Strength training: Barbell hip thrust

Antonio Robustelli and Bret Contreras discuss the barbell hip thrust as a part of strength training

Posted on February 13, 2014 by
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Norwegian IPF powerlifter, Marte Elverum demonstrating the barbell hip thrust

The barbell hip thrust is one of the most underrated strength movements in strength training for sport.

It is a biomechanically efficient way to work the gluteal muscles. The exercise can be used to maximise gluteal muscle activation, develop end-range hip extension strength in the gluteus maximus musculature, increase horizontal force production, and increase the contribution of the gluteus maximus relative to the hamstrings during hip extension movement which may decrease the likelihood of hamstring injuries.

In the hip thrust, the hip extensors are trained throughout the end ranges of hip extension and into hip hyper-extension. We can increase and improve hip strength through hip-extension and hyper-extension as the moment arm (the turning effect produced by a force) of the glutes increases with hip-extension/hyper-extension.

The barbell hip-thrust is essential in athletics, especially in sprinting, for its effect on horizontal movements. Because of the horizontally loaded nature of the hip thrust exercise, tension on the hip musculature is maximised at lockout as the hips reach a neutral or a slightly hip hyper-extended position. This corresponds to the zone of hip range of motion involved in ground contact during maximum speed running.

The barbell hip-thrust is essential in athletics, especially in sprinting, for its effect on horizontal movements

Considering that vertical forces tend to plateau after approximately 70% of maximum running velocity is achieved, horizontal forces continue to increase as velocity rises. Horizontal force application is significantly correlated to increased acceleration, whereas total and vertical force productions are not.

It seems wise to incorporate strategies to work the hips from a horizontal vector if increased speed and acceleration are sought.


Begin the exercise by sitting on the ground and straightening the legs. Line up the upper back across a secured and padded bench, step or box. Position the barbell over the lower legs. Lean forward and grab hold of the barbell.

Because the hip thrust puts considerable pressure across the lower abdominal and pubic region, it is wise to pad the barbell. Lean back and resume the proper upper back placement. Tighten everything up by scooting the feet toward the buttocks and “digging” into the bench and ground.

The feet should be positioned around shoulder width apart and placed at a distance that creates a 90° angle at the knee joint with a vertical tibia relative to the ground at the top portion of the movement.

From this starting position, take a breath and brace the core. Raise the barbell off the ground via a powerful contraction of the hip extensors. It is important to ensure that the spine and pelvis stay in relatively neutral positions and the extension movement comes from the hips, not from the lumbo- pelvic region.

Good form involves the athlete controlling the barbell throughout the entire movement, including the concentric, isometric and eccentric portions. The knees should track directly over the toes and not cave inward. The back hinges across the bench and any sliding of the back up and down the bench is kept to a minimum.

The exerciser should keep the feet flat and push through the entire foot. For maximum safety, the head and neck should track accordingly to remain in alignment with the spine. The hips rise until the torso is parallel with the ground and a hip-neutral position is reached.

Norwegian IPF powerlifter, Marte Elverum demonstrating the barbell hip thrust

The lockout position of the exercise is held for a count of one. The eccentric portion is performed under control, and the barbell should lightly return to the ground. This practice may allow for better transfer to running through increased net horizontal forces.

Coaching tips

» Start by sitting on the ground, straighten the legs and place the upper back across the bench

» Hold the barbell by leaning forward and then lean back to resume upper back placement

» Take a breath and brace the core

» Raise the barbell off the floor through an explosive and powerful contraction of the hip extensors by staying with the spine and pelvis in neutral positions

» Keep the feet flat by pushing through the entire foot, stay with the knees tracked directly over the toes and raise the hips until the torso is parallel with the floor

Planning and programming

» General preparatory phase (GPP) for build work capacity of the hip extensors and for those athletes who need functional hypertrophy
» General and specific preparatory phase (SPP) to improve maximum strength of the hip extensors
» Competitive phase to maintain acquired maximum strength

» 3 sets of 10 reps with 60sec rest as a general work capacity in GPP
» 3 sets of 6-8 reps with 2-3min rest for hypertrophy in GPP
» 3-4 sets of 4-5 reps with 2-4min rest for maximum strength development in GPP and part of SPP

» Antonio Robustelli is a strength and conditioning coach and sport performance consultant ( Bret Contreras is a US strength & conditioning coach

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