The American Thrust – A New Spin on the Hip Thrust

In the glute eBook I wrote over a year-and-a-half ago, I included a section that discussed exercise-naming. I find it intriguing that many lifts are named after people or countries. For example, the hack squat, Jefferson lift, Pallof press, Dimel deadlift, and Cook hip lift are named after people, and the Bulgarian split squat, Russian leg curl (aka Nordic hamstring curl), and Romanian deadlift are named after countries. I suppose that I could have named the barbell hip thrust the “Contreras Hip Thrust” (which ironically several coaches including Carl Valle and Mike T. Nelson have called it), but naming an exercise after one’s self is pretty vain (even for me).

Often exercises named after countries are improperly attributed to a country that didn’t invent or popularize an exercise. I opted against “The American Thrust” because it doesn’t give any clues as to how the exercise is performed. The hip thrust sounded good to me because you simply thrust your hips forward. I know that Mike Boyle doesn’t like this name because to him the term “thrusting” implies low back flexion and extension, so he refers to the exercise as the “shoulder elevated hip lift.” When I hear the term “thrust,” I think of hips, not the low back, but I digress.

Why am I talking about this? 

Last week, I posted a video by Timothy Ferriss that shows how he does the hip thrust. Here it is below in case you missed it.

Another thing I talked about in my glute eBook is something I learned from Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon turned self-help guru who wrote a book called Psycho Cybernetics in 1960. He talked about “experts” vs. “inperts.” Experts are those who are classically trained, up-to-date with current information, and think inside the box. Inperts are those who are trained in other areas, can view a new field with a unique lens, and think outside the box. Surprisingly many of the world’s great discoveries come from inperts.

What I like about a guy like Timothy Ferriss, who just wrote a new book called The Four Hour Body, is that he is a very bright guy and he’s obviously no stranger to exercise. Since he wasn’t classically trained by a particular University, Professor, Coach, or Institution, he thinks outside the box.  He didn’t perform my hip thrust exercise the way I showed the public around fourteen months ago (see below).

Instead, he performed the exercise the way he felt them work his glutes the best, which was to hinge at a spot lower down on the back and move the fulcrum closer to the hips. When I saw this video, I was a bit skeptical. From my knowledge of Biomechanics, I figured that the lift would be a little bit easier than my version and allow for slightly larger loads to be used, but I wasn’t sure if it would increase gluteus maximus activation. I was also curious as to whether it was dangerous for the spine.

I reserved any judgment until I actually performed the exercise. I’ve now performed the exercise on two occasions; once on Friday and again today. I can tell with absolute certainty that Timothy’s method works the glutes harder than my version. Both times I performed the exercise my glutes were so pumped up that it altered the way I walked. No exercise has ever had this effect on me and I’ve been training hard for 19 years. Tim helped make an awesome exercise even better. Below is me performing the hip thrust – Timothy Ferriss style.

I was right; this style does make it a bit easier. I was able to get 12 reps with 405 lbs, whereas with the traditional hip thrust I can get 8 reps with 405 lbs. The padding on the bench protects the spine so there’s no need to worry about that. The new variation is a bit tricky, as you have to prop yourself up to get your torso higher up on the bench. Notice that the elbows are resting on the bench.

The American Hip Thrust

Here’s where the “American Hip Thrust” comes into play. I don’t know what to call this variation. We have the Contreras variation and the Ferriss variation, but from now on I’ll probably stick with the Ferris variation in my own training and the training of my clients. Since there’s no “Contreras Hip Thrust” there shouldn’t be a “Ferriss Hip Thrust.”

It is important to note that there is not a single exercise that is prefaced with the word “American.” There exists no “American bench press.” Although Romania gets their own deadlift and so does Russia (the Russian deadlift is another term for the good morning), there’s no “American deadlift.” Although plenty of exercisers worldwide have been bridging and doing “air thrusts” on Swiss balls for years, heavy barbell hip thrusts with the shoulders elevated onto a bench originated in America, out of a small notorious garage in Scottsdale, Arizona. Why don’t we show these other countries what America does best? We thrust! We thrust long, we thrust hard, and we thrust often! Our glutes know no bounds!

Okay, so according to this Pubmed article France edges out the U.S. in sexual intercourse (thrusting) frequency.  But we’re second at 138 times per year! And according to this article, Brazil outlasts the U.S. in sexual intercourse (thrusting) duration. But we’re  second at 28 minutes per bout! I’d like for all the countries of the world to fear our glutes! They should wake up gasping for air in the middle of the night due to nightmares involving our glutes chasing them down. When they think of American athletes, this is what should come to mind:

Okay, so neither of the athletes above are American, and considering that 2/3 of Americans are either overweight or obese I doubt that the world fears our glutes. But if more people attended gyms and got strong at the American Thrust, we’d see a huge improvement in glute strength, power, and aesthetics. Remember, what’s good for muscular size (cross-sectional area) is good for strength and power (rate of force development). As the late sprint coach Charlie Francis said, “Looks right, flies right.”

I don’t really expect people to call the exercise the “American Thrust,” I just thought it would be a fun post to write. In truth I just don’t know what to call the new variation. You can call it whatever you want, just make sure you do it!

46 Comments

  • Jay Ashman says:

    Bret, been doing this variation with my athletes for some time and its a great exercise and has paid off dividends in their speed and strength.

    Thanks for the great resources you put out!

  • Mark Fisher says:

    Amazing. I’m totally gonna call it the American Thrust when I use it with my clients.

  • Chris says:

    Hey Bret, I’m honestly having difficulty differentiating between Tim’s hip thrust technique and your own. Could you by chance go into more detail?

    • Greg says:

      One hack’s opinion: In the original version it would seem you brace against the bench at a spot higher up on your back, above the shoulder blades. In the Ferris variation the bench looks to be below his shoulder blades.
      And this gybes with the text “to hinge at a spot lower down on the back and move the fulcrum closer to the hips”
      If it is any consolation I had to review and re-read a couple of times to get that takeaway… hopefully I’m not too far off.

  • kevin says:

    a guy saw me doing hip thrusts at my gym and asked me if they were called “lady killers” haha

  • Eric Moss says:

    It isn’t vain if someone else named it after you. Only if you did it yourself.

    And Crossfit has what they call an “American Swing” but that is them mainly trying to differentiate themselves from other methods.

  • Adam says:

    The Romanian Deadlift got its name because the person who brought it to the States had a difficult name to pronounce, so they called it after where he was from. I would guess the Bulgarian and Russian terms were derived in similar ways.

  • Derrick Blanton says:

    Great post, Bret. I suspected the Ferris thrust would be easier than the Contreras thrust b/c the spine is further stabilized, and as I have learned from you, glute guy, the glutes love stability. I didn’t expect you to find more glute activity.

    The comparison I would use, (and this may be inaccurate), is a low bar squat vs. a high bar squat. The low bar squat improves the lever at the hips.

    One day when hip thrusts become a powerlifting event, there will be low back, and upper back hip thrust federations…or not..

    • Exactly! I’ll put up a post in the near future explaining the biomechanics as to why the glutes work harder in this variation. I’m also going to test the EMG just to make sure. I have more examples along the lines of what you mentioned regarding the low bar vs. high bar squat.

  • D.Morales says:

    I’m gonna call it a “Contreras hip thrust” with my clients.You are “the man” Bret!!

  • rdsu says:

    Good article!

    So you think for now on we should always use this variation, or your variation still have its place somewhere?

    If yes, when?

    Regards

    • I’ll still use both; variation is good. In my own workouts and the workouts of many of my clients, I go with a squat variation (full, front, low box, high box, half, Zercher, lever, etc.), a deadlift variation (conventional, sumo, rack, deficit, trap bar, db, etc.), and a bridge variation (hip thrust, American thrust, barbell glute bridge, etc.). Of course, sometimes I’ll use a single leg variation instead, and sometimes I include exercises like glute ham raises, back ext, 45 degree hypers, reverse hypers, etc.

  • Bret,

    Is there any way to get in the set up for the hip thrust easily? Honestly, my legs are big and it takes forever to roll the bar nicely across my legs and then position my feet for a good hip thrust. It’s so inconveniencing it just turns me off completely to the lift.

    I guess just elevate the barbell?

    • Anthony,

      We “normal folk” wish we had your problem! If you have a spotter, he can lift up on one end of the barbell while you get into position, then set it onto your hips. Elevating the barbell is tricky as the bar has to stay stable and not roll off whatever you’re elevating it onto, you have to get under the bar, and then roll it into position. But it can be done using a couple of smooth 45 lb plates. I’m sure there’s an even better way, but I don’t have your problem (too big of thighs) so I haven’t been forced to get creative. I’ll try to think of something and if I do, I’ll let you know.

    • Dush says:

      I train at home and only have 10kg plates which have a 8″ diameter so I got my farther who’s a carpenter to make me up some wooden plates out of plywood that are 13″ which is the regular 45lb size. If your thighs are that big you could make some wooden bumper plates that roll over your thighs perfectly.

  • Steven Coe says:

    American Hip Thrust it is brotha! I’m spreading it.

  • These have definitely helped my strongman events. Of course my training partners jokingly refer to them as “Womb Wreckers.”

  • bulent says:

    Mate, if you invented them you should name them what ever you want. I call em Bret thrusts. Don’t feel shame in being great a what you do. We all love you and want to achieve those walnut crushing buttocks.

  • Dan says:

    Bret – can you give us a few cues on this variation? Where should your back sit on the bench – at the bottom of the rib cage, or lower? How much flex of the spine is occurring? It’s hard to tell in the video. Thanks

    • Dan, just stay posted, I’m going to put up a blogpost in the near future discussing this in detail. Didn’t realize there was so much interest in the details or I’d have done it with this post. Anyway you’ll enjoy the post next week as it will be very detailed in terms of biomechanics.

  • Kellie says:

    Thanks for the second option. There is nothing that Ferriss can’t do.

  • bianca says:

    Hi Bret,

    thanks for this intelligent post and thanks for this inspiring video, which I will show to my trainer to check my form while I hip-thurst: I already do it Contreras’ style and now I am going to learn the Ferriss’ style too.

    I am sorry to get back to you with this question again, but I am really super-interested. In an article some while ago, you mentioned the A-shaped glutes as the ones with the best shape: maybe I am being tremendously unimaginative, but I really can’t get what you mean when you say “A-shaped glutes”.
    And also you were suggesting that certain women should train more the upper glutes and others should focus more on the lower glutes, depending on their having or not having the famous A-shaped glutes. Again it might be a naive question, but which are the best exercises for the upper and for the lower glutes?

    If my question is too uninteresting or too naive, don’t worry about answering it. I understand that you are very busy and it’s more than right to privilege those questions which might be of more general interest.

    Bianca

    • Thanks Bianca, I have pictures to illustrate the difference, but I have to find them. I’ll try to answer this question and a couple of others that have been asked in a special “ABC” post next week. Great question. As for the best exercises for the upper and lower glutes, go to my blog entitled “I am the Glute Guy and Here are My Secrets” and look at the charts. You can find that blog from Google or under the “Glute Training” category.

  • Trev says:

    Hi Bret. This article just prompted me to ask what might be a dumb question. Given that opposing muscles need to be roughly equal in strength to avoid imbalances and joint instability; does a 400lb Bret Extension (as I just christened it) necessitate big weights for the hip flexors too?

    • Trev,

      This is an excellent question, and is why I’m so glad I took a PhD level Biomechanics course this semester…so I can explain this kind of thing. I’ll put out a post next week that you’ll love. Until then, think about the hip thrust. The load is right at the hips. The knees are bent. The fulcrum of the new style (American hip thrust) is shifted toward the hips. All of this maximizes the emphasis on the glutes. If we created a comparable hip flexor exercise, maybe we would be able to move considerable loads (but this would involve huge amounts of spinal compression due to psoas contraction). But loading has to do with more factors than just weight. It has to do with the moment of the resistance arm (lever length times resistance) and the moment of the muscle arm (where the tendons attach).

      And we don’t need perfectly equal strength balances across force couples; everything needs to be strong and flexible. We don’t have to be concerned with exact matches (for example rowing exactly what you can bench press) as there are anatomical/anthropometric factors to consider that might make someone better at one compared to the other, and there are issues with various exercises (form, stability) that might make one easier than one another.

      Anyway, a straight leg situp off a glute-ham developer with a 25 lb plate behind the neck (a very effective yet very high-risk exercise for the lumbar spine) might require just as much muscular force (in the hip flexors) as the hip thrust with 400 lbs does (in the hip extensors) due to the length of the lever arm.

  • jc says:

    Chris- it took me awhile to figure it out too. I was concentrating on the position of the barbell, what you need to look at is the position of the back on the bench. Ferris’ style the back is much higher up, that’s why the elbow is resting on the bench. Bret’s is much lower the scapular is resting on the edge of the bench.

    • Exacty. Chris, look at where the back hinges on the bench. In my variation the upper back rests across the bench, whereas in Tim’s variation the mid back rests across the bench. I’ll better-explain this next week.

  • Thanks everyone for the comments! Glad to see this excellent exercise is spreading in popularity. I appreciate all the kind words.

  • bianca says:

    I just can’t wait for next week’s posts, as this subject is incredibly interesting and I am learning so much. You are really very inspiring Bret and you show so much knowledge, experience, desire to keep learning (the Biomechanics course is an example), enthusiasm and passion at what you do.

    You are really doing an excellent job with this blog and I am so so so sorry that I don’t live in Arizona. And so are my glutes!

    Bianca

  • DJ says:

    Good info, not too much to add that hasnt been already said, except I very much approve of the old school Senses Fail in the background, haha. Keep it up.

  • Thy. says:

    Bret, great variation to try out.
    I see that you mentioned here that psoas contraction creates spinal compression. I’m just wondering what’s your take on the type of ab exercises that are performed on dip bars or a pull-up bar, where you lift straight legs and hold it for time and its variations? (or do straight legged lifts dynamically)
    I like these exercises because they’re challenging and fun (most ab exersises are easy and boring), but I’m thinking if there’s too much unnecessary psoas work in them?

  • Will says:

    Hey Bret! I gotta e-mail today from Men’s Health talking about the “best exercise you’ve never seen”..and guess what it was…the hip thurst!

    http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/barbell-hip-raise?cm_mmc=EOWNL-_-2010_12_09-_-HTML-_-dek

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      Those Men’s Health douchebags didn’t even give you a mention, Bret.

      Great exercise, Men’s Health poachers! Quick, where’s my credit card so I can call them and subscribe to their innovative magazine.

      Awesome!!

  • “We thrust! We thrust long, we thrust hard, and we thrust often!”

    Thumbs up for that one…

  • Dush says:

    I emailed you a while back about problems getting to hip hyperextention with the tradtional style hip thrust, I just kept getting an incredible low back pump like nothing I have ever felt. I tried the Ferriss style yesterday and very little back pump, felt it right in the glutes!

  • Daz says:

    Bret
    Loved the article, but you know what. Loved your humility more!
    Plenty of trainers would get their head stuck up their arse when some character comes up with a variation of something you made popular.
    The fact that you acknowledged that you prefer his way speaks volumes to me to be honest.
    The fact that you dedicated an article to it, bloody brilliant if you ask me.
    Top work big fella, and good luck in NZ. Their National Cricket Physio is a very dear friend of mine, got no doubt she’d love to pick your brains.. (If you ain’t sure what Cricket is, i’d hurry up and brush up ha!)

  • Thy. says:

    Ok, my questions must be really stupid, selectively never get answered 🙁

  • allie says:

    I second what bianca asked and what she said! You’re the best! Looking forward to more gluteus discussion. 🙂

  • ALEX says:

    in the morning, car accident… hunger… i’ve walked in the soft snow for five miles… i know it doesn’t sound scientific but tonight i have doms deep in my glutes. great glute activation and pump too. muscle confusion principle?
    one more note… i’ve subscribed to your internet site too to receive your free 12 pages report to awaken the glutes but it seems you don’t send it anymore. i’m curious wich exercises you recommend for glutes activation. we italians are hungry for every single article you write.
    thank you very much

  • Ellie says:

    Hey, I was just wondering if you could give me some advice, Could I use German Volume training method(10×10) with only this exercise (I’m aware its an isolation exercise) but was wondering if I could do this to get a bigger butt. I’m not looking for strength just the aesthetic look of a bigger butt.

  • Simon says:

    this version i think takes the hamstrings out of the equation and makes it easier to hit upper glutes…its the lagging part of my glutes partly b/c of hip mobility. I’d like my arse to look like Rafael Nadal

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