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The Hip Thruster and variations of the movement recruit more muscle fibers than almost any standing lift, including one of our favorite moves of all time, the deadlift. It creates a burn in the glutes that very few other moves out there are able to accomplish.
However, beginners may want to start with a glute bridge variation before progressing to the Hip Thruster to make sure their low backs don’t take over when doing the movement.
It is very important with the Hip Thruster that you consciously focus on squeezing your glutes and fully extending your hips without hyperextending your low back.
Here’s how to do The Hip Thruster (potentially the single best glute exercise out there) and variations!
The Hip Thruster and Variations
The basic Hip Thruster movement is a supine bridge variation that recruits a ton of gluteal muscle fibers, making it a must-do exercise for any glute training program.
However, these three Hip Thruster variations shown below are more advanced movements. Anyone just starting out should start with a basic hip thrust variation, called a Glute Bridge. Here’s instructions on how to do the Basic Glute Bridge and Variations.
Even if you are an advanced lifter, you can’t ignore the Glute Bridge because it is a great way to activate and work those glutes!
Once you’ve learned to activate your glutes without your low back taking over (which will mean you’ve done the proper foam rolling, stretching and activation exercises), you are ready for the Hip Thruster.
The Bilateral Off Box Hip Thruster is a great place to start because it allows an increased range of motion without yet loading down the movement. It is also a great way to strengthen your glutes if you don’t have any weights although the move can be loaded down when you are ready.
To do the Bilateral Off Box Hip Thruster, place a box and a bench close enough together that your back can be on the bench and your feet up on the box with your knees bent to about 90 degrees. (If your legs are out too straight, you will use more hamstrings than glutes.)
Place your upper back on the bench and your heels up on the box. Then, driving up through your heels and your upper back, press your hips up and squeeze your glutes.
Lift your hips to full extension, hold for a second and lower back down.
Make sure you don’t drive yourself backward over the bench. Squeeze your glutes and press straight up, almost as if you are sort of driving your knees forward toward your toes.
And, like with all the glute bridges and hip thrusters, make sure you don’t hyperextend your low back at the top. Consciously squeeze your glutes and drive up through your heels while keeping your abs engaged.
You may even want to perform a pelvic tilt as you thrust so that you don’t hyperextend your low back if you are prone to do so.
Make sure your knees don’t fall apart at the top but stay in line with your hips and ankles.
Drop back down so your butt goes below the height of the box and repeat. You do not have to touch the ground each time, but you do want to do a bigger range of motion than you could do from the ground.
If you can’t lower down past the box, you may want to regress the move to a glute bridge variation.
Do not rush through this movement. If you don’t have weights, you can progress this movement by holding longer at the top and slowing down the tempo of your reps. More time under tension can lead to great results!
A great way to advance the Bilateral Off Box Hip Thruster is by doing a Single Leg or Unilateral Off Box Hip Thruster.
The single leg variation is also a great way to work each side independently and correct any imbalances because the dominant leg can’t take over.
To do the Unilateral Variation, set up with your heels on a box and your upper back on a bench just like with the bilateral movement and then raise one heel up off the box.
Then, driving through the heel on the box and your upper back, press the toe of the raised leg up toward the ceiling while raising your hips as high as you can. You can also bend the raised leg. Just make sure you aren’t swinging that leg to help you lift.
Squeeze your glutes and keep your core tight as you extend your hips so that you feel your glutes working and not your low back.
Hold at the top and then lower back down past the box and repeat. Complete all reps on one side before switching.
If you can’t fully extend your hips like you did with the two leg variation (or you feel your low back taking over), you may not yet be ready for this progression. This movement is more difficult because one leg is doing all the lifting.
This move can also be made even harder by slowing down the tempo and even holding longer at the top. This is a great option if you don’t have weights and really want to work your glutes at home or while traveling. However, if you do have weights and have mastered the movement, you may want to load the exercise down!
Another great variation of the Hip Thruster is the Barbell Hip Thruster. If you enjoy lifting heavy weights and want to work your glutes, you need to include this variation in your routine.
To do the Barbell Hip Thruster, set up a bench and make sure it won’t move as you bridge up onto it. Take a barbell and put some padding around it so that it won’t dig into your hips as you perform the move.
Place your upper back on the bench and sit your butt on the ground with your legs out straight. Place the barbell over your hips and then bend your knees and plant your feet firmly on the ground and close to your butt.
Then drive up through your heels and your upper back on the bench, to lift your glutes and the barbell up toward the ceiling.
Squeeze your glutes and press your hips up as high as possible, driving the barbell up and off the ground. Hold a second or two at the top and then lower back down and repeat.
Do not hyperextend your back at the top. Keep your belly button pulled in toward your spine and really squeeze your glutes at the top. Make sure you are driving straight up through your heels. Do not push yourself backward over the bench.
You may find that as you bridge up you want to “push” the barbell down toward your thighs to help you drive up and squeeze your glutes.
Do not rush the movement. While you can add weight to make the movement harder, you may also want to slow down the tempo. Or you can even turn the Barbell Hip Thruster into a unilateral move!
For a million more variations of the Hip Thruster by the Hip Thruster Mastermind himself, Bret Contreras, check out his post “The Evolution of the Hip Thrust.”
And for other great glute exercises, including foam rolling, stretching and activation exercises, check out these posts below:
- Best Glute Exercises
- 10 Lower Body Foam Rolling Moves
- Mini Band Moves
- Glute Activation Exercises
- 5 Bridge Variations
- Suspension Trainer Glute Exercises