If you ’re not doing Hip Thrusts, you ’re missing out on some serious gains. MAXIM fitness guru ALEXA TOWERSEY explains how you don ’t get the butt you want by sitting on it…
Talk to any power athlete and ask him what muscles you need to be really big and strong all over, and guaranteed you ’ll find the most common answer is “back”. It ’s responsible for picking up a barbell and supporting a heavy squat. Second on that list should be glutes. If you ’ve got a strong back and a powerful posterior sitting underneath it, not only are you going to be capable of lifting some heavy-arse weights and safeguarding against hip and knee injuries, but you ’re going to look like you belong in the boudoir. Here ’s what you need to know…
The Hip Thrust is a glute exercise designed to improve your strength, speed and power by teaching optimal hip extension. 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 100m sprint times and lower vertical jumps than you could have otherwise.
In my experience hip thrusts do the best job of building the booty – they’re easy to learn and research has shown they can improve your squat indirectly by up to 30% – and they’re well tolerated by the vast majority of lifters. Your goal should be to do 10 reps with at least 1.5 x your bodyweight. There are six main ways to alter this movement:
- LOADING: You can use just your own bodyweight or load the movement with kettlebells, barbells, bands, dumbbells and/or chains.
- REP STYLES: You can use paused reps, constant tension reps, rest-pause reps, clusters, speed reps, iso-holds, eccentric-accentuated or 1.5 reps.
- LIMB NUMBER: Double leg, single leg or alternating.
- PELVIC ACTION: Stable neutral pelvis or posterior pelvic tilt action.
- BACK POSITION ON THE BENCH: Bench under the scapulae or bench at mid-back.
- FOOT ELEVATION: Feet on floor or feet elevated onto box.
There are 1,728 technical variations of the hip thrust, but I suggest sticking to barbell, banded and single leg variations. Building the glutes isn’t about going as heavy as possible as soon as possible, it’s about “feeling” the muscle work.
You can do anywhere from one to four days per week. If you do one day, then pyramid your sets and aim for volume; if you do four days then two sets per day is enough. I like three days per week – one heavy and low rep barbell session (5 x 5), one medium rep, single leg session (4 x 8) and one high rep, barbell or banded session (3 x 15-30).
If you struggle to activate your glutes in other compound movements like squats, you can program hip thrusts first to ensure they’re engaged more effectively first, or you can finish each lower body session with a set to failure so you’re guaranteed to walk out of the gym like The Rock.
TOP TIP: The top of the ROM (range of motion) for hip thrusts is the hardest portion, and lifters usually skimp on this when they rep out to failure. I like to encourage a 10-second isometric hold on the last rep of each set. Here’s a simple program you can try on for size:
A1. 5 x 5 Heavy Barbell Hip Thrusts. 60-90 secs rest between.
B1. 4 x 10 Back Squat – 60 secs rest between.
C1. 3 x 12 Romanian Deadlift – 45 secs rest between.
A1. 4 x 8 Single Leg Paused Hip Thrust (pause for 3 secs at the top of the movement).
B1. 5 x 6 Sumo Deadlift.
B2. 5 x 60 secs RKC Plank. Focus on squeezing the glutes. 60 to 90 secs rest before repeating B1.
A1. 4 x 20 Feet Elevated Glute Bridge. 45 to 60 secs rest between.
B1. 4 x 10 Goblet Squat.
B2. 4 x 45 secs Reverse Hyper Hold off bench or Sorenson hold off Back Extension machine. 60 secs rest between.
HOW TO THRUST SAFELY
An imperfect setup in terms of bench height, foot placement, pelvic stability and core stability all integrated into a heavy loaded movement can cause more unwanted movement at the lumbar spine. If you can control the tension and stability of the hips, pelvis and core together, this movement is not only a great way to train the hips with serious load into extension but can also be a staple of a lower-back friendly program.
- The back hinges on the bench at the line that’s just beneath your shoulder blades.
- Set up with a medium to wide stance – for maximal glute activation you need slight external rotation of the hips so turn your feet out slightly.
- Push through your heels, not your toes. Heels = posterior chain.
- Make sure you reach full hip extension. If you can’t lock out the hips then you ’re going too heavy.
- Your shins should be fairly vertical when at the top of the movement and the knees should track over the toes – do not allow the knees to cave. Pop a band around your knees as a tactile cue.
- Make sure your ribcage is kept down to prevent flaring. This will ensure that your lumbar spine doesn’t hyperextend and your pelvis doesn’t anteriorly tilt – you need to make sure it’s your glutes doing the work and not your lower back.
- Reps can be brought all the way to the ground and reset or reversed in mid-air without touching down. If you feel the movement primarily in your quads, shorten your range.
TOP TIP: If you find you experience any lower back pain, try keeping a posterior pelvic tilt throughout.
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