If there was any question that model and body-positive activist Ashley Graham can seriously crush a workout, she just posted an Instagram video reminding everyone just how strong she is. To quote her caption, she was shown “getting that [peach emoji] right” with a set of hip thrusts.
Graham demo’d the move during a training session with Christine Grubbs at DBC Fitness in Miami—and then stood up to the haters to remind them, yet again, that her reasons for working out aren’t about losing weight.
Graham is one of many celebs getting on the hip thrust bandwagon. Emma Stone also relied on hip thrusts as part of her training to play tennis player Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. Chelsea Handler is also a fan of the move.
Hip thrusts are considered one of the best exercises for your glutes and hamstrings. Since you can add weight to the move, you can keep challenging your body—and keep improving.
The hip thrust is actually awesome for gaining lower-body strength, and it’s a favorite of trainers and fitness fans alike. Hip thrusts target your glutes (butt muscles) while also challenging your hamstrings, trainer Ben Bruno tells SELF. They’re similar to glute bridges—in both moves, you’re lifting your hips toward the sky while driving your heels through the floor. With hip thrusts, however, your upper body is elevated on a box, bench, or chair rather than resting on the floor.
One big advantage to hip thrusts is that they’re designed for using weights (although you can do them without weights). This allows you to increase the weight as you become stronger, so you continue to improve. This process is known as progressive overload, and it’s one of the key principles for building muscle size and strength; it’s basically the idea that you keep getting stronger over time as you keep challenging your body. Simply adding more weight or increasing your reps of a move is the easiest way to do it.
Resistance band hip thrusts—a la Ashley Graham—give you extra resistance where you’re strongest.
To perform a hip thrust, you can hold a barbell, dumbbell, or a weight plate at your hips (wherever it feels comfortable). Or, as Graham does, you can loop a resistance band across your lap.
While no type of weight is better than another for hip thrusts, says Bruno, using a resistance band provides a unique challenge. “With barbells and dumbbells, the resistance is fixed—if you have 100 pounds, it’s 100 pounds at the top and 100 at the bottom,” he explains. “Bands provide what’s called accommodating resistance, which means there’s less tension at the bottom where the band is not stretched, and there’s more tension at the top.” So when you lift your hips, your glutes have to work the most at the top of the movement.
You’re not just working your glutes as you lift up (known as the concentric part of the movement), though. When you use a resistance band, there’s an extra challenge when you’re lowering your hips back to the ground (the eccentric part of the movement). (Read more about the advantages of eccentric training here.)
Why does that matter? As you lower down from the top of a hip thrust, your glutes and hamstrings are lengthened (not contracted). And that’s actually when muscle fibers are strongest. During the eccentric portion of an exercise, you’re challenging your muscles when they’re at their most powerful. Focusing on the eccentric part of the movement, therefore, can lead to bigger, faster gains.
There are a few ways to incorporate eccentric training into your routine, but using a resistance band is one of the most simple methods. In a hip thrust with a resistance band, “The band is essentially pulling you down, so you have to resist a little bit more than you would without the band [or with a barbell or dumbbell],” Bruno explains.
Follow a few form tips—expertly demonstrated by Kate Upton—to get the most out of the move.
The key to getting the most out of every part of the exercise, though? Don’t stop short of your full range of motion. “You want to make sure you come all the way down, so your butt is basically touching the floor at the bottom. And at the top, you want to come all the way up so that you form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees,” says Bruno. Keep your gaze forward the whole time, he says, and make sure you’re not arching your back.
Bruno likes hip thrusts to be slow and controlled, with a pause at the top so you can really squeeze your glutes. That’s how Graham is shown doing them at the beginning of her video.
When performed correctly, hip thrusts are one of Bruno’s favorite exercises to do with his clients. In this set with Kate Upton, who Bruno trains regularly, she’s using a heavy barbell that’s also being held back by a resistance band for an even bigger challenge.
Here’s how to do the hip thrust, step by step.
For most people, the biggest barrier to trying this exercise is the set-up. It can be tricky to get into it on your own with a barbell, Bruno says. However, it’s easier to try it by yourself with dumbbells. Tip: The glutes are a powerful muscle group, so you can go heavy with your dumbbells.
- Sit on the floor facing away from a bench. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground, hip-distance apart. Rest your upper back on the edge of the bench.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at the crease in your hips, resting the weights on your body.
- Drive through your heels to lift your hips to the sky as your upper back stays in place on the bench.
- Pause and squeeze your glutes at the top.
- In a slow and controlled motion, lower your butt back to the ground.
If you’d prefer a visual, you can watch Bruno teach the exercise and demonstrate perfect form in this video.
A resistance band hip thrust can also be more difficult to set up than a dumbbell hip thrust, but if you’re in a gym setting and want to try the resistance band version, try to find a machine with two “legs” that you can anchor a large looped resistance band to (that’s how Graham is set up in her recent Instagram post). With the band over of your thighs and your back against a box or weight bench, repeat the same as described above.
No matter what kind of weight you use for hip thrusts, though, one thing’s for sure—you’ll be feeling them the next day.
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