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Hip Thrust Muscles Worked

Hip thrusts are a versatile and effective lower body exercise that primarily focuses on the gluteus maximus, the largest and most powerful muscle in the buttocks.

This exercise is well-regarded for its ability to build strength, stability, and improve athletic performance.

A hip, or glute thrust machine not only work the glutes but also engage the hamstrings, quadriceps, and core muscles, contributing to a more balanced and toned lower body.

Performed on either a hip thrust machine, or using any of the common variations, hip thrusts have increased in popularity drastically as people migrate over for the awesome booty building capabilities. 

Lets get into some more details about the muscles worked, bio-mechanics, and other info you need to know!

Hip Thrust Muscles Worked Diagram with machine on white background and bullet point list of muscles

Understanding The Hip Thrust

Mechanics of the Hip Thrust

Hip thrusts are a popular lower body exercise primarily designed to target the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the buttocks.

Other muscles engaged by hip thrusts include the hamstrings and quadriceps. To perform a hip thrust, you need an elevated surface, such as a bench, to rest your upper back against. With your feet planted firmly on the ground and your knees bent, a weight, like a barbell or resistance band, can be added for increased resistance.

The movement consists of:

  1. Positioning yourself with your upper back against the elevated surface.
  2. Placing the weight across your hips.
  3. Keeping your chin tucked and your eyes forward.
  4. Thrusting your hips upward, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement.
  5. Lowering your hips to return to the starting position.

Benefits of Hip Thrusts

The benefits of hip thrusts should be intriguing to for those looking to strengthen and tone their lower body. Some of these benefits include:

  • Glute development: As the primary target of the exercise, the gluteus maximus experiences significant muscle engagement during hip thrusts. This helps to shape and tone the buttocks.
  • Hamstrings and quadriceps activation: Hip thrusts also work the hamstrings and quadriceps, making it a comprehensive lower body exercise.
  • Improved posture: Strengthening the gluteus maximus and the posterior chain contributes to better posture, as these muscles help support the lower back and spine.
  • Increased performance: Athletes and fitness enthusiasts may see enhanced performance in activities that require lower body strength, such as sprinting, jumping, and lifting heavy objects.
  • Adaptability: The exercise can be easily adjusted by changing the weight or adding variations, making it suitable for individuals of all fitness levels.

Hip thrusts effectively target the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and quadriceps, offering a range of benefits for those seeking to develop their lower body.

Numerous variations exist to accommodate different fitness levels and goals, making this an essential exercise to consider incorporating into any training program.

Primary Muscles Targeted

Gluteus Maximus

The gluteus maximus is the primary muscle targeted by hip thrusts, making it one of the most effective exercises for working the buttocks.

The gluteus maximus plays a crucial role in hip extension, which is essential for activities such as walking, running, and jumping.

Incorporating hip thrusts into your workout can help develop this muscle, leading to a stronger lower body.

An example of a variation that targets this muscle effectively is the barbell hip thrust, which involves placing a loaded barbell across the hips during the exercise.


Hamstrings, located at the back of the thigh, also benefit from hip thrusts.

Although they play a supporting role in this exercise, they are crucial for stability and overall lower body strength.

Developing strong hamstrings contributes to improved performance in various physical activities and helps prevent injury.

For optimal hamstrings engagement, ensure proper form and use a full range of motion during the hip thrust.

  • Muscles worked:
    • Biceps femoris
    • Semitendinosus
    • Semimembranosus


Lastly, the hip thrust exercise also targets the quadriceps to a lesser extent.

Located at the front of the thigh, these muscles are essential for leg extension, stability, and balance.

While not the primary focus of hip thrusts, the quadriceps do receive some stimulation, particularly when maintaining proper form.

To enhance quadriceps activation, concentrate on driving through the heels and keeping the knees aligned above the ankles during the movement.

In summary, the primary muscles targeted during hip thrusts are the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

This exercise is highly effective for working the lower body and can lead to improved strength, stability, and performance.

By focusing on proper form and incorporating variations like the barbell hip thrust, you can maximize the benefits of this exercise and achieve a well-rounded lower body workout.

Secondary Muscles Worked

During hip thrusts, several secondary muscles are engaged in addition to the primary targets, which are the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus.

In this section, we will focus on three specific secondary muscle groups: adductors, core muscles, and hip flexors.


The adductor muscles, located in the inner thighs, serve to pull the legs toward the midline of the body.

They play a supportive role during hip thrusts by stabilizing the legs and maintaining proper alignment.

When performing variations such as the dumbbell hip thrust, adductors are further engaged to control the movement of the leg while hip thrusting.

By working the adductors during hip thrusts, you can improve overall stability and balance.

Core Muscles

The core muscles, which include the rectus abdominis, obliques, and lower back muscles, are engaged during hip thrusts to provide stability for the entire body.

Proper form is crucial, requiring the tightening of the core muscles while performing the exercise.

This engagement assists in maintaining a neutral spine position during the movement, enhancing the effectiveness of the exercise.

Whether using a hip thrust machine or performing a dumbbell hip thrust, the core muscles still play a significant role in stabilizing the body throughout the exercise.

Hip Flexors

The hip flexors, which include the iliopsoas, rectus femoris, and sartorius, are responsible for flexing the hip joint. Although not as heavily engaged during hip thrusts as the glutes, these muscles still contribute to the movement by assisting in hip extension. The hip flexors can also be targeted by performing hip thrust variations, such as the hip thruster.

In conclusion, hip thrusts effectively work several secondary muscles in addition to the primary gluteal muscles. By engaging the adductors, core muscles, and hip flexors, you can enhance balance, stability, and overall muscular development.

Hip Thrust Variations

In this section, we will discuss three popular hip thrust variations, each targeting the gluteus maximus and other lower body muscles in different ways.

The variations include Barbell Hip Thrust, Single-Leg Hip Thrust, and Banded Hip Thrust. All variations will be discussed with proper form and technique to maximize results and prevent injury.

Barbell Hip Thrust

The Barbell Hip Thrust is a common variation that utilizes a barbell to increase resistance. This exercise primarily works the gluteus maximus, but also engages the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteus medius and minimus.

To perform this variation:

  1. Position your shoulders and upper back on a bench with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place a barbell across your hips while keeping your back parallel to the ground.
  3. Drive your hips upward while engaging your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
  4. Hold at the top for a brief moment, then lower back down.

Remember to keep your core engaged and avoid overextending your lower back.

Read More: Hip Thrust Machine Vs. Barbell Hip Thrusts

Single-Leg Hip Thrust

The Single-Leg Hip Thrust targets the gluteus maximus and also challenges your balance and core stability. This variation may help to correct muscle imbalances and improve unilateral strength.

To perform the Single-Leg Hip Thrust:

  1. With your shoulders and upper back on a bench, extend one leg in the air while keeping the other foot flat on the ground.
  2. Drive your hips upward by engaging the glute of the grounded leg.
  3. Hold the position at the top, then lower back down.
  4. Repeat for desired number of reps, then switch to the other leg.

While doing this variation, ensure your pelvis remains level to maximize muscle engagement.

Banded Hip Thrust

The Banded Hip Thrust incorporates a resistance band to create tension throughout the movement, further activating the glute muscles and promoting gluteal muscle hypertrophy. This variation helps target the gluteus maximus and also engages the hip abductors and external rotators.

To perform the Banded Hip Thrust:

  1. Loop a resistance band just above your knees.
  2. Position your upper back and shoulders on a bench or elevated surface, feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Drive your hips upward, pushing against the resistance band.
  4. Hold at the top, then lower back down.

When performing this exercise, keep the tension on the band throughout and avoid letting your knees cave inwards. This will ensure proper muscle activation and effective results.

Hip Thrusts vs Glute Bridges

When it comes to targeting the glute muscles, hip thrusts and glute bridges are popular exercises. To better understand the differences between the two exercises and their effects on muscle activation, we'll compare the muscles worked by each exercise.

Comparison of Muscle Activation

Hip Thrusts: Hip thrusts are performed with an elevated platform, usually a bench, to support the upper back. This exercise often involves additional external resistance, such as a barbell or resistance band. Introducing an elevated platform allows for a larger range of motion, making hip thrusts more effective in engaging the glute muscles, specifically the gluteus maximus. Additionally, they activate the hamstrings and quads to a higher degree due to the increased range of motion.

Glute Bridges: The glute bridge is primarily a bodyweight exercise, where a person is on the ground with their back flat against the floor. The range of motion is limited compared to hip thrusts, which may affect the overall engagement of the glute muscles. Glute bridges still effectively work the gluteus maximus muscle, but the activation of the hamstrings and quads may not be as pronounced.

Exercise Gluteus Maximus Hamstrings Quadriceps
Hip Thrusts High Activation Moderate Activation Moderate Activation
Glute Bridges Moderate Activation Low Activation Low Activation

Both hip thrusts and glute bridges effectively target the gluteal muscles. However, hip thrusts tend to activate the glute muscles and supporting muscles to a greater extent.

This is primarily due to the increased range of motion and the ability to incorporate additional resistance into the exercise.

Technique and Form

Proper Positioning

When looking at how to do a hip thrust correctly, it is important to understand the proper positioning of the body. Focusing primarily on the gluteus maximus, hip thrusts also engage other lower body muscles like hamstrings.

  1. Begin by sitting with your back against the edge of a bench that's parallel to you.
  2. Roll a loaded barbell into the crease of your hips, using a towel or squat pad around the bar for comfort.
  3. Place your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart, keeping your knees bent.
  4. Hold the barbell with both hands, positioned wider than shoulder-width.

Once you're properly positioned, follow these steps to perform a hip thrust:

  1. Lift the barbell by extending your hips, thrusting them upward until they're in line with your knees and shoulders.
  2. Squeeze your glutes at the top, ensuring that you maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
  3. Slowly lower your hips back to the starting position.

Common Mistakes

Several common mistakes can be made when performing hip thrusts, which can lead to inefficient muscle engagement and potential injuries:

  • Lack of stability: Ensure all points of contact with the bench and floor are stable. If you feel unstable during the exercise, consider adjusting your foot placement or engaging your core for stability.

  • Hyperextension of the spine: Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement. Avoid overarching your back at the top of the thrust as it can lead to strain or injury to the lower back.

  • Incorrect foot placement: Your feet should be flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart to optimize glute activation. Placing them too close together or too wide may decrease the effectiveness of the exercise and strain other muscles.

By paying attention to proper positioning and being mindful of common mistakes, hip thrusts can become an effective tool for engaging the gluteus maximus, along with other lower body muscles. Remember to always prioritize proper form and technique to avoid injuries and maximize gains.

Programming Hip Thrusts

Incorporating into a Workout Routine

Hip thrusts are an effective and versatile lower body exercise that primarily targets the gluteus maximus, but also works other muscles such as the hamstrings and lower back.

Including hip thrusts in your routine is essential for both overall leg development and glute-specific training.

There are several variations of hip thrusts that allow for effective targeting of different muscle groups:

  1. B-stance hip thrust: This variation is performed with one foot elevated, focusing the workload more on the gluteus maximus of the supporting leg.
  2. Weighted hip thrust: Adding weight (such as with a barbell or dumbbell) increases the resistance and helps build glute and hamstring strength.
  3. Bodyweight hip thrust: This version is great for beginners or those looking to improve form before adding weight.

Incorporating hip thrusts into your workout routine can be done based on your current fitness level and specific goals.

You can alternate between variations to maintain interest and challenge your muscles in different ways. For best results, incorporate hip thrusts into your lower body workouts 2-3 times per week.

Sets and Repetitions

When programming hip thrusts into your routine, it's essential to find the right balance between sets and repetitions to ensure optimal muscle activation and performance.

The key variables to consider are volume and intensity, which can be adjusted according to your fitness level and goals. A general guideline for hip thrust sets and repetitions is presented in the table below:

Goal Sets Repetitions
Muscle Endurance 2-3 12-15
Hypertrophy 3-4 8-12
Strength 4-5 3-6

For muscle endurance and improved muscle tone, perform 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions with lighter weight, focusing on proper form and a controlled tempo.

If your goal is hypertrophy (muscle growth), aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions, using moderate weight that challenges your muscles without compromising form.

For strength development, increase the weight and perform 4-5 sets of 3-6 repetitions, allowing for longer rest periods between sets to ensure full recovery.

Remember to make adjustments as you progress, considering factors such as fatigue, technique, and overall training load. By following these guidelines and consistently incorporating hip thrust variations into your routine, you can improve overall strength, stability, and performance.

Safety and Injury Prevention

When including hip thrusts in your workout routine, it's important to prioritize safety and injury prevention.

This exercise primarily engages the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and hamstrings, but when performed incorrectly, it can lead to lower back strain.

The following subsections will provide valuable tips to help prevent injuries during hip thrust exercises.

Warm-Up Exercises

Before starting your hip thrusts, it's crucial to perform warm-up exercises that will help prepare your body for an effective and safe workout. Here are some simple warm-up exercises:

  1. Leg swings: Perform 10 to 15 leg swings side to side and front to back for each leg. This helps to warm up the hip adductors, glutes, and hamstrings.

  2. Hip circles: Perform 5 to 10 hip circles on each side. This stretches and activates the hip joint and surrounding muscles.

  3. Bodyweight squats: Perform 10 to 15 bodyweight squats, focusing on glute activation, proper form, and depth in the squat.

  4. Glute bridges: Execute 10 to 15 glute bridges with a focus on engaging the glutes. This helps to activate your target hip thrust muscles and warm up the lower back.

Performing these exercises before starting hip thrusts will ensure your target muscles are warmed up and ready to work, reducing the risk of injury.

Avoiding Lower Back Strain

Hip thrusts can strain the lower back if not executed with proper form. Here are some key tips to minimize the risk of lower back strain during hip thrusts:

  • Pelvic position: Ensure you maintain a neutral pelvic position throughout the exercise. Overextending or arching the spine can put added pressure on the lower back muscles.

  • Core engagement: Focus on engaging your core muscles while performing hip thrusts. A strong core will provide stability to your spine and help prevent any excessive strain on your lower back.

  • Mindful movement: Be mindful of the range of motion during your hip thrusts. Only move as far as your glutes and hamstrings can safely support you without putting strain on your lower back.

  • Progression and weights: Avoid adding excessive weight too quickly. Gradually increase the resistance, so your target muscles can become more accustomed to the workload. This will help prevent injury and undue stress on the lower back.

By following these safety guidelines and injury prevention strategies, you can effectively perform hip thrusts without putting unnecessary strain on your lower back.

Advanced Techniques

Progressive Overload

In order to fully develop the muscles worked during hip thrusts, it's essential to implement progressive overload techniques.

Progressive overload refers to gradually increasing the intensity of an exercise, through weight, sets, or repetitions, to challenge the muscles and stimulate growth.

For the hip thrust, this can be achieved by consistently adding weight to the barbell or performing more reps or sets over time. However, always prioritize proper form over increasing weight to prevent injury.

A possible progressive overload method for hip thrusts could be:

Week Sets Repetitions Weight
1 3 12 100lb
2 3 12 110lb
3 4 10 120lb
4 4 8 130lb

Exercise Cues

To ensure an effective hip thrust that targets the appropriate muscles, such as the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, hamstrings, and adductors, consider the following exercise cues:

  1. Setup: Position your upper back against an elevated surface, such as a bench, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. In a kneeling hip thrust variation, begin on your knees with your torso upright.
  2. Foot placement: Place your feet wider than hip-width apart to further engage the gluteus medius and other hip muscles during the movement.
  3. Barbell placement: When using a barbell, ensure it's positioned across the front of your hips for optimal engagement of the gluteal muscles.
  4. Bracing: Keep your core engaged while performing the exercise to maintain proper form and stability.
  5. Drive through the heels: Focus on pushing through your heels as you lift your hips, instead of using the balls of your feet. This will activate the target muscles and provide stability during the movement.

Overall, incorporating advanced techniques like progressive overload and proper exercise cues can lead to substantial improvement in the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and adductors worked during hip thrusts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Should I Place The Belt On The Hip Thrust?

When performing a hip thrust, belt placement is very important. The belt or bar pad should run across the hips just below the bones where your hip creases.

This placement helps distribute the weight evenly and protects the hip bones from excessive pressure or discomfort as you perform the exercise.

Where Do You Put Your Feet On The Hip Thrust?

When performing a hip thrust, foot placement is also an important thing to start off the movement right with.

Your feet should be placed flat on the ground, approximately hip-width apart, and slightly turned out.

The distance between the heels and the glutes may vary based on personal preference, but generally, you want to position your feet so that your shins remain vertical when you reach the top of the hip thrust movement.

What Is The Best Hip Thrust Machine For Glutes?

There are many hip thrust machines available on the market, but choosing the best one depends on your individual needs, budget, and available space.

Some popular options can found in our resource for finding the best hip thrust machine.

What primary muscle groups are targeted during hip thrusts?

Hip thrusts primarily target the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your buttocks.

Additionally, hip thrusts also engage the hamstrings, quadriceps, core, and hip adductors to some extent.

How do hip thrusts compare to squats in terms of glute development?

Both hip thrusts and squats are effective exercises for targeting the glutes.

However, hip thrusts tend to provide more direct glute engagement and isolation, whereas squats rely on the involvement of multiple leg muscles.

Does performing hip thrusts have specific benefits for females?

While hip thrusts can be beneficial for everyone, they are particularly advantageous for females seeking to strengthen and shape their glutes.

This exercise can also help improve hip stability, support proper posture, and reduce the risk of lower back pain.

What is the difference in muscle activation between hip thrusts and glute bridges?

Hip thrusts and glute bridges share similarities in muscle activation, as both primarily target the gluteus maximus.

However, hip thrusts typically engage the hamstrings, core, and quadriceps to a greater extent due to the elevated body position and increased range of motion.

Can hip thrusts effectively engage the abdominal muscles?

Yes, hip thrusts can engage the abdominal muscles as they stabilize the core during the movement.

While this exercise is not primarily focused on the abs, maintaining proper form and engaging the core throughout the movement can result in some abdominal activation.

Are quads or hamstrings more involved in a hip thrust exercise?

During a hip thrust exercise, both the quadriceps and hamstrings are engaged.

However, the primary focus remains on the glutes, with the hamstring muscles acting as secondary stabilizers and supporting the overall movement.

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About The Author

Matt Gemkow, the author of this content section at Select Fitness USA, boasts more than 15 years of fitness experience. He started out in sports and athletic training for many years and has since 2014 transitioned into heavy-weight training and bodybuilding. As a result, he has become one of the most experienced fitness equipment experts out there, and a valuable source of information.