If you want glutes that look good and make you stronger on and off the field, barbell hip thrusts are your go-to exercise, but you better make sure your hip thrust form is on point. Since Bret Contreras, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., aka “The Glute Guy,” popularized this and invented equipment to do it on, it’s not unusual to see people with a heavy barbell across their pelvis.

A solid muscular backside will help reduce lower back pain, improve hip mobility, and even help you run faster. The barbell hip thrust is a fantastic all-around exercise that needs to be in your program when you want greater glutes. The barbell hip thrust has both performance and vanity benefits, but only if you do it right.

Although there are quite a few variations to this popular exercise, we’ll go into how to perform the standard barbell hip thrust, what is required, and three common hip thrust form mistakes to avoid to get the best out of this exercise.

How To Do the Standard Barbell Hip Thrust

  1. Sit with your back against the edge of the weight bench parallel to you.
  2. Then, roll a loaded barbell into the crease of your hips. (Padding works well here)
  3. Secure the barbell with both hands and drive your feet and back towards the bench.
  4. Your shoulder blades are on the bench, and the upper body and hips are in a straight line.
  5. Keep your upper body still as you hinge towards the floor.
  6. Thrust your hips up to lockout, squeezing your glutes.
  7. Reset and repeat for desired reps.

What is Needed For Good Hip Thrust Form

The barbell hip thrust is not a technical exercise like the barbell deadlift, but a few characteristics are needed for good form.

  • A good setup: A solid weight bench to perform on if you haven’t got Brett’s specialized equipment and a pad for your pelvis are necessary. The hip thrust is not the most comfortable exercise going around, so it helps to take the time to set it up right.
  • Decent hip mobility: If your hip flexors are tight, achieving hip extension lockout will be difficult.
  • Knowing the difference between hip and lower back extension: You usually know the difference between extending your glutes or back. Why? Because your lower back will tell you so.
  • Not maintaining eye contact: Do I really need to explain this one?
  • Full range of motion: Feeling a stretch in the working muscles before lockout will give you the full muscle-building benefits of this exercise.

Three Common Mistakes and Hip Thrust Form Fixes

The ego can always get in the way of good form for any exercise, particularly with the hip thrust. Control and lockout will be an issue if the weight is too heavy. Remember that the best use for the hip thrust is to add muscle to your backside and not to find out what your 1RM is.

Here are a few vital mistakes to avoid when performing this exercise.

Incorrect Foot Position

Bb hip thrust
Edgar Artiga

Incorrect foot position is the most made mistake and the hardest one to pick up on because who can look at their feet with a barbell on their hips? If the feet are too close to the bench, it means more knee than hip extension; heels come up off the floor, and your knees will dislike you. When your feet are too far away from the bench, it reduces your leverage and how much weight you’ll thrust.

Fix it: A 90-degree knee angle works best for this exercise. Before starting your set, take the time to step your feet to the ideal distance from the bench and perform a bodyweight rep or two to see if you have the correct knee angle. If you’re still having trouble, have a lifting buddy observe you.

Reducing Range Of Motion

Steve Swanson Doing a Barbell Hip Thrust
Per Bernal / M+F Magazine

If you possess good hip mobility, the hips should go into deep flexion (with your glutes hovering just above the ground) and go into hip extension by properly engaging your hips and hamstrings. The deeper the flexion and ROM, the more juicy butt-building gains you will get. Reducing your ROM and avoiding full flexion and extension (where tension is highest) might feel like you’re doing more work, but it doesn’t do a thing for building healthy muscles and joints.

Fix it: Make it a goal for your hips to almost touch the ground and get into full hip extension every rep. If you find it difficult, lighten the load, work on hip mobility, or both.

Hyperextending The Lower Back

ANRproduction / Shutterstock

Finishing with your lower back and not your glutes is a common problem when the weight is too heavy, you lack decent hip mobility, or the glutes need to be stronger for lockout. The less the glutes are involved in the lockout, the more likely the lower back is stepping in to do the job. How do you know? Don’t worry; the lower back will tell you.

Fix it: A couple of suggestions here. Lighten the load and focus on squeezing your glutes together at lockout. You’ve probably heard of cracking a walnut between your cheeks, but what about driving the bar backward over your head rather than toward the roof? This cue, courtesy of Lee Boyce, will encourage glute lockout instead of lower back lockout.