Since my Interview with “The Glute Guy” (Bret Contreras), I have pretty much fallen in love with the Hip Thrust exercise. Using body-weight only, I have managed to enhance the curves and the strength of my beloved behind, just by including the Hip Thrust in my workouts and learning about effective activation of the glutes 😉
Lately I have had a few questions regarding the progression of this exercise. As in where to start and how to progress. One mistake I made, was thinking that because I already exercise regularly and do not consider myself a beginner, I did not need to start at the basic level with an exercise such as this one and I skipped to a level too high for me (the single-leg Hip Thrust). So the first lesson here is understanding and accepting that regression is just as important as progression in building strength and developing good form.
In the past I have also be asked what the difference is between the Glute Bridge and the Hip Thrust. In terms of the muscles used, they are much the same, but the Glute Bridge is performed with the shoulders and feet on the floor, it becomes the Hip Thrust when either the shoulders or feet (or both) are elevated off the floor in some way. In doing this you increase the Range of Movement (ROM) significantly by having to recruit more force to perform the exercise, allowing you to build strength.
For anyone wanting a more detailed explanation of the difference this elevation makes to the exercise’s effectiveness, then check out Bret’s post in response to our friend Bianca’s question relating to the “Single-Leg Glute Bridge vs Single-Leg Hip Thrust“. The same reasoning can be applied to the double-leg variations too, as I try to explain in the video.
The reason (btw) the Single-Leg variations of both the Glute Bridge and the Hip Thrust are considered more advanced than even the weighted Glute Bridge, is down to increased demand to the stability of the pelvis and lumbar spine, calling for greater control and rotary stability of the “core”, as Bret highlights.
Moving on, the video below is a tutorial on the “journey” from Glute Bridge to Hip Thrust and some issues we need to overcome along the way. Clearly I am not an expert in the mechanics or science behind these exercises, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot help spread the word about great results and, instruct as best as I can in good form and key pointers. My role here is as a messenger, relaying the best information I can gather (from the actual experts) about exercises, improving performance and making the most out of your training. Given the progress I have made over the last 18 months, I want the same success for everyone else
To go one step further, I would gladly showcase my own glutes as walking (haha) proof that this exercise WORKS! Any trainer who ignores the evidence and doesn’t allow their methods to evolve, is doing their clients a serious dis-service:
Another issue to note is that some people may have concerns that the Hip Thrust is not as effective as the Glute Bridge because the Hip Thrust “over-works” the muscles in the lower back. This was brought to light by Bianca’s trainer. Even though it is clear from the video why this may occur, I ran this query by Bret (who I consider myself very lucky to have on my email list) and he had the following response:
“They all work the glutes hard as hip extensors and pelvic stabilizers. If you feel it in your low back it’s because you have shitty pelvic stability at the top of the movement near end-range hip extension and you end up hyperextending the lumbar spine and going into anterior pelvic tilt. Ignoring this dysfunction does not do any good. Just like you need to learn to control the lumbopelvic region when squatting and deadlifting, you need to do so for hip thrusting motions as well. Progress gradually from glute bridges to hip thrusts and finally to single leg hip thrusts. Think “glutes” all the way through the movement and don’t go too heavy to where you end up overarching the back and allowing the pelvis to rotate forward.”
In other words, before even lifting the glutes off the floor, squeeze them to tilt the pelvis back (or the “tail bone” forward), like you’re trying to flatten the lower back to the floor, then lift. I have found this to be very useful, as it breaks the exercise down more so you are not trying to do everything at once, which is hard to do especially if your glutes have been “asleep” for the last decade. If your lower back is still over-extending, then work on some hip flexor stretches. The next video runs through a basic, yet effective drill to “open” the hips (by stretching the hip flexors) and activating the glutes, in all directions. It is funny actually that my last glute activation video contained the glute bridge as the main exercise. While the glute bridge still remains an excellent activation exercise, the glutes are responsible for more than just hip extension – hence the rotations and abductions:
The Glute Bridge may look like an easy exercise, but there are a lot of things going on and usually people display many dysfunctions which need correcting before the exercise can serve you as it should. Think of the Body Weight Glute Bridge as a place to correct form and build a foundation for amazing glutes. Mine have never looked, or felt (haha) better! 😉
- As a rough guide, once you can complete 3 sets x 12 perfect reps of your chosen variation below, consider yourself ready to progress. Note: If the progression becomes too difficult and your form is suffering, REGRESS until your form is more consistent, or perform less reps at the more advanced version.
- Glute Bridge
- Shoulder Elevated Hip Thrust
- Shoulder and Feet Elevated Hip Thrust
Weighted Double Leg:
- Glute Bridge
- Shoulder Elevated Hip Thrust
(Remembering this will provide a greater challenge to lumbar-pelvic stability ie. keeping the pelvis level and the lower back from over-extending)
- Glute Bridge
- Shoulder Elevated
- Shoulder and Foot Elevated
- Bottoms Up Shoulder and Foot Elevated (start each rep from a stop position with butt on the floor)
NOTE: If you have no way of adding additional resistance to the Double Leg Variations then, provided you can perform the Body Weight Shoulder and Feet Elevated Hip Thrust with excellent for,then there is no reason why you could not try advancing the exercise to the Single Leg Glute Bridge etc.
- Hip Hyper-extension GOOD, Lumbar Hyper-entension NOT GOOD!
- Master the body weight variations before adding weight.
- Master the bilateral versions before attempting the Single-Leg.
- When you can perform 3 sets x 12 reps with excellent form, you are probably ready to progress.
- Think Glutes, Glutes, Glutes – this actually really helps!
- Don’t be too proud to regress!!
After me saying I was going to do this post for SO long, I really hope I have provided you with adequate information to allow solid form and proper progression of this exercise. I call it a “Glute Journey” because you will literally see the results within a few short weeks, so long as you include one of these exercises in your workouts several times per week.
For additional information on a progressive programme for your glutes and great exercises to ultilise then check out the following sources:
- About half way down this article you will come to a programme with 4 phases to attain great glutes – “Dispelling the Glute Myth“
- Kellie Davis and Bret co-wrote this e-book which reveals many great secrets and helpful pointers in how to “Get Glutes“
For any further information, feedback or, if you think I have left anything out, then please feel free to comment below. I hope this article and the videos are helpful.