Level – Beginner
Words – 1200-1400
Reading Time – 4-5 minutes
A staple exercise when looking to build stronger, more shapely glutes, but also a great way to add intensity to a training session. The hip thrust is an exercise that we use with most if not all of our female clients.
We find that most are able to grasp the technique very quickly and it’s one that can be adjusted to suit all abilities.
The 7 tips below are for those who may have either seen someone doing this exercise online or perhaps in the gym but are unsure on how to execute it properly.
Note: we’re writing this assuming that you’re strong enough to complete multiple sets of glute bridges with good form and therefore advanced enough to move onto the hip thrust (back elevated on bench).
Tip 1: Using the right bench / bench height.
For months we played around with different benches and different bench heights but found that the most simple aerobic step set (which most gyms have) actually worked best.
Height wise, we recommend using 5 risers each side (pictured). This equates to around 14/15” and we’ve found that this is where clients feel most comfortable. Very short clients will use 4 risers as that works well for them.
Tip 2: Back position, pivot point.
Once you’ve set the step/bench up, the next move is to sit down and get your back in the right position. To do this properly you need to imagine that your torso is like the bottom half of a seesaw and that your mid-upper back is the pivot point.
Note: It’s important to keep a neutral neck position throughout the movement. Ensure that you’re facing the wall at the start of the movement and facing the ceiling at the top of the movement. This just stops you from rolling your head around and causing discomfort in your neck.
Tip 3: Correct foot position.
In order to get the most out of the hip thrust, the aim is to activate the glutes as much as possible. Foot position plays a massive part in this so pay close attention to the image below.
Top Image – this is an example of good foot positioning. You’ll notice shins are vertical and ankles are directly beneath the knees.
Middle Image – although a little movement is cool, the middle image shows an angle slightly too big. You’ll find that tension in the glutes is lost and more emphasis will be put on the hamstrings.
Bottom Image – this image shows a foot position which will put most if not all the tension through your quadriceps / thighs. This will be doing very little for your glutes.
Tip 4: Barbell Pad.
You must, must, must ensure you have a good quality barbell pad / sponge. You either need to buy yourself one or ask your gym if they could stock one. Most gyms have very old & used pads which aren’t ideal to use. They’re used by hundreds of members, hundreds of times per day and therefore offer very little protection for your hips.
You can grab a pad online for as little as £10.
It’s important that you position the pad in the centre of the bar before you begin your set. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at the amount of people that don’t do this.
Tip 5: Using the right weight discs / plates.
It’s important that we make something clear at this point in the article.
You must only move onto weighted barbell hip thrusts when you’re truly strong enough. We typically use the rule that a client must be able to comfortably complete 4 sets of 20 bodyweight reps before moving them on to a weighted version of the exercise.
Put it to the test. Can you complete 4 x 20 reps at bodyweight with no real problems? If not, thats cool, just stick at it and keep working on it until you can.
Back to the article.
In an ideal world your gym will have a set of technique/bumper plates. These are extremely useful and ideal when you need to train with full sized plates but at a lighter weight.
You can read more about the benefits of technique plates in this article > Female Gym Essentials.
Why do I do if my gym doesn’t have technique plates?
Option 1: banded hip thrusts
Option 2: raised platform / plates on floor
Option 3: rack hip thrusts
The three options above are just temporary. Once you’ve spent a few weeks using these techniques you should find that you’re strong enough to move on and hip thrust 50kg with good form. Give it a go and aim for 3 sets of 6 reps to start. You can then build your strength up from there.
Why 50kg? Well you’re going to need a pair 20kg plates (large diameter) and like most gyms, the lightest barbell is going to weigh 10kg.
See here > Small bar hip thrust
Tip 6: Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.
It’s vital that you squeeze glutes on every rep. To do this, make sure you push all the way up and reach full extension. Try squeezing / holding for one second, you should feel your glutes really tighten up.
Tip – to really fatigue the glutes we usually have clients pause/hold for 5-10 seconds at the top of the very last rep of each set. Give this a try.
Tip 7: Rep ranges.
Beginner just starting out with bodyweight reps:
We’ve found that using rep ranges between 8-20 is ideal for beginners. Start off aiming for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps and then build your way up to sets of 20 reps as the weeks go on. Once you’re strong enough to complete 4 sets of 20 reps, it’s a sign that you’re ready to move onto a more advanced version of the hip thrust.
Beginner new to weighted barbell hip thrust:
If you’re new to the barbell hip thrust we would recommend focusing on getting stronger in the 8-12 rep range. Aim to complete 3-4 sets with good form and just work on improving your strength/power. Once you’re a few months into training and you’re comfortable with the movement, it would then be wise to move on and try a variety of rep ranges.
Intermediate / advanced trainee – barbell hip thrust:
Now that you’re particularly confident doing this exercise you can begin to play around with different rep ranges. We’d recommend using a mixture of 8-12, 12-15 & 15-20 reps in your program if you want to get the most out of your glutes. They will grow / develop at a much faster rate than if you were to stick to just one particular rep range.
Wrap it up
So there you have it, our 7 tips to get you started with barbell hip thrusting. The main takeaway is that you focus on mastering the technique before moving onto the barbell version of this exercise. Make sure your feet are positioned correctly and that you can really feel your glutes activating at the top of the movement. If you can’t squeeze and hold at the top…. keep working on this until you can.
Links to products mentioned:
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