Category Archives: Glute Training

Should Women Squat if They Don’t Want Big Legs?

Question: Should women squat if they don’t want big legs?

Short Answer: Yes, as long as there are no orthopedic conditions that would preclude doing them. The squat is THE primary foundational movement in strength training and it will assist the vast majority of women in achieving their health, strength, and physique goals. The long answer is going to take me some time to fully explain, especially considering my tendency to go off on tangents, so bear with me.

Pictures Don’t Lie, or Do They?

If you’re on social media, then chances are you’re already a huge believer in squats. After all, pictures don’t lie. We have the Yeah, She Squats Facebook page with almost 1.3 million followers and a zillion pictures of amazing booties, the Squatspo Instagram page with 1.6 million followers and another zillion pictures of incredible glutes, and another hundred other pages dedicated toward teaching women through pictures why they should squat (or better yet, entertaining men for hours on end with endless butt pictures). And you thought my website was risqué..

Yeah, she squats!

Yeah, she squats! But what else does she do? I can promise you that this lady does a variety of glute exercises to attain this booty, plus she has great gluteal genetics!

The problem with these types of pages is that the administrator simply scours the Internet for pictures of amazing butts and then posts them to their page. And since the page has the word squat in the title, the assumption is that the only thing the women are doing to build their amazing derrières is endless sets of squats. I venture to guess that 100% of the ladies featured in these pictures do more than just squat. Ironically, I wrote an article last year titled, Do More than Just Squat. The reality is that these booties are the product of good genetics and lots of exercising in general, including squats and a variety of other glute exercises.

Growing the Glutes Without Growing the Legs

One of my most popular articles on the site is Growing the Glutes Without Growing the Legs. In fact, my friend Nathalia Melo (former Ms. Bikini Olympia) recently shared it on her Facebook page and the article experienced a resurgence. In the article, I emphasized the fact that when most women finally attain the level of leanness that they desire, they end up being very happy with the shape of their legs even if they squat frequently. Nevertheless, far too many women feel that they shouldn’t squat because their legs are already too big for their liking and they do not want them growing any larger. In the article, I detailed a plan for targeting the glutes without hitting much quad and hammies. There are indeed some women who should stick to the strategy outlined in the article. However, unfortunately, many women are missing out by failing to perform their squats due to their incomplete understanding of the adaptational physiology involved in squatting when combined with proper dieting.

You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

You simply cannot have your cake and eat it too. More accurately, you can’t have your cake and have lean legs. Well, actually you can if you adhere to flexible dieting and consistently fit your macros while sticking to mostly whole, unprocessed foods while sprinkling in some treats in small amounts, but that’s besides the point. What I’m trying to convey is that many women covet either the super model look or the fitness model look. Neither of these looks can be achieved by eating several thousand calories per day with ample servings of junk food. If your legs are too bulky for your liking, I suggest looking to your diet first before ditching any exercise that highly elevates the metabolism and activates a large portion of the body’s musculature.

Yeah right!

Yeah right!

If you’re a regular reader of mine, then you know I’m big on hypotheticals. Let’s say an untrained woman is currently 5’5″ tall, weighs 140 lbs, and has a 30% bodyfat level. Let’s say that over the next two years, she adheres to a progressive resistance training protocol that involved squatting, combined with a sound nutritional plan. Let’s say that she ends up losing 10 lbs overall while gaining 100 lbs on her 10RM squat (the most weight she can squat for ten reps). Say she started at 65 lbs x 10 reps and can now squat 165 lbs x 10 reps.

My guess would be that she will have packed on around 10 lbs of muscle during this time, but since she lost 10 lbs overall, this means that she will have lost 20 lbs of fat. She would have started out with 42 lbs of fat and ended up with 22 lbs of fat, which would reduce her bodyfat levels from 30% down to 17%, and she will have lost a lot of overall volume. She’d be denser and would have retained muscular shape in the glutes, thighs, and back, while losing fat around the hips, thighs, abs, back, and arms (over the entire body). She would look much better in terms of aesthetics. So let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that squatting isn’t good for the physique. Of course, in order to pack on 10 lbs of muscle while simultaneously losing 20 lbs of fat, she would have needed to have been performing a variety of exercises that combined to hit the entire body’s musculature, so she’d definitely need to do more than just squat. But the point is that this hypothetical individual would not have liked her legs in the beginning and would have felt that they were too big, but in the end she would undoubtedly love her legs and appreciate her newfound squatting strength.

Can the Thighs Ever be Too Muscular When Lean?

When attaining an ultra lean physique, is there ever a situation where a woman’s quads can indeed be too big? Very, very rarely. See my article showcasing how to train for a bikini competition for pictures of Ms. Bikini Olympia competitors – all of whom regularly squat. I don’t see any that have giant legs.

Each of these ladies squat - are their thighs too big? Methinks not!

Each of these ladies squat – are their thighs too big? Methinks not!

Sometimes I like to use various physique athletes as teaching tools to my readers. I’m not into body shaming, and we all have different preferences with regards to our ideal physiques, so beauty is in the eye of the beholder. With that said, one popular fitness model is Andreia Brazier. Her face is mesmerizingly beautiful, and her body kicks ass. Check out the vastus lateralis (outer quad) development on her – it’s impressive!

Andreia2 Andreia Thighs

She currently has 269K followers on Instagram, so clearly thousands of people admire her physique. I am of the opinion that she needs to chill out on squats (and lunges) and focus on more targeted glute training. You’re free to think that I’m a glute snob and am overly critical.

Please don’t get me wrong, I think she is absolutely beautiful. But if I was Andreia’s trainer, I would put squat and lunge variations on the back-burner and prioritize barbell hip thrusts, back extensions (done with a glute emphasis), band hip thrusts, and pendulum quadruped hip extensions. My guess is that if we did this for an entire year, we would eventually bring the glutes up to match the thighs. By the way, see the pics below and you might agree that she could stand to bring up her glutes in order to better balance out her physique.

Andreia Brazier andreia3 andreia4

Now, Andreia does in fact train her glutes hard. She seems to prioritize squats (she can squat around 225 lbs for 2 reps bodybuilding style – with a narrow stance and going almost to parallel), front squats, smith machine curtsy lunges, side lunges, walking lunges, static lunges, semi-sumo deadlifts, kb swings, trapbar deadlifts, and cable kickbacks (in addition to the individual Instagram video links, see HERE and HERE for YouTube videos of her training). So her training is not bad at all. But she clearly has a genetic propensity to gain mass in the thighs and not in the hips. Therefore, in my opinion, she would do well with my style of training (a permanent glute specialization routine, if you will).

If I got her hip thrusting 225 lbs for 3 sets of 15-20 reps over time with a smooth tempo and a brief pause at the top of each rep, I’m sure this would make a big difference in glute shape, and if we did band hip thrusts very frequently I’m confident that all the metabolic stress accumulated would eventually translate into greater glute growth. But this is just my preference – I like more junk in the trunk in this situation since her thighs are very muscular. She has a cute little booty, and if her thighs were smaller, then it would be a perfect match in my opinion. It’s all about achieving balance, and growing the thighs without growing the glutes actually makes them look smaller. 

Now, Andreia might very well be perfectly content with her glute development, and some of my readers might feel that her glutes are perfect. Again, it’s all about personal preference. In addition, her glutes appear to be growing based on her latest Instagram pics, so I’m eager to see what she looks like when she diets down in the future. 

The point of using Andreia as an example is to note that while many of my female followers would absolutely kill to possess a physique like Andreia’s, some ladies wouldn’t be content if they possessed her level of quad development. Ladies in this situation would therefore want to ditch the squats (and lunges for that matter). But rare is the woman who is lean with incredibly muscular quads.

Side note: Just so my readers know, I don’t just love muscular glutes. I like booties of all sizes as long as they’re perky and shapely. Jessica Alba happens to be my dream girl (she’s my fiancée Diana’s dream girl too so it’s all good), and she’s very thin with a small but perky backside. I do feel that I could get her looking even better if I was her trainer by prescribing her hip thrusts and back extensions, but I wouldn’t be obsessed with progressive overload with her. I’d probably get her up to 95 lb hip thrusts for 10-20 reps for a couple of sets or just stick with band hip thrusts done frequently. For those who are interested, check out Jessica’s strength training HERE and HERE, and HERE she is doing some MMA conditioning. I previously wrote about attaining the lean and slender look that Jessica has HERE. And oh yeah, Jessica squats, HERE she is doing them with a medicine ball.

All of My Clients Squat

Let me let you in on a little secret. Check out my Instagram page. None of my female clients desire ultra muscular thighs. They want to lean out and lose the fat surrounding their problem areas, grow some booty, and improve their body composition. Guess what? They all squat because squatting helps them achieve their goals. Many of my female clients’ thigh and hip measurements tend to stay the same over time, as does their weight, while their waist measurements always decrease. As I mentioned in my Don’t be a Slave to the Scale article, measurements (and the scale for that matter) don’t tell the entire story. Progress pictures always look much better after a solid year of smart nutrition and progressive overload resistance training including squats.

The stronger my client Ciji gets at squats, the better she looks.

The stronger my client Ciji gets at squats, the better she looks.

Wanna Know Who Else Squats?

Chances are, most of the ladies that my female followers admire in terms of their physiques do in fact squat.

Check out Nathalia Melo doing Squats and Front Squats. But if you think that all Nathalia does for glute development is squats, you’re sorely mistaken. She also does American deadlifts, hip thrusts, single leg hip thrusts, band hip thrusts, kneeling cable kickbacks, cable kickbacks, back extensions, pendulum quadruped hip extensions, lateral band leg raises, reverse hypers, leg press, walking lunges, and many more glute exercises that you can see her doing on her Instagram page. Isn’t it apropos that Nathalia and I would become instant friends based on our mutual affinity for the same glute exercises? See my interview with Nathalia HERE to see what she has to say about “just squatting” and how Brazilians train their booties.


Here is Nathalia high bar squatting with great form

Jamie Eason squats. She just doesn’t go too heavy on them due to a prior back injury and pre-existing spinal condition. But she’ll do light squats, smith machine squats, and reverse hack squats, in addition to many other glute exercises such as lunges, hip thrusts, single leg RDLs, step ups, and more (see HERE and HERE for more info).


Ashley Kaltwasser squats. She does barbell back squats, goblet squats, smith machine squats, and lever machine squats. She also likes her lunges, kettlebell swings, hip thrusts, pendulum quadruped hip extensions, and straight leg deadlifts (see video HERE and HERE and HERE).


As you can see, each of these ladies squat. Perhaps not surprisingly, they all squat with lighter loads than Andreia, but they still squat. These are just a few of my favorite booties – I’m sure that if you investigated the training of women with your favorite physiques, you’d find that they too squat.

Each of these ladies squat with varying loads and variations

Each of these ladies (Nathalia, Jamie, and Ashley) squat with varying loads and variations

There are Many Reasons Why You Should Squat

There’s more to strength training than just the positive adaptations they confer to one’s physique. Here are some other benefits of squatting:

1. They’re the most important foundational lift

Some people might feel that the deadlift is the foundational lift, but I believe it’s the squat. The squat will build the deadlift much more so than the deadlift will build the squat. The squat is very difficult to master, and good squatters are usually able to learn and perform other lifts with great form very quickly. Of course, the same could be said for the deadlift, but the squat still tends to be labeled the king of all exercises.

2. They have incredible functional transfer

Squats will help athletic people jump higher, sprint faster, and pick heavier stuff of the ground, and they’ll help the elderly stand from a seated position more efficiently while also improving balance.

3. They shape the thighs very nicely

Check out Olympic weightlifters – they tend to have excellent thigh development due to all of their squatting. Squats build nice legs.

4. They builds the glutes well

I’ve never thought that squats alone will build the best set of glutes possible, but they’re definitely a great glute exercise for most people and they should definitely be included in a comprehensive glute training program.

5. They rev the metabolism

Try doing 4 sets of 10 rep back squats with 70% of 1RM with 2 min of rest in between sets. This is essentially a form of HIIT and it will keep the metabolism elevated for hours after the training session. The afterburn is often over-exaggerated in terms of importance in the grand scheme of things, but every little bit helps.

Olympic lifters squat (and pull) multiple times per week and many of them can jump through the roof

Olympic lifters squat (and pull) multiple times per week and many of them can jump through the roof

Should Everyone Squat?

No exercise is worth doing if it consistently causes pain or injury. This goes for squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, lunges, bench press, military press, dips, chins, and bent over rows. In some circumstances, squats have been known to lead to hip pain, back pain, and knee pain. However, often resisted squatting can be altered so that the individual can better tolerate the exercise. For example, individuals who are prone to experiencing hip pain when squatting can often perform half squats (or maybe even squats to parallel) and just avoid deep squatting. Individuals who are prone to experiencing back pain when squatting can often perform goblet squats or other squat variations by adjusting the torso angle and depth of the movement. Individuals who are prone to experiencing knee pain when squatting can often perform box squats to parallel where they sit back and keep their shins vertical and knees out. So I wouldn’t be quick to ditch the squat altogether before experimenting with different variations (click HERE to learn a bunch of different squat variations, and click HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE to learn more about squat mechanics).

However, not every body is built to squat (click HERE to see why people must squat differently), and one can attain a very functional body and pleasing physique by avoiding the squat and instead sticking to single leg squatting movements and posterior chain movements.


The squat is the king of exercises for good reason. They’ll help you be a better lifter, a better athlete, and more versatile in everyday tasks. They’ll also help build firm and shapely thighs and glutes.

How your legs look as a result of squatting has very much to do with the way you are eating. If you’re eating at a caloric surplus, then they’ll likely increase in size, but if you’re eating at a caloric deficit, they’ll likely decrease in size but retain their muscular shape.

If you train primarily for aesthetics and you reach a point where you are very happy with the size and shape of your legs, then don’t feel compelled to perpetually increase your strength in squats year after year after year. Jessica Alba does her squats but she only uses a medicine ball. Jamie Eason sticks to bodyweight or light squats due to a pre-existing spinal condition but she still trains the movement. The goblet squat happens to be an excellent squat variation that can be performed very frequently and will help engrain proper squatting mechanics. Nathalia Melo and Ashley Kaltwasser squat to attain their world class legs and glutes. But each of the ladies mentioned in this article also perform a large variety of exercises, so make sure you do more than just squat.

Pauline Nordin squats and her booty rocks!

Pauline Nordin squats and her booty rocks!


The 2-1 Method for Fixing Glute Imbalances

Glute Imbalances are much more common than most people assume. For example, I’m currently training twelve different clients; ten women and two men. Out of these twelve lifters, four possess glute imbalances in varying degrees (all of them are women). Two of them seem to have gotten worse through my training, indicating that I wasn’t paying close enough attention to symmetrical movement as the months progressed. Glute imbalances rear their ugly heads most often during the squat exercise. When maxing out or repping out to failure, the hips will start shifting toward the stronger side (away from the weaker side). This is undesirable from both functional and aesthetics standpoints, so you want to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible.


I’ve written about glute imbalances in the past. One of my most popular articles on the site is this one:

How to Fix Glute Imbalances

This article discusses possible reasons as to why glute imbalances emerge and provides several potential solutions. Please read the article if you or your clients possess a glute imbalance. I also wrote this article, which contains a useful video to watch:

How Do I Know if I Have a Glute Imbalance?

Let’s get back to my clients. One of them took a month lay-off over the holidays and upon returning she now feels a big difference in activation between glutes. She perceives that her right side is firing much harder than her left side during movement and also isometrically from different positions. I palpated her glutes and confirmed that there was indeed a discrepancy; the right side would achieve greater density compared to the left.

Another started shifting to the right considerably when she squatted. This client is also sporadic in training, which tells me that glute imbalances tend to crop up when clients take time off from lifting. I also noticed when the client was performing reverse hypers that one side was visually larger than the other side when contracted. At the top of the movement, I could clearly see that the right glute was more muscular and rose to a greater degree during contraction compared to the left side. Here is what I’ve come up with lately to help fix this issue.

The 2-1 Technique

The client does 2 sets of single leg exercises with the weaker leg and only one set with the stronger leg. I’ve been doing this with high step ups and single leg hip thrusts, but the single leg exercises need to be tailored to the abilities of the client. You could use this with reverse lunges, Bulgarian split squats, skater squats, single leg RDLs, single leg back extensions, foot elevated single leg glute bridges, or even plate loaded side lying clams too. Here’s a picture of a Kim at the bottom position of a high step up:

I like to set the step up height so that the thigh is at least parallel when the toe of the bottom leg comes off the ground.

I like to set the step up height so that the thigh of the top leg is parallel to the ground when the toe of the bottom leg comes off the ground.

Here’s a video of Mary performing a set of single leg hip thrusts with her right leg.


To reiterate, to use the 2-1 method, you perform one set with the weaker leg, followed by one set with the stronger leg, followed by one set with the weaker leg. Take 30-60 seconds of rest between legs. I have my clients do their normal workouts (except squats aren’t taken to failure for reasons discussed below), and then at the end of the session they will do two additional exercises with the 2-1 technique (usually high step ups and single leg hip thrusts).

Stop Squat Sets Shy of Failure

When trying to fix a glute imbalance, stop your squat sets shy of failure. You’ll find that you’ll likely be able to perform the first several repetitions of a set with great symmetry, but as you get closer to momentary muscular failure, your form will erode and you’ll start shifting your hips laterally. Every rep you perform this way reinforces bad technique, so don’t go there. Stop the set prior to this occurrence so you groove sound mechanics.


In just three sessions of using the 2-1 technique, I’ve already seen improvements in my clients’ symmetry during squats. Beginning with the weaker leg ensures that it receives the stronger training stimulus, and the extra volume for the weaker leg adds up over time. Make sure you read the other articles on glute imbalances though, as there are other things you can be doing to fix glute imbalances.

12 Tips for Better Hip Thrusts

Today’s article comes from Los Angeles based personal trainer Ben Bruno. Many of you will recall Ben’s plentiful hip thrust variation contributions to the Evolution of the Hip Thrust article, but Ben has contributed numerous unique, effective methods to the strength training industry. I consider Ben to be one of the top five best trainers in the world for developing glutes with both men and women. At the end of this article you will find links to Ben’s blog and social media. 

12 Tips for Better Hip Thrusts
By Ben Bruno

I really like hip thrusts and single leg hip thrusts and use them with most of my clients regardless of whether their goals are more physique or performance oriented because I think they have value in both cases. One thing I like about them is that there’s a relatively fast learning curve so clients tend to pick them up quickly, but they can still be a little awkward at first. After using hip thrusts with all sorts of different clients of all ages, abilities, and body types, I’ve found some ways to improve the thrusting experience that I hope you’ll find helpful.

1. Pause for a Second

I like to tell my clients to pause each rep for a second at the top to help ensure that they’re coming all the way up and achieving full extension and also to ensure that they’re using their glutes to do the work instead of the lower back. This brief pause also helps ensure that you select a weight you can control and eliminates ego lifting because if the weight is too heavy you won’t be able to pause at the top.

The one exception to this rule for very advanced lifters and experienced hip thrusters where I’m not as anal about the pause at the top if it’s clear they’re coming all the way up and using good form, but as with many exercises, you must first prove that you know the rules before you can break the rules.


2. Find Your Center

One of the biggest problems people have when they first start using the barbell for weighted hip thrusts is getting into a good starting position with the bar centered on the hips. And if the bar isn’t centered from the start, it’s going to tilt and make it impossible to get in a good groove for your set. It can be tough to know if the bar is centered though, especially if you’re using a pad between your body and the bar (as you should be) because the pad keeps you from seeing your hips.

A simple way to help make sure the bar is centered is to put a small piece of tape right on the center of the bar so you can make sure it’s centered. I just use scotch tape so you can’t even notice, but it really helps.

3. Find Your Ideal Foot Position

As a general rule of thumb, I like to tell people to position their feet in such a way that when they’re at the top of the hip thrust, their shins are perpendicular to the floor. If your feet are in too close to the butt it tends to put more stress on the quads (and I’ve also had numerous clients say it bugs their knees), but if you’re feet are too far away it tends to take stress off the glutes and puts it more on the hamstrings.

That being said, when you train a lot of people you learn that there are really no hard-fast rules and for every person that falls within “normal” guidelines, there will be two exceptions because everyone is different. As such, take some time to play around with different foot positions and see where you feel it best.

The same applies for stance width, as some people do better with a narrow stance while some prefer a wider stance.

Once you find your ideal foot position though, it can help tremendously to put plates where you want your toes positioned so that you can find the same foot position for each set.

4. Pick Up Your Toes

You’ll often see people pushing through their toes, even with repeated cueing to push through the heels. Rather than continue to cue them like a broken record to no avail, I like to have them physically lift their toes off the floor, or at least tell them to lift their toes inside their shoes.

Another way to achieve the same thing without having to lift up the toes (which can feel a little awkward at first) is to put your feet on the small mat with your toes dangling over the edge, as UFC fighter Brendan Schaub demonstrates here:

5. Use Collars!

This sounds too obvious to be worth mentioning, but I’ve seen enough near-accidents happen to where it warrants noting. A lot of people do their hip thrusts after they deadlift since they bar is already loaded on the floor, which makes sense and is something I often do as well. Trouble is, if you aren’t using collars on your deadlifts and go to hip thrusts, the plates will slide around, especially when you’re first trying to lift the weight up off the floor as it rarely goes up evenly. I won’t belabor this point, but pay heed!

6. Don’t Sleep On the Short Bar

I’ve found that a lot of women, especially women with slighter builds, tend to do better with a shorter barbell. If you or your client has trouble stabilizing the full-size bar on your hips and finds it wobbling and tilting, try using the curl bar or E-Z bar. The preset mini bars that they have in a lot of commercial gyms work really well, too. The shorter bars also make it easier to get the bar into position if your gym doesn’t have big diameter bumper plates and you aren’t thrusting a weight that allows you to load the bar with full-sized 45 pound plates.

7. Trouble Getting It Up? Try This

Most people report that the hardest part about hip thrusting is getting it up.

Cue the jokes…

If you have trouble sliding the bar over your legs to get into position, try doing rack hip thrusts like this if your rack allows you to set up in this fashion.

Another option is to use a curved buffalo bar if you’re lucky enough to have one in your gym. These bars are rare and are usually something you’ll only find in powerlifting gyms, but for bigger dudes that have one available, it works great for hip thrusts by giving you more room to slide under the bar, and the curve in the bar helps keep the weight steady on your hips to avoid tipping.

8. Progressive Overload Matters, But…

I think that fastest way to see physical changes in your butt is to focus on progressive overload on the hip thrust. Don’t just do the same weight every workout and go through the motions. Record your numbers and try to beat them every workout. I set the bar very high for my clients when it comes to hip thrusting performance and most of them look at me like I’m crazy when I first tell them the goals I have for them, but with a concerted effort to improve it’s amazing how quickly your numbers, and in turn your glutes, will improve.

That being said, a lot of people reach a point in their progression where the weight on the bar starts to bother their hips—even with good padding—and it becomes very difficult to get the bar into position for the first rep. Some of my bigger guys can seemingly thrust as much weight as they want without issue, but a lot of my clients with slighter builds—both men and women— reach a point where continuing to add weight to the bar is not a viable solution, and I can totally relate because I find the same thing. I’d like to be a tough guy and tell you it doesn’t hurt with a ton of weight on me, but, it does.

As such, it can be useful to use different methods to allow you to get a training effect with lighter loads. Two of my favorites are:

“1.5” reps: Come all the way up and pause, then come halfway back down, then come back up again and pause. That’s one rep.

Countdowns: Start by performing five reps followed immediately by a 5-second iso hold at the top. Then go immediately into four reps followed by a 4-second hold: then three, then two, then finally one. After the last rep, hold the top position for as long as possible, shooting for 10-30 seconds. This makes for a great finisher that will leave you with an unrivaled glute pump.

With both of these methods you should still focus on progression, but the weight will be substantially less than if you were using regular reps so it won’t be as uncomfortable on the hips.

9. Don’t Neglect Single Leg Hip Thrusts

I see a lot of folks focus on weighted bilateral hip thrusts but I don’t see nearly as many people focusing on progressing single leg hip thrusts. To me, that’s a mistake.

I actually prefer the single leg hip thrust to the bilateral hip thrust for myself and a lot of my clients, and I think it has tremendous value.

Interestingly, I often talk about the value of single leg knee dominant training (Bulgarian split squats, lunges, skater squats, single leg squats, etc.) as a way to overload the legs more than you can in bilateral squatting variations through the bilateral deficit. With hip thrusts though, the bilateral deficit doesn’t seem to apply, and I think most people won’t single leg hip thrust even close to half the weight they can use for bilateral hip thrusts. Even with lighter loads, I still think it’s a great exercise and I actually feel it more in my glutes. I also think it’s a great option for people who tend to feel heavy bilateral hip thrusts in their lower back, as flexing the hip on the non-working leg seems to limit the ability to overarch the lower back.

And for my fellow lazy-asses out there who abhor loading and unloading plates, it takes a lot less setup due to the lighter loads. Just sayin…

10. Single Leg Hip Thrust Progression

Once you’ve mastered bodyweight single leg hip thrusts, it’s time to add load.

My first progression is to place a dumbbell on the thigh of the working leg, like this.

From there you can progress to a barbell, which can be a tricky transition at first because it can be tough to keep the bar steady on the hips.

For that reason, I like to start people off doing a version where they come up on two legs and lower down on one leg, like so.

Once you feel good with those, you can go to full single leg reps.

And again, the shorter bar can be very useful here.

11. Start Single Leg Hip Thrusts From the Top

With single leg hip thrusts I’ve noticed that people struggle a lot with steadying the bar on the first rep and getting centered. The best way I’ve found to help with this is to have people thrust up on two legs and then pick one foot up and start the set from the top as opposed to trying to break the bar off the floor with one leg. It’s a small tweak that makes a huge difference.

12. Try This Combo

Why choose between bilateral and single leg hip thrusts when you can do both?

One of my favorite hip thrust variations is to start with single leg hip thrusts, doing a predetermined number of reps per leg, and then going straight into bilateral hip thrusts for the same amount of reps.

A lot of my clients will do this with just bodyweight and it works as an awesome finisher, and you can also do it with weight if you’re the masochistic type (like me) who enjoys doing the awkward duck walk out of the gym.

Author Bio

Ben Bruno is a personal trainer in Los Angeles, California. He also publishes a blog and free newsletter at You can connect with him on social media through:ben





Quit Going So Darn Heavy on Hip Thrusts: Train Your Glutes, Not Your Ego

Over 8 years ago I started hip thrusting and prescribing hip thrusts to clients (click HERE to read about the Evolution of the Hip Thrust and see over a hundred variations). It goes without saying that I’ve seen all types of hip thrusts – the good, the bad, and the ugly. In this article I want to discuss what I believe to be the most important aspects of hip thrusting.

If You Don’t Feel Massive Levels of Tension or Metabolic Stress in the Glutes, then What’s the Point?

There is no 1RM hip thrusting championship. You’re not going to go home with any award or trophy for setting a hip thrust 1RM record. Sure, it’s good for bragging points, but the purpose of hip thrusting is to build glutes.

There is indeed a 1RM that allows you to still feel the glutes, so don’t think that you can never, ever max out on hip thrusts. This occurs when you lift the heaviest weight possible that allows you to 1) keep the spine in neutral, 2) achieve full hip extension, and 3) hold the lockout for a second using the glutes as the primary driver. When done this way, a max hip thrust is perfectly fine. The problem is, hardly anyone actually does them this way. Instead, most lifters will hit a pseudo lockout that only reaches around 80% of the way up, with their backs overly arched (hyperextended) and the tension shifted away from the glutes and onto other muscles such as erector spinae, hamstrings, and quads. Please watch the video below to better understand what I’m talking about:

My Favorite Ways to Thrust

There are all sorts of effective hip thrusting variations, and there are all sorts of effective set and rep schemes for the hip thrust. From personal experience, most of my clients do best when they keep the reps at 5 or above with the barbell. Anything less and they don’t feel as much tension development in their glutes. In this way, there’s a sweet spot that lets you feel the glutes working most, and it’s not necessarily at 100% of the maximal weight you can hoist (it might be at 100% of the maximal weight that you can hoist with perfect form, but this requires more discipline than most people possess).

Now, you can certainly always just bust out ultra high reps and achieve very high levels of metabolic stress in the glutes. I definitely do this from time to time in my own training and also with clients. I especially like to do it with band hip thrusts and also with bodyweight back extensions. We’ll do 2-4 sets of 20-30 reps very often at the end of our workouts to attain a burn and pump up the glutes.

But as a standalone method, I do not feel that this method is optimal for glute development. I think that sets of 5-12 reps are ideal for barbell hip thrusting, and I think that sets of 10-20 reps are ideal for band hip thrusting. I believe that this is the sweet spot that allows you to develop incredible levels of tension in the glutes while still building up high levels of metabolic stress.

Of course, you can obviously do pyramid sets where you perform a mixed rep scheme (say a set of 10, followed by a set of 8, followed by a set of 6, followed by a backoff set of 15). Or you could do low reps on one day (say Monday), medium reps on another day (say Wednesday), and high reps on another day (say Friday). As I said before, there are many ways to effectively program hip thrusts.

With regards to barbell versus band hip thrusts (HERE is how we perform band hip thrusts off of the hip thruster), I believe that barbell hip thrusts are the best option since they develop consistent levels of tension throughout the entire range of motion. However, most people also perform other glute exercises. The majority of lifters don’t just do hip thrusts for glute development, they’ll also include a variety of other glute exercises in their training. For this reason, my take on band hip thrusts has changed over the past year.

In my opinion, doing multiple sets of medium rep band hip thrusts gives you the most bang for your buck, assuming you’re also doing exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and/or lunges. Here’s why. The squats, deadlifts, and/or lunges build your bottom-end glute strength (in other words, your glute strength with the hips flexed forward). You will possess this hips-flexed-range glute strength just from performing those exercises. On the other hand, the band hip thrusts will build your top-end glute strength (in other words, your glute strength with the hips fully extended), since this is the portion of the movement that requires the most muscular tension. So the band hip thrusts will increase your hips-extended-range glute strength, leaving you with full ROM glute strength throughout the entire hip flexion-extension arc of motion.

band hip thrust

Is This Just Theory, or Are There Any Anecdotes to Support it?

I recently embarked on an experiment where I didn’t do any barbell hip thrusting for 3 months. I just did band hip thrusts really hard a couple of times per week while also focusing on back squats and front squats. Lo and behold, the squat/band hip thrust combination led to a PR when I went back to barbell hip thrusting. Without ever performing barbell hip thrusts, my barbell hip thrust strength increased from squatting and band hip thrusting.

Now that I’ve been band hip thrusting more often and with more volume, I am more convinced of its efficacy. When I perform band hip thrusts, I like them most in the 10-20 rep range (compared to 5-12 for barbell hip thrusts). But this is just my preference. It will probably be different for you. I know that Kellie and Marianne used to tell me that they liked to perform multiple sets of hip thrusts with 185 lbs back in the day, even though they could bust out 225 lbs with ease (I think Kellie could max out at 385 lb hip thrusts and I know Marianne could do 315 lbs). Several of our Get Glutes members were in agreement that 185 lbs seemed to be their sweet spot in terms of allowing them to feel the glutes working the best. I also know that Kellie and Marianne really liked band hip thrusts when they started employing them. Sammie liked 185-225 lbs for barbell hip thrusts as well as a blue band for band hip thrusts. I prefer 495 lbs for barbell hip thrusts and 2 blue bands for barbell hip thrusts. With these weights, I can control the weight smoothly and develop very high levels of tension in my glutes without compromising my form or ROM.

The point of this article is not to tell you exactly what load, set, and rep scheme to use. It’s to inform you that you need to pay close attention in your training and conduct experiments so that you can hone in on your sweet spot. I can guarantee that the hip thrust method that allows you to best feel your glutes is not a partial ROM 1RM hip thrust with massive anterior pelvic tilt. The point of this article is also not to suggest that progressive overload isn’t important. You should continue to get stronger with excellent form, and your “sweet spot’ should steadily rise each year. Train your glutes, not your ego, and figure out the methods that suit you best.

barbell hip thrust