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Hip Thrust & Glute Science

Every week or two, somebody tags me hoping I’ll chime in on a Facebook debate surrounding the hip thrust exercise. I wanted to write this response to save me time so that from now on I can just post this link (others can just post this link as well). Here’s how the arguments usually go:

  • Attractive woman mentions on Facebook that she loves hip thrusts
  • Psychic broseph with no experience with the hip thrust comments that she should just do squats and deadlifts and quit wasting her time with silly exercises
  • Attractive woman replies, stating that she’s seen better results in glute development with hip thrusts in just a few months than she has in the previous year or two with squats and deadlifts
  • Strong psychic broseph says that she’s just imagining things and that she doesn’t need to do them since squats and deadlifts reign superior for all things strength and hypertrophy related

A rational lifter would simply reply by saying something like, “That’s very interesting; I’m going to learn more about the biomechanics of that exercise and start working it into my routine.” Sadly, this is rarely the case these days. If you’re close-minded, then I can’t help you. But if you want to learn the science and biomechanics of glute training, then please continue reading. Here is my response to the psychic brosephs who claim to know about the hip thrust despite having no experience with the exercise.

1.       It’s Good to Be Skeptical, but Don’t be a Bully

I start off my seminars informing the attendees to question everything, including everything I tell them. I inform them that I’m probably wrong about a few things I say in my presentations and that in a few years I’ll likely feel differently about some of the information. It’s good to be skeptical. But it’s not good to be a bully. I don’t give a damn how strong you are – being strong doesn’t make you right. I don’t give a damn how great your physique is – being huge or shredded doesn’t make you right either. If strength and hypertrophy were the end-all-be-all for credibility, then Mr. Olympia Phil Heath and strongest raw powerlifter Stan Efferding would make all the rules in sports science. While I enjoy learning about these lifter’s methods, they are not sports scientists and they aren’t the most intelligent biomechanists or sports scientists in the world (nor do they claim to be). Moreover, they don’t train clients regularly and track data.

2.       A Training Study (or two or three) is Needed

I can sit here and speculate and rattle off theory, but at the end of the day a good training study is needed to show actual statistics. This will come in time.

3.       Absence of Evidence is Not Evidence of Absence

However, just because a training study doesn’t exist, it doesn’t mean that a theory isn’t legit.

4.       Evidence-Based Coaching Requires Consideration of Literature, Logic/Scientific Reasoning, and Anecdotes

When quality research isn’t available, we must rely on lesser forms of evidence, including logic and scientific reasoning, as well as anecdotal experience. Click HERE to learn more about the hierarchy of knowledge.

5.       There’s Nothing Magical about Squats and Deadlifts

Squats and deads are my two favorite exercises. Squats work the hell out of the quads, they work the glutes in a stretched position, and they build good core stability, at least from an anti-flexion standpoint. Deadlifts work the hell out of the hammies, they work the glutes very well, especially in the flexed-hip position, they hammer the back musculature, and they also build incredible core stability in the same fashion as the squat. Both of these exercsies work tons of muscle, which raises the metabolic rate like crazy. Last, they lend themselves incredibly well to progressive overload – a critical component to success in strength, hypertrophy, power, and fat-loss.

However, like most good things, they are a double-edge sword. The hormone response that you think is so valuable (squats and deads jack up testosterone and growth hormone) is overrated. There is plenty of research on this – squats and deads don’t make the other muscles in the body grow larger like you think. They make the muscles that are highly activated grow larger, but muscles such as the pecs and triceps won’t grow from these movements.

Squats and deads don’t maximize glute activation, they don’t maximize hip extension torque, and they leave some room on the table in terms of glute development (more on this later). Moreover, squats and deads are better-suited for certain body types. Many lifters will never be good squatters. Some are forced to lean over considerably in the deadlift and also the squat due to their body structure, which places large amounts of loading on the spine. This incredible demand on the spine does indeed build core stability, but this comes at a price as it also increases the risks. Squats and deads do require skill; there are many exercises that are simpler and easier to master. Squats and deads have probably led to more injuries in the gym than any lifts in existence. If the lifter has a good coach or training partner, the risks can be severely reduced, however, not everyone has this luxury.

If you train a lot of people, you realize that they’re not all squatting and deadlifting the way they should be. When you encourage them to just load up on squats and deads, you could be inadvertently leading them toward injury. And in attempts to use heavier loads, many individuals compromise knee, hip, or spinal mechanics, which is why they’re dangerous. Many lifters fear injury so they never progress very far in squat and deadlift strength, and therefore they leave tons of room on the table for glute development if these are the only two lifts they perform.

Here is my theoretical chart of hypertrophic adaptations following a year of proper resistance training:


As you can see, some lifts are better than others for different purposes, but all three in combination yield maximal results.

6.       Logic, Common Sense, and Scientific Conjecture

Think about the bench press. Strength coaches worldwide love it. All lineman and shotputters perform it because it works the upper body pressing muscles incredibly well, which transfers to their performance. It does not replicate any functional movement patterns. If you want to replicate functional movement patterns, then perform a split stance cable chest press. You’ll look very functional, yet you won’t elicit the same torque loading and muscle activation in the shoulder musculature, nor will you produce as much force or power, nor will you see as much transfer to training. In the weight-room, we build strength, power, and muscle mass, and we coordinate all of the raw materials on the field.

The bench press provides a stable base with four points of support and takes advantage of gravity to work the shoulders from a horizontal vector.


The hip thrust is actually the lower body equivalent to the bench press. It provides three points of support and takes advantage of gravity to work the hips from a horizontal vector.

barbell hip thrust

The lifter is not limited by core stability and spinal extension strength or by balance and coordination. There is no learning curve to the hip thrust – many people master it in their first training session, whereas squats and deadlifts can take years to truly master. The hip thrust is very conducive to progressive overload – perhaps more so than almost any other hip extension exercise as form is not much of a factor (it’s a simple lift). This is very important for maximal gains over time. Many lifters aren’t very coordinated and their body types (especially many women) aren’t well suited for squats and deads. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t do them; it just means that they shouldn’t be over-focused on progressive overload on these particular exercises. Conversely, every single body type is well-suited for hip thrusts (unless the lifter has a large gut and therefore has problems placing the bar on the hips).

For the first time, many lifters can use their hips to full capacity with the hip thrust. Essentially, you’re pushing straight down on the hips and telling your glutes to contract against resistance. It’s like doing a concentration curl for the glutes.

7.       Muscle Activation

Due to several factors, the hip thrust greatly outperforms squats and deadlifts in glute activation. First and foremost, the glutes are activated to a much greater degree at end-range hip extension when the muscles are at short muscle lengths. I have nearly a dozen research papers and a ton of my own EMG experiments to substantiate this claim. HERE is one such paper.

Second, the extreme stability allows for greater activation (3 points of support as opposed to 2). Think bench press versus cable chest press; think deadlift versus single leg RDL on Bosu ball. In the case of the glutes, stability increases activation.

Third, the knees stay bent, which slackens the hamstrings. The higher up you rise in the hip thrust, the more the hamstrings shorten (hip extension and knee flexion both shorten the hammies). This is called “active insufficiency,” whereby the hammies can’t contribute their full force potential, and the glutes are forced to pick up the slack to create the requisite hip extension torque. In other words, the hip thrust equates to less hamstring force and more gluteus force.

Forth, when challenged to maintain anterior pelvic tilt, the glutes don’t fire as hard. This is the case with squats and deads. Don’t believe me? Arch your back as hard as possible and squeeze the glutes. Now get into a neutral spinal position and squeeze the glutes. Huge difference.

Since the hip thrust doesn’t require extreme anterior pelvic tilt torque like squats and deads, the glutes can fire harder. Furthermore, the glutes actually are challenged not only as hip extensors but also as posterior pelvic tilters during the hip thrust. The glutes must stabilize the pelvis so it doesn’t drift anteriorly (as an anti-anterior tilter), so even if the pelvis doesn’t posteriorly tilt, the torque (or moment) is there, sort of like the anti-extension torque on the spine in a plank.

Hip Thruster barbell band

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

Fifth, the hip thrust activates the upper glutes to a much greater extent than squats, and even to a greater extent than deadlifts.

And sixth, EMG rises as a high rep set ensues as the nervous system attempts to compensate for diminished muscle force and contractile efficiency due to fatigue by recruiting more motor units. Many lifters can’t push their squats and deadlifts to ultimate muscular fatigue since their form breaks down too much. Often I have to stop my client’s sets far short of failure on squats and deads even though their glutes aren’t fully fatigued on account of rounding spines, caving knees, and excessive forward leans. However, with hip thrusts the set typically ends when the glutes are burning so badly that they can’t complete another rep. Therefore, the hip thrust leads to greater fatigue of the fibers and greater intensity of effort for the glutes, and this fatigue is critical for maximal hypertrophic gains.

For these reasons, the glutes fire 1.5-3 times harder in a hip thrust compared to a squat depending on whether examining the mean or peak activation levels. How can this increased activation, when coupled with progressive overload, not matter?

8.       Torque Angle Curves

If muscle activation ain’t your thang, then perhaps you care about Physics, Biomechanics, Mathematics, and Engineering. In Hip Extension Torque, Chris and I teach you  all about torque and how to calculate torque measurements.

When measuring the hip extension torque angle curves of squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts, you’ll notice two things. First, that those with experience in all three lifts can achieve much higher hip extension torque levels with hip thrusting. This is due to the stability as well as the decreased demand on the spinal extensors. Many coaches believe that the spine is the limiting factor with squats and deadlifts, and I’d agree with them. Conversely, the hips are the limiting factor with the hip thrust. And second, that the hip extension torque does not drop off at the end-range of movement like it does during squats and deads.

Hip Extension Moments

Hip Extension Moment-Angle Curves During 500 lb Squat, Deadlift, and Hip Thrust

* Bear in mind that most lifters with experience with all 3 lifts can hip thrust and deadlift much more than they can squat – this graph assumes equal strength.

Squats and deads are not highly loaded at the top of the movements in terms of hip loading. The hips are essentially resting at lockout (there’s some tension on the hip extensors with the deadlift but nowhere close to what you see in the hip thrust). This has some practical implications. The key factors in hypertrophy are mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage. Metabolic stress likely explains why bodybuilders are more muscular than powerlifters despite the fact that powerlifters place more absolute tension on the muscles. This greater constant tension on the glutes with the hip thrust is important for muscle hypertrophy via increased time under tension (TUT) and increased metabolic stress.

9.       But it’s Not Functional…or is it?

I’d like to see data on the breakdown of goals with personal training clients and general gym-goers. I’d venture to guess that 90% of lifters have physique goals as their primary concern, with only 10% having functional/athletic goals as their primary concern. Personally, none of my clients come to me seeking improvements in function – they come to me seeking improvements in physique aesthetics. Therefore, I train them according to their goals. If their goal is powerlifting of sports performance, then I’d align their training to those goals, but this is rarely ever the case. Don’t place your goals onto your clients – that’s unethical.

But even more important is that you’re making assumptions about functionalism and transfer of training. Just like the bench press is functional, so is the hip thrust. So is the glute ham raise, various forms of planks, the back extension, the push-up, the reverse hyper, the pendulum quadruped hip extension, and inverted rows. They might be performed in a prone/supine position, but they transfer positively to performance due to their unique torque curves, very high torque loading and muscle force requirements, and/or stability. Much of what we do in the weight-room involves improving the hypertrophy, the neural drive, and the force and power potential in the muscle fibers. No matter how similar in movement pattern you think an exercise is to a functional activity, you must always coordinate the increased muscle output into the activity itself for maximal performance. This is why strength coaches always include various forms of jumps, sprints, and agility drills into their training – the weight-room cannot replace these actions. A quality strength training program for sport incorporates exercises from a variety of positions, including standing, supine, prone, and split-stance.

I venture to guess that over time we’ll discover that squats are better than hip thrusts for functional activities that are limited by knee strength and functional activities that resemble squatting (for example, jumping). I also venture to guess that over time we’ll discover that hip thrusts are better than squats for functional activities that are limited by hip strength and functional activities that resemble gait (for example, sprinting). Deadlifts would probably either fall in the middle on both categories, or they could outperform both.

End-range hip extension strength is of huge importance in sport, as is glute hypertrophy, as is horizontal force production, as is pelvic stability from an anteroposterior direction. For these reasons, you want to include the hip thrust into your training programs. Are you going to tell me with a serious face that an exercise that leads to greater glute activation, greater hip extension torque especially at end-range (the range where squats and deads are weakest and the range during ground contact in running), and an exercise that packs serious mass onto the glutes is not functional? If so, I have a hard time taking you seriously.

I believe that squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts work synergistically with one another to maximize quad, hamstring, and glute size and strength, in addition to maximizing vertical and horizontal power production and squat/hinge/gait function. All three are required for maximum performance and full range hip extension, glute, and hamstring strength. In other words, they all provide value and an athlete should do them all.

10.   My Own Experiences

My glutes are 5” bigger than my identical twin brother – he does squats and deads too but doesn’t focus on progressive overload like I do. I do squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, and other hip strengthening movements, but I believe that the hip thrust explains some of this gap in glute girth.

Moreover, the hip thrust is the only exercise that I can perform where I feel a cramping and burning sensation in my glutes. This is evidence of muscle tension and metabolic stress. When I squat and deadlift, I don’t feel like my glutes are the limiting factor, however, when I hip thrust, the set ends when my glutes can no longer push the weight up. One time I had to end the set early during hip thrusts because I was worried that I was going to pull a glute muscle. I’ve never experienced this phenomenon with other exercises. Many times I can’t walk properly following hip thrusts since my glutes are so pumped up – it prevents me from achieving full hip extension ROM.

Furthermore, I still have the all-time record at Auckland University of Technology (AUT University) in hip extension strength as measured on an isokinetic dynamometer, and we’ve tested dozens of professional athletes (including pro rugby players from the best team in the world – some of whom can squat up to 800 pounds). I credit some of this to the hip thrust.

As a trainer, I believe that I can pack more glute size on my clients in three months of hip thrusting than I can in an entire year of squatting. After just 4 sessions or two weeks, many of my clients start noticing slight glute improvements. Before I started implementing the hip thrust, I could never in a million years showcase results this quickly. And I am incredibly skilled in developing strong squatters and deadlifters.

Even uncoordinated beginners can work their way up to 135 pound hip thrusts in a period of 2-8 weeks if they have proper coaching – the same can’t always be said of squats and deads as those patterns are sometimes limited by mobility or core stability deficits or motor patterning issues.

11.   My Before/After Pictures

Take a look at the before/after pictures on the testimonials tab on this website. Nobody in the world that I know of has more impressive glute pics to my knowledge. Bear in mind that you probably haven’t trained as many people as I have, nor do you have as impressive of before/after pics. I’m here watching these transformations take place, so I know why it’s happening. When your before/after pics are better than mine, my ears will perk up and I’ll listen to you. These ladies’ glutes grew markedly which is what most women want for their physique. Many of them appeared to double their glute mass (increased their gluteus maximus cross-sectional area by 100%).

I can tell you that these ladies’ squat and deadlift strength probably went up 50-100% while training with me, but their hip thrust strength went up around 300%. I prioritized the hip thrust in every session and had them perform it first in the workout.

This transformation took place over a 6-month period. I'd estimate a 50% gain in glute muscle CSA. I didn't push her squats and they only increased 15% in strength. However, we hip thrusted every session and she increased her hip thrust strength by 171%. She started off doing 105 x 12 reps and ended up doing 285 x 12 reps.

This transformation took place over a 6-month period. I’d estimate a 50% gain in glute muscle CSA. I didn’t push her squats – they only increased 20% in strength. However, we hip thrusted every session and she increased her hip thrust strength by 171%. She started off doing 105 x 12 reps and ended up doing 285 x 12 reps.

Each of these ladies could hip thrust over 225 pounds, and several of them can hip thrust 315 pounds for reps.  Moreover, these ladies constantly remarked about how badly their glutes burned during the workouts, which is a huge indicator of metabolic stress. If you learn how to get very strong at the hip thrust with excellent form (or you learn how to get your clients very strong at the hip thrust), then I have no doubt that you’ll experience the same phenomenon.

12.   Other’s Experiences

There are now thousands of lifters out there who have shared similar experiences. Not a day goes by where I don’t receive at least several emails from people who inform me that either 1) their glutes have grown markedly since implementing the hip thrust and barbell glute bridge, 2) they notice that they’re walking, running, or sprinting much faster after implementing the hip thrust and barbell glute bridge, and/or 3) their back pain has diminished after strengthening the glutes with hip thrusts and barbell glute bridges.

In our Get Glutes program, we have several hundred women remarking that they’re finally seeing good glute gains for the first time due to focusing on progressive overload, learning to activate the glutes, and prioritizing hip thrusts and bridges.

Even many highly reputable strength coaches, track & field coaches, and physical therapists have reported similar results, as will you.

13.   Research Reports Averages

One drawback of research in general is that it reports averages. In general, I feel that the hip thrust is the best glute exercises in existence. However, there are occasional lifters who don’t seem to get as much tension in the glutes as others during the hip thrust. While I feel that this can be overcome in time with deliberate practice, it’s always good to employ a variety of glute exercises to ensure full activation of the array of fibers for all three gluteus maximus subdivisions.


Until you’ve trained yourself and others using the hip thrust just like thousands of trainers and lifters have done, you don’t really have a leg to stand on. Actually, until you’ve reached impressive strength levels training yourself and training others and documented the effects and listened to their feedback, you don’t really have a leg to stand on. It’s not just doing the hip thrust that matters – it’s getting freaky strong at the hip thrust that delivers the results.

The squat and deadlift are the kings of exercises and will never be replaced in the S&C kingdom. I do them and I have all of my clients do them. Nobody is suggesting that you quit squatting and deadlifting. Rather, the legion of hip thrusters is merely suggesting that you add them into your programming for synergy, maximum glute hypertrophy, end-range hip extension strength, proper lumbopelvic function, and maximum speed production.

Good goals for 200 pound athletic males are 405 pound hip thrusts for 5 reps in a year or two of solid training. Good goals for 130 pound athletic females are 225 pound hip thrusts for 10 reps in a year or two of solid training. Start folks out with bodyweight, make them squeeze the top for a split second on every rep, and gradually add load. In time they’ll be throwing up some large loads. But you can’t just wing-it. You have to adhere to a scientific approach to glute building, which is exactly what Kellie and I do in Strong Curves and what Kellie, Marriane, and I do in Get Glutes.

I realize that I need to produce some high-quality studies so we can learn more about the science of hip thrusting, but in the meantime, I’m going to keep doing my thing when training as the results are impossible to ignore. I hope you’ve found this article to be of value. In short, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.



  • Hey BC,

    Love your work mate. Bret I’ve been a PT for almost 17 yrs now and have been playing around with the Hip Thrust (band & barbell) for the last 2 years – thanks to you. I use Hip Thrusts with the bulk of my clientele, with awesome results. Most of them come to me with little or no strength in their hip extensors. I have found after a short time, due to performing Hip Thrusts in their programming, their hip strength/power has increased and lumbar/hip pain has decreased.
    In regards to my own training – the poundages in my squat and deadlift have gone up slightly (keeping in mind 25 yrs of strength training) but I now deadlift with full end range hip extension, as apposed to lumbar extension.
    Keep up the great work BC!
    Your friend in OZ

  • Franco PT says:

    Great article!! Don’t waste your precious time responding to those who don’t really want to know and learn the evidences! Keep going your excellent work because now you have a name in the fitness world! Forever!! We need you to teach us and to clarify scientifically how to better train our clients!! Do it for us! Thanks!

  • Shelly says:

    Hi Brett,

    I’ve recently discovered your glute philosophy and am so grateful. My PT’s had me doing heavy squats and leg presses to activate my glutes but all i am doing is getting larger thighs. I’ve tried your hip thrusting and wow i sure felt it in the glutes for the first time. So thank you.

    One question i have…Is do I have to be sore the next day to build muscle? I feel the burn in the workout but not really the next day.

    • Bret says:

      No you don’t. My buddy Brad Schoenfeld and I are publishing a journal article on this topic in the Strength & Conditioning journal, You don’t have to be sore and soreness can actually be counterproductive. So some soreness is okay but too much is detrimental. If I wanted people to have sore glutes I’d just give them 3 sets of walking lunges and push the intensity of effort. But this doesn’t produce the best results in terms of hypertrophy as damage is inferior to tension and metabolic stress. So keep building up your hip thrust! Cheers, BC

  • Ho Fai says:

    A very interesting reading. Thanks for your insight.

  • Once again, you prove you are The Glute Guy. Very reasonable and fair approach in addition to the science.

  • Kat says:

    I’ve been working on barbell hip bridges off and on for a few months. (I don’t have a spot, so that’s easier for me to manage than hip thrusts using a bench.) Today I started at 205 and worked my way up to 220 (8 reps @ each 5lb increment). I am so excited to work up to 250! I ordered Strong Curves today and look forward to getting started on that in a couple of weeks.

    • Bret says:

      Nice Kat! Make sure you go through a full ROM, that you squeeze the glutes all the way to end range hip extension, that you control the weight using a smooth tempo, and that you always feel the glutes pushing the load upward. As long as these are in place, just keep getting stronger. Cheers, BC

  • Helen FitPro says:

    I didn’t have a strong psychic broseph telling me all about squats. Instead it was a strong psychic brosephine! She yammered at me every time she saw me but after years of doing heaving squats and not getting the results I wanted, I knew Ms Brosephine was wrong! I always listen to an opinion because you never know when an interesting piece of information will come along. If it’s good I will use it and the rest I throw out. I have used a variety of sources, including you, to revamp my training and I take what works for me or for my clients. Ms Brosephine can do what works for her 😉
    Bottom line (pun intended) thanks for your articles!

    • Bret says:

      Thank you Helen. When I test people in muscle activation using EMG, I will tell you that people are very intuitive about their bodies. They’ll say, “I feel it more in this muscle when I do this,” and they’ll be right. So listen to others, but at the end of the day you know your body best. Keep up the good work!

  • ggs says:

    The only thing that could take me away from my Strong Curves weekend read-a -thon was a blog posting by the The Glute Master…Great info again…Don’t knock them till you try them that’s what I say…I am so glad that I gave the Hip Thrust a go….I am currently the only person doing this exercise in my gym…I get lots of giggles and a lot of looks…. like WTH…. I get the occasional person who asks if its a ab exercise…. I know that I can see and feel the difference since doing these magical moves…EMG and torque measurements aside ..I leave that stuff for the science minded folks..I just do them because these suckers work and are fun to do…and I want to have a badass booty…I am grateful you came up with the exercise and grateful I stumbled upon your youtube videos….So instead of JUICY on the back of my sweats…I proudly wear BBB….Bret’s Booty Brigade….I will share pics when I complete the Strong Curves guide to
    Glute Goddess…until then naysayers move on there are plenty of people on the net not qualified to pass on info….help them see the light….share the knowledge ….Hip Thrusts rule….

  • Tim says:

    Hey Brett, another great article mate and plenty of detail to get the non believers thinking. I started Hip Thrusting last April when I come across your website when researching and after seeing the women in your videos lifting over 100kg’s for multiple reps I thought I had to try this!
    As you said it doesn’t take long to get the loads right up and in a few months I was up at 180kg for 4 reps. After a big gap of Endurance then hypertrophy training in the offseason I finally got to hit the strength training again a month ago. I did 10 sets of max lifting just on hip thrusts and after 3 of sets below 200kg I then hit the 200kg for 4, 220kg for 3, 240kg for 2, 220kg for 3 then the last 3 sets were at 220kg for as many reps as possible. My glutes were on fire and it took me nearly 5 minutes to be able to put all the weights away and go and stretch.
    The 45 degree back extension loaded up is the only other exercise that I can get close to the same feeling as what I get from the hip thrust, but still not the same.
    Thanks again for the great info you put out there and the time you put into researching the science behind it all. It has helped me as a strength coach and my clients love it, especially the females I train. Keep it coming mate!!!

    • Bret says:

      Yep, once you master the 45 degree hyper you simply feel like you perform a big glute squeeze to erect your torso. Most don’t ever get to this point. I don’t get quite the same glute burn, but they work the glutes very well if done right. Keep it up Tim!

  • Kyle says:

    “If you train a lot of people, you realize that they’re not all squatting and deadlifting the way they should be.”

    If the people you’re training aren’t lifting properly, whose fault is that?

    • Bret says:

      Perhaps I should have elaborated. When I screen new clients I ask them to show me their squat form and their deadlift form. I usually train experienced clients who train in the gym, and I realize that their form had been crummy all along.

      I also get a lot of people who come train with me for a single session to check their form as they’re visiting Phoenix from out of town.

      But I agree with you – if you’re the trainer and the clients’ form sucks – it’s your fault.

  • Patrick says:

    Hey Bret,

    Is it OK to elevate the heels slightly (1″ to 2″) to allow a full depth squat for those that have great difficulty getting below parallel?

    Any measurable negative affect on specific muscle activation levels due to this subtle change in stance?



    • Bret says:

      Patrick – Yes, perfectly okay. Allows many lifters achieve full depth who couldn’t normally do so. Interestingly, I have checked this out, and found no increases in quad activity or decreases in glute activity, contrary to what I thought would happen.

      • Patrick says:


        Thanks for your input on the squat modification! If sprinting is your primary sport, would it be prudent to sequence the Glute Thrust first in priority order ahead of Squats and Deadlifts within the same workout?


        • Bret says:

          I think glutes are the most important muscle for absorbing braking forces, but the hammies are probably the most important overall. So maybe one workout do deadlifts then hip thrusts. Then the next do squats and then glute ham raises or back extensions. Need lots of tension on the glutes and hammies for maximal gains.

  • Joey says:

    Hey Bret, is it ok to substitute Hip Thrusts with Glute Bridges?

    Are there any major differences between the two?

    I really enjoy doing bridges in the 400-500 lb range but everytime I try to Hip Thrust I just can’t seem to get it right.

    Am I missing any significant gains ( size wise) by only doing bridges?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Bret says:

      Sure it’s okay, but ideally you’d do both. Many folks are WAY stronger at the bb glute bridge and therefore they think that the hip thrust feels strange because they’re using too much weight.
      Do your bridges with 400-500 but try 185ish for hip thrusts. Eventually they’ll feel normal and you’ll get much stronger at them.
      Alternatively, you could just do a blend of the two by using an aerobics step, perhaps with one riser. This would allow for greater hip ROM without compromising load very much.
      Load is important, but ROM is too. Full ROM movements outperform partials and isometrics in the literature for hypertrophy gains.

  • Nice article as always Bret. I’m a big fan of the hip thrust and have seen a lot of improvements since implementing them, but I feel like I’m off about one minor detail. I feel like I feel them too much in my hamstrings when I perform them. I definitely feel some great glute activation, but as I increase the weight my hamstrings seem to become more and more involved, even though my form (at least I think) doesn’t change. When I drop the weight (225 or lower) I’m able to perform higher rep sets (upwards of 20 or more) and I’m able to really focus in and get my glutes FIRING, which I love. When I work with higher weights (about 315 or above), I still feel like I’m using good form, and I feel my glutes getting the action, but my hamstrings usually start to burn out before my butt does, and I want the opposite to happen. I’ve watched all your videos about the hip thrust and the different variations, but I can’t seem to get it right. Here is a video of me doing 315 for 8 reps for a point of reference:

    I’m a pretty short guy (barely 5’7″), so I might be using too many risers. I believe in one video you said you prefer three risers most of the time. Personally, I think the slightly higher anchor point feels good and achieves a larger ROM but I could be wrong. Also, in the video it may look like I’m hyperextending the lumber spine, but I’m really aiming more for hyperextension at the hips. I prefer this over the posterior pelvic tilt method you’ve outlined, even though that one may achieve more glute activation. But anyway, if you have any quick pointers for me that would be awesome! Thanks a lot for all the free information you provide by the way man, it’s great stuff.

    • Bret says:

      Steven – you’re a big strong dude! Watch your chest – see the thoracic extension? This likely means that you’re also in lumbar hyperextension and anterior pelvic tilt. Good for the bottom position of squats and deadlifts, but not good for the top of hip thrusts. So keep that chest flat and I expect that this will allow you to feel it more in your glutes. When the pelvis tilts anteriorly, it lengthens the hammies and allows them to provide more muscle force, at the expense of gluteal force. So keep the pelvis in neutral for more glute.

      That said, I think you look very solid doing it this way, with the high risers and the chest up. Hard to explain, but I know a good lifter when I see one. So consider doing this once per week, and then doing a lighter session with more glute focus in another session. Cheers!

  • David says:

    Bret, you should try working your lower anterior core. It looks like you may have a slight pelvic tilt causing your hip flexors and gluteus not to work correctly. Work on strict hanging leg raises and I bet you will notice a huge difference. I used to have the same problem and nothing worked until I got my pelvis properly stabilized.

    Try It!

    • Bret says:

      David, I’m in pretty neutral posture, and I have strong low abs. I agree that this would help dramatically with people in PPT due to weak abs, but this isn’t the case with me. Thanks for the input though!

  • Gina says:

    This article truly rocks! I love it and I can’t say enough about what you do. Thank you.
    I have two questions for you That are probably silly….
    1. I workout mostly from home. Is there anyway one can benefit from hip thrusts or bridging without access to such heavy equipment?
    2. When I am able to go to the gym I have a hell of a time getting the weights on and off my lap by myself. I could go heavier but I can’t maneuver it. I have no training partner! So how do I go about this?
    Tx again. I am passing this along to a lot of my fitness friends.

    • Bret says:

      Hi Gina,
      1. No, not yet.
      2. Use 135 lbs and you can roll it right over the thighs. If you can’t go that heavy, then you have to ask a partner to place onto your hips or deadlift it then sit on the bench then maneuver it into place. This is why I urge people to get strong quickly so they don’t have to deal with the hassle. Consider doing single leg hip thrusts and barbell glute bridges until you’re able to hip thrust 135.
      Thanks! BC

  • Shelley says:

    I came across your site about a year ago and started incorporating glute bridges and hip thrusts into my own workouts and those of my clients as well. Some of the other trainers asked about the exercise, so I sent them the link to your site. Now hip thrusts are the new bench press in our gym, as in, “How much you thrust?”
    Thanks for another great read!

  • Mark says:


    Question about Glute Hypertrophy and females? I’ve been training, and having success, with your methods with males for a few years now. Recently I’ve acquired female clients who carry much of their fat mass in their butt. I know the hypertrophy that comes along with targeting the glutes. This is causing me to be a little hesitant to dive “all in” to the methods you use with your clients with a “flat back side”. I can’t afford to add size to these ladies back side and keep them bought in. Should I use the same methods and trust they will replace their fat with a muscular butt? I’ve ordered my copy of Strong Curves and I’m looking forward to reading it and to hear your response to this question. Thanks for all you do for this profession!

    • Bret says:

      Mark – yes. Show them the picture of the “Good Butt versus Bad Butt” drawing so they understand what needs to happen – it’s in the first Chapter. This is imperative to get female clients to “buy in.” Once they understand what needs to happen, they’ll be much more apt to push their effort. Great question! BC

      • Nyx says:

        I was just coming to ask the same question as Mark, but glad I read the comments first. I am 5’4″ and about 132 lbs., which doesn’t sound so bad, but I am pear shaped and any excess weight I hold goes straight to my arse. Think J-Lo. : ) I have read a lot of your stuff, but I have been nervous to try this type of training on me or my clients because I am afraid of adding any mass there.

  • Matt says:

    Hey Bret,

    I LOVED Strongcurves, I thought it was awesome! Will be posting my amazon review soon. 3 quick questions please:

    1. You state that you think 4 days is optimal for training the glutes in females yet in the advanced program you only have workouts A, B and C. Is this because you rotate through the workouts and still train 4 times per week? Or is it because you only have the beginner clients training 4 days per week (like in the beginner program)

    2. My girlfriend can now hip thrust 225 for 10, which is great, however none of the single leg hip thrusts are challenging for her now (they were), she can peform shoulder and foot elevated hip thrusts for 30 reps no problem. Any suggestions on how she can advance from here?

    3. Which brand/length/strength of bands do you recommend for your female clients in the exercises shown in the book?

    4. For clients with no access to either a GHR or a 45 degree back extension, which exercises do you suggest we substitute for them in the advanced program?

    Many thanks Bret!

    P.S. How did you do in your meet??

    • Bret says:

      Hi Matt!
      1. Good question. Many prefer 3 days, but I like to train my clients 4 days but I monitor their energy/fatigue. Sometimes on the fourth day we just do hip thrusts and band seated hip abductions, for example. Sometimes just bodyweight reverse lunges supersetted with bodyweight single leg hip thrusts, for another example. During the fourth day, I don’t always push it. I’ve found that hip thrusts can be done much more frequently than heavy squats or deads.
      2. Have her pause at the top for a full one-second count. This will probably bring her down to 15 reps or so. But she can add load with a chain in the lap, or a belt with two kb’s tied on each end. A band can work too, as can a db or a bb, but it’s tricky and can interfere with the lift. Be creative and you’ll figure something out! A 3 second pause at the top is brutal too – would probably bring her down to 10 reps.
      3. I get mine from Elitefts.
      4. You can do back extensions off of a standard bench by wrapping your legs around and underneath it. I’ll film a video of this soon – you can’t use as much ROM or load, but you can focus on end-range hip ext.
      Great questions!
      I will post about my meet later today. Didn’t do as good as I hoped for, but had a blast and now I’m hooked 🙂
      Cheers, BC

      • Matt says:

        Awesome Bret, thanks for the rapid replies! In regards to question 2, what would you think about her training 4 times a week, rotating through the 3 workouts listed in the advanced program e.g:

        Week 1:

        Monday – Workout A
        Tuesday – Workout B
        Thursday – Workout C
        Friday – Workout A

        Week 2:

        Monday – Workout B
        Tuesday – Workout C
        Thursday – Workout A
        Friday – Workout B

        etc etc etc?

        Would you consider this too much?

        Thanks again!


  • Morgan says:

    I’ve been doing Eric Cressey’s Show and Go, a 4-day upper/lower split, but I’m interested in working in more direct glute work. Are you familiar with the program and if so do you have any suggestions for how to incorporate hip thrusts?

  • ggs says:

    Since my gym only has one stepper with two risers and the owner has no interest
    in buying anymore….the benches are high and I have problems with my shoulder on them…. can I keep just using the two risers or should I just buy some of my own to take to the gym…I noticed you told Joey he could alternatively use a riser with one step…will I be fine also doing this when I start your program….I always do both hip thrust and glute raises in my workout…a few sets of each..I am not done reading the book but I am loving it…and will be starting the workouts soon….thanks

  • nigel says:

    Hi brett, great stuff. I have been adding in these to a lot of my patients as their program evolves from basic core strengthening and recruitment.
    I have one question for you. Do you ever get clients to do single leg hip thrusts? can you use this as a way of increasing load?

    • Bret says:

      I sure do – I especially prescribe them as “homework” since they can be performed from home off of a couch. You can use a chain, or a belt looped to two kettlebells for extra load. Bands can work but they’re tricky, and dumbbells and barbells are very tough to balance and not interfere with the hips. I tell the better lifters to pause for 3 seconds at the top to increase the challenge.

  • Raptor says:

    Excellent article Bret, and also the videos in the article were highly informative.

    Here’s my question though: I’m training to get a higher one-leg running vertical jump. In the one-leg jump the leg you jump off is more of a straight-lever which requires quite a bit of isometric strength in order not to collapse when you plant it.

    What is your opinion on the straight leg one-leg hip thrust with maybe the foot on a platform of some kind? (I don’t have one so I’ll won’t use a platform, I’ll use the floor)?

    In theory since it’s a straight leg more hamstring should participate in the lift (I want that since my one-leg jump, like I said, is being performed in a pretty straight-leg plant leg and the hamstring contribution is very similar to what happens in a sprint in my case) while also getting quite a bit of glute contribution at the top.

    What’s your take on this approach^^^

    Thanks a lot and keep up the good work!

  • Anthony Wallace says:

    I am at a commerical gym and the 1st time i pulledout the Hampton Thick Pad they all thought i was crazy. When i put 315 and started doing HipThurst they thought i was crazy. When i had my friend start with me in Jan doing the samething they thought i was crazy, now in April they want to know how much the Hampton Thick Pad cost..LOL

  • Barry Edwards says:

    Good article Brett, as a Physical therapist and exercise specialist I see a lot of patients with problems caused by poor glutes activation, some of them are regular squatters and deadlifters but as you point out they do not finish the movement with hip extension leading to spinal shear and eventualy pain. After starting basic exercises to activate glutes I often use hip thrusts as I find it an important glutes exercise

  • Chris says:

    I’m about to progress to shoulder elevated hip lifts (feet on floor and barbell across hips etc.). Why might someone perform these using the ‘posterior pelvis tilt’ method please – only if they get low back pain with the standard version?

    If using the PPt method, at what point do you tilt – I would guess you set up with shoulders on bench etc, raise glutes off floor slightly, tilt and then perform the set and only let go of the tilt when the set is complete?

    Lastly, do you ‘hold the tilt in place’ by bracing abs and with any hip thrust should your abs be braced at all times anyway?


    • Bret says:


      Watch this:

      You don’t have to do it this way (with the PPT), but some feel it more in glutes, and some feel it relieves their low back.

      Give it a try and see if you like it.

      I don’t brace abs – they’re not needed that much for stability in the hip thrust. No need to direct attention toward them IMO.

      Great questions,


  • jimbo says:

    Hey bret, big fan of you, like how you try and teach without imposing thoughts and opinions. Just state the facts and let people decide for themselves!
    I asked you about hip thrust form quite a while ago so I thought I’d update you with where I’m at!
    bodyweight: 71kg
    1 rep max: 275kg
    I use a aerobic step rather than a bench for support which might contribute to me being able to handle more weight! I’ll try and get a video of my sessions for you

  • Asli says:

    Been training since 2000…..always did lunges and squats to build my butt but always wondered why (naturally hve big butt) my butt wouldnt be more lifted.. Instead i found it got smaller….still big but not as plump and high… making weighted hip thrusts a priority. So im a little confused – how often do i work the glutes wth ur routine? How much squatting should i d?….btw my quads bulk up very easily….i want to.avoid bigger thighs….i also find i dnt feel much with deadlifts…..back just hurts n i do hav a strong back…

  • paul devlin says:


    I am writing my thesis on glute activation right now and cannot find the article you say finds that cueing glutes during bodyweight squats actually increases activation??

    Can you direct me to it by any chance?



  • cman says:

    i have tried to do hip thrust. Do i squeeze my glutes for the whole set?

  • cman says:

    i have been doing the barbell hip thrust by squeezing my glutes through the whole workout till failure. My glutes hurted. Should i use this method for now on, Bren?

  • Klaudia says:

    It would be great to see lunges in the table with the theoretical hypertrophy.

  • Stapes says:

    Hey Brett,

    I have been very interested in your hip thrust exercise particularly because of the idea that it may increase sprint running speed. I’ve been experimenting with it for a few months. I’d love to see you do some research on rugby players sprint performance when you add in the hip thrust!

    I was looking at your EMG results from awhile back on all the lower body movements and noticed that you get a fair bit of quad stimulation with the hip thrust. I was thinking about the amount of knee extension and the angle with hips and I wonder if the hip thrust might actually target the rectus femoris to a large degree? This In turn might also be another factor that contributes to increasing sprint performance. Thoughts?

    • Bret says:

      Sure, this could be a factor as well. I haven’t tested rec fem activity but the vastis activity is through the roof. I agree – research on rugby players would be great. Cheers Stapes!

  • Nissa says:

    I love this article!

  • Jessica Bryon says:

    Hi Bret!
    I don’t have a spot so I do hip thrusts on the smith machine starting at 135lbs @ 12xs increasing 20lbs per set to 235lb@6xs gradually lowering my reps every other set. I feel an amazing glute activation and glute pump unlike any other exercises, but I feel like I can do set after set forever. I am curious about how many reps and sets I should be doing to maximize mass gains on the glutes. From what I understand easily doing 12+ reps will not add mass, rather sculpt, so I am wondering if I am doing more harm than good. Also, I have been doing them after squats and dead lifts.
    On another I really enjoy reading your articles and your research! Its hard to find a lot good info on building glutes instead of just sculpting! Thanks so much!

  • Light says:

    Bret, your write-up is lovely.
    Plz, how do I get started, I am a total novice. I dnt even understand the term you guyz are using. All I knw is dat I need my hips to expand. No gym around, no trainer either. How do I plz, get started? Can you do me the favour of putting me through online? I will highly appreciate it.

  • Alfred Lindeborg says:

    Great article! Very inspirational!

  • Cory says:

    What’s up bro. The hip thrust ended my Anterior Pelvic Tilt. I was just wondering what a strong Hip Thrust would be. I’m half Black so my Glutes are naturally strong. So I can Hip Thrust about 405 for 5 reps. I’m only 19. I’ve become overly obsessive with Posterior Chain strength. I was need a goal that I can reach for. I get bored if don’t have one. Thanks Bret. You’re the shit man.

    • Bret says:

      Cory, I used to do 405 x 5 as well and I thought I was very strong at hip thrusts. Then I could do 495 x 5. Now I can do 565 x 5. You’ll continue to gain strength at them over time. I’ve been doing them for 7.5 years now. Just make sure you always feel the glutes doing the work.

  • Julia Drabek says:

    I was reading your website on glute science and wanted to let you know I believe you have used an incorrect word while describing the “broseph”. You used psychic, which phonetically is ‘sahy-kik’, the people who can tell you your future; instead of what I think you meant: physique, which phonetically is ‘fi-zeek’, a muscular body. Thought you might want to fix that, if that is what you meant. Or perhaps I misunderstood your meaning.

  • Max says:

    Most power lifters have a deadlift:squat:bench press ratio.
    Do you have one for hipthrust/ glute bridge: hamstring exercise(maybe laying hamstring curls): quad exercise (maybe seated leg extension)?

    I would love to know when my glutes are my strongest of the 3 because I’m pretty sure on quad dominant and it can lead to postural imbalances.

    Thank you!

  • Nina says:

    Thank you so much for your informative Glute Science articles. I used to go to the gym some years ago and thought squats were the “king” workout for shaping a nice behind and legs. I always found squat very difficult techniquewise. I didn’t feel the proper squatting form fit my body despite being short. When I now look at some pictures from a couple years ago I see that squatting only without hip thrusts, deadlifts and leg presses as a part of my workout routine increased my thighs far more than the butt. Since 2013 I have been working out at home and after reading extensively about hip thrust exercises on your website, I have been doing a lot of of hip thrust & bridge exercises at home for the last 10 months. I like the way you present your research & experience on this website. I have a big mirror and can check my form while exercising. I first started hip thrusting with body weight, then with filled packbacks and recently finally ordered a barbell plus some weight plates to keep on improving the muscle mass. My home workout for lower body now consists primarily of hip thrust, deadlift, resistance band hip abduction and squats with handheld weights.

    Thank you for revealing the wonderful benefits of hip thrust and other exercises. I can do these safely at home a without a barbell rack and have got amazing results so far!

  • Jules says:

    If I understood you’re saying to use deadlifts, squats, and hip thrusts in conjunction to maximize strength and hypertrophy, etc. correct? You also said to use hip thrusts first in the workout? To maximize hypertrophy wouldn’t it be more beneficial to do hip thrusts last since your glutes would already be fatigued from the workout, and thus it would be easier to induce higher metabolic stress and subsequently hypertrophy?
    Either way you’ve definitely shown me the light and I will be incorporating hip thrusts into my program, thanks!

  • Dan Mackay says:

    Hi Bret

    I’ve just started doing these in the last two weeks having stumbled across your great articles on hip thrusts and they have made a massive difference already! My question is should I be programming these at the start or end of a session or somewhere in between, and would I best be throwing them on upper (I also deadlift on this day) or lower body day?

  • John says:

    I don’t want to be that guy, but if one only did squats for a year, one probably wouldn’t get any mentionable hypertrophy in the hams (see article/study below).

    “A study by Weiss et al provides direct evidence that squats don’t do much for hamstrings muscle growth. Subjects performed four sets of squats to approximately parallel depth using either a low, medium, or high rep range. Training was carried out 3 days a week for 7 weeks. At the end of the study, results showed significant increases in hypertrophy of the quads for all conditions studied. The hammies: no changes from baseline seen in any of the conditions.

    • Bret says:

      John, “being that guy” – you mean being awesome? I would never want someone to agree with me if my recommendations fly in the face of scientific evidence. So kudos to you for this. A study by Bloomquist titled: “Effect of range of motion in heavy load squatting on muscle and tendon adaptations” showed some increased CSA (only 1-3%) for the proximal portions of the hammies from squatting. However,I would like to write a separate blogpost on this matter, as I believe that the way in which one squats influences hamstring activation and hamstring length change, which would impact hypertrophy, but probably not meaningfully. I agree that one would receive much better hamstring hypertrophy by focusing on knee flexion or straight leg hip extension exercises.

  • D. BROWN says:


  • Louise says:

    Hip thrusting now for 5 months and I can now do 200 lbs 3 sets of 8, 6 and 6. I’m 45 years old and 131 lbs. I’ve gained 4.5 lbs in 5 months and my waist measurement has stayed at 27 inches. I have an athletic body type, so my goal is 225 lbs.

    My bum is no longer a pancake and it’s getting rounder and fuller. I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on my glute development.

    I’m also doing curtsy squats, cable pull throughs, cable donkey kick, cable single leg pull backs, reverse extensions, crab walks, dead lifts, and band work (sumo walk, monster walk, side lying clams, etc.) – in addition to other exercises.

    I got my hip thrusting info from Bret’s website and Youtube videos. I’m so proud to be lifting 200 lbs at 45 years old!!! Thanks Bret.

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