Tip: Strong Glutes, Healthy Back

You already do the hip thrust for glutes. Now try it like this to spare your back and really build your backside.

Add the feet-elevated hip thrust to your glute training arsenal. You can do it with both feet or for an extra challenge, do it unilaterally. This modification is great for glute gains, joint health, and performance.

The feet-elevated hip thrust can help those with knee issues (irritated quadriceps, patellar tendonitis, hyperactive popliteus, arthritis and/or diminished cartilage, etc.). But with your feet elevated, each rep involves less knee extension.

Picture this: If your box is three inches high, then you eliminate a roughly equivalent amount of extension at the knee. When the knees hurt, use the hips, and the feet-elevated hip thrust is a great way to accomplish this while keeping the pain at bay.

With your feet elevated it's much easier to distinguish between the oft-perceived gray area of hip extension vs. lumbar extension. Those with back pain who have trouble training hip extension exercises can do this exercise with a full range of motion and without the fear of irritating the tissue around the lumbar spine and SI. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, the hamstrings are on a deeper stretch than the glutes (this is the opposite of performing a traditional hip thrust with the back elevated on a bench) and thus the biceps femoris is at a slight mechanical disadvantage and has greater opportunity to contribute.

This increased propensity to contract the femoris creates a slightly greater posterior pelvic tilt (anti-extension action). This maximizes the ROM, allowing you to really push through the hips as high and hard as you can without relying on the lumbar spine.

Second, at the top of the rep the torso is at an angle below the hips as opposed to being parallel, making it harder to fall or even force yourself into the unwanted area of lumbar extension.

Another benefit of more hamstring recruitment is bigger hamstrings! This makes the feet-elevated hip thrust a great hypertrophy tool for hamstring supersets. Try this:

  • A1. Leg curl x 12
  • A2. Romanian deadlift x 10
  • A3. Feet-elevated hip thrust x 8

For all three exercises, lower slowly, pause a second at the top and the bottom, and lift with power and control.

Alexander Nurse Bey is a Sports Performance coach and the co-owner of AXIS Performance + Training located in Scarborough, Ontario. He continues to share his systems for encouraging athlete vigor and high performance as a speaker and writer. You can contact Alex on his website at beyperformance.com.