If you’re on a strength training journey, chances are that you’ve heard about hip thrusts before – it might even be a part of your routine already! Barbell hip thrusts, in particular, are among the best glute exercises that you can do to grow bigger and stronger legs by making them work against heavy resistance.
Aside from working your glute muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus), this exercise also activates your hamstrings, quads, adductors, and your hip muscles. Plus, it helps improve your hip extension and mobility, which you need for a bunch of upper and lower body exercises! So, if your goal is increasing your strength and flexibility, you need to make sure you’re performing the exercise correctly.
We’ll guide you step by step on how to perform a barbell hip thrust with perfect form so you can reap all the benefits of this killer exercise. But first, let’s talk about the different aspects of proper hip-thrusting form and positioning so you can truly be ready before beginning the exercise…
How to prepare for a barbell hip thrust
Having the correct setup and appropriate starting position is just as important as the execution of the exercise. When it comes to doing hip thrusts with a barbell, you need to make sure you’re doing everything correctly to avoid injuring yourself and actually get the most out of the movement.
Here are the main aspects that you need to get right before beginning the exercise:
Hip thrusts are done with your back and shoulders rested on the long side of a bench. While you could technically use any other elevated platform, the padded bench will protect you from the discomfort of the edge.
When choosing a bench, make sure it’s the correct height for you, ideally slightly lower than knee height. This is because during the exercise you want to be able to get your upper body and thighs in a straight line and parallel to the floor, with your knees bent at 90 degrees. A bench that’s too high or too low won’t allow you to perform the thrusting motion correctly.
When you’ve found the right bench for you, the next step is positioning yourself on the bench. The only part of your back touching the bench should be your upper back and shoulder blades.
To make sure you have the correct back placement, rest it on the bench and slightly move your shoulders. If you feel your shoulder blades touching the bench, you’re in the right spot. If they’re lower than that, or so high that you feel your middle back touching the bench, make sure to adjust your position so you can lift comfortably.
At the top part of the movement, your shoulders should be fully resting on the bench while you hold the bar (this includes the upper portion of your arms). This will give your upper body enough support to let your hips handle the weight freely without slipping or being too constricted. And be careful not to tuck in your shoulders! They should be down and back as if you were standing upright.
Since the movement is happening right in the middle of your body, you need to be stable and firmly positioned on both ends. After getting the back placement right, switch the attention to your feet. If you’re not sure of the correct positioning yet, take a moment before rolling in the barbell to measure the correct placement.
To do this, firmly place your feet on the floor around shoulder-width apart, and thrust your hips so that your upper body and thighs are parallel to the floor. In this position, your shins should be completely perpendicular to the floor. If they’re slightly leaning forward, the load will shift from your glutes to your hamstrings, and if they’re slightly leaning backward, it will shift to your quads instead.
Having your knees bent as close to 90 degrees as possible will ensure that the load stays on the glutes and that you’re able to lift the weight with more control. Of course, everyone’s body is different, so you need to try first to see what’s best for you. Maybe you prefer having a wider stance, your feet pointing outward, or your shins slightly leaning forward – your call!
While the barbell is completely optional since hip thrusts are great both with and without added weights, using a loaded barbell will help you get stronger legs faster and more efficiently. You can start with lower weight at first to see how you feel, and then you can add more as you go.
That said, no matter how heavy the weight is, your hips will be fighting against an added resistance, so consider using a barbell pad! As you increase the weights, lifting the bar will become more painful and muscle activation will be harder to achieve. UPPPER Barbell Pads are made specifically for these occasions, helping you avoid the discomfort of the bar pressing against your body so you can lift more safely and efficiently.
When you’ve placed your barbell pad on the bar, the next step is rolling the barbell over your hips. Extend your legs, roll the loaded barbell, and make sure it’s placed right at the crease of your hips where your legs bend. This isn’t only a great placement for lifting because you can thrust your hips more comfortably, but the crease also prevents the bar from rolling away.
The final step is grabbing the bar correctly. Your hands are not the ones in charge of lifting the bar, your hips are, but you still need to have a good grip on it to prevent it from tilting or rolling out of place and to keep the general movement controlled.
The most common way to grab the bar during hip thrusts is with an overhand grip, with your fingers over the bar and your thumb going under and around it. Ideally, your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart to allow the hips to move freely, but you can play with your hand positioning until you find one that’s comfortable for you.
Similarly, you can also opt to grab the bar with an underhand grip, this is entirely up to you. The important thing to have in mind when holding the bar is that you should keep it under control and centered on your body to allow the working muscle groups to focus on the lifting motion!
How to perform a barbell hip thrust
Hip thrusting can be very straightforward, but the addition of a barbell makes things more challenging. We’ll walk you through each step of the exercise so you can perform this killer movement with perfect form:
Get into position
Let’s go over the basics of the hip thrust starting position once again. Find the right bench for your body, rest your upper back and shoulder blades on it, and correctly position your feet on the floor so that your knees are bent at 90 degrees on the top part of the movement. Lastly, roll the barbell over your hips, and grab it with your preferred grip.
Thrust your hips upward
Begin the movement by engaging your core and thrusting your hips upward so that the bar goes up, keeping it under control with your hands. Your back should serve as a hinge on the bench, allowing you to smoothly move upward without struggling. Remember that the bar should be on the crease of your hips for better control, not above or below.
Push through your heels
With your feet firmly placed on the floor, make sure you’re thrusting your hips with the force from your heels so that you can maximize glute activation. If you push through the balls of your feet instead, you’ll place a lot of the tension on your hamstrings and shins, redirecting the purpose of the movement and exhausting your legs more quickly.
Fully reach the top position
Going through the full range of motion will ensure that you’re getting the most out of this exercise by engaging your glutes all the way through. Fully reaching the top part of the movement means thrusting your hips high enough so that your upper body and thighs form a straight line that’s parallel to the floor. If you feel like you can’t reach this position, check your form or try a lighter weight until you can achieve it.
Keep a straight back throughout the movement
Make sure to keep a straight back while you move the weight to avoid straining your spine during the movement. Hip thrusting with a curved back will place the load on your spine because your back muscles will not be supporting it, so avoid this at all costs by keeping a straight spine, and make sure to use a lighter weight if you’re struggling.
Pause at the top position
When you arrive at the top part of the movement, hold this position by pausing your movement for a second or two instead of reversing the movement immediately. This will allow your glutes to fully engage and feel the tension of the weight on your hips so that they can grow bigger and stronger.
Reverse the movement slowly
Remember that you’re dealing with a heavy weight. You can’t just let your hips drop to the ground because the barbell will make them drop much harder, causing pain in your lower back area and even risking an injury. Reversing the movement slowly not only will prevent this but also keep your muscles engaged throughout the whole movement.
When you’re back in the starting position, continue your repetitions until you finish the exercise, making sure your upper back, feet, and bar don’t slip out of place. And you’ll be done!
Reach your lower-body goals safely with barbell hip thrusts
This exercise is considered an intermediate to advanced movement because of the addition of the barbell, so make sure you work your way up to it before trying it. Start with your body weight to master the proper form, then use a dumbbell to get used to having resistance against your hips, and then you’ll be ready to start including a barbell for maximum gains!