5 Hip Thrust Variations To Grow Your Glutes
The hip thrust has become one of the most popular exercises in the last decade in training, especially with women all over the world. The hip thrust trains your glutes primarily, whilst also working your quads and hamstrings to some degree.
One of the factors which makes the hip thrust effective for training the glutes is that your legs are bent in the movement. When thrusting up and extending your hips, the bent knee allows for less hamstrings involvement comparatively to exercises like a Romanian deadlift. The hamstrings and glutes both perform hip extension. However, when the leg bends, we disadvantage the role of the hamstrings in the hip extension movement. Less of the hamstrings results in more of the glutes doing the work.
The hip thrust also has a different resistance profile to other traditional exercises for the glutes, such as squats and Romanian deadlifts. A resistance profile is when a muscle encounters its greatest resistance in a movement. For instance, when performing a squat, the resistance is greatest on the glutes towards the bottom as they are being stretched. Whereas with the hip thrust, the resistance is actually greatest at the top of the movement when the glutes are being shortened.
This is why when it comes to hip thrust variations, it’s a good idea to bias the top of the rep where the tension is greatest. A pause at the bottom of a thrust is pausing when the glutes are least worked which therefore becomes redundant (to an extent).
Now, with that reasoning and explanation, let’s look at 5 variations to training the hip thrust:
1. Constant Tension Hip Thrusts
A constant tension movement means the weight is never being rested. Tension stays constant for all reps which for a hip thrust will simply mean the bar does not touch the ground during the set. You will lower the bar until it’s just off the floor, but ensure the bar does not touch. From here, you drive back up and complete the top of the rep before lowering back down and repeating. Constant tension reps are my staple for performing the hip thrust.
2. 1 & 1/4 Rep Hip Thrusts
A 1 & 1/4 rep means you will perform your usual rep up to the top of the thrust and then, when you lower the bar, you will not take it all the way down to the floor. Instead, you will lower the bar just a ¼ of the way down and then drive back up explosively. From here you’ll slowly lower the bar back down all the way to the floor. This is otherwise known as a “double contraction” method.
1 full rep + 1/4 rep = 1 rep. The idea here is to bias more time towards the top of the thrust where tension is greatest. A 1 & 1/4 rep method is one of my most popular hip thrust strategies for clients.
3. 10 + 1 Method Hip Thrusts
The glutes are a muscle you often hear people say they “struggle to feel” when training. A strategy that can help someone improve their mind to muscle connection is through the use of isometric contractions. An isometric is when a muscle is under tension but not lengthening or shortening – a paused rep. The 10 + 1 method is focused around the use of a long isometric pause. The isometric contraction can improve neural drive to a muscle which allows you to improve your recruitment of a muscle. The 10 + 1 method involves a long isometric contraction plus 10 normal, constant tension reps.
You would drive the bar off the ground and hold the top position of the hip thrust for 10 seconds… Yes, 10 full seconds. I want you to maintain tension in the glutes at the top position which is going to be hard!
After the 10 second isometric hold, you’ll lower the bar down but not completely as you will begin to perform 10 constant tension reps (like I’ve explained above). You’ll feel this in a big way and it’s going to burn but it’s a great way to ensure the mind to muscle connection is there.
4. Single Leg Hip Thrusts
Glute imbalance is a term you come across a lot in the fitness space. Often it’s either “One glute muscle is bigger than the other!”, or “I feel my left glute and not my right glute!”. Whichever way, it is common to have one glute muscle slightly bigger or feel one glute muscle more than another.
When performing bilateral hip thrusts (both feet on the floor and contributing to the thrust), we are not necessarily improving the disparity. A hip thrust variation to work on the glute imbalance is through the use of single leg work. A single leg hip thrust can allow you to bias one side at a time which ensures the stronger side can not do more of the work. The weaker side has no choice but to be the dominant player when performing unilateral thrusts.
Single leg hip thrusts can be loaded a number of ways. Firstly, you can perform them with just your body weight as you build up a base. Then, you can load one side at a time through the use of a dumbbell, weight plate or kettle bell on your thigh.
Another great way to focus on the glute imbalance is through the use of pause reps. As discussed in the previous hip thrust variation, paused reps can be effective at increasing neural drive to a muscle. Combine this with single leg work and you can be well on your way to bringing up the discrepancy between sides.
5. 4/4/4 Method: Mechanical Drop Set Hip Thrusts
The final hip thrust variation is a mechanical drop set. This involves working a muscle through a movement pattern which is initially weaker and then extending the set by moving to an exercise for that movement pattern where you will be stronger.
The 4/4/4 method involves working from a weaker variation to a stronger and would look like this in a hip thrust example:
- 4 Reps – 3 Second Pauses
- 4 Reps – 1 & 1/4 Reps
- 4 Reps – Constant Tension, Full Range Reps
12 Reps All Up = 1 set.
The set will begin with 4 reps of 3 second pause hip thrusts in the top position. You will then immediately move to 4 reps of 1 & ¼ reps. A 1 & 1/4 rep is more dynamic which therefore will allow you to extend the set after the pause reps. Then finally, we finish with 4 reps of constant tension, full range hip thrust reps. This will be the strongest movement of the 3 variations within the set which is going to make you burn!
There you go! Five different hip thrust variations I love to use with my clients to help grow their glutes.
Try them but do not use all the variations in one session or over one week. Try implementing one hip thrust variation at a time and rotate every 4 weeks.
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Coach Mark Carroll