New Trends in Hip Thrust Performance

I’m going to make this blogpost short and sweet. As I continue to learn more about the hip thrust exercise I will continue to update you with my realizations.

1) Padding

The Airex pad works better than the Hampton thick bar pad. When you buy a Hampton thick bar pad, the barbell can fall through the slits. When my client Steve Hammond and I were regularly thrusting with over 500 lbs (Steve with 585), the pad eventually eroded. I imagine that if we trained regularly with the pad it would last around a year with the amount of deformation it experienced. It seems that the Airex pad is much more durable and will last for many years. With the Airex pad, you don’t have to worry about the bar faling through the slit. Finally, if you buy an Airex pad, you can use it with quadruped movements such as pendulum quadruped hip extensions, half-kneeling exercises such as half-kneeling cable anti-rotation presses, and even as padding for Zercher squats. This is a no brainer if you ask me!

Click the photo below purchase your own Airex Balance Pad.


2) Height

Many benches are too high for optimal hip thrust performance. My bench at home was perfectly suited for maximum glute activation, but it was lower than many benches you’ll find in gyms. I’m very tall, 6’4″ to be exact, and the benches at the gym here at AUT are too tall for me to comfortably perform the hip thrust. The benches here measure 18.5″ in height. The bench I had back home in Phoenix was 16″ in height and was perfect for me.

For this reason, I recommend that you get crafty and tinker around to figure out a way to do them from the right height. You don’t need to elevate your torso very high. I think around 12-15 inches high would be optimal for most people. Hip thrusts feel much more comfortable when the elevation isn’t too high. Don’t be afraid to do them from a small box like this:

You can pick up a similar product called an Original Fitness Step by clicking on the photo below.


36 thoughts on “New Trends in Hip Thrust Performance

  1. Graeme

    Bret,

    Have you used a bar in a squat rack in place of a bench for your back? With padding of course.
    I only suggest it because it can be easily adjusted to various heights.

    As well, do you have any height recommendations for bench/bar height based on the individuals antropometrics? Such as tibila tuberosity measurement with the FMS.

    Thanks,

    Graeme Lehman

    Reply
    1. Bret

      Hey Graeme, great ideas! I have not experimented with this but I think it could indeed be done. And I don’t have height recommendations based on anthropometry. Ideally you want a 90 degree knee angle with the torso parallel with the ground. Since the back hinges on the bench, I think the tibial tuberosity might serve as a great upper limit in terms of height. Going a bit lower would be fine as well. Cheers! -Bret

      Reply
  2. Marianne

    Hey Bret, thanks for the tips!

    The benches in my gym are also too high for hip thrusting, but what I realised today was I could drag a bench over beside the Lifting Platforms and that would mean you’d be higher, so it kind of makes up for the difference. The only issue then is making sure you don’t push back too much into the bench making it move :-/ Which wouldn’t be so good!

    But I never thought of just using a step! Cheers

    Reply
  3. Jenny

    for the NZ readers, the Airex pad is somewhat harder to obtain unless you order from overseas (from my experience). Auckbritt.co.nz did advertise this for sale however they didnt have it in stock and suggested a physiomed balance pad which is a similar product.

    Reply
    1. Bret

      We have some pads at the AUT gym that are just like the Airex pads (but they’re generic). I don’t know where we got them or I’d post a link.

      Reply
      1. Jenny

        I did purchase one of the physiomed pads and they look similar including postage it was $64.34 (purchased it last month)

        Reply
  4. Keda

    I’m not sure how high the benches are at my gym, but I assumed too high after reading this post. Today I tried going lower and absolutely hated it. I felt like the barbell was going to roll down my torso and choke me to death. Ok that was an exaggeration, nevertheless I’m much more comfortable with my back higher than lower. Doesn’t one get more ROM with the torso higher?

    Reply
  5. Matt

    Hi Bret,

    I do hip thrusts at home and just lie a 75 pound punching bag on the floor and put my back against it. It seems to be the perfect height for me (I’m 5’11”). Also, sometimes I take a second punching bag and put my heels on it to mimic the skorcher that you designed. It increases the range of motion and make a noticeable difference.

    Matt

    Reply
  6. Ryan

    Hi Bret,

    I received a phone call yesterday from a friend saying “I’ve just seen a video of you doing glute bridges on the glute guys page”, upon looking I just started laughing, as I wondered why my regular 20 to 50 views on my youtube page had jumped so high.

    Thanks,

    Ryan

    Reply
  7. Jay

    Whats up Bret,

    About cushioning, I once tried putting a wide PVC pipie through the barbell, increasing surface area, therefore reducing pressure, it felt more comfortable than the hampton pad, but my only fear is that at higher weights, the plastics could flex and split. And the last thing you want is pieces of plastics poking hole in you.

    Jay

    Reply
    1. Bret

      Yeah, some people have done the same thing with a foam roller too. I’ve never experimented with that, but it’s definitely worth looking into. Thanks!

      Reply
  8. Billy S.

    Thanks for the advice, Bret. After looking through some products, I think I’m going to go with the Stackable Step from Power Systems Two of them = 12 inches. You’re right about the bench being too high. It just didn’t feel quite right while HT’ing – I would actually feel a little pain in my scapula sometimes. Looking forward to this change, let’s see how it goes!

    Reply
  9. Karbon

    To summarize:

    * Ideally you want a 90 degree knee angle with the torso parallel with the ground.
    –> So the shoulders must be higher than the feet (about 15 inches)

    * An increased ROM activates the hamstrings more
    –> So the feet should bei elevated, too, but about 15 inches less than the shoulders.

    What about placing the back on an small stability ball and the feet on an aerobic step?

    Reply
    1. Bret

      Karbon, I could write an entire chapter on hip thrust biomechanics, so it’s not easy to describe everything here. On your first point, you’re dead-on. On your second point, not really.

      If you want increased hamstring activity, you elevate the feet. This creates a knee flexion moment so the hammies are now working as hip extensors and knee flexors.

      Regarding the use of stability balls, my EMG experiments showed that this practice decreased glute activation. The glutes seriously need a stable environment to maximally contract. For this reason, I recommend finding a stable surface. And when both the shoulders and feet are elevated, it makes it difficult to use extra loading (which is why my Skorcher machine rules).

      Reply
        1. Bret

          George – No! I should have filmed a video here. The Airex pad replaces the Hampton thick bar pad. It goes in between the barbell and your hips. I prefer this way but many women prefer the Hampton thick bar pad. Sorry for the confusion. -Bret

          Reply
          1. George

            Hi Bret,
            Ok thanks for that, so what is the hampton thick bar pad then? i just use the barbell pad and then wrap my towel around it, but as i go more heavy i think i need more padding.. Is the airex pad not to big and bulky to use for hip thrusting?
            I love this exercise everyone thinks im making love to the bar when do it in the gym where i work.:)

          2. Bret

            George – As you get stronger the pressure of the barbell makes it very uncomfortable on the hips. For this reason, the Hampton thick bar pad or Airex pad are necessary as they take away the pain completely. They’re not too bulky for hip thrusting – they’re just right. For some who have huge thighs, it may pose a problem, and some brands of plates are bigger than others. -BC

      1. Teresa Merrick

        Hi Bret,

        How about shoulders on a BOSU, dome side up? Flat side down creates stability and the dome is about 10 inches high and I can elevate it a little to get to the 12 to 15 inch range. Also, are you trying to use a surface for the shoulders to support full width of the scapulae? We have some adjustable boxes (Elite Fitness) that may be wide enough for my shoulders.

        Reply
  10. kit laughlin

    I watched your hip thrust video; very nice.

    May I add two additional cues that we have found helpful? Before I do that, can I add that apart from what I teach on my Stretch Therapist workshops, I have not heard anyone else apart from you stress the importance of the relationships between tight hip flexors and inactive glutes (apart from Janda, I mean). I believe that tight HFs are one of the causes of pulled hamstrings in sprinters and footballers, for the same reason (reciprocal inhibition reflex). Accordingly, in those whose flexibility will not allow the unweighted movement into hip extension, may I recommend the partner version of our HF stretches?

    It can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQk3GD53DV0&feature=player_embedded

    The two cues that some here might find helpful (and this depends on their reflex patterning, of course) is, in the bottom position of the lift, to tuck the tail (this is our shorthand for flattening the lumbar spine; this can take out, or significantly reduce, the tendency to use the erector spinae group to pull the pelvis back as a means to accomplish the lift). As well, tucking the tail usually activates TA and the internal obliques, which only helps! If the trainee can feel this, the glutes can be used to tuck the tail, too. A flattened lumbar spine can also be re-cued at the bridge point (before extension); this is very effective in reducing the erectors’ contribution to the final position.

    The second is not really a cue; more of a positioning consideration. We have found that, in those whose hamstrings are overly active in the hip thrust, placing the feet so that they will end up two or so inches in front of the knees can help reduce that.

    I found your cue of squeezing the glutes consciously before entering the hip extension phase (so, when in the ‘glute bridge’ position) very helpful, personally.

    The last suggestion is that we found the one-leg version (no weight) seems to provide the fastest activation; this coupled with the tail tuck in the bottom position worked for everyone in our group.

    Reply
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    1. Bret

      James – glute bridge is done from the ground, hip thrust is done with shoulders elevated. I like the hip thrust more, but both are good. Glute bridge is a partial ROM movement which allows for heavier loads, but hip thrust involves much more hip ROM.

      Reply
  13. Pingback: Hip Thrusts and Bench Height | Mother Fitness Revolution

  14. Bret

    Bret

    I notice that no one seems to elevate thier feet when performing weighted hip thrusts. Wouldn’t this improve the range of motion and hence the training effect?

    Regards
    Colin
    Brisbane Australia

    Reply
  15. Alex

    Hi Bret,

    I’m late to this party but have you ever tried the Squat Sponge for Hip Thrusts with a Barbell?

    I’m looking for something easier to handle than the airex pads and this thing seems to wrap around the bar better and still is super thick.

    Thanks for letting me know.

    Reply
      1. Alex

        Hey Bret:

        I finally got the Squat Sponge and tried it today for Hip Thrusts/Glute Bridge.

        It was AWESOME! HIGHLY recommend it.

        I got it at Amazon for 25 bucks.

        http://www.amazon.com/Squat-Sponge-diameter-Olympic-Barbell/dp/B00A1N79IW

        I also spent 5 bucks on the Camco velcro steel buckle for awning straps and used one of them to wrap the center of it so it does not pop out while performing the movement.
        http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000EDOSSI/ref=pe_385040_30332190_TE_M3T1_ST1_dp_2

        Hope it helps everybody. I was able to get a ton of weight today without worrying about the barbell at all.

        Reply
  16. Alexandra Strauss

    I hate when I can’t find an available step bench to use (at the gym). Whenever I use a regular bench, I feel the tension in my quads and back more, even though I’m actively trying to engage the glutes. This never happens with a low step bench set up. I’m 5’5 and two risers on each side is perfect.

    Reply

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