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10 Steps to the Perfect Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is likely the most rapidly rising exercise in terms of popularity in strength & conditioning. It is performed by physique athletes, strength athletes, and sport athletes alike. Hip thrusts can be performed with bodyweight, barbell, or resistance band loading. The barbell hip thrust lends itself well to heavy loads, which is precisely why it’s mandatory to execute the exercise properly and master bodyweight first. Here are ten steps to the perfect hip thrust.

1. Push Through the Heels

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The Benefit:

Pushing through the heels as opposed to through the balls of your feet shifts muscle activation away from the quadriceps and onto the glutes and hamstrings.

How to:

Make sure your heels do not rise off the ground. You can choose to maintain flat feet or to raise your toes off the ground via ankle dorsiflexion and holding that position throughout the set.

2. Ensure Vertical Shins at the Top of the Movement

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The Benefit:

Having the shins vertical and perpendicular to the ground maximizes glute activation. Setting the feet too close to the buttocks shifts more tension onto the quads, and setting the feet too far away from the buttocks shifts more tension onto the hamstrings.

How to:

Figure out the proper foot distance so that when you’re at the top of the hip thrust, in the lockout position, your shins are vertical and not angled forward or backward.

3. Keep Knees Out

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The Benefit:

Keeping the knees out increases gluteal activation and is healthier for the knee joints.

How to:

Don’t let the knees cave inward throughout the set; keep tension on the glutes so that the femurs track in line with the feet.

4. Achieve Full Hip Extension

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The Benefit:

Full hip extension is where the glutes achieve their highest level of activation. Failing to reach this range of motion will lead to diminished tension on the glutes.

How to:

Make sure you use the glutes to push the hips as high as possible during each repetition of the hip thrust. Don’t skimp on ROM just to perform more reps; if you can’t reach full hip extension then end the set.

5. Slightly Posterior Tilt the Pelvis

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The Benefit:

Posterior pelvic tilt prevents lumbar hyperextension which isn’t ideal for spinal health, in addition to increasing glute activation.

How to:

As your hips extend and start to reach the top of the movement, think of bringing your pubic bone closer to your ribcage via gluteal contraction.

6. Keep Ribs Down

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The Benefit:

Keeping the ribs down prevents spinal hyperextension, which can be injurious to the spine over time.

How to:

Many coaches like the “chest up” cue during squats and deadlifts, but for the hip thrust this cue is the opposite of what you want. During the hip thrust, think “ribs down” so that your ribs stay glued to the pelvis throughout the movement.

7. Maintain Forward Eye Gaze

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The Benefit:

A forward eye gaze encourages posterior pelvic tilt and prevents anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar hyperextension while simultaneously shifting tension onto the glutes and away from the erectors and hamstrings.

How to:

Look straight ahead when at the bottom of the hip thrust. As you rise upward, maintain your forward eye gaze which will cause your neck to flex forward during the movement.

8. Make Fists and Dig Arms Into the Bench

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The Benefit:

Digging the arms into the bench and making fists will increase strength and total body muscular tension through a process known as “irradiation.”

How to:

When you set up, get tight, squirm into proper position, dig your arms into the bench, and squeeze your fists together forcefully.

9. Breathe Big and Brace Core Prior Before Each Lift

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The Benefit:

Bracing increases spinal stability, prevents hyperextension of the spine, and allows for better performance.

How to:

At the bottom of the movement, take a deep breathe and then “lock it down” by tightening the abs, obliques, and diaphragm muscles.

10. Pause at the Top with a Big Glute Squeeze

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The Benefit:

Pausing for a moment at the top of the hip thrust increases time under tension and ensures proper tempo and control throughout the movement.

How to:

At the top of each rep, squeeze the glutes and count to one before descending.

How it Looks in Action

The video below showcases some of these tips and portrays how hip thrusts should look in action, delving into bodyweight and barbell mechanics.

And of course, don’t forget your hip thruster!

Hip Thruster barbell band

The Hip Thruster is the best way to do the hip thrust – stable and versatile!

17 Comments

  • Walter Kyles says:

    Thank you so much for all of your advice.

  • jill kleier says:

    Thanks for explaining proper technique. These have moved up in rank as one of my favorite exercises along with deadlifts.

    Big fan, and loyal follower!

  • Laura says:

    Love this! Thx so much. Still learning, but already seeing results!

  • Lexie says:

    Bret you are amazing thank you for the video. I find that when I do these they hurt my back on the bench when I up the weight to an appropriate weight for my glutes to handle.

  • Matt says:

    I’ve been reading everything you put out for about a year now. I’ve learned a ton, and have been able to apply it immediately. I’ve been adding in thrusts and bridges more and more into my rehab plans and performance plans, and I’ve got to say, everybody seems to love them!

    Thanks for the info!

  • msytc says:

    Bret you are so cute how you only noticed your additional glute mass while in the shower! Don’t guys look in mirrors too? Joking aside this was a great reminder on cleaning up hip thrust form, especially when you hip thrust regularly – I noticed how I was falling into some bad habits like hyperextending the lumbar and puffing out the chest.

    • Bret says:

      Thanks @msytc, I couldn’t really detect visual changes naked or in jeans, etc., but there was a definite improvement in density and increased muscle mass. I do look in the mirror every morning when I wake up, but I usually just look at my front side LOL. Glad you liked the video.

  • DocSteve says:

    Neutral spine applies to the entire spine, so make sure your spine isn’t flexed at the neck when doing this, and make sure to emphasize that the lumbar spine should stay in neutral, not deviating into flexion during the thrust.

    • Bret says:

      Doc Steve – just making sure – have you ever performed a barbell hip thrust, or are you just speculating based on your knowledge of spinal biomechanics? The hip thrust differs from the squat or deadlift mainly due to the position of the loading, therefore it requires a unique mechanical strategy. Anyway, there are 31 links to published journal articles that actually measure spinal mechanics during resisted and explosive exercise showing that the spine doesn’t really stay in neutral – not even close (see here:http://bretcontreras.com/current-position-statement-on-anterior-pelvic-tilt/). If you’ve tried both methods employed in this video and you have a strong preference, then I’m certainly interested in what you have to say. But if you’re just speculating having never tried the exercise, then I’d prefer for you to have some experience before commenting.

  • Victoria says:

    Hi Bret!
    I love how you get to improve this exercise over the years. I’ll include these tips in my performance for sure.

    I’ve noticed that where you step on while doing the hip thrust has a grid printed/drawn on it… is it for proper feet placement? Is it a piece of foam rubber or a more hard material?

    Thanks for everything.

  • Carolina says:

    Hi Bret! I’ve just purchased your book Strong Curves and I have 2 questions.
    Should I eat in a caloric surplus to grow my glutes? I’m a litte afraid of that bc I don’t want to gain fat. I’m 5,2″ and about 107 lbs. Not need to lose weight as you see, but I don’t mind if I lose a little more fat.
    And the second, is there a more intense option for workouts? I see that the Gluteal goddess program for advanced lifters is only three days/week, and I’m used to lift at least four.
    I really want/need massive gains on my booty!
    Thank you.

  • Mehdi says:

    Hi Bret. thanks for your effort. I recommended and applied hip thrust in my athletes. It responded very good.
    Thanks for everything.

  • Chris Norden says:

    Hi Bret — Thank you for this post and video demonstration. I’ve only been doing partial ROM on my hip thrusts (as opposed to the full ROM version you demonstrated here), as I haven’t wanted to hyperextend my lower lumbar and injure my L3-S1 disks. But with your suggestion here to keep ribs down and squeeze them towards the pubic bone/pelvis to “lock them in,” I’m hoping to get full ROM without injury (I’m about to head to the gym to try this out now, and start doing it twice weekly as you suggest in the video as opposed to on my once-weekly heavy lower body day as I’ve been doing them). — ONE QUESTION, though: when you’re demonstrating WITHOUT the bar and plates, you show tight fists/irradiation. However, when you did those three reps WITH the bar and plates, your hands were on the bar, keeping it balanced (as I’ve been doing it; i.e. no tight fists/irradiation). Could you please explain or show how you incorporate your “squeeze fists together forcefully” tip, above, into a WEIGHTED hip thrust with a 45-pound Olympic bar (like in your video) that requires some sort of stabilization throughout the set? — Thanks in advance for your reply, Bret. — Best, Chris

  • Hillary says:

    Hi Bret! I’ve been doing your Strong Curves program for almost two months. I believe I have tight hip flexors and stretch them daily so I can eventually achieve full range of motion in my hip thrusts. My question is in regards to progressing in weight and timing. I can hip thrust 100lb but I notice at that weight my back hurts a little and I don’t feel the burn in my glutes any more. But with less weight I feel like I’m doing hip thrusts forever. Do I need to stick it out at a lighter weight and just do lots and lots of reps and continue to work on stretching my hip flexors before I add weight?

    • Hillary says:

      ://bretcontreras.com/quit-going-darn-heavy-hip-thrusts-train-glutes-not-ego/

      I found my answer! Thanks for providing such a wealth of info. I’m loving your program and the results are so exciting!!!!

      Thank you,
      Hillary

  • Edith says:

    Hi Bret,

    I love your articles. Thank you for providing all the studies.

    I’ve noticed that when I do hip thrusts, I feel it in my quads wwwwaaayy more than my glutes.

    However, when I practice bridge barbell, my glutes are burning.

    But I don’t see significant results.

    I’ve been doing barbell bridge for almost a year pretty intensively. Only recently raised the weights to 100 pounds (used to be 50).

    In addition, I do American deadlift, pull through, hip abduction and cable kickback about 4 times a week.

    Any advice on how to do hip thrust without feeling the quads?
    And what am I doing wrong that I don’t see results?

    Thank you,
    Edith

  • Renée says:

    How can I stabilise the barbell more with each thrust? When I go up it starts to get wobbly…

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