defeated man barbell and bench

You’ve Been Doing Hip Thrusts Wrong This Whole Time

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If you’re a fan of leg day, you’re likely no stranger to hip thrusts. Hip thrusts are one of the most popular ways to develop strength and power in your glutes, the largest muscle in your body.

Many people believe that hip thrusts and glute bridges are one and the same, but there are key differences between these two glute-building exercises, as certified personal trainer, Alexandra Redmond demonstrates in her latest Instagram post..

While these glute exercises look very similar, they actually target different muscles. Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between the hip thrust and glute bridge—including when to use each to maximize gains.

What is a Hip Thrust?

A hip thrust is a must-have in any lower body strength training program. It’s similar to a glute bridge, but the greater range of motion means you’ll also recruit your quads and hamstrings.

With a hip thrust, you begin sitting on the ground with your mid to upper back against the edge of a workout bench, box, or chair, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. In this exercise, when you lift your hips toward the ceiling, your shins should create a 90-degree angle, and when you hinge back toward the ground, they should travel back with you.

To make this version more challenging, load a barbell onto your hips. As you raise your hips, the weight of the bar adds an extra challenge for your muscles. As you get stronger, it’s easy to progress by increasing the weight of the plates on your barbell.

How to Perform a Hip Thrust

  1. Position your mid to upper back on the edge of a box or bench with your loaded barbell next to you, and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Roll the barbell onto the crease of your hips. (You can also place a towel or pad in between the bar and your pelvis to add some cushion.)
  3. Squeeze through your glutes and push through your heels to press your hips up toward the ceiling.
  4. Keep your core activated, spine neutral, and eyesight directly in front of you.
  5. At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes to fully extend your hips. Your shins should be vertical, forming a 90-degree angle.
  6. Pause, and slowly lower to the ground, hinging at the hips and allowing your knees to travel back toward you naturally.

What is a Glute Bridge?

A glute bridge is a popular exercise for beginners because it can easily be done without equipment, but it’s also great for activating the glutes during a warmup.

It can be performed in a variety of ways. Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, simply push into your heels and lift your hips towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes and activating your core to keep your lower back from arching.

To make the move more challenging you can load your hips with dumbbells, or loop a resistance band around your thighs. Because of your positioning on the ground, it’s hard to load this exercise with heavy weight, which makes it better for lighter weight, high rep workouts.

 

How to Perform a Glute Bridge

  1. Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, feet flat on the ground, and knees bent.
  2. Press your lower back into the ground, activating your core.
  3. Exhale and squeeze your glutes, pressing into your heels to drive your hips toward the ceiling.
  4. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from knees to chest.
  5. Pause, and slowly lower to the ground.

What is a KAS Glute Bridge?

The KAS glute bridge (the glute bridge variation Redmond shared in her post) is easier to load with a barbell than a traditional glute bridge, making this alternative the better option for lifting heavy.

Your positioning is almost identical to a hip thrust, with your mid to upper back against the edge of a workout bench and a barbell loaded on your hips. However, instead of completing an explosive full range of motion, the focus is slow and controlled movement at hip extension (or the top portion of your hip thrust) where your glutes see the highest activation.

Because a KAS glute bridge is focused primarily on the glutes, you still won’t be able to load this exercise as heavy as a hip thrust since you don’t get the added help from your hamstrings and quads; however, it presents a great upgrade from a traditional glute bridge.

How to Perform a KAS Glute Bridge

  1. Position your midback on the edge of a chair or bench with your loaded barbell next to you, and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Roll the barbell onto the crease of your hips. (You can place a towel or pad in between the bar and your pelvis to add some cushion.)
  3. Press hips up until your shins are vertical and your knee forms a 90-degree angle; this is your starting position.
  4. Squeeze through your glutes and push through your heels to press your hips up toward the ceiling.
  5. Keep your core activated, spine neutral, and eyesight directly in front of you.
  6. Hinge at the hips to slowly lower 1-2 inches back to your starting position.

The Major Difference Between a Glute Bridge, KAS Glute Bridge, and a Hip Thrust

The main difference between a glute bridge and a hip thrust is the setup. Typically, glute bridges are performed on the ground with body weight or light weight, while hip thrusts are performed with a bench and barbell.

A hip thrust is basically a glute bridge with a bigger range of motion. Because your back is elevated, there’s a larger range of space between your hips and the ground. This larger range gives the hip thrust a greater advantage for glute gains because it makes it easier to add and lift weight, and it increases activation of your glutes and hamstrings.

The glutes exhibit the highest level of activation in hip extension, which is the exact pattern that hip thrusts train. Hip extension is at the very top of your movement, where your hips are locked out and your glutes are squeezed. Hip extension is also the major goal of a glute bridge; however, hip thrusts are simply easier to load with weight, making it the better option for strengthening the glutes.

The KAS glute bridge also presents a compelling option for loading more weight while isolating the glutes. However, because it’s less explosive than a hip thrust and focused only on the end range of movement, you still can’t lift as heavy as you can with a hip thrust.

How to Choose: Glute Bridge vs. Hip Thrust

These exercises are largely focused on achieving the same hip extension movement pattern. But there are certain situations where you might prefer to use one over the other.

Glute Bridge

  • Muscular endurance
  • Great for warmups and activation
  • Body or light weight
  • High reps (15-20)
  • Less range
  • Slow and controlled 
  • Glutes only

KAS Glute Bridge

  • Muscular strength
  • Great for strength training
  • Medium weight
  • Medium reps (8-12)
  • Less range
  • Slow and controlled 
  • Glutes only

Hip Thrust

  • Muscular strength
  • Great for building muscle
  • Heavy weight
  • Low reps (6-12)
  • Greater range
  • Explosive power
  • Glutes, hamstrings, quads

Want to try these exercises in your next training day? Use glute bridges as your warmup, hip thrusts as your heavy lower body lift, and the KAS glute bridge as an accessory lift to give those glutes some extra attention.

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