The Case for the Hip Thrust

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Strong glutes aren’t just for show. Vital for optimal movement and athletic performance, the gluteus maximus is the largest, most powerful muscle in the human body. Together, the gluteal muscles help to stabilize the upper body and pelvis and assist in hip flexion and locomotion movements like walking, swimming, jumping, and my sport of choice, running.

For a few years, I was just a runner. I logged 35–40 miles each week and regularly participated in half-marathons. Although I’d previously lifted weights regularly for over a decade, I decided to drop my strength workouts altogether in favor of yoga a couple of times a week because being sore after weightlifting hurt my pace. All I cared about was running. But that was a mistake.

The lack of resistance training rendered my gluteal muscles almost nonexistent; the muscles were technically there, but not strong enough to support my heavy mileage. I developed chronic lower-back issues. Twice-a-week chiropractor visits and massage sessions kept me going, but it wasn’t sustainable. I was over being in pain.

When I finally saw a physical therapist, he suggested a strength-training routine with an emphasis on the glutes. So I hired a personal trainer. As part of a full-body weight training routine, my trainer introduced me to a new move: the hip thrust. Sitting on the ground with my back against a flat bench, I put a light barbell over my hips. Then, with my chin tucked and my feet flat on the floor (and in line with my knees), I squeezed my glutes, raising my hips to full extension. It wasn’t easy. At first, I could only do 40 pounds.

Five years later though, my personal record is 300 pounds. The best part? Those glute gains have eradicated my back pain.


https://compote.slate.com/images/de5e07e5-4257-4027-9711-4483233a0a25.gif?crop=780%2C520%2Cx0%2Cy0&width=1280Illustration/animation by Rob Donnelly.



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