Build a Booty with Hip Thrusts
Do you want to build your booty? “Then you need to do more squats”. That is what I used to say and think. I thought squats, leg press, and deadlifts were the best booty exercises. Well, news flash- not exactly.
Let’s all get on the same page. The glutes are a very large muscle group made up of many different muscles. They therefore grow most with compound exercises and smart exercise choices. When it comes to squats, leg press, and deadlifts, they are purely working the glutes in an axial plane and a lengthened range-of-motion. That is great, but they do not elicit maximal muscle recruitment with the optimal length-tension relationship at end range from the glutes. What does? Anteroposterior plane exercises with the knee flexed/bent (1). Therefore, you should build a glute program with many variations of exercises. Strengthen the glutes from every plane, angle, knee position, and range-of-motion.
Let’s compare these 4 exercises: Squats, leg press, deadlifts, and hip thrusts.
Pay attention to the angles and the range-of-motion in which you are able to strengthen.
You see, an axial exercise (like squats, leg press, and deadlifts) can only strengthen the glutes less than or up to neutral. Whereas an anteroposterior exercise like hip thrusts can strengthen the glutes farther to 20 degrees of hip hyperextension causing full muscle shortening of the glutes. In addition, hip thrusts MAXIMIZE TENSION in a shortened position. Without a loaded spine (spinal compression) the glutes may then take on more of the load for more optimal hypertrophy. Once you discover strengthening the glutes through this extra 20 degrees of range-of-motion, I guarantee you will see BIG results (pun intended). Build a bigger booty by working out effectively.
What are some of the best anteroposterior glute exercises? The hip thrust is my favorite by far. Some others include reverse hyperextensions, bridges, cable pull-throughs, and quadruped bird dogs.
Today we will cover the basics of the hip thrust.
The hip thrust strengthens the glutes in the A/P plane, in a fully shortened position, and it contracts the gluteal muscles through all 4 of their muscle actions: hip extension or hyperextension, hip abduction, hip external rotation, and posterior pelvic tilt. It puts the hamstrings into active insufficiency since the knees are bent, which strengthens the glutes even more. It was developed by Bret Contreras – “The Glute Guy”!
Watch my quick video “How to perform Hip Thrusts correctly”:
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- Set-up a low bench
- Set-up a barbell with weights
- Place a squat sponge, padding, or Airex pad on the barbell
- The placement of your back on the bench should be slightly lower than the low bar position you would use for a squat (2).
- Sit on the ground in front of the bench with your legs straight
- Drag/roll the barbell toward your hips
- Place your mid back on the bench
- Bend your legs with your legs out wide and toes turned out (for hip external rotation)
- Rest the barbell across the top/front of your hips
- Place your hands on either side of the bar, simply to help steady it before the first rep
- Inhale to prepare and brace your core keeping your pelvis in neutral (2), hold your breath as you thrust the barbell up toward the ceiling, bringing your pelvis into posterior rotation, with the intention of dragging your heels in toward you for more posterior chain recruitment.
- Exhale to relax back down
- Constant tension – never let the barbell touch the ground between each rep
- Stop & Go – rest the weight down between each rep (you may have to place weights under each end of the barbell like I did in the video)
- Weighted & Banded – add a band around your knees for constant hip abduction (press your knees outward during each rep)
- Pause/Hold the last rep – hold the last rep for 4-5 seconds
- Not using padding, an AirEx pad, or a squat sponge. This will likely lead to bruising at your hips and post-workout discomfort.
- Not externally rotating the hips or keeping the toes pointing straight forward. This will prevent full shortening of the Gluteus Maximus (as one of its actions is hip external rotation).
- Not achieving posterior rotation of the pelvis at the top of the movement. This would make the exercise less effective as the glutes are not being full shortened if the pelvis is in anterior rotation or neutral.
- Perform some version of hip thrusts at least 2-3x/week.
- Incorporate daily undulating periodization (DUP) by practicing low, medium, and high rep days for them. (See related: DUP Step)
- Try alternating the variations of hip thrusts during the week (as described and demonstrated above).
- There are also other ways to perform hip thrusts, without weight, that you could incorporate for lighter weight & higher rep glute days. See a few of the options below.
A) Banded Hip Thrusts
B) Standing Banded Hip Thrusts
(See it in action: here)
C) Frog-style Banded Hip Thrusts (by Bret Contreras)
(soles of feet together)
(See it in action: here)
- Ekstrom RA, Donatelli RA, Carp KC. Electromyographic analysis of core trunk, hip, and thigh muscles during 9 rehabilitation exercises. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2007;37:754‐762.
- Contreras B, Cronin J, Schoenfeld B. Barbell hip thrust. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2011;33:58-61.