How to Do a Hip Thrust

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Hip thrust exercise
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Also Known As: Hip thruster, weighted hip bridge, weighted glute bridge,

Targets: Gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, adductors, and quadriceps

Equipment Needed: Barbell, weight plates, dumbbell, or kettlebell

Level: Intermediate

The hip thrust, or hip thruster, is a movement that has gained widespread popularity over the past few years. The move is a variation of a glute bridge, but it is performed using a barbell and with the body lifted off the floor. It targets the gluteal muscles better than many other lower-body movements.

The hip thruster is effective for improving hip extension by engaging the hamstrings and gluteal muscles. Your hips extend when they move from a flexed position (where the hips are lower than or behind the shoulders and knees) to a fully extended position where the hips, shoulders, and knees are in line.

Some popular variations of hip thruster also engage the gluteal muscles that wrap around the sides of the hips, the abductors. To do so, you'll need to use a circular resistance band (sometimes called a hip thruster band).

Benefits

There are a few solid reasons that the hip thruster is becoming an essential movement for leg day at the gym.

Generates More Power

The hip extensors are important muscles for activities of daily living such as walking, standing up, or climbing stairs. But these muscles are also important for generating power for peak athletic performance. Exercisers who want to build the muscles in the hip area often look to standing exercises such as weighted squats, lunges, or deadlifts.

But research has indicated that when you perform standing barbell strength exercises, there is decreased tension on the hip extensors as the exercise nears lockout and the hips reach a neutral position (standing). But in a hip thruster, you're in a horizontal position, which allows you to maintain maximum tension on the hip muscles through the full range of motion.

Research has also shown that the hip thruster is more effective at activating the hip extensor muscles when compared to the barbell squat, the deadlift, or the Romanian deadlift. This may be especially important for athletes who need to generate speed.

In a 2020 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the hip thruster was shown to be more effective at training the glutes for sprinting than the back squat or the split squat.

Safer Squat Alternative for Some

While barbell squats are effective for building strength in the lower body, some people cannot safely or comfortably place a barbell on the upper back. For example, those with shoulder, neck, or lower back issues may find a weighted barbell squat too challenging. The hip thruster (or one of its modifications) allows you to strengthen the glutes without loading the upper body.

Step-By-Step Instructions

If you are new to exercise or to a strength training routine, you should check with a healthcare provider to make sure that there are no special modifications that you should follow. If you have been sedentary, injured, or returning to exercise after pregnancy, get clearance from your doctor first.

The most widely practiced version of the hip thruster requires you to maintain your balance on a weight bench while holding a barbell on your hips. Getting into and out of the position may be awkward when you are new to the exercise. It may be helpful to work with a partner or a coach when you first try this move. You can also try the move on the floor before using a weight bench. If you do use the weight bench from the beginning, practice the movement with no weight before adding resistance.

Set-Up

For safety reasons, you should be careful to set up your weight bench properly, especially if you plan to lift a lot of weight. Make sure that the bench you use is no higher than your knees. The long end of the bench should be positioned against a solid surface like a wall so that it cannot move while you are lifting.

Also, you may want to use a pad or sponge on the bar. Position the pad on the center of the bar so that both hip bones are protected. Some exercisers use a towel, but a towel can slip and is less secure.


Some gyms may carry a special piece of equipment specifically for this move—usually called a thruster. It is an L-shaped device with a connected platform that rests on the floor and a padded bar on which you rest your upper back. Many find this device most stable and comfortable for performing the move.

If there is no bench available and your gym doesn't have a thruster, you can use an exercise step with 4-5 risers.

After the bench is set up, you'll want to load the bar with weight. Always secure weight plates with a barbell collar.

  1. Start seated on the floor, knees bent, feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. The toes can be turned out just slightly. The upper back (lower scapula) should be resting against the edge of the weight bench in the center of the bench.
  2. Place the weight bar across the hips.
  3. Squeeze the glutes and press the bar straight up until the hips are in line with the shoulders and the knees. The bench should be supporting the mid-scapula area. Keep the core tight and maintain a slight chin tuck with your focus down your body (a few inches above the bar).
  4. Slowly lower the bar down until the hips are just a few inches off the floor.
  5. Squeeze the glutes and lift again.

After you complete your first repetition, adjust your feet if necessary. You want about a 90-degree bend at the knee when the hips are fully extended.

Common Mistakes

There are a few common blunders to avoid when performing the hip thruster. Mistakes could lead to a less effective outcome and potentially to neck or back problems.

Incorrect Foot Placement

Many coaches will tell their clients that they can find a foot position that feels most comfortable for them. However, the placement of your feet can affect how active different muscles are during the thruster. Moving the feet wider or more narrow is not likely to make a big difference, but moving the feet further away or closer to the body may change how this exercise feels.

If you feel like your quadriceps muscles (the front of the thigh) are working too hard, your feet may be too close to your hips. Moving them further away from the body will help to shift the workload to the hamstrings and glutes. Moving them too far away will minimize the glutes and emphasize the hamstrings.

Lazy Neck

Your focus is important while performing the hip thruster. The upper back (around the lower shoulder blade area) is supported by the weight bench, but the neck and head are not. So it is possible to drop the head back and look at the ceiling while lifting the hips. But this can encourage over-arching through the spine, so it is not recommended.

Instead, keep the chin tucked down towards the chest while lifting the hips into extension. This helps to keep the core engaged and prevents you from arching the torso and over-extending through the spine.

It can be helpful to do this movement in front of a mirror. Then you can keep your focus on your body and your form in the mirror, which will help you to keep the chin in the proper tucked position. If there is no mirror, look down the body with the focus just a few inches above the bar.

Incomplete Extension

If you are lifting too much weight, or if you have very tight hip flexors, it is possible to lift the hips partially but not to reach full extension with the hips in line with the shoulders and knees. This error will shortchange you out of the most effective part of this exercise.

To reach full extension, lower the amount of weight slightly and see if you can get the hips fully extended. If you still see that the hips aren't getting high enough, your hip flexors may be too tight. Try doing bridge exercises on the floor to open up the hip area before doing the thruster.

Lowering Too Quickly

Both the concentric (lifting) phase and the eccentric (lowering) phase are important during the hip thruster exercise. Some exercisers may put substantial effort into the lifting segment and they move quickly through the lowering phase to start another repetition.

But to make the most of this exercise, you want to control the eccentric phase. Take as much time lowering the bar as you do lifting it. It will force the glutes to stay engaged and work harder.

Modifications and Variations

There are several different ways to change elements of the hip thruster to suit your individual needs.

Need a Modification?

The hip thruster can be intimidating because the set up is a bit complicated. It requires several pieces of equipment and getting into the starting position requires some balance and savvy. If you're not ready to try the full version, you can try a hip bridge with or without weight.

Basic Bridge

The basic bridge, also called a glute bridge or a hip bridge is a very similar movement to the hip thruster and it also strengthens the glutes and hamstrings, although to a lesser extent than the hip thruster. Instead of leaning the upper back on a weight bench, however, you rest it on the floor. In this position, the head and neck are also fully supported resting on the floor.

To start the movement the knees should be bent and feet placed about hip-distance apart on the floor. Press through the heels and lift the hips up so that the knees, hips, and shoulders are in a diagonal line. Lower the hips and repeat.

Dumbbell Bridge

Once you've mastered the basic bridge, perform the same movement with dumbbells. Start with lighter weights and place one weight horizontally across the hips before lifting them off the floor. You can also place one weight on each hip and lift.

Up for a Challenge?

The best way to make this exercise harder is to add repetitions or increase the weight. You can also add these challenges to make different versions of the hip thruster exercise harder.

Add a Band

You can add a resistance band to this exercise to engage the abductor muscles. You'll place the band around both legs at the lower thigh (slightly above the knee). Make sure that the band is small enough in diameter so that when the feet are placed hip-distance apart, it is taut and there is some resistance. The band should also be wide enough that it doesn't feel like it is cutting into your legs.

With the band providing resistance, you'll lift and lower the hips as indicated in the basic hip thruster move. You'll feel more engagement from the gluteus muscles on the side of the hip: the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and tensor fascia lata.

Lift One Leg

The single-leg hip thruster is a challenge that you might want to add to one of the easier versions of the hip thruster. It is usually not a challenge that is added to the barbell hip thruster as lifting one leg could make it very hard to balance the barbell properly on the hips.

To do this variation with the hip bridge (with the upper body on the floor) or to a hip thruster with no barbell, simply lift one foot off the floor before lifting the hips into an extended position. Keep the foot elevated through the entire set of repetitions, then place the foot down and switch sides. You'll feel the hamstrings on the working leg engage and work harder when one leg is lifted.

Safety and Precautions

There are a few safety issues to take into consideration before performing this move. First, anyone with back or hip problems should speak with their healthcare provider before attempting the hip thruster. Your provider may suggest modifications or alternate exercises.

Next, take extra care not to hyperextend the spine when doing this exercise. It may be helpful to work with a trainer when first learning the movement, or at least have a friend watch your form to be sure that the chest doesn't arch up causing too much curvature through the lower spine.

Lastly, some people try to perform the hip thruster on a hamstring curl machine. However, workout machines at the gym are designed for specific uses. It is generally not advised to use the equipment in ways not indicated by the manufacturer.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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Article Sources
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  2. Delgado J, Drinkwater EJ, Banyard HG, Haff GG, Nosaka K. Comparison between back squat, Romanian deadlift, and barbell hip thrust for leg and hip muscle activities during hip extension. J Strength Cond Res. 2019;33(10):2595-2601.

  3. Williams, Michael J. Gibson, Neil V. et al. Activation of the gluteus maximus during performance of the back squat, split squat, and barbell hip thrust and the relationship with maximal sprinting. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: May 24, 2018 doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002651