(800) 545-4772
Sign In
ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Glutes, Hip Thrusts, Hip Thrusts: Benefits and Variations for Stronger Glutes

Hip Thrust Benefits and Variations for Stronger Glutes

Reading Time: 5 minutes 30 seconds


DATE: 2023-11-29

There seems to be a bit of a misconception about building the glutes. Many people think the best way to build a better butt is through two strength training exercises: the squat and deadlift. While both exercises are great for the lower body, if the goal is to better glute muscle shape and strength, you want to target these muscles specifically.

Here we share a quick overview of glute anatomy and what makes the hip thrust a great glute exercise. We also go over how to do a basic hip thrust and variations that can make this exercise easier or harder. By the end of this article, you'll likely be adding the hip thrust to many of your clients' exercise routines. 

Muscles Worked in a Hip Thrust

The main muscles worked in a hip thrust are the glutes. We often talk about the “glute muscle” as if there is only one. Yet, the glutes are actually a collection of three muscles. They are:

  • Gluteus maximus muscle, which is responsible for hip extension and lateral rotation

  • Gluteus medius muscle, which is responsible for hip abduction and medial rotation

  • Gluteus minimus muscle, which is responsible for hip abduction and medial rotation

Although some have more than one attachment, all three glute muscles originate on different portions of the ilium. They also all insert near the greater trochanter.

The glutes play an important role in day-to-day movements and are essential for athletic performance. They also support pelvic stability. They do this by stabilizing the hip joint.

Hip Thrust Benefits

The gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful of the three glute muscles. It is also responsible for much of the shape of the buttocks. So, a weighted exercise that specifically targets the glutes with hip extension, like the hip thrust, is ideal for both aesthetics and function of the rear. 

Hips thrusts can help:

  • Improve the shape of the buttocks. They do this by adding muscle mass in this area. Increased glute size makes for a fuller backside.

  • Increase athletic performance. Research connects greater glute strength with improved sprint performance. (1)

  • Increase glute strength. This aids in certain movements. For instance, the gluteus maximus is one of the primary hip extensor muscles, along with the hamstrings. So, stronger glutes can make everyday activities like climbing stairs and walking feel easier.

  • Improve hip mobility. Studies have linked hip abductor strength with better balance and mobility. This finding was found for subjects across all age ranges. (1)

Performing hip thrusts can also be helpful for people with lower back pain. One systematic review indicates that glute muscle dysfunction can reduce spinal stability. This puts the lower back at risk of injury. It also noted that participants with pain in the lower back generally had greater gluteus medius muscle weakness. (3)

Pro Personal Trainer Tip: Explain the benefits of hip thrusting to your clients. Help them understand why you recommend this lower body exercise. Get them excited about working their gluteal muscle by helping them envision the results. The glute activation your clients will feel and the results they get will make them love the hip thrust!

Basic Hip Thrust Technique

The hip thrust exercise is similar to a glute bridge. However, with the hip thrust, the upper body is typically elevated. This allows for a greater range of motion. Hip thrusts are also commonly weighted. They can be executed with or without weight but typically have resistance (weights, resistance band, etc.).

The basic hip thrust, though, is a bodyweight exercise. Similar to any other exercise, it's important to master proper form before adding weight. So, the basic hip thrust is the best place to start.

To do a bodyweight hip thrust, the client will carefully position the middle of their back (typically just below their shoulder blades) on a weight bench or elevated platform. Have them lower their hips to the ground so the glutes rest on the floor. You may need to experiment with back placement and bench height to ensure the correct position for proper biomechanics.

The bottoms of their feet should be on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Their ankles will be directly below the knees. The shoulders should be relaxed and the head and neck in alignment with the rest of the spine.

The client will press their hips toward the ceiling using the glutes to perform the movement. At the top of the lift, the client should contract the gluteal muscles. Have them hold for a moment before lowering the hips back down. Just before the hips touch the ground, the client will press the hips back up into the next repetition.

Hip Thrust Variations

There are a few variations to the hip thrust exercise. Consider trying some of these variations to change up a workout.

1. Barbell Hip Thrust

This variation of the hip thrust is the most common hip thrust exercise. The movement is the same as the basic hip thrust, but it is not a bodyweight exercise. Instead, the movement is executed with a barbell horizontally loaded across the hips. Adding resistance helps boost lower body strength.

To do this weighted hip thrust, get the client into the starting position. Have them sit on the floor with the top of their back resting against a weight bench. Place a weighted barbell across their hips, resting just above their pubic bone. Ideally, the barbell should have padding around the middle of the bar to help protect the pelvis. 

They can also get into this position safely when exercising on their own. While seated on the ground, they should rest the barbell on the ground. From there, they roll it over their feet and legs, until it reaches the hip position.

The client will grip the barbell firmly to ensure it stays in place. They then move through the same motion as in basic barbell hip thrusts. They press the hips up, slowly lower them down, and press up into the next repetition before the hips touch the ground.

A good starting weight is generally between 50 and 100 pounds. You don’t need to lift heavy for hip thrusts to be effective. What’s most important for results is using good form.

2. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

If the barbell or a heavier weight isn't the right fit for one of your clients, they can do the hip thruster using a dumbbell instead. This allows for less resistance. It can also be easier when working out without a personal trainer or spotter.

To do it, they hold a dumbbell across the front of the pelvis. One hand is on each end of the dumbbell. They then go through the basic hip thrust steps.

3. Barbell Hip Thrust with Resistance Band

The barbell hip thrust with resistance band also uses the same body position and movement as the basic hip thrust. However, a resistant band is placed around the outside of the knees. This helps keep tension on the glutes through the entire set.

The client will position themselves just as they would for a barbell hip thrust. Place the resistance band around their legs. As they press the hips up, they will also press the knees out. This places tension on the resistance band. Have them keep this tension through the entire movement.

4. Single-Leg Hip Thrust

The single-leg hip thrust variation is challenging with a heavier weight. So, consider starting with a single-leg bodyweight hip thrust or a lighter weight (dumbbell or kettlebell). This helps ensure proper form and stabilization.

Just like the other hip thrust variations, this exercise is executed the same way as the basic hip thrust. The only difference is that one foot is lifted slightly off the ground while the hip extension is controlled by the opposite glute. The client will slowly press up, lower back down, and repeat before touching the ground with their glutes.

5. Smith Machine Hip Thrust

If the client prefers machines, they can use the Smith machine to perform this exercise. This hip thrust machine helps target the glutes and hamstrings. It can also support proper form.

Help Your Clients Build Strong Glutes as a Certified Glute Specialist

If you want to master the science behind building better glutes, check out ISSA's Certified Glute Specialist course. This course teaches you how to individualize glute training. This enables you to properly shape and strengthen your clients' backsides on a more personalized level.

Featured Course

ISSA | Glute Specialist

The ISSA Glute Training Specialist Course teaches trainers the science behind building better glutes and how to focus on these muscle groups to give clients the best results. You'll learn how to unlock the hips, create better programming, and deliver envious results. You'll master the art of developing a superior posterior and be the go-to glute expert!


  • Williams, M. J., Gibson, N. V., Sorbie, G. G., Ugbolue, U. C., Brouner, J., & Easton, C. (2021). 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, 35(1), 16–24. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000002651 

  • Lanza, M. B., Arbuco, B., Ryan, A. S., Shipper, A. G., Gray, V. L., & Addison, O. (2022). Systematic review of the importance of hip muscle strength, activation, and structure in balance and mobility tasks. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 103(8), 1651–1662. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2021.12.008 

  • Sadler, S., Cassidy, S., Peterson, B., Spink, M., & Chuter, V. (2019). Gluteus medius muscle function in people with and without low back pain: A systematic review. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-019-2833-4 

Sign Up & Stay Connected

Receive $50 off your purchase today!