The Hip Thrust isn’t exactly the best known exercise in most gyms. And that is doubly true in weightlifting and CrossFit clubs. But, don’t think that its lack of popularity is based on some inherent ineptitude on its part. Sometimes good things just can’t get popular without a lot of heavy promotion.
Bret Contreras has been the major pusher of this exercise (see his awesome book on Glute Training) for a few years now and somewhere along the line it worked on me. I tried the Hip Thrust out. I added it to the programs of my lifters. And then something happened: I got converted.
Why the Hip Thrust for Weightlifters?
To say that I love this weirdo exercise would be an understatement. Not only does it have a great name; not only does it look awfully funny to perform in mixed company; but, it WILL make you a better weightlifter.
Why? Because weightlifting is all in the hips. And the Hip Thrust is one primo hip exercise!
There’s a lot of talk about the sport of Olympic weightlifting being a quad-dominated activity. There is truth to this. Our quads are required to be a bit oversized – just take a look at a good weightlifter in their competition spandex!
However, properly performed, the pull on a snatch or clean ends up being finished not so much with the quads, but with the posterior chain. At the end of a snatch you finish by pushing your hips “through”. What that means is that you get a slight hyperextension at the hip-bone via a Powerful Booty Action ™ – squeeze the butt!
You do a hip thrust every time you snatch or clean – literally. The only difference is that you do it while standing and with straight legs rather than sitting/laying with bent legs. As far as your hips are concerned, they are the same motion.
What NOT to Do
What often happens with beginners is that they try to mimic the look of good weightlifters by hyperextending their lower backs so that their body gets into that “banana” position. This is HORRIBLE!!!
Do NOT hyperextend at the lower back. Ever.
The look of that extension happens because weightlifters hyperextend the hip and then extend backwards at the thoracic spine which is built to handle such things. (Watch any video of Caleb Ward or my own lifter Brandon Tovey to see what I mean.) You should be very mobile at the mid spine. But, you don’t want that kind of thing happening at the low back. You WILL hurt yourself. It’s just a matter of time.
The solution is to learn how to properly move your body.
Every beginner in our club starts out learning two key strength moves: The Front Squat and The Hip Thrust. If you can’t properly front squat you’ll never learn to properly clean. And, if you can’t properly Hip Thrust then you’ll never finish your pull correctly, be truly powerful, and not hurt yourself.
(Obviously, some athletes get it right straight out of the gates. They can do a hip thrust motion correctly on the first try. But, that is quite rare, especially among adult lifters.)
My advice is that you Hip Thrust before EVERY Olympic lifting session. You can’t really burn out on this exercise. I’ve tried. You can work up to a “heavy” 3 or 5 reps daily no problem. For quite a while, you aren’t going to use it as a strength builder but as a primer. It is teaching you how to extend the hips fully with your glutes.
- Use the hips/glutes to hyperextend NOT the low back
- Start out trying to get a straight line from the knees to the shoulders (as seen in the video)
- Then … push the hips up by squeezing your butt maximally!
Now, get to flexin’ that booty!
By the way, in the recording of this video I said a line that I cut out (but might bring back in a blooper real), “You literally hip thrust into a snatch.” And then I started laughing and screwed up the video! … The possibilities for juvenile jokes in this sport are endless – thank God.
Yes, I know, I did this while wearing my ubiquitous cowboy boots + jeans + jewelry combo. I promise I don’t actually wear them when I’m working out! … Most of the time 🙂