Do More: Hip Thrust Variations
The hip thrust is awesome. We already know why. One of the coolest things about the hip thrust is that there are so many effective progressions and variations.
These variations aren’t confusing. They aren’t a pain to set up. You don’t have to balance one foot on a foam roller and the other on a val slide. These variations are simple progressions aimed at increasing the level of difficulty and challenging the body in different ways.
Variation #1: 1-Leg Glute Bridge
Simple setup. Get into the same position as you did for the glute bridge. Keep one foot flat on the ground while lifting the other foot off the ground with your leg in a 90-90 position (90° at the hip, 90° at the knee).
From there, push the ground away with your plant foot. Drive through your heel and mid foot. Try to drive your toes forward while keeping them on the ground. Dr. Stuart McGill argues that by driving your toes forward you can get an even stronger contraction. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise by locking your ribs down.
As an exercise do: 2-5 sets of 12-15 reps
As a finisher, do: 1-2 sets of 20 reps
Variation #2: Banded Hip Thrust
This variation is all about the top portion of the exercise. The band provides an accommodating resistance. As you thrust upwards, the band(s) adds more and more resistance. You will find that the exercise is hardest at the end range of motion (full hip extension). Many people feel a stronger glute activation with this variation because of the added resistance at the top. (Barbell hip thrust keeps a more constant tension throughout the entire movement)
Another positive to this variation is the easy and pain-free set up. You can attach bands to the bottom of a squat rack or you can wrap them around your feet. Also, the big plus is that you don’t have to deal with the barbell digging into your pelvic bone like you do with the barbell hip thrust.
Do 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps
Tip: To get even more bang for your buck, focus on performing a controlled eccentric (downward phase). Slowly lower your hips, not allowing the band to pull you down quickly. This slow, controlled eccentric will leave your glutes even more sore the next couple days.
Variation #3: The Mini Band Bridge
If you have an Instagram account then I am sure that you have seen this variation. But 92.3% of those IG fitness models/gurus/know-it-all’s don’t tell you why they are using them (most likely because they don’t even know).
By placing the mini band above the knees and actively pushing out against the band while thrusting upwardly, you achieve greater activation of the glute medius. The glutes are more than just that big ol’ glute . They are a group made up of the glute maximums, glute medius, and glute minimus.
If you suffer from knee valgus (caving of the knees), adding a mini band to the bridge/thrust will help strengthen your weakened hip abductors. By strengthening the abductors, you are taking a big step in correcting your knee valgus. This variation is especially important for female athletes. Female athletes are more susceptible to knee valgus and the catastrophic injuries (ex. ACL tears) that come with it.
Do 3-5sets of 12-20 reps.
Variation #4: The Glute Bridge March
This is a progression that challenges your core and rotary stability.
Assume the glute bridge position on the floor. Stabilize the spine before thrusting up into hip extension. Extend one knee so that your leg is straight and in the air. This will really fire the glute in your plant leg, while also forcing your trunk to resist rotation. Keep your hips extended as you bring your foot back down to the ground. Repeat this process with your other leg. Maintain full hip extension for the duration of the exercise.
Do 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps with a 6-8 second hold at the top of the march. (knee extended)
Also: You can progress this movement by adding an external load such as a barbell and performing it on a bench.