There seem to be two kinds of gyms: the kind where everybody is doing hip thrusts, and the kind where nobody has ever heard of them. In the first, you might feel intimidated; in the second, you might not want to be that weirdo. Fear not: we’ll help you get started with confidence.
What are hip thrusts and what are they good for?
The hip thrust is an exercise where you load up a barbell and sit on the floor underneath it. Then, with your shoulders on a bench, you thrust your hips toward the ceiling, lifting the barbell.
It’s a really good butt workout, because your glutes (butt muscles) get a chance to do the most intense part of the lift when they are fully contracted. Bret Contreras popularised this lift and wrote it into several of his butt-centric training programs; in just a few years, it’s taken off. There are even specialised hip thrust stations in some gyms. It’s definitely an exercise worth knowing if you want a stronger or more muscular butt.
Great, but how do I actually do it?
Setting up is tricky, but worth the effort. You need:
A bench to rest your shoulders on
Room next to the bench for you to sit on the floor
A barbell, loaded up with your desired weights
A thick pad to cushion your hips
The video below walks you through everything, so give it a watch before you go to the gym and start rearranging furniture.
If your gym is the kind where you’re the only weirdo doing this exercise (it’s OK, really!) your first obstacle is finding the right bench and space. Remember, it’s OK to move stuff around!
If you’re worried about the bench tipping over (not an issue with most benches, honestly) you can put it up against a wall, or use some heavy plates to weight down the bottom of the bench.
If there’s no thick cushiony pad, do what I do and grab one of those thick yoga mat type pads. Fold it in half or in thirds, and it’s perfect. Some people just buy their own thick foam pad and bring it to the gym.
Am I really going to be lifting that much weight?
Your butt muscles are really strong! It’s normal to be able to hip thrust way more than you can lift in any other exercise.
For your first time, you may not want to start with the big (20kg) plates on your barbell. At some gyms, all the plates are the same size, so just select something smaller—the 5kg plates, for example—and set up the way the video shows you.
But if the lighter plates are smaller, you have a problem: how do you get the bar onto your lap if you can’t roll it over your legs? There are a few options:
For a light weight that isn’t hard to deadlift, just pick it up, and sit down with it on your lap. This could work for your warm-up sets on your first day, but it’s not going to be an option for heavy work sets once you’re used to the exercise.
Stack some plates or blocks on either side of you, and roll the bar up onto those.
Use a fixed-plate barbell (smaller ones where the weights are permanently attached). Stand it up next to you, sit down, and lower it onto your lap.
Use a Smith machine or this hack to do hip thrusts on the leg extension machine. Setting up with a barbell actually makes for a better experience, in my opinion, but I definitely used the Smith machine on my very first day because it seemed less scary.