3 Reasons Why All Men and Women Should Do Hip Thrusts
Hip thrusts burst into popularity over the last couple of years as a "booty-building" exercise, and, unsurprisingly, it became wildly popular amongst women in gyms across the country. While hip thrusts have been around for decades as a bodyweight exercise, mainly used by physical therapists and powerlifters that wanted to wake up the glutes before training, Coach Bret Contreras has widely been credited for adding weight to make it a loaded exercise.
What makes the hip thrust so effective in building the glutes is linked to the concentrated stress on the glutes. At the bottom of each repetition, the hips are in flexion, which means that the glute muscle fibers are lengthened. For you to be able to lift the hips off the floor and go into hip extension, your glute muscles must contract to drive the hips upward.
Since Contreras is best known for training women in physique competitions and their success in winning them, it is no surprise that women make up the large majority of his audience. Because of this, women across the world have been finding success in building their glutes by adding hip thrusts into their workout programs. Consequently, this gave men the false impression that the hip thrust is a "feminine" exercise, and failing to realize the huge benefits that it can produce. And, let’s be honest, when an exercise is thought to be “feminine”, most guys will avoid it like the plague.
While there are scores of reasons that I can give you about why both men and women should do hip thrusts, I am only going to focus on three important points.
If you are someone that suffers from low back pain, you are going to love this! During the process of each repetition, you will want to minimize the hip movement since tilting the hips forward or backwards will cause the lower back to move, as well. With hip thrusts, you will want to employ posterior pelvic tilt (tilting the hips so the tailbone is pointed up to the sky, similar to a scared puppy that is tucking its tail in).
When you tuck in the tailbone, the lower back becomes nice and flat, therefore, there is no unwanted movement going on in the lower back. In fact, the main reason why individuals injure their backs during squats and deadlifts is most often attributed to spinal movement. Additionally, at the top of each repetition, while the hips are suspended, the back extensors are activated.
Research shows that an effective way to reduce back pain is to strengthen core muscles. As you increase glute strength, you will be able to lift heavier weight, which means the core must work just as hard to keep the spine stable.
It is common for people to think of the glutes only in terms of aesthetics, but you should know that the glutes play a major role in developing good leg strength. One of the main functions of the glutes is achieving hip extension-- in simpler terms, our large glute muscles are what allows us to walk upright, unlike apes, who have much smaller glutes and typically walk on all fours. When it comes to exercises like squats and deadlifts, the quadriceps are the main muscles worked during squats, whereas the hamstrings are the primary muscles with deadlifts, however, the last movement to successfully complete a repetition, you must go into hip extension, which is where the glutes become the primary muscles.
What this means is that increasing glute strength contributes to better squat and deadlift performance.
Better yet, with the COVID pandemic still going strong and many gyms being forced to close, hip thrusts are an excellent option with at-home workouts to maintain strength.
EASY TO LEARN
Finally, the hip thrust is relatively easy to learn. Unlike complicated Olympic-style lifts that require weeks or, in many cases, months of strict drilling before moving forward to adding weight to the barbell, the hip thrust can be learned as a body weight exercise for the newest of newbies in resistance training and progressed into a loaded variation in 2-3 weeks. Its ease of learning also makes the hip thrust a good candidate for using advanced training techniques, such as the rest-pause.
Additionally, using a posterior pelvic tilt, the exercise is safe to load for those suffering from lower back pain and herniated disks because the lumbar portion of the vertebrae remain neutrally stacked, therefore, minimal or no pinching on the intervertebral disks. In simpler terms, the disks that lie between the bones in the back aren’t being squeezed, so you will not be aggravating existing back pain.
Since no exercise is devoid of any risk of injury, individuals with pre-existing back injuries are highly advised to take their time and be slow when it comes to increasing the amount of weight they are lifting. Muscles take time to become accustomed to carrying heavy loads, and since back extensors and glutes are challenged to maintain a steady posterior pelvic tilt with each repetition, those with back injuries would put themselves at unnecessary risk of aggravating their injuries if they try to increase the load too quickly.
The glutes are the largest muscles in the human body, so the initial amount of weight you will be able to lift is going to rise quite rapidly, particularly if you train while making a strong mind-body connection with the glutes (focus on the glutes doing all of the work, and picture the muscle fibers extending at the bottom and contracting as the hips ascend).
Exercises that produce great results in building muscular strength and hypertrophy should not be ignored because you think of them as “feminine”. The hip thrust may have gained massive popularity as a “booty-building” exercise for women, but extensive research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness in improving leg strength and reducing lower back pain, so, if you’re looking to increase your squats and/or deadlifts, it may benefit you to add the hip thrust to your workout plan.