The Barbell Hip Thrust has taken the world by storm.
Thanks to its unique ability to directly target the glutes, which are among the most powerful (yet most-frequently underdeveloped) muscles in the human body, more people than ever are utilizing this exercise.
“The Barbell Hip Thrust is one of our favorite exercises we try to incorporate for a lot of our athletes. Multiple benefits in terms of working the glutes, working the posterior chain, working on explosiveness—(it’s) just an all-around, good bang-for-your-buck exercise,” says Ryan Summers, DPT and co-owner of Pure Physio (Strongsville, Ohio).
Part of what makes the Barbell Hip Thrust such a fantastic option is its accessibility. Setup is simple—all you need is a low bench (roughly 14-18 inches high), a barbell and some weight plates. Once you get into heavier loads, you can use a towel or Airex Pad to relieve some of the pressure the barbell places on your upper thighs.
However, as Summers outlines in the above video, two common mistakes often prevent people from reaping the full benefit of the movement.
Number one: throwing their head back at the top of the movement in an effort to generate extra momentum or to access extra range of motion on the thrust. It looks something like this:
Not only is this unnecessary, but it’s counter-productive. By flaring your head back in such a manner, you can create extreme amounts of stress on your lower back.
Rather, you want to set up with your chin slightly tucked and your eyes facing straight ahead. As you hinge at the hip, your head simply follows along with your torso. Your neck and spine should remain in a unified neutral position throughout the movement.
“He’s going to be in a chin tuck position with his eyes following forward. And as he comes up, he’s not going to extend over through the top, which would now potentially irritate his back,” says Summers. “Have your head follow the hinge.”
The second cue involves your feet.
Set your feet so that at the top of the movement, you have a vertical shin angle and your knees form a 90-degree angle with the ground. Feet should be hip distance apart or slightly wider. Toes can be straight ahead or turned slightly outward.
Then, while keeping your feet flat on the floor, think about feeling as if your feet are rotating outward.
The resulting adjustment should feel like you’re trying to screw your feet into the ground. Researchers have found that this cue leads to a higher voluntary activation of both the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius during the exercise.
“There’s a lot of really good research showing us that when test subjects were given that cue, it activates the posterior chain and the glute max way more than by just driving through their heels,” says Summers. “(He wants to) feel as if his feet are rotating outwards.”
In terms of sets and reps, Summers recommends roughly 4 sets of 10 reps for lighter loads, shifting to four sets of five reps as the load increases.
You can read our definitive guide to the Barbell Hip Thrust here.