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This column provides a detailed description and photographs of the proper exercise technique for the barbell hip thrust with beginner progressions and advanced variations for the athlete. This movement is a lower-body, multi-joint exercise designed to increase muscular conditioning of the hip extensors, spinal erectors, and knee extensors. This exercise may provide benefits to athletes that rely on hip extension during competition, such as basketball, sprinting, football, and power and Olympic lifters.
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Eckert, RM and Snarr, RL. Barbell hip thrust. J Sport Human Perf 2014;2(2):1-9.
DOI: 10.12922/jshp.0037.2014
1
BARBELL HIP THRUST
Eckert, RM1 and Snarr, RL1,2
1School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
2Department of Kinesiology, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
.
Keywords: resistance training; strength and conditioning; power
INTRODUCTION
The barbell hip thrust is a lower-body
exercise designed to increase muscular
capacity of the hip extensors (1). Due to the
unique posture and weight displacement
during this exercise, it may be effective at
improving sport performance while reducing
the risk of knee injury by increasing strength
in the hamstrings and gluteal muscles (1,2).
The gluteal muscles being a primary agonist
in hip extension enables increased strength of
this muscle group creating an effective means
of increasing hip extension strength. This
increase may improve sports performance in
athletes that heavily rely on sprinting and
jumping movements. An increased ability to
dynamically accelerate as well as decelerate
the body during sprinting and jumping
movements may also decrease the likelihood
of experiencing knee injuries. This is due to
the importance of the gluteal muscles in the
control and deceleration of the body while
landing from a jump or decelerating during a
sprint (2).
While the traditional method of
performing the barbell hip thrust is important
in injury prevention, performing an advanced,
single-leg variation may also be useful in
preventing lower body injuries from
occurring in the hip (3,4,5,6). The increased
activation of both the hip abductors and
adductors from performing the single-leg
variation (4) may increase the stability of the
hip joint and subsequently the knee joint as
well, reducing the likelihood of injury to
these joints and their associated musculature
SHORT REPORT OPEN ACCESS
ABSTRACT
This column provides a detailed description and photographs of the proper exercise technique for the
barbell hip thrust with beginner progressions and advanced variations for athletes. The barbell hip
thrust is a lower-body, multi-joint exercise designed to increase muscular conditioning of the hip
extensors, spinal erectors, and knee extensors. This exercise may provide benefits to athletes that rely
on hip extension during competition, such as basketball, sprinting, football, as well as power and
Olympic weightlifters.
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ISSN: 2326-6333
(3,5,6). The importance of hip and knee
stability can be seen in a variety of sports,
especially those involving quick, rapid
movements such as sprinting, jumping,
leaping, bounding, and changing direction.
Improvement in lower body joint stability can
be useful in preventing injuries as well as
rehabilitating injuries to the lower extremities
(3,5,6). Therefore, it can serve a valuable role
in both a preventative and a rehabilitative
strength and conditioning program.
The purpose of this brief review is to
outline the proper technique for the barbell
hip thrust as well as two beginning
progressions for the proper movement
mechanics and technique. Once proper
technique is achieved with the barbell hip
thrust, an advanced variation (described
below) may be incorporated for further
challenging the athlete as well injury
prevention (2,3,4,5,6).
MUSCLES INVOLVED
Primary muscles involved: Gluteus
Maximus, Hamstrings Group
(Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, Biceps
Femoris), Gluteus Medius (posterior fibers),
Erector Spinae; Secondary muscles involved:
Adductor Group (Adductor Brevis, Adductor
Longus, Adductor Magnus, Pectineus,
Gracilis), Quadriceps Group (Rectus Femoris,
Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, Vastus
Intermedius) (1).
The horizontal, bent-leg positioning of
this exercise places a greater emphasis on the
gluteus maximus musculature due to the
shortened position of the hamstrings muscle
group prior to initiating the movement and the
horizontal loading of the external resistance
(1).
EXERCISE TECHNIQUE
Starting Position
Assume a seated position with feet
shoulder-width apart, knees flexed to
slightly less than 90 degrees, and upper
back leaning against a flat bench.
The gluteus maximus should be in contact
with the floor and the barbell should be
placed on the hip musculature just below
the anterior superior iliac spine where it
will remain throughout the movement
(Note: The individual may choose to pad
the barbell because of the pressure that
the loaded barbell will place on the hip
musculature and lower abdominopelvic
region. The barbell may be padded with a
simple bar pad or with a towel that is
wrapped securely around the barbell.).
The arms should also be fully extended
and about shoulder-width with the hands
gripping the barbell to hold it in place
(Figure 1).
Concentric Movement (Hip Extension)
Exhale while extending at the hips with a
concentration on squeezing the glutes to
raise the body off the floor.
The shoulder blades should be used as a
pivot point and should not slide up or
down the bench during the movement.
Be sure to keep the feet flat on the floor.
The head and spine should remain in
neutral position throughout the concentric
movement.
Continue to extend the hips until they
reach full extension, or until the thighs
and torso are roughly parallel to the floor,
and until the knees are extended to
approximately 90 degrees (Figure 2).
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Figure 1. Starting position
Figure 2. Mid-position
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Eccentric Movement (Return to Starting
Position)
Inhale while slowly flexing at the hips and
flexing slightly at the knees.
The feet should remain flat on the floor
and the shoulder blades used as a pivot
point throughout the eccentric movement.
The head and spine should remain in
neutral position throughout the eccentric
movement.
Continue to flex at the hips and knees
until the initial starting position is reached
in which the gluteus maximus is just
above being in contact with the floor
(Figure 1).
By stopping just before the gluteus
maximus comes into contact with the
floor, muscle tension will be maintained
throughout the movement.
PROGRESSION #1
For athletes not familiar with the
barbell hip thrust, a beginning variation of
placing the upper back on the floor instead of
leaning against an elevated bench will help to
reduce the range of motion and the intensity
of the exercise. To perform this variation,
assume a supine position on the floor with the
knees flexed to slightly less than 90 degrees,
similar to a standard sit-up position. Feet
should be placed shoulder-width apart and
arms should be extended alongside the body
(Figure 3). This beginner progression does
not use any external resistance, only the
athlete’s body weight, thereby allowing the
athlete to concentrate on the technique and
ensure that correct musculature will be
utilized when resistance is added. The athlete
will then extend their hips until they reach a
fully extended position, and then lower the
hips back to the floor (Figure 4).
Figure 3. Progression 1 Starting Position
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Figure 4. Progression 1 Mid-Position
PROGRESSION #2
Once the athlete can successfully
perform the hip thrust with their upper back
on the floor for the recommended number of
sets and repetitions (see section below titled
“Sets, Repetitions and Progression”) without
a breakdown in exercise technique,
progression #2 may be advised. This second
progression involves performing the hip
thrust with the upper back resting against an
elevated bench with no external resistance
(Figure 5). This progression is performed
with the same technique as described above
for the barbell hip thrust, except without
placing a loaded barbell on the athlete’s hip
musculature (Figure 6). This prepares the
athlete to perform the hip thrust with a loaded
barbell placed on the hips as a form of
additional external resistance.
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Figure 5. Progression 2 Starting Position
Figure 6. Progression 2 Mid-Position
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ADVANCED VARIATION
While the typical barbell hip thrust is
performed with both feet on the floor, lifting
one leg while performing this exercise will
provide a further challenge to the athlete.
Performing single-leg exercises decreases
overall joint stability and can increase
recruitment of hip abductors and hip
adductors, which are important in lower
extremity injury prevention (4). An increased
strength of stabilization musculature has been
shown to directly correlate with an increase in
overall balance of both the hip and knee
joints, as well as a reduced risk for injury to
these joints (3,5,6).
To perform the single-leg hip thrust,
begin in the same starting position as the
barbell hip thrust. Before initiating the
movement, extend at the knee in order to lift
one foot off of the floor (Figure 7). Using just
one leg, perform the hip thrust movement
(Figure 8). It is important to avoid any valgus
or varus deviation of the knee joint as well as
any torso rotations during the movement.
When progressing to this advanced variation,
the athlete should begin with their own body
weight for resistance. Once the athlete has
demonstrated proper technique for the
recommended volume of sets and repetitions
(described below), an increase in external
resistance via a loaded barbell is advised for
further progression.
Figure 7. Advanced variation Starting Position
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Figure 8. Advanced Variation Mid-Position
SETS, REPETITIONS AND
PROGRESSION
To determine the correct exercise
prescription, the following variables must
match the desired outcome of the athlete, as
well as their training status. The guidelines
below were developed by the National
Strength and Conditioning Association (7).
Power: 2-6 sets, 3-6 repetitions, 2-5
minute rest period (intermediate and
advanced training status individuals only)
Strength: 3-5 sets, ≤6 repetitions, 2-5
minute rest period
Hypertrophy: 3-5 sets, 6-12 repetitions,
60-90 second rest period
Endurance: 2-3 sets, 12-25 repetitions,
≤30 second rest period
When the desired goal is strength,
hypertrophy, or endurance, novice individuals
should perform 1-3 sets. Intermediate and
advanced athletes are recommended to
perform 3 or more sets while maintaining
proper form.
In terms of progression, the two-for-
two rule may be applied. Once an athlete can
complete two or more repetitions than the
recommended amount in the final set of the
exercise in two subsequent training sessions,
an increase in external resistance is advised
(7).
An alternative to progression via an
increase in external resistance is a single-leg
variation of the barbell hip thrust. Once the
athlete has demonstrated proper technique for
the recommended volume of sets and
repetitions, the advanced variation described
above is advised.
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PRACTICAL APPLICATION
The barbell hip thrust can benefit
athletes in multiple ways. Due to the
horizontally loaded position of the exercise, it
has been shown to increase gluteal strength
and power, which may improve sprinting
speed and acceleration (1). The barbell hip
thrust may also be used as a supplemental
exercise to traditional lower-body compound
exercises, such as squats and deadlifts, when
the athlete’s goal is an increase in hip
extension strength and power. Increasing the
strength of the hip extensors may also
decrease the reliance on the knee extensors to
absorb impact forces while decelerating the
body during landing or decelerating from a
sprint (2). This may reduce the risk for non-
contact knee injury due to an increased
efficiency of the athlete’s landing and
deceleration mechanics (2). When performed
as a more advanced, single-leg exercise it can
aid in the prevention of both hip and knee
injuries due to an increase in the stability of
the hip and knee joint. Therefore, the barbell
hip thrust may serve a valuable role in lower
extremity injury prevention as well as lower
extremity rehabilitation (3,4,5,6). The barbell
hip thrust is useful for athletes that rely on
powerful hip extension movements as well as
sprinting speed and acceleration and
deceleration. Competitive sports that can
benefit from incorporating the barbell hip
thrust into their training programs include
basketball, sprinting, football, as well as
power and Olympic weightlifters.
REFERENCES
1. Contreras B, Cronin J, Schoenfeld, B.
Barbell hip thrust. Strength Cond J.
2011;33(5):58-61.
2. Stearns K, Keim R, Powers C. Influence of
relative hip and knee extensor muscle
strength on landing mechanics. Med Sci
Sports Exer. 2013;45(5):935-941.
3. Zazulack B, Ponce P, Straub S, Medrecky
M, Avedisia L, Hewett, T, et al. Gender
comparison of hip muscle activity during
single-leg landing. J Orthop Sports Phys
Ther. 2005;35(5):292-299.
4. Boudreau SN, Dwyer MK, Mattacola CG,
Lattermann C, Uhl TL, Mckeon JM, et al.
Hip-muscle activation during the lunge,
single-leg squat, and step-up-and-over
exercises. J Sport Rehabil. 2009;18(1):91-
103.
5. Hrysomallis C. Hip adductors’ strength,
flexibility, and injury risk. J Strength Cond
Res. 2009;23(5):1514-1517.
6. Clairborne L, Armstrong W, Gandhi V,
Princivero M. Relationship between hip and
knee strength and knee valgus during a single
leg squat. J Appl Biomech. 2006;22(1):41-50.
7. Coburn JW, Malek, MH, editors. NSCA’s
essentials of personal training. 2nd ed.
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2012.
... Recently, BHT has gained considerable attention from the scientific community, and from physical trainers, due to its mechanical nature and the highly neuromuscular demand of the hip extensor muscles (Contreras et al., 2011;Eckert and Snarr, 2014;Loturco et al., 2018;Williams et al., 2018). This strengthening exercise has muscle activation different from those associated with more traditional exercises such as squatting (front or back barbell), split squats, deadlifts and others (Andersen et al., 2018;Bishop et al., 2017;Williams et al., 2018). ...
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The present systematic review aimed to analyze the activation of the muscles involved in the barbell hip thrust (BHT) and its transfer to sports activities that include horizontal displacement. A search of the current literature was performed using the PubMed, SPORTDiscuss, Scopus and Google Scholar databases. The inclusion criteria were: (a) descriptive studies, (b) physically trained participants, (c) analyzed muscle activation using normalized EMG signals or as a percentage of maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) and (d) acute or chronic transfer of the BHT to horizontal displacement activity. Twelve articles met the inclusion criteria and the following results were found: 1) neuro-muscular activation: hip extensor muscles (gluteus maximus and biceps femoris) demonstrated greater activation in the BHT compared to the squat. The straight bar deadlift exercise demonstrated greater biceps femoris activation than BHT; 2) Regardless of the BHT variation and intensity used, the muscle excitation sequence is gluteus maximus, erector spinae, biceps femoris, semitendinosus, vastus lateralis, gluteus medius, vastus medialis and rectus femoris; 3) acute transfer: four studies demonstrated a significant improvement in sprinting activities after BHT exercise; 4) as for the chronic transfer: two studies demonstrated improvement of the sprint time, while other two studies failed to present such effect. We concluded that: a) the mechanics of BHT favors greater activation of the hip extensor muscles compared to more conventional exercises; b) regardless of the variation of BHT used, the muscle excitation sequence is gluteus maximus, erector spinae, hamstrings, and quadriceps femoris; c) the acute transfer of the post-activation potentiation of the BHT is significant, improving the sprinting time; and d) despite training with BHT submaximal loads can improve sprint times, further investigations are needed.
... There are a variety of ways in which the hip thrust can be effectively loaded [1]. The effects of the hip thrust can range from an increase in gluteus maximus size (hypertrophy) to an increase in strength and power [2,3]. There is emerging research that suggests the hip thrust results in training effects that are different to other more traditional approaches, and thus that supports its inclusion in a training programme. ...
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THE TECHNIQUE OF THE BARBELL HIP THRUST IS DESCRIBED AND DEMONSTRATED THROUGH THE USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AND VIDEO IN THIS COLUMN. AN EXERCISE PRESCRIPTION IS GIVEN.
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NSCA's essentials of personal training
  • J W Coburn
  • M H Malek
Coburn JW, Malek, MH, editors. NSCA's essentials of personal training. 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2012.
Gender comparison of hip muscle activity during single-leg landing
  • B Zazulack
  • P Ponce
  • S Straub
  • M Medrecky
  • L Avedisia
  • T Hewett
Zazulack B, Ponce P, Straub S, Medrecky M, Avedisia L, Hewett, T, et al. Gender comparison of hip muscle activity during single-leg landing. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2005;35(5):292-299.