Hip Thrust Anarchy

Everyone has been up in arms since my post about the Heavy Hip Thrust Ruining Our Back and This Industry.  I personally think I got so much backlash because their egos were hurt a bit. It’s hard to tell someone that’s been doing something and having their clients do something for years that what they’ve been doing is wrong. Let me first say that I came to this conclusion by using Hip Thrust in our program and evaluating the results.  The bottom line is we should all have opinions and they should be driven by our education and experiences.  It is when our experiences provide a result that challenges our current understanding that we begin to question our resources.  I challenge that industry experts are not the same as internet experts. Although that might be the best platform to sell your products, you can never sell me on the things that I have actually done and experienced in real life. It’s almost relatable to my fantasy football team: I don’t think I’ve ever won a season, but my ability to play the real game was never lacked.

I do my best to never put the athlete into any initial pain regardless of the amount of instant gain.  Never losing sight that their long-term health matters more than anything. These exercises are not in replace of the Hip Thrust, they are just a sample of effective drills that you can do to get the glutes, low back, and hamstrings to fire beyond belief.  Trust me when I say I can crush a Pro Bowl NFL athlete with just these drills. The funny thing is that it isn’t really the goal, it is progress, and you will get that with these drills. You don’t need to load a heavy bar on their hips and put your athletes spines in danger just to stroke your or their ego.  No one’s ever impressed their friends with their “Hip Thrust Max” before.  So moving on from the battle of the egos, I’d like to provide some feedback as to what we actually do in our facility that has produced some of the fastest athletes in the world.

Here are the 3 exercise we use in our facility to avoid heavy hip thrust loading:

Single Leg Glute Bridgesingle-leg-glute-bridge

  • Setup:
    • Shoes off
    • On kettlebell or something not completely stable
      • You don’t want to be doing the exercise on something stable that you can push into without moving. We want the force of the movement pushing straight down into the point of contact on the foot. So if we have something like a kettlebell and it is moving when he drives up, we can tell that the force is not being pushed straight down.
  • Key Points:
    • Arms crossed
      • This changes the stability of the lift. You create a whole lot more engagement in your core unit.
    • Drive toe down into the kettlebell
      • Creates way more recruitment in the glute and not as much in the hamstring.
    • Drive hips up to bridge position
    • Squeeze glute at top
    • Slow on the way down and touch your butt on the ground but not your bone.

Serrano Banded Bridgeserrano-banded-bridge

  • Setup:
    • Tie band to something stationary
    • Band over hips, feet on band
    • To adjust tension just move back.
  • Key Points:
    • Drive hips up
      • Tension is not completely horizontal on the spine because the band tension is pull down toward your feet.
    • Intent matters
      • If we’re not getting glute recruitment it’s all about thinking about it. Glute recruitment comes from your brain before it has anything to do with your position.
      • Grab your own ass to enhance the mind body connection.
  • Modifications:
    • Medicine ball modification
    • Mini band around the knees
    • Manual resistance will provide tension early versus the band tension is at the end range.

Table Top Holdstable-top-holds-with-ball

  • Setup:
    • Shoulders on bench, feet flat on ground
    • Typical hip thrust positioning without a bar on the hips
    • Head placement is extremely important
      • Keep the head NEUTRAL
  • Key Points:
    • Hold the bridge position while squeezing glutes at the top for extended period of time.
  • Modification:
    • Hold med ball between knees while continuing to hold the position.
    • Constantly squeezing to increase muscle activation.


    • Hold statically with both legs for 10-20 seconds. Work up to 2 minutes


    • Lift one leg an inch off the ground making sure hips stay up and glutes are engaged.


    • To make it even harder. For the leg that’s on the ground come up on the toe and make sure the heel is off the ground.

With regards to the first article. It’s not meant to be a research paper or as something to be put in some science literature journal. Our goal here was to have an educated discussion about what we’ve learned over the past year by working hands on with our athletes. Not necessarily to “expose” the lift or call anyone out as being a bad coach. But we have to deal with the problems that we see coming forth in our athletes and deal with those accordingly. I personally have seen and dealt with them. So I want to give you alternatives to the Max Loaded Hip Thrust that will give you the same results without the negative side effects.

With these alternatives, you can easily progress the drills without the risk. My concern is the HEAVY hip thrust lift not the movement itself. At the end of the day, you can choose to open your mind and actually listen to something that may go against the latest internet trends. Or you can continue to listen to people that have never trained a soul. They try and write about their experiences. But they don’t actually know what it means to have their livelihood depend on the health and results they get from their athletes.  

Be Your Best,

Coach Kavanaugh