Heavy Hip Thrusts Done Right are Not Dangerous

Recently, some online discussion about the safety of heavy hip thrusts has emerged, and I want to lay the gauntlet down.

The hip thrust can be performed heavy, medium, or light; it can be performed far from failure, close to failure, or to complete failure. It must be done properly, however.

It should not be done in spinal hyperextension or anterior pelvic tilt. When working up to a 1RM or pushing a set to failure, you should stop as soon as you start to lose the ability to maintain proper spinal and pelvic position. You should look like this when you’re at the top of a hip thrust:

Note the forward eye gaze, chin-tuck, ribs down, level torso, and slight posterior pelvic tilt position. You can do this with load too, you just have to be disciplined and aware.

Note the positioning: forward eye gaze, chin tuck, ribs down, level torso, and slight posterior pelvic tilt. You can do this with heavy load, too – you just have to be disciplined and aware.

Please watch this video for visual demonstration and elaboration:

I’ve seen these types of arguments with the squat, deadlift, and now the hip thrust. As strength coach Dan John once said about the squat,

“Squats don’t hurt your knees; whatever you are doing there hurts your knees.”

You must learn to lift properly in order to stay safe.

Improper squats are highly dangerous. Many people experience wrist, elbow, arm, shoulder, low back, hip, and knee pain when they squat. But when they alter their set up, lighten the load, fine-tune their mechanics, and learn to squat properly for their bodies, they find that they’re able to squat pain- and discomfort-free.

Improper deadlifts are highly dangerous. Many individuals experience nagging back pain when deadlifting, but when they learn to hinge at the hips and keep their spines in neutral, they find that they’re able to pull pain- and injury-free.

There are terrifying squat, deadlift, bench press, and Olympic weightlifting videos online (Google “weight lifting fails compilation” if you want a scare, but I don’t like fear mongering), but this doesn’t admonish the exercises altogether.

An exercise is judged by how it’s supposed to be performed, not how it’s commonly screwed up by lifters who prioritize their egos above proper mechanics.

Hip thrusts in general are very safe, but they’re especially safe when you do them the way I teach you in the video above. Strength coach Ben Bruno noted this too when he began teaching the forward eye gaze cue.

In 10 years of personal training, I haven’t had a single client injure themselves with hip thrusts. We hit all the rep ranges and often go very heavy. Five years ago, one client experienced low back discomfort, which caused me to think up the American hip thrust on the spot. Last year, a client experienced hip and low back discomfort, so we switched to band and high rep barbell hip thrusts for a few weeks and the issue cleared up. I also experienced knee pain last year from hip thrusts performed 3X/week, but I dialed back the frequency and the issue quickly went away.

I have clients who have been hip thrusting for many years and their backs have never felt better. I have been hip thrusting for 10 years and my back feels incredible. I would venture to guess that I’ve received over 1,000 emails over the years from people who informed me that their back pain vanished after learning and practicing the hip thrust. Numerous coaches and trainers have noted the same trends.

But again, you gotta do it right.

I hope you enjoy the video.

9 Comments

  • Emily T says:

    Reading this made me realize that I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you that doing hip thrusts made my back pain go away too! I had chronic lower back pain, and not too long after learning how to PROPERLY hip thrust (I was originally taught improper form unfortunately!) it diminished and has yet to return. So thankful for this, and thankful for all your knowledge. Haters gonna hate, but we all know the hip thrust is an amazing exercise 😉

  • Giada says:

    Hey Bret, I am following your site for a while now and I really like your articles and techniques.
    I started with bodybuilding three years ago and I really love it. In the beginning I focused a lot on leg exercises…
    I started to Glute Bridge maybe one year ago, but in the beginnng actually only with body weight. Then I started to do the Glute Bridge on the Smith Machine for a while, and continued to do the Hip Thrust on the Smith Machine with my Shoulders resting on a Gymnastic Ball.
    Lately I changed the gym and there is finally a hipthruster. But I still do prefer the Glute Bridge because I have the feeling that I feel my glutes working better. Now I do the Barbell Glute Bridge with 132lbs and 10Reps.

    But lately my middle back hurts a little bit, it’s more the spine, and I only feel it when I press hard on it, or overextend my back or do the opposite and make my spine really round, like stretching it. When I stand straight or don’t touch it then I don’t feel anything.
    In general I have a little hollow back, and ever since I discovered that pain I followed your instructions of doing the pelvic tilt and not the hyperextended version.
    I also wonder maybe it might be because I was a pretty used to do that exercise on the Smith machine where the weight Is a little bit more guided and now with the free weight it’s more work also to balance it out!? I have this problem now for a few weeks, but I didn’t really stop Glute bridging, I just put more emphasis in the technique and doing the pelvic tilt version, but still lifted also heavy.

    Maybe it’s also just a stupid coincidence and this is not connected to this but if so, what would you recommend? Do I have to stop Glute Bridging for a while? That would be very sad…

    Thank you! Sorry for my bad English, hope that everything was understandable.

    Cheers,
    Giada

  • Mohammad Shoumik Saad Aarman says:

    Bret,
    I intend to treat pain in both knees and left foot using the exercise programs of Justin Price, creator of the BioMechanics Method, given in these ACE Prosource articles :
    1. Best Exercises For Great Legs And Pain-Free Knees (https://www.acefitness.org/prosourcearticle/4975/best-exercises-for-great-legs-and-pain-free)
    2. Lower Body Causes Of Back Pain (And How To To Fix Them)(https://www.acefitness.org/prosourcearticle/3641/lower-body-causes-of-back-pain-and-how-to-fix)
    3. Understanding And Alleviating Plantar Fascitis (https://www.acefitness.org/prosourcearticle/3766/understanding-and-alleviating-plantar)
    And these ACEfitness videos :
    1. Top Exercises For Pain-Free Knees (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOBiGv8-wp4&index=2&list=PLxdf3t0LRHQsjjVO-l4h4CRpVC2YdCXUy)
    2. Top Exercises For Strong Glutes And A Pain-free Back (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE_cKrtUfWk&index=1&list=PLxdf3t0LRHQsjjVO-l4h4CRpVC2YdCXUy)
    3. How To Relieve Foot Pain Using Myofascial Release (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4uhwfUO9gg&list=PLxdf3t0LRHQsjjVO-l4h4CRpVC2YdCXUy&index=5)
    4. How To Relieve Lower-back Pain Using Myofascial Release (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVI4hadOlFo&list=PLxdf3t0LRHQsjjVO-l4h4CRpVC2YdCXUy&index=3)
    Based on your very high level of expertise (seriously I can’t stress this enough) in musculoskeletofascial biomechanics, is there ANYthing wrong – or more frankly, BACKDATED, SPECULATIVE, OR OTHERWISE CONTROVERSIAL – down to the VERY LAST detail with the info and exercises in these articles and videos? Could you PLEASE explain your views with links to COMPLETELY DETAILED articles and videos on this website and your youtube channel and also from other experts (especially those listed in your article “Who Are The Experts?”). Could you PLEASE suggest other exercises and myofascial release techniques as SUBSTITUTES AND / OR COMPLEMENTARY to these exercises and techniques?
    On a side note note, Justin Price is termed “one of the top musculoskeletal assessment and corrective exercise specialists in the world” on the ACE website. I’d very much like to hear your opinion about him.
    I’m REALLY counting on your expert advice Bret, so please don’t let me down. Ever since I accidentally discovered your website early this year (while googling to find out more about Naudi Aguilar, whom you’ve very convincingly proved to be a snake-oil salesman) and youtube channel I’ve seen you and your EXTREMELY INVALUABLE work as a shining star guiding me along the pitch dark path of health and fitness, a journey which I only started on as a complete noob in December2014, having been a sedentary skinny-fat guy my whole life. It may sound like a slight exaggeration, but man have you PROVEN yourself to be a gift from God to mankind!
    Wishing you all the best in carrying forward with your ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE work, and eagerly awaiting your reply.

  • Ante says:

    Brett would you recommend buying your Advanced Techniques in Glutei Maximi Strengthening e book or since it was published 2009 is the contet outdated?

  • David says:

    Hello,
    Thanks for a great and informative article! I’ve actually never tried the exercise, but I will definitely give it at shot at my next training session.

  • Melonie says:

    Do you have any thoughts on back position in the middle of the hip thrust? It looks to me like most people slightly arch their backs as they lower/raise the weight, even though they have the proper pelvic tilt at the top of the hip thrust. I’ve seen only a few people (thinking of Marianne Kane, for example) who keep their backs very straight throughout the entire movement and hinge more from the bench. Are both ways safe?

  • Mitchell says:

    Its true, when exercises like the hip thrust are done in the right form and manner, its definitely not dangerous

  • Daniel says:

    Hi Bret

    I like hip thrusters and it’s great to see you get them into the lime light instead of squats and deadlifts. My only thought is that the idea of the chin tucked to prevent the hyper extension of the lumbar spine is just covering the issue of low trunk and particularly recutus abdominal control/strength. Tucking of the chin is in my eyes covering a weakness or exposing the idea that hip thrust weight must not go so high as to create a compensation pattern of abdominals being over loaded and the loading of the lumbar spine. It’s like the old cue of look up when squating to create neutral spine. The muscles should be able to control the areas of the body that should be fixed to allow movement in the areas supposed to be moved. In essence the position you finish in with your chin tucked is that of a deadlift with the chin tucked and something no longer is taught due to is negative positioning.

  • mitch says:

    Its true what Bret is saying: You must learn to lift properly, in order to be safe

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