Barbell Hip Thrust

How To Do A Barbell Hip Thrust
By Alli McKeeFebruary 11, 2016

Barbell Hip Thrust Exercise

The barbell hip thrust is a phenomenal exercise for improving the strength and development of the glutes, and the overall function and health of the entire body. While this exercise also strengthens the quads and hamstrings to some degree, the glutes will obtain the majority of the benefits. Strong glutes matter!!

Equipment needed:

A barbell should be used for this weighted hip thrust. A traditional barbell may be used. To increase the resistance, lifters may add weight plates to each side. If lifters are going to be using less than 135 lbs (barbell + 45 lb plates), larger bumper plates work the best as the smaller size of the lighter plates can make sliding the legs under the bar and placing the barbell in the hip crease fairly challenging. If lifters are using less than 135 lbs, they might require some assistance during the initial set-up and with the removal of the barbell. Some gyms have fixed weight barbells which are shorter than a traditional barbell and the resistance is not adjustable. These fixed weight barbells often increase in resistance by 5-10 pounds (50 lbs, 55 lbs, 60 lbs, 65 lbs, and so on). A bench, box, step, or actual hip thrust bench should be used. For shorter lifters, a lower bench/box/step works best. Lifters can make the hip thrust more comfortable by using a squat pad (wraps around the barbell), or using a foam pad, folded towel/sweatshirt, or other type of padding.

Ability level:


Beginners should start out with bodyweight hip thrusts and should master the form and mechanics. Once this has been accomplished, they can start out with just the barbell as resistance.


Intermediate lifters should start out with a barbell and low to medium resistance. If this feels too easy, additional resistance can be used. If the focus of the workout is the glutes, intermediate lifters should place the barbell hip thrust exercise somewhere in the beginning of the workout. If a full body workout is being performed, the barbell hip thrust should be paired with an upper body pushing or pulling exercise. It can also be used at the end of the workout as a glute burner, and if this is the case, a lower weight and higher reps should be used. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps of the barbell hip thrust, or can do up to 25 reps if the exercise is being used to torch the glutes at the end of the workout.


Women who are comfortable with the barbell hip thrust may choose to use additional resistance. You can also make the exercise more challenging by pausing for a longer time at the top of the lift and really challenging the glutes concentrically, or performing negatives and lowering in 3-5 seconds, and really challenging the glutes eccentrically. You can also place a resistance band above and below the knees when you are performing this exercise, and should press your knees out against the bands for additional resistance. You can also add chains in addition to the bands, or you can perform any of the above options while using a single leg.

Benefits of Barbell Hip Thrusts:

How a woman chooses to use a barbell hip thrust is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much weight is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it's paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general barbell hip thrusts can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing glute strength
  • building muscle
  • improving aesthetics of the glutes (higher, rounder, firmer)
  • increasing speed and power by teaching optimal hip extension, which will be beneficial to running, jumping, and other sports specific movements
  • improved full body function and health as strong glutes positively impact the alignment and mechanics of the spine, pelvis, femurs, knees, ankles and feet
  • increasing performance in the weight room
  • increasing athleticism and sports specific performance
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)

How to perform a Barbell Hip Thrust:

  • Set yourself up so your shoulder blades, upper back, and elbows are on top of the bench, and so your body is facing straight ahead. Your hips should be relatively close to the bench during the initial set-up.
  • Your feet should be hip to shoulder width apart and your feet can be angled out a bit if this is more comfortable.
  • Slide the bar over your legs, and place the barbell in your hip crease.
  • Grip the bar as hard as you can when you are performing this exercise. This will create more tension in your upper body, will help protect your lower back, will allow you to generate even more force, and will stabilize the barbell.
  • Before you go, take a deep breath into your belly (360 degrees of air around the spine) and brace your core (I like to pretend that I am about to block a soccer ball with my stomach). This will protect your lower back, and will give you much more ability to generate force.
  • Initiate the hip lift by driving through the mid-back portion of your feet and squeezing your glutes, NOT by arching your lower back. This is extremely important.
  • When you get to the top position, hold for a count or more as this will really utilize the glutes to the max. It is imperative that you lock out by squeezing your glutes, not by arching your lower back.
  • During the lowering phase, go as low as you can while controlling the movement with your glutes.
  • For the duration of the exercise, it is imperative that you do not allow your rib cage to flare or lower back to arch. You will accomplish this by actively tucking your rib cage towards your hips (closing the space in your midsection) and keeping your core braced.
  • Make sure that your weight remains on the mid-back portion of your feet but keep your toes down, particularly your big and baby toe. This will dramatically improve your stability, and ability to perform this exercise.
  • Keep your shins relatively vertical or else your hamstrings will take over.
  • Do not allow your knees to collapse in or fall outside of your feet.
  • Make sure your neck stays neutral as you lift yourself off the floor. Don’t let your head drop back.
  • Choose a weight that allows you to do all of the above.
  • Reset before each rep.

Video Transcription: 

So you’ve seen the body weight glute bridge, you’ve seen the different variations of the bodyweight hip thrust and the hip thrust with the chains and bands. Now I am going to demonstrate the granddaddy of all glute exercises: the barbell hip thrust, and you need to listen to this one because my hips don't lie.   My videographer made me say that, sorry about that!

You’re going to get underneath here, you are going to roll it right up to your hips.  Now for some people doing  a barbell hip thrust can be painful on their hips so you are welcome to roll up a yoga mat or sweatshirt or something to give you a little bit of padding.  Then, again, since I'm tall I can sit all the way on the ground and still have my shoulder blades and upper back on the bench.  You might need to be lifted a little bit off the ground.  My elbows and upper back are on the bench my hands are on the bar just to steady it a little bit.  You are going to need to make sure you are very square and very aligned underneath the bar.   Before I start, I am going to to take a big deep breath through my nose,  blow all my air out through my mouth and brace my core, drive through my heels and squeeze my glutes.  Hang out at the top for a second, then come back down.  I am going to stay nice and braced all the time.  

My entire  body should move as a unit - I'm not throwing my head back, I'm not hyper extending my spine, I’m keeping everything nice and neutral and my ribs down the whole time.


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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

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