3 Surprising Health Benefits of Hip Thrusts You Need to Know About!
If you were to go through my Instagram, Facebook or TikTok accounts, you will notice that a lot of the exercise related posts have to do with hip thrusts. The exercise is most commonly associated with “booty building”, which I think has served as a disservice because it leads people to disregard it without knowing the true benefits to the hip thrust. To be completely honest with you, I was one of those that disregarded the hip thrust as a “mere booty builder”, so I simply wouldn’t do it.
In Fall 2018, I injured my back pretty bad, and it had me doing a lot of research to find an exercise that could help relieve the pain and reduce the risk of re-injury, and thanks to Dr. Aaron Horschig at Squat University, I started looking into doing hip thrusts. Getting close to five years later, the hip thrust has become my absolute favorite exercise for the way it helped me with my back pain!
The hip thrust, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated exercises that men and women are not doing enough. Thanks to well-known trainers, like Bret Contreras and JC Santana, the word has been spreading, but there are still many that don’t know.
Strengthen Core Muscles
Probably the most common misconception about the core is that most people only think of the abs, and maybe the obliques as well. In reality, the core muscles are all 360 degrees of your midsection, and this includes the glutes. Office professionals and many law enforcement officers spend several hours sitting, whether it is at their desks or in the squad car. When these professionals aren’t working out regularly, muscle mass and strength, particularly in the core, diminishes because they’re simply not being used enough for the body to maintain. As this occurs, this is one of the main causes of back pain when people enter their 30s and 40s, and only worsens in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond.
Just an FYI, the rectus abdominis muscles are the abs. While the hip thrust is most effective in strengthening the glutes, the rectus abdominis must work extra hard to keep the core stiff and handle the weight on the barbell. In a 2018 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers found that the traditional hip thrust exercise produced significantly higher levels of rectus abdominis activation than a single-leg hip thrust variation, indicating that hip thrusts can be an effective way to strengthen the rectus abdominis muscle, which is a key component of the core.
Did it even occur to you that hip thrusts also work the obliques? The Journal of Applied Biomechanics had a study published in 2019 that investigated the effects of a 6-week hip thrust training program on oblique muscle activation during a variety of exercises. The main function of core muscles, like the obliques, isn’t to grab attention at the beach, but, rather, to protect the spine from injury by providing stability. When you perform hip thrusts with a barbell, you can have hundreds of pounds on each side of the bar, which means that the obliques have to be maximally engaged to keep the bar balanced on the pelvis.
Can you guess what is at the foundation of most lower back injuries? A lot of the time, it is the lack of core strength for trunk stability that allows uneven compression on the intervertebral discs. The researchers of 2020 study that involved a 12-week hip thrust training program found significant improvements in trunk stability during exercises like squats and lunges, indicating that hip thrusts can help to improve core strength and stability, which may improve performance and reduce risk of injury. It’s likely because hip thrusts target the gluteal muscles, which stabilizes the pelvis and transfers force between the lower body and the core.
One of the most common causes of back pain is usually because poor posture. When people stand with poor posture for decades, this can result in spinal discs being pinched, thus leading to their back pain.
Just an FYI, anterior pelvic tilt is when the hips are tilted in a way that has the tailbone being pushed back, kind of like an Instagram model when she’s taking a booty picture. A 2017 study in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation investigated the effects of a hip thrust training program on pelvic tilt in individuals with chronic low back pain and researchers determined that hip thrusts may reduce anterior pelvic tilt, thus correcting posture.
Poor posture is a lot more than something that’s aesthetically displeasing, it can also limit your mobility. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a study in 2017 that investigated the effects of a 6-week hip thrust training program on thoracic spine extension and mobility in collegiate soccer players. Upon completion of the study, researchers found significant increases in thoracic spine extension range of motion, indicating that hip thrusts may improve thoracic spine mobility and contribute to better posture.
Researchers compared the activation of postural muscles during hip thrusts and other gluteal exercises in a 2018 study that was published in the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. The findings indicated that hip thrusts produced higher levels of activation of the erector spinae and multifidus muscles, which are important for maintaining good posture, thus suggesting that hip thrusts may be help to improve postural muscle activation and contribute to better posture.
Reduce Spinal Compression
Millions of Americans suffer from back pain. Unfortunately, many of these cases could have been avoided or minimized by observing good posture and exercising on a consistent basis. Consequently, billions are spent on prescription and over-the-counter drugs that simply mask the pain, instead of offering a permanent solution. The hip thrust might be the solution to your back pain!
Exercises like the back squat and deadlift are amazing for developing leg strength, but they do present a good amount of spinal compression, which makes them problematic for people with pre-existing back pain. In a 2015 study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, researchers found that hip thrusts produced lower levels of spinal loading than traditional exercises, suggesting that hip thrusts may be a safer alternative for individuals with low back pain or spinal conditions that make them susceptible to spinal loading. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that I’m arguing against squats and deadlifts, but, rather, if back pain is an issue, you may have to perform different exercises until the back pain issue is resolved.
The downward pressure from carrying the weight with back squats and sheer torque from the deadlift can make these exercises problematic for people with back pain, but by adding hip thrusts to your workout program can strengthen back muscles to handle the stress, so you won’t have to completely abolish squats and deadlifts for good. The researchers in a 2016 study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that individuals with greater hip thrust strength exhibited lower levels of spinal loading during exercises like squats and deadlifts. This suggests that improving hip thrust strength may help to reduce spinal compression during other exercises.
Persons exhibiting anterior pelvic tilt may, unknowingly, be causing their own back pain just by the way their stand because of the excessive lumbar flexion since it’s imposing uneven pressure to the discs in the lower back. Researchers in a 2018 study that focused on the effects of a 6-week hip thrust training program on lumbar flexion during a variety of exercises. What they found were significant reductions in lumbar flexion during exercises like squats and deadlifts, thus suggesting that hip thrusts can help to promote a more neutral spine position and reduce spinal compression during these exercises, which is likely because hip thrusts target the glutes so well. Since the glutes play a major role in stabilizing the pelvis, this may reduce excessive lumbar flexion.
As you can tell, my opinion about the hip thrust as nothing more than a booty builder has transformed into becoming one of the foundational exercises that I have most of my clients doing. If you’re somebody that has to live with back pain, you might want to ask your doctor if he/she believes it can help with reducing the pain. My suggestion — start with bodyweight to learn proper technique for the first month or two, then use a barbell and, eventually, add weight to the barbell.
Coach Julio is an expert in fitness and nutrition, having helped hundreds of busy professionals in their 30s, 40s, and 50s be healthy, as well as offering nutritionist counseling services. He works out of El Paso, Texas, but also offers remote nutritionist counseling and online personal training. Coach Julio’s expertise is backed by over eight years as a personal trainer and a Master’s degree in Nutrition.
For information about working with Coach Julio for online personal training and nutritionist services, visit https://www.365physique.com/bookonline