The hip thrust exercise has become a common exercise for strengthening the gluteus maximus. Described by Bret Contreras, The hip thrust has gained popularity over the last couple of years thanks to it’s simplicity and effectiveness. Here is a great clip of Bret demonstrating the proper hip thrust technique:
While a weighted bilateral hip thrust is an excellent exercise, I have found that some people have difficulty performing the exercises in the rehabilitation setting. You could start the hip thrust exercise with just body weight, but some people will still have difficulty disassociating hip extension and lumbar spine extension, making the standard hip thrust difficult to perform with proper form even with little to no weight.
In the rehab setting, I typically need to start working on glute training in most patients. I am a big believer in strengthening the glutes and training them to extend the hip so that the hamstrings and low back take less stress. However, sometimes I wonder if we are guilty of jumping right into a glute strengthening exercise, like the hip thrust or a even a single leg deadlift variation, before the patient is truely ready for the movement. To me, this where the need for glute “activation” prior to “strengthening” comes to mind.
I am always looking for great exercises to “turn on” the glutes and activate proper hip extension firing, so the hip thrust is an intriguing option. I have started to perform a variation of the hip thrust in the kneeling position. By performing a kneeling hip thrust, it becomes a better activation and lower level strengthening exercise for the more basic patient.
Kneeling Hip Thrust
Below is a video demonstration of the kneeling hip thrust, followed by some coaching techniques:
Kneeling Hip Thrust Technique:
- To perform the kneeling hip thrust, I most commonly use a dowel with tubing. I will use tubing with handles on both ends so that I can wrap the tubing around a stationary point and slide the dowel through the tubing handles.
- Position yourself in the kneeling position with the dowel over your lower abdomen and pelvis area. I usually hold on to the dowel for comfort as well.
- You can also try using cable weights or Keiser resistance as well, but there is a limit to how much weight you can add before the weight is just too much and pulls you backward. Realistically, if you want to weight the hip thrust this much, the kneeling position isn’t for you. This is ultimately an activation and basic motor recruitment exercise that I often use to turn on the glutes before performing or progressing to more advanced glute strengthening, including the traditional hip thrust that Bret describes.
- Place your knees about shoulder width apart with your feet together. Your feet and knees should form a triangle. I will describe the reason for this below.
- Begin by sitting on your feet and then lift your body up and out, extending your hips.
- You should squeeze your glutes together at the end range of movement, while avoiding hyperextending the low back.
Benefits of the Kneeling Hip Thrust
I really like the kneeling hip thrust exercise and have found it to enhance our ability to engage the glutes to extend the hip. I find the kneeling hip thrust takes lumbar extension of the equation much more than in the traditional supine bridge position, allowing you to focus on hip extension and glute activation without worrying as much about compensation at the lumbar spine.
As described above, I usually perform the kneeling hip thrust with my feet together, thereby placing your hips in slight external rotation. This is a common modification for the bridge exercise that I utilize for people with tight hip flexors. The greatest amount of glute firing is going to occur towards the end range of hip extension. If the hip flexors are too tight to allow full hip extension, compensation often occurs in the low back with lumbar extension. You’ll also be able to get a better “glute squeeze.”
In many people you will find that they quickly master the kneeling hip thrust technique and will be ready to move to a more advanced glute strengthening exercise using much better form with less compensation.
Try working this kneeling hip thrust into your rehab programs or as part of your dynamic warmup and let me know what you think!