What if I told you it's possible to sculpt your dream booty while laying on the floor? Moves like squats and deadlifts require standing, but hip thrusts start right on the mat. These are no rest break though.
You've probably seen hip thrusts all over Instagram, but they are not just a passing phase. Athletes and influencers alike have been singing their praises, and some trainers have even built entire careers on using hip thrusts to help clients build strong, toned glutes.
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Hip thrusts are an effective and versatile lower-body exercise, and they deserve a permanent spot in your lower body repertoire. You can perform them with just your bodyweight, resistance bands, or free weights like a dumbbell or barbell. You can do them in the gym or at home.
And whether you want to get as strong as possible or simply strength train to keep your running game solid, hip thrusts can help. Convinced to try a hip thrust? Here's everything you need to know about the move—and how to use them to level up your leg workouts, according to trainers.
So, what is a hip thrust?
Ever see someone at the gym or in a workout video doing what looks sort-of like a glute bridge, but with their shoulders elevated on a bench, couch, or stability ball? That, my friends, is a hip thrust.
In a hip thrust, you push through your lower body (more on the specific muscles it lights up in a sec) to lift your hips (and potentially a weight) up into a bridge position.
The goal: To build lower-body strength and muscle.
"Hip thrusts are highly beneficial, both an aesthetic and a performance standpoint," says Danyele Wilson, CPT, a trainer with EvolveYou, who uses them with her clients (and in her own workouts) all. the. time. (Read: A win for building the booty of your dreams and rocking your workouts.)
How To Do A Hip Thrust With Proper Form
Of course, reaping all those strength benefits from hip thrusts requires doing it right, folks. You can't plop down and thrust will-nilly. Keep Wilson's step-by-step breakdown in mind to nail your form.
- Sit with feet flat on the floor in front of a couch, workout bench, or stable chair.
- Place forearms flat on surface so elbows point back and fingers point forward. (Alternatively, you can rest your shoulder blades directly across the surface, which is the way to go if you plan to add weights to the move.)
- Lift seat up off floor and walk feet out until planted slightly beyond knees. This is your starting position.
- Push through heels and engage glutes to extend hips up until body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees.
- Reverse the movement to return to start. That's one rep.
Pro form tips: Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement to avoid putting too much stress on that lower back.
What muscles do hip thrusts work?
Hip thrusts are best-known for targeting your glutes (a.k.a. butt) muscles. That's not all. When performed properly they also activate your hamstrings (and quads and adductor muscles, otherwise known as your inner thighs, a bit, too), Wilson explains.
Though you might already hit these muscles with deadlifts, they definitely need the extra love. "The hip thrust is a great exercise for developing your posterior chain (backside of your body), which we often neglect," adds Kehinde Anjorin, CFSC, strength coach and creator of The Power Method.
Benefits Of Hip Thrusts
If all the above isn't enough to convince you to give hip thrusts a try, perhaps the fact that they're one of the ~best~ exercises for your butt will win you over.
- Sculpting a strong butt. Yep, they're one of Wilson's go-to's for increasing glute strength and size.
- Supporting lower-body function. That means it helps your hips, butt, and legs better tackle other exercises and everyday activities, says Wilson.
- Improving running and cycling power. In fact, hip thrusts are especially helpful for runners and spin fanatics because they build the lower-body strength and power those workouts require. Specifically, they work hip extension, a movement pattern you won't get far on the tread or bike without, says Anjorin.
Common Hip Thrust Mistakes
In addition to following those form tips, there are also a couple of common hip thrust mistakes to watch out for when building that booty.
- Hip misalignment. Either not extending your hips up enough OR overextending them. At the top of the exercise, your hips should be in-line with your ribcage, Anjorin says. If you've pushed 'em up higher, you've gone too far. (This shifts the load from your glutes to your lower back.)
- Shrugging your shoulders. Letting your shoulders inch up towards your ears throughout the movement, which will leave you feeling strain in your back and neck, instead of working your glutes and hammies, says Wilson.
- Tilting your head back. This position can strain your neck and shoulders. Remember to keep your chin tucked and your gaze slightly down.
- Moving too fast. The hip thrust is about control and engagement through the glutes. If you speed through your reps, you'll miss out on the valuable time under tension benefits.
How do hip thrusts compare to glute bridges?
If you're thinking that hip thrusts just sound like jazzed-up glute bridges, you're not far off. But does moving your upper body from the floor up to a bench really make that much of a difference? Yes, it absolutely does.
Using an elevated surface levels up the work. "Both exercises are glute-dominant, hip-hinging movements," says Wilson. "However, the main difference lies in the range of motion. The hip thrust involves a greater range of motion than the glute bridge, making it a more advanced and powerful movement."
Basically, traveling through a bigger range of motion means more time under tension (a.k.a. more work) for your muscles, Anjorin explains.
Pro tip: It's a good idea to start with glute bridges, which are easier to master, before moving onto hip thrusts.
Here's how to add hip thrusts to your workout routine.
Now that you're up to speed on all things hip thrusts, it's time to work them into your routine and feel those benefits for yourself.
Both Anjorin and Wilson personally incorporate the exercise into their leg day sweats. To build strength and muscle, Wilson recommends shooting for three sets of six to 12 reps. To keep her body working in between sets, Anjorin, meanwhile, alternates sets of hip thrusts with sets of walking lunges. Phew!
If hip thrusts are new for you, check in on your bodyweight form before adding weights into the mix. Yep, you can get plenty of benefits using only your bodyweight.
How To Add Weight
Ready to up the intensity? After nailing those bodyweight hip thrusts (and warming up with a few sets of weight-free glute bridges), you can totally load 'em up with weight.
The most popular method of choice: a barbell. "Place the weight right on your hip crease," says Anjorin. As you increase the load, just consider wrapping a hoodie (or a barbell pad) around the bar to keep it comfortable. Alternatively, hold a single dumbbell or kettlebell across your hips.
Equipment for hip thrusts: resistance bands, dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell
Hip Thrust Variations
To continue to spice up your hip thrust routine, you can also mix in a couple of variations.
Single-leg hip thrusts. This is a fave of both Anjorin and Wilson. Drop any weights you're using, hover your non-working leg a few inches off of the floor, and prepare to set that working leg on FIRE. As you build strength and stability in the single-leg version, you can pop a dumbbell onto your hip crease for more of a challenge.
Stability ball hip thrusts. Want to test your balance without going single-leg? Swap that sturdy bench or couch for a stability ball.
Banded hip thrusts. Here, simply wrap a looped resistance band around your legs just above your knees and thrust away, actively pressing your knees outwards against the band to work your hip abductors (outer thighs) and sides of your glutes.
Bottom line: The hip thrust is a great glute- and hamstring-focused strength training exercise. You can perform it with no equipment or with a dumbbell or barbell to boost strength and power and build muscle.
Jennifer Nied is the fitness editor at Women’s Health and has more than 10 years of experience in health and wellness journalism. She’s always out exploring—sweat-testing workouts and gear, hiking, snowboarding, running, and more—with her husband, daughter, and dog.