Health and Fitness

Muscles Worked, Form, and Variations


Hip thrusts are a hip extension exercise that target your glutes to build a muscular booty.

Hip thrusts, which are basically like elevated glute bridges, aid in spinal and hip flexibility while seriously working your glutes and your entire posterior chain (bonus points if you hip thrust to the beat of “Bootylicious” 🎶).

This move is a fave among weightlifters for its ability to uniquely target the butt muscles, but it’s also a great exercise for anyone looking to build strength and boost mobility.

So, if you want to build a booty, it’s time to add hip thrusts to your routine.

First things first: You’ll need a sturdy bench or box. Now, you’re ready to start hip thrusting:

  1. Rest your upper back against the bench. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. The bench should hit just below your shoulder blades. You can rest your elbows on the bench. Your butt should be slightly off the floor.
  2. Keeping your chin tucked, press through your heels until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Your legs should be at 90 degrees.
  3. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the move. Hold for a couple of seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position, making sure not to let your butt hit the floor. Repeat.

Complete 3 sets of 12–20 reps.

Pro tip: If you’re new to hip thrusts, start with fewer reps and slowly work your way up to 20. Once you feel strong and need a bigger challenge, you can add weights.

Hip thrusts mainly target your glutes — both the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius. But the move also gives your hamstrings a solid workout and works your quads, core, and hip adductors.

You may have tried glute bridges, which are pretty much the same thing but from the floor. These are also great for your booty but will work your quads more and your hamstrings less due to the lack of elevation. Really, both are amazing additions to any routine.

OK, you get it — hip thrusts are good for your butt. But when you build up your glute strength, you’ll help stabilize your core, pelvis, and entire lower bod. This may help reduce your risk of knee pain, lower back pain, and a whole host of injuries.

So, no, it’s not just about jumping to put jeans on.

Hip thrusts can also lead to athletic gains like:

In a 2019 review of studies, researchers concluded that the hip thrust with barbells significantly improved study participants’ short sprint time.

They also found that weighted hip thrusts led to greater activation of the hip extensors than other exercises.

If you wanna get it right, get it tight, here’s what to do — and what not to do.

Do: Complete the full range of motion

We’re not gonna whip out the protractor on you or anything, but really, try to get your legs as close to a 90-degree angle as you can.

This ensures that your glutes are fully activated and that you don’t do any damage to your lower back.

Don’t: Put your feet too far forward

If you place your feet too far forward, you’ll get extra hamstring activation but not enough quad or glute action.

Since everyone’s legs are diff lengths, it can take some trial and error to find your peak glute squeeze spot. Take time to find yours — and if your lower back is tweakin’, stop right there! This move shouldn’t cause any pain or strain in your body.

Do: Keep your back neutral

Keep that spine neutral — in one smooth line. If your ribs are angled up and your lower back is arched, you can’t achieve full extension of your hips and total glute activation.

Your ribs should be angled down and your low back neutral.

Don’t: Come up onto your toes

Don’t get all prima ballerina here! Lots of people have the urge to move onto the balls of their feet at the top of the thrust, but that won’t do you any favors.

This usually happens because your foot placement isn’t quite right (typically too far forward) or because your quads are a little more buff than the surrounding areas. If your legs are at a 90-degree angle and your feet are placed in the right position, you should be able to maintain heel contact throughout the movement.

This makes sure you work your whole posterior chain — not just your quads.

Already a hip-thrusting pro? It might be time to add weight to ramp up the challenge. Here’s how:

With a dumbbell or weight plate

Hold a dumbbell or weight plate on your hip bones during the thrust. Make sure it’s not heavy enough to cause any pain or strain, though. It should be just heavy enough to make you feel that extra burn.

With a barbell

You can use the barbell on its own or with plates. If you’re using Olympic-size plates on a barbell, roll the bar above your feet before getting into position. If your barbell weight is on the lighter side, you can have a pal help you out when loading it onto your hips.

You can also deadlift the bar up, sit on a bench, and shimmy into starting position from there.

No matter how you get into starting position, the barbell should sit on the crease of your hips. Your hands should be on either side, stabilizing it throughout the movement.

With a Smith machine

The Smith machine (aka hip thrust machine) lets you do these bad boys with a barbell or resistance band with ease.

If you feel any pain where the bar sits on your hips, you can snag some weight pads or even roll up a thin yoga mat or towel to cushion your hips and prevent any discomfort.

Since variety is the spice of life (or the burn of workouts everywhere), we’ve got a few more modifications to add to the mix:

Single-leg hip thrust

Isolate all the muscles in one side of your glutes at a time by straightening one leg and holding it at a 45-degree angle while doing the move. You can also add weights to this move as you build strength.

Hip thrust off bench

If you do the hip thrust on an even higher bench, you’ll get a greater range of motion than in a standard hip thrust. You can find this type of bench at the gym — but even a higher bed or couch can work in a pinch.

Banded hip thrust

To add more resistance to a standard hip thrust, you can add a resistance band.

Loop the ends of a long resistance under the arches of both feet. As you rest your upper back against the bench, pull the top of the resistance band over your hips. Then hip thrust as usual.

Glute bridge

The glute bridge is pretty similar, but you’ll do it on the floor, with your arms by your sides and palms facing down. You can hold the top position for 30 secs and really squeeze or move up and down as in the regular hip thrust.

If you feel like your quads are overactive in the hip thrust, the glute bridge should help you move into some more glute activation (with a little hamstring action too).

Hip thrusts are a legit way to add size and strength to your glutes. They’ll also work your quads and hip extensors and aid in flexibility and range of motion.

Whether you’re a pro powerlifter or brand-new to working out, thrusting it out is an amazing exercise for those at all experience levels. For best results, try adding 12–20 reps to your bodyweight or strength training routine 3–5 times a week.

And if you have doubts about your form, it’s a good idea to consult a personal trainer.



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