward, which can lower the front waist band and trigger a frontal wedgie — not cool. Tangas and thongs, as well as briefs and boy shorts with four-way stretch, a center back seam, and — in a perfect world — ruching along that seam are ideal for contouring your butt cheeks. Pro tip: Size up for even more coverage.
5. Upside-Down Heart
The ol’ upside-down-heart-shaped butt is round without defying gravity. Like round booties, “it involves a curve to the outer hips, but with more volume in the lower part of the hip,” Dr. Schulman explains.
The best bottoms for you: Because your butt and hips are full, and your buns are set low, high-cut leg holes might not give your butt cheeks quite enough coverage. Go for briefs, boy shorts, hipsters, or bikinis with a lower-cut leg opening. If you’re worried about looking saggy, make sure your underwear’s leg openings cup the buns, hitting right below your butt crease for the illusion of an instant butt lift.
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Elizabeth Narins Senior fitness and health editor Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer and a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan.com, where she wrote about fitness, health, and more.
How to Hip Thrust For A Powerful Booty
Hip Thrusts continue gaining popularity in gyms around the country (thanks to our buddy Bret Contreras), and with good reason. The hip thrust and its variations are great for:
- Improving glute strength
- Increasing glute size
- Improving aesthetics of glutes (higher, rounder, firmer)
- Improving performance in athletics
- Improving performance in the weight room
- Reducing overall risk of injury, as strong glutes can help take stress off the lower back and also positively affect the mechanics of the hips, knees, ankles, and feet
They train the quads and hamstrings as well, but to a much lesser degree, making them especially useful for women who want to increase the size of their glutes without significantly altering the size of their legs.
That said, there are a number of reasons why women shy away from performing hip thrusts in the gym:
- They feel awkward.
- They don’t know how to perform them correctly.
- They struggle with getting into the right position.
- They have lower back or hip pain when they perform Hip Thrusts.
While there’s not much we can do to help you get over feeling awkward or shy about performing hip thrusts in a crowded gym (besides encouraging you to wear headphones, and zone out!) we can help you perform the correctly, get in the right position, and hopefully eliminate any extra stress you feel on your lower back or hips during the movement.
Before I dive into how to perform a proper weighted hip thrust, I’d be remiss not to make sure that you know how to perform a bodyweight hip thrust first (also known as a Back-Elevated Glute Bridge). You can see a demo at 2:28 in the video above.
Bodyweight Hip Thrust (a.k.a. Back-Elevated Glute Bridge)
This movement is exactly the same as the Glute Bridge, except that your back is elevated, which will increase your range of motion and prepare you for a weighted hip thrust.
- Start with your shoulder blades against a bench, and your arms spread across it for stability. If your shoulders don’t reach the bench, you may need to start with your butt slightly off the floor. Bend your knees to about 90 degrees, and make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
- Take a big breath in, blow your air out fully, and brace your core.
- Squeeze your glutes, lift up your hips, and hold a second or two. It’s very important that you don’t hyperextend your lower back at the top.
Tip: Make sure your neck stays neutral or you tuck your chin as you lift yourself off the floor. Don’t let your head drop back.
You can do this same exercise with a single leg. Just lift one foot off the floor, and complete the same Hip Thrust motion. If you struggle doing this with good form, here’s a simple trick that may help: do a normal Hip Thrust with your feet narrow, and once you get to the top, lift one foot off the ground, and do your Single Leg Hip Thrusts from there. This will help you start the exercise with a nice, square pelvis.
Hip Thrust With Chains
If you want to add some weight to the Hip Thrust, but you’re not ready to put a heavy bar across your hips, the Hip Thrust with Chains is a great progression toward that.
- Set yourself up for a normal Hip Thrust, then drape some chains across your lap
- Take a big breath in, blow your air out fully, and brace your core.
- Come up and squeeze your glutes for 1-2 seconds, and then smoothly come back down, moving your whole body as a unit.
Hip Thrust With Bands
If you don’t have chains, or want to mix it up, try using a band over your hips. There are several different ways to do this. The way I’m demonstrating here is by securing a band to very heavy dumbbells.
- Set yourself up for a Hip Thrust, making sure the band is directly across your hip bones.
- Take a big breath in, blow your air out fully, and brace your core.
- Come up, squeezing your glutes, then slowly and smoothly come back down.
There are a few variations on this one as well:
Band Around Knees: Just like with the variation described above, place a band right above your knees, and drive your knees out slightly against the band as you lift hips up, and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Knee Crush: If you have a foam roller or a ball, you can put it between your knees, and think about crushing it between them as you lift your hips.
Barbell Hip Thrust
After you have mastered the basic movement, you may be ready to progress to the Barbell Hip Thrust! In this exercise, like the ones above it, it’s really important that your body functions as a unit, making sure that your core stays braced, your spine stays neutral, and there are no jerky movements. It’s better to do this properly at a lower weight, than to use a higher weight and risk an injury.
- Set up the barbell parallel to the bench.
- Position yourself on the floor, with your shoulders and shoulder blades against the bench. Again, if they don’t reach the bench when you are sitting on the floor you can raise your butt a little bit off the floor.
- Roll the barbell toward you, over your legs until it’s directly over your hips.
- Put your elbows on the bench and your hands on the bar to steady it. It is very important that your body is aligned and your spine is neutral.
- Take a deep breath in, then exhale all the air out through your mouth and brace your core.
- Drive through your heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips (and the barbell).
- Come down smoothly, with your core still braced.
Tip: If you find Barbell Hip Thrusts painful, definitely put some padding between your hips and the bar. You can roll up a yoga mat or a sweatshirt, or whatever else is handy, and put it under the barbell to “pad” the weight. Or you can get yourself a Squat Sponge. I’ve done Hip Thrusts with 315 pounds using one of these puppies with no pain or bruising on my hips afterward. It’s much, much more effective and simple to use than anything else I’ve tried.
Now you can hit your glutes with any variation, from a bodyweight glute bridge to a 300-pound hip thrust! These booty-building and booty-strengthening exercises are really versatile, and you can do them anywhere—whether you’re someplace with no equipment, or in a fully-equipped gym.
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Most coaches and trainers don’t realize that coaching women is different from coaching men.
The truth is, coaching women requires a different set of skills and knowledge that goes beyond understanding the anatomical differences.
This certification gives health, fitness, and nutrition professionals — and aspiring professionals — the skillset, knowledge, and toolkit they need to successfully and confidently coach women.
Our Coaching and Training Women Academy has certified thousands of professionals in 60+ countries around the world. Their results have been astonishing.
Now, we’re offering all that knowledge and training to you.
Interested? Add your name to our no-obligation pre-sale list. You’ll save up to 33% and secure your spots 24-48 hours before the public.
On March 31st, 2020 we’re opening enrollment to our GGS Level 1 Certification to a limited number of students.
To learn more, check out our pre-sale list which gives you two huge advantages:
- You’ll pay less than everyone else. The students who are most eager to level up their coaching skills are our most successful students, so we like to reward those who join the pre-sale list by offering a discount of up to 33% off the general price.
- You’ll get to enroll early. We only open enrollment twice per year, and spots always sell out FAST. By joining the pre-sale list, you have the chance to enroll 24-48 hours before the general public, increasing your chances of getting a spot.
Women want to work with coaches who “get it.”
They’re looking for health, fitness, and nutrition pros who understand them, know how to support them, and are committed to making a REAL difference to their health.
And our GGS Level 1 Certification is the solution. This is your chance.
Stand out. Build a thriving career. And make the kind of difference you were born to make.