There seems to be a bit of a misconception around building the glutes. Many people think the best way to build a better butt is through squats and deadlifts. Although both exercises are great for the lower body, if the goal is to shape and strengthen the glutes, you’ll want to target them specifically.
By the end of this article you’ll likely be adding the hip thrust to many of your clients’ exercise routines. We provide a quick overview of glute anatomy, discuss the basic hip thrust technique plus a few variations, and explore the reasons why this is the glute exercise that your clients can truly benefit from.
Basic Glute Anatomy
The glutes are a collection of three muscles. Although some of them have more than one attachment, all three muscles originate on different portions of the ilium and insert near the greater trochanter.
Function: Hip extension and lateral rotation
Function: Abduction and medial rotation
Function: Abduction and medial rotation
The glutes play an important role in day-to-day movements and are essential for pelvic stability and athletic performance (1)(2)(3).
Basic Hip Thrust Technique
The hip thrust exercise is similar to a glute bridge; however, with the hip thrust, the upper body is typically elevated which allows for a greater range of motion. Hip thrusts are also commonly weighted. They can be executed with or without weight but typically have resistance (weights, resistance band, etc.).
The basic hip thrust, though, is a bodyweight exercise where the focus is on proper form. Similar to any other exercise, it’s important to master proper form before adding weight. So, the basic hip thrust is the best place to start.
How to do it: The client will carefully position the middle of their back (typically just below their shoulder blades) on a weight bench or elevated platform and lower their hips to the ground so the glutes rest on the floor. You may need to experiment with back placement and bench height to ensure you determine the correct position for proper biomechanics.
The bottoms of the feet should be on the floor about shoulder-width apart and the ankles should be directly below the knees. The shoulders should be relaxed, the head and neck in alignment with the rest of the spine.
The client will press the hips toward the ceiling using the glutes. At the top of the lift, the client should contract the gluteal muscles and hold for a moment before lowering the hips back down. Just before the hips touch the ground, the client will press the hips back up into the next repetition.
Hip Thrust Variations
There are a few different variations to the hip thrust exercise. Consider trying some of these variations to change up a workout.
1. Barbell Hip Thrust
This variation of the hip thrust is the most common hip thrust exercise. The movement is the same as the basic hip thrust, but it is not a bodyweight exercise. The movement is executed with a barbell horizontally loaded across the hips.
Once you get the client into the starting position, a weighted barbell should be placed across their hips and will rest just above the pubic bone. Ideally, the barbell should have padding around the middle of the bar to help protect the pelvis. To get into this position safely, while seated on the ground, rest the barbell on the ground and roll it over the feet and legs until it reaches the hip position.
The client will grip the barbell firmly to ensure it stays in place and will move through the same motion as the basic barbell hip thrusts (pressing the hips up, slowly lowering down, and pressing up into the next repetition before the hips touch the ground).
If the barbell or a heavier weight isn’t the right fit for one of your clients, you can add weight to the hip thruster using a dumbbell, kettlebell, resistance band, or weight plate.
2. Barbell Hip Thrust with Resistance Band
The barbell hip thrust with resistance band also mimics the same body position and movement as the basic hip thrust. However, a resistant band is placed around the outside of the knees to help keep tension on the glutes through the entire set.
The client will place the resistance band around their legs and position themselves just as they would for barbell hip thrust. As they press the hips up, they will also press the knees out, placing tension on the resistance band, and keeping that tension through the entire movement.
3. Single-Leg Hip Thrust
The single-leg hip thrust variation is challenging with a heavier weight. You will want to consider starting with a single-leg bodyweight hip thrust or a lighter weight (dumbbell or kettlebell) to ensure proper form and stabilization.
Just like the other hip thrust variations, this exercise is executed the same way the basic hip thrust is. However, one foot is lifted slightly off the ground while the hip extension is controlled by the opposite glute. The client will slowly press up, lower back down, and repeat before touching the ground with their glutes.
Benefits of Hip Thrusts
The gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful of the three glute muscles. It is also responsible for much of the shape of the buttocks. So, a weighted exercise that specifically targets the glutes with hip extension, like the hip thrust, is ideal for both aesthetics and function of the rear. Hips thrusts can help:
Improve the shape of the buttocks
Increase athletic performance
Increase glute strength
Increase glute size (hypertrophy)
Give it a try. The glute activation your clients will feel and the results they get will make them love it too!
Become a Certified Glute Specialist
If you want to master the science behind building better glutes, check out ISSA’s Certified Glute Specialist course. You’ll learn how to individualize glute training to properly shape and strengthen your clients’ backsides.
Elzanie A, Borger J. “Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gluteus Maximus Muscle.” StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020
Shah A, Bordoni B. “Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gluteus Medius Muscle.” StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020.
Beck M, Sledge JB, Gautier E, Dora CF, Ganz R. “The anatomy and function of the gluteus minimus muscle.” J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2000 Apr;82(3):358-63.