The Hip Thrust – Good or Bad?

The Hip Thrust – Good or Bad?

There has been a war raging in the strength and performance community, and it involves the butt.

A strength coach whom I have the utmost respect for, Bret Contreras, has gone against the grain and stated that not only are hip thrusts not dangerous, but they should be a main lift.

A main lift? Is this man insane?

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For all of my fellow performance and speed coaches out there, I might tick you off, and I am okay with that. I have even gone on record as saying that hip thrusts are pointless, and to just do more squats.

But, like any good coach, I let data, both empirical and science-based, guide me to create my opinions. Not my ego.

While I might not go as far as Bret and say the hip thrust should be a main lift, I will concede that it is a welcome addition to any program, both for hypertrophy, power, and for athletic performance. WHEN DONE PROPERLY!

In this article, I will list the criticisms against the hip thrusts then outline why they will be a part of my program. 

Here is what the haters say and why I disagree - point by point, and taken from various “functional fitness” websites.

Please note, as an EXOS trainer, I am the hippy of all hippies when it comes to functional training. One of my jobs is to help youth athletes improve speed and performance at an elite soccer academy.

For me to oppose the hip thrust, there has to be a good reason.

The Hip Thrusts - Potential Downsides?

The Hip Thrust Causes Insufficiency of the Hamstrings and Calves

What the experts say:

By stimulating the glutes and having the hamstrings and calves in a disadvantageous position to “fire,” your hamstrings and calves will try to fire but will be inefficient at it. You shorten the muscles over more than one joint, causing slack and the potential to cramp.

The body would never do this in a primal, or natural movement like a squat. Thus, this can cause an imbalance.

What the Machine says:

These statements utilize the assumption that the hip thrust will be the only movement overloaded in the program. This is asinine. Any program, from powerlifting to offseason hockey training, will utilize many accessory lifts. This includes squats, pistol squats, deadlifts and more.

All of these movements will utilize the full chain, as in primal moments. A primal movement is basically what you need to survive in nature.

For example, if you have no toilet, you have to squat to poop. So, a squat is primal. But I can also argue that I usually don’t poop with a 315lb barbell on my back.

My answer is that the so-called experts have a point, but who the heck cares? Unless the athlete is doing only hip-thrusts, who gives a hoot?

The Weight Fails to Match the Strength Curve

What the experts say:

The hip thrust loads the glutes as they “bunch up” or contract. There is a short moment arm in the motion, and the force is the same throughout the movement.

A moment arm is a perpendicular distance from the line of action of the force to the fulcrum (the definition of a fulcrum is a pivot point around which a lever turns, or something that plays a central role in or is in the center of a situation or activity). Basically, it loads you really heavy in a really small movement and you aren’t using a lot of your body like a squat, hence it doesn’t fall within your true strength curve.

What the Machine says:

That explanation even confused me, but I explained it the best I could in my native meathead tongue. Again, this falls in the “Who gives a flying (expletive)?” section.

Sure, this might be an issue if you never perform movements that utilize the strength curve, or the aforementioned primal movements. Us “movement specialists”, we are really doing a disservice to ourselves by acting like arrogant, know-it-alls.” 

The Hip Thrust is a Whack Setup

What the experts say:

Even with a pad, the barbell rests on the bone of the front hip without any muscle support. So, this just causes an ouchy.

What the Machine says:

For frick’s sakes….

This is coming from the same experts that are cool loading your upper back and traps and that bony-protrusion on the top of your back with heavy squats. Bro, shut-up. Put a pad of towel on the bar. This really is a listed argument against the hip-thrust. Wow.

The Hip-Thrust Encourages Hyperextension of the Hip and Spine

What the experts say:

Hip thrusts cause the hips to hyperextend, causing stress on the joint and unnatural positions.

Hip thrust can cause a posterior pelvic-tilt, leading to potential back issues. You should maintain a neutral back during all lifts.

Not a natural movement. By nature, it forces you into dangerous positions

What the Machine says:

If done correctly, and again not as the only thing an athlete does, it is a very complimentary movement to other primal movements. Having a slight posterior pelvic-tilt isn’t like not maintaining a neutral spine during a deadlift, meaning it’s not going to potentially injure your neck and spine.

It will simply require other movements to balance it out. So again, the functional argument only makes sense if an athlete is doing no other movements. Even then, bro, come on.

It is an Isolation Movement that Has No Functional Purpose

What the experts say:

The hip-thrust is inefficient, harmful to the joints, allows less tension for growth and supports muscle imbalances.

What the Machine says:

I use glute bridges with mini-bands regularly when training athletes. I DISAGREE so hard - like Kim K. breaking the Internet hard.

To prevent knee and ankle injuries, we want to teach the athlete to ACTIVATE THE FREAKING GLUTES!

This trains that neurologically in the athlete much like a non-weighted glute-bridge. I argue that this movement can prevent injuries!

Tension for growth? It is literally the most glute-specific movement we have. It is an isolation movement, but it certainly loads the glutes. If a big, firm butt is your goal, this is what we want!

Do these “experts” forget that progressive overload is the main determinant (nutrition aside) to making gains? Just because it isn’t as primal as a squat, doesn’t mean it won’t help you build a great butt!

And muscle imbalances, bro, again, there is more to training than one movement. Even Bret Contreras isn’t saying this is all you should do.

The Final Word

Experts tend to be closed-minded jerks. I have been one in the past, until I learned that no matter how smart I think I am, there is somebody out there who specializes in a field that makes me look like Forest Gump on steroids.

Bret Contreras knows glutes, he knows hip-thrusts. He is essentially an butt-ologist.

His stance is not to get rid of primal movements like squats or deadlifts, it is that if your goal is a great, bigger and firmer butt, NOT if your goal is to be the next Lionel Messi, that you should focus on Hip-Thrusts.

And you functional nerds should agree with me on this – we train for SPECIFICITY! If you want a great butt, do butt moves. This is a butt move but also may have implications in athletic performance and injury prevention.

My advice? Do squats and deadlifts. But if you want to enhance your posterior, aka junk in the trunk, aka salt-shaker, aka Milkshake… The hip thrust can be a great addition!

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