Is the Hip Thrust Dangerous? Guest Post from Brandon Alleman

Today’s blogpost is a guest post from Brandon Alleman. Brandon’s views and experiences jive with my own, and I feel that this is very well-written. In the near future I’ll post a video further discussing hip thrusts, safety considerations, biomechanical considerations, and options.

As a health, fitness, and rehabilitation professional, for the past 13 years I have had the pleasure of working with athletes and non-athletes alike.  These individuals range from the elderly with spinal pathologies to elite athletes seeking an improvement in sports performance.  The last 11 years of my career have been dedicated to helping individuals overcome chronic pain and chronic degenerative conditions, particularly where spinal pathology is implicated.

It has come to my attention recently that some very prominent names in the strength and conditioning community have called out Bret for his enthusiasm for the hip thrust exercise.  I personally have received numerous emails from colleagues (from various schools of thought) asking my opinion on the safety and efficacy of the exercise.  Now, Bret is a big boy and he certainly does not need anyone, let alone me, to defend his position on the exercise and its many benefits.  Anyone with more than two functioning neurons can see that he has the research and more importantly the experience to back up his claims.

Hip Thruster barbell band

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

My intention in this guest Blog (thanks for the opportunity to speak to your readers Bret), is to simply share my experience with the exercise in a clinical and rehabilitation setting.

First thing I would like to address is the “haters” who say that the exercise (hip thrust) is “dangerous” and potentially “damaging to the lumbar spine”.  That, in my opinion, is complete and utter bullshit!  As someone with an existing lumbar spine pathology (I have a disc derangement at L4/5), and having worked with hundreds if not a thousand clients with every lumbar spine pathology known to man, I can say that the exercise is completely safe and very effective for decreasing pain in the low back and hip areas – when prescribed and coached properly.

To put things into context, yes, the hip thrust can be dangerous.  Exercise is just like a drug – if you give someone the wrong drug at the wrong time, or you give them too large of a dose – you can harm or even kill someone.  The same principle applies to the hip thrust and EVERY other exercise out there.  A squat can be dangerous, a Romanian Dead Lift (hip hinge) can be dangerous, hell – something as simple as a bicep curl can be dangerous if prescribed and coached inappropriately.

The hip thrust is no different than any other exercise on the planet in its application.  It must be introduced to the client/athlete and the movement pattern and basic biomechanics must be mastered in an unloaded environment first; then, and only then, should the exercise be progressed (and I know Bret has covered this in previous Blogs/Vlogs).  Of course, the abdominal wall and the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex should be thoroughly assessed for muscular/ structural balance, functional integration, firing sequence, etc., and corrective measures need to be applied where threats to function are identified (those measures are beyond the scope of this post).

Having said that, I have personally seen clients with more than one – in most cases at least several – lumbar spine pathologies learn to effectively perform the hip thrust from the floor in an unloaded environment and progress to performing it elevated and loaded with a barbell in a very short period of time –some in as little as a few weeks.  The common theme that I have noticed is as follows: the stronger they get in the hip thrust, the less back pain and hip/pelvis issues they have.  Can all of their improvements and decreased pain levels be credited to the hip thrust alone? NO. To say such a thing would be taking an “absolutionist” view of the exercise.  I personally do not feel, nor have I seen, that any ONE single exercise will fix all of an individual’s issues.  However, the intelligent application of the hip thrust has proven to be invaluable in my practice.  It goes without saying that one must be taught proper lumbo-pelvic control during the exercise and that the A-P length-tension ratios around the pelvis be balanced for the exercise to have maximal benefit.  I am sure there is research somewhere to back this up and no doubt Bret can point you in that direction.  I do not care if there is research on it or not because I have seen the exercise, when applied properly, help many people (myself included) decrease pain.

In terms of aesthetics, personally I never really had an ass throughout much of my life.  I didn’t actually develop one until I got serious with the hip thrust – and yes, I have always used FULL squats, RDL, etc. in my training.  Working my way up to 3Rm at 315 pounds over the course of about 4-5 months gave me an ass that can be appreciated by the opposite sex.  For me, thrusting more than that is a bit of overkill. Let’s not get things twisted though; the hip thrust is only part of my lower extremity training.  I love traditional dead lifts off of a box, RDL’s, front squats (don’t love front squats but you get the idea), etc.; and of course there are single-leg movements in my personal programs and the programs of my clients.

Biomechanically, I view the hip thrust as a descended bend pattern. My objective is to help my clients develop strength in whatever area(s) will have the greatest carryover to his/her work/sport environment.  Therefore, I don’t want them solely to develop an ass-load (pardon the pun) of glute strength lying in a supine position.  For most, transferring that strength into a standing position is critical to enhancing function and performance.  I like Bret’s 3 Most Basic Lower Body Movement Patterns.  I agree that these are the most basic.  My view, however, is that those must be part of a program of progression designed to allow for the optimal performance of the 3 Most Essential Lower Body Movements for Survival: the Squat, the Lunge, and the Bend (hip hinge).

To conclude, the hip thrust is an indispensible tool for preparing for more complex lower extremity movement patterns (such as primal standard and ascended bending patterns – ie. Single-leg RDL).  The movement can also be used to decrease and eliminate chronic lumbo-pelvic-hip pain when applied intelligently as part of corrective exercise strategy.  It can be a very effective tool for improving the aesthetics of the glutes, again when balanced within a given program design.  Anyone claiming otherwise, either has not tested the application of the exercise or has not used the exercise personally.  Those are my $.02 on my experience with the hip thrust.  Keep on doin’ your thing BC.

Yours in Strength,

Brandon J. Alleman

www.brandonjalleman.com

15 Comments

  • Andrea says:

    Great article! I just started hip thrusting as part of my weight training program and I love it 🙂

    Just wondering about the part that said that people should first be assessed for: “muscular/ structural balance, functional integration, firing sequence, etc.,”. Any advice on doing a bit of self-assessment in the absence of having a trained professional to turn to for advice in-person?

  • Brad says:

    I have started doing Barbell Glute Bridges lately and loving it. I injured my back twice before but before this I kinda neglect posterior chain work. Adding more posterior work (and glute bridges) I feel my back is healthier than ever.

    Glad I bought Bret’s book and read it! It’s a ton of great knowledge especially to the uneducated like myself (in strength & conditioning/health/fitness etc).

    I do not have any flexibility/mobility/injury issues but I was wondering if I should start with Barbell Glute Bridges and get real strong with those before trying to do Hip Thrust on a bench/box.

    • Phil says:

      Brad see my post below but my thinking is you get 2.5 times the range and benefit so why limit yourself simply to GB.

  • Stav says:

    Ive been adding hip thrusts to my routine for the past year and I really have seen a difference. Recently I changed up my routine and do a glute specific workout on Monday’s and Friday’s and a leg day on Wednesday’s and I just started changing my rep schemes weekly instead of monthly. First week between 12-15 reps, the next week 9-12,next 6-8, finally 3-5 and then I start the cycle over.just started this, does it sound like a good idea?? Also, for glute specific days I do thing such as hip thrust followed by reverse curtsy lunge, cable kickback, and abductor machine..1. Does this sound like a good routine or should things be switched around? I pre-ordered your book a long long time ago and it’s hard to wait til aug.1st to see if these questions will be answered in there 🙂

  • allie says:

    your blog is so full of great info. love info on hip thrusts & glute “stuff” – thanks!

  • Phil says:

    I am 48 and broke my back when I was 17 and have had chronic L5/S1 problems since that time. In the past twelve months I have been doing hip thrusts and got up to 396lbs prior to hip replacement surgery in Dec 2011. I am now doing 450lb hip thrusts 6 months after the surgery and thats on the back of 1 session a week due to work schedules. This thing that hip thrusts are dangerous is a load of rubbish. Combined with some anterior core work (roll outs and landmines) I am the strongest I have been in my life through my lower back and hips. The Ass Man has nailed the reason why the glutes have got to be strong and its challenging old thinking.

    • DebbyK says:

      Hi Phil
      I’m a fitness trainer who just turned 50 July 16. Oct 4th of 2011 I went to India for a BHR hip resurface on my right hip. New cobalt ball, and they save the neck of the femur…I started out really slow and didn’t even lift any weights on my op leg until month 6. All i did was work on glutes using floor bridges, and progressed to ball and also using the TRX.

      But it wasn’t until I stumbled across Bret’s website at around month 4 that I started doing his progressions, via his suggestions. In just 2 months my glutes had more strength and control, and my butt started regaining the muscle lost from the surgery. I think we are a testament as to how useful, as well as safe this exercise can be to getting back stability, strength and muscle after hip surgery.

      I’m taking it much slower than you though! Unfortunately 7 months after my hip surgery,this past May, just after i was starting to progress in weight on my hip thrusts, i went back under the knife for my shoulder and am now limited in what I can do..but I am able to do them off a ball with my sling on, doctors approval, using only a DB on my stomach-pelvic area. I’d love to see the video of your hippy hip thrust!. I have not met another heavy duty weight lifter like me who has had hip surgery at our age and is still lifting.

      I’d like to hear more about your training rehab and program. Since my surgeon does not want me to ever squat or press heavy again, especially below parallel, I will be depending on the hip thrust for maximum gluteus work! Please email me if you want..I’d love to hear more about your hip and training and recovery.

      I call Bret my Glute God!

      • John says:

        I am a trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist at age 66. I have a lot of self inflicted wounds on various joints because of poor knowledge and coaching when I was much younger or too much testosterone overiding brain cells. One element of doing some of these exercises especially loaded heavy is not whether or not you can do them but for how long. The issue you have to deal with, in the shoulder more so than the hip, is the fact that all prosthesis still have a useful life that is relatively short especially for a 50 year old. The replacement is never as successful as the original. If a shoulder for example is good for 10 years with minimal loading then you do the math for how much loading you are doing and when you will return to your freindly surgeon. The hip can handle more but it still a finite time vs. loading equation.
        JRC

  • Cheryl says:

    I would agree with this article, but then again, I did barbell hip thrusts about a month back, hurt my lumbar spine. There’s definitely a risk of getting hurt if one doesn’t do them properly.

    • Phil says:

      Cheryl was it your lumbar spine or was it your SI joint adjusting. Not logical your lumbar spine was injured. My experience was that due to hip issues it took a few workouts for the SI joint to adjust to glutes functioning properly and that makes more sense?

    • Renato says:

      Ofcourse there is a risk.
      Let the fanboys (you got them on any subject) not make you doubt your own observations.

      I have done thise exercise for several years.
      And as in deadlifts, form is crucial.
      You defenitely can get back pain from this as with many other exercises.
      People saying this exercise is totally safe are not to be taken seriously.

      Watch you form , and don’t go so heavy that you have to heave(throw) the weight up instead of moving it in a controlled manner.

  • Tim says:

    An exercise I have incorporated into my lower body workouts for the past 2 months, which done correctly can get into your glutes like no other. Adding this in after a deep squat session can make your ass feel numb! I have also notice the weight I lift in my Squat and Romanian Deadlift increase significantly over that same period of time. A great exercise that done correctly is very safe and extremely beneficial. Thanks also for the constant info and reports you put out on strengthening the whole posterior chain, my clients are also loving it…….

  • teri says:

    I never did hip thrusts in the 12 years I have been personally training or as a fitness professional/PTA until Bret C. Totally kickass and my ASSets are starting to take on a new life partly because of your emails/blogs!! (Thank you)

  • Ani says:

    I’m a 43 y.o. Mother of two. Have been bottom heavy and flabby most of my life, but not overweight. I’m generally athletic and been playing tennis for years. I go to the gym and 2 months ago I was lifting and doing squats and lunges with decent weights. I had a major hernia, tummy tuck and breast lift surgery 2 months ago and I’m ready to hit the weights again. I really need to work on my lower body to build muscle, shape and get rid of the “jello” thighs and butt. I don’t want to look like a skinny model (in fact I’m not built to look like one). I prefer the strong fitness model type.
    How safe are hip thrusts and flute bridges after a tummy tuck? Do they engage and activate the abdominal muscles substantially?

    Thanks!
    A

  • April says:

    Thanks for the article . I have used Brets book as a blueprint for weightlifting the past two years (including a pregnancy where i did mostly bodyweight versions) and have built up to the barbell hip thrust . My mobility and form have improved immensely and while i am not lifting extremely heavy, i feel good about my form .Have you heard of these damaging the fascia system as the heavy bar rests on lower abdomen? I have also worried that it might be damaging some female organs (ovaries , uterus ) as the bar placement seems close to that area. Any thoughts on this?

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