by Bret Contreras August 09, 2010
Before you read this blogpost, watch this video. This is the most important aspect of this post. In the middle of the post I’ll discuss some technical points about form. At the end of the post I’ll offer some practical pointers.
Moving along…something really cool happened today. Jamie Eason Twittered and Facebooked about me.
Now, I believe that I already have one of the most popular blogs in the strength training industry. In just ten months I’ve built my blog up to over 12,000 readers per week. Most days I have well over 2,000 readers. The best thing is that my blog readership keeps growing. I’ve worked my ass off on this blog and I’m very proud of its popularity.
However, my popularity pales in comparison to Jamie Eason. She has over 8,000 Twitter followers and 10,000 Facebook fans, compared to my 333 and 1,942, respectively. In case you don’t know who Jamie Eason is, she’s probably the most popular figure model in the world. Actually I don’t believe that she does much figure modeling anymore but I believe she’s on the cover of more fitness magazines than any other model. Here’s a link to her website. Many of my female clients will tell me, “I want to look just like Jamie Eason,” to which I reply, “Honey, I’m good, but I’m no magician!” I kid, I kid…
If you’re a regular reader of mine, you’ll recognize Jamie as I try to find a way to sneak in pics of her whenever possible. The visits to my blog reached an all-time high today thanks to Jamie. On the one hand, this made me very happy. And now’s a good time to officially say thank you very much to Jaime. However, after some investigation, I became quite annoyed. Here are the reasons why:
Bodybuilders Are Extremely Egocentric! (This Does Not Apply to Jamie – She’s Perfect!)
I’ll be the first to admit that I love bodybuilding. I follow bodybuilding, I read Muscular Development ever month, and I study hypertrophy-based training extensively. However, I can count on one hand the bodybuilders or bodybuilding-style trainers who know jack squat about biomechanics and/or sport-specific training. Most think that there’s only one way to train and don’t understand how to adapt exercise selection, form, tempo, exercise order, periodization, frequency, volume, intensity, density, and intensiveness in order to elicit the proper biochemical response. These acute training variables will vary depending on the goal of the trainee. They scrutinize over athlete’s form out of ignorance; the athlete is trying to be explosive, etc.
As a matter of fact this experience just reminds me that I should have my own column in Muscular Development or even Oxygen so I could help teach lifters and trainers the truth.
Jamie’s First Post
Jamie’s first post on her Facebook fan page was this video along with a comment that said, “A Favorite Glute Exercise of Mine.”
As most of my readers know, this is a video of my 13 year old niece Gabrielle. I’ve been training Gaby once a week for the past ten months or so and she already has stronger glutes than 99% of grown women. She’s the best volleyball player at her school and I suspect the fastest runner too. Last time I measured she had a 22 inch vertical jump and that was a while back. She’s strong, powerful, quick, and agile.
I was very disappointed after reading some of the comments on Jamie’s Facebook page after she posted her link. Although many comments were positive, here were all of the negative comments:
• I wish she’d turn her toes straight… and set the weights down with more control…
• Is it really good form to be letting the weight drop back on your spine like that? I would think lowering the weight and using slow and controlled form, really squeezing your glutes would be the most beneficial.
• Any and all eccentric contractions (i.e lowering the weight) should always be slow and controlled. This is where you are doing the most “damage” to your muscle fibers, and hence causing the most muscle repair to occur, resulting in muscle gain. I’m sure Jamie was just using this video as an example to demonstrate the exercise, not as a baseline for perfect form. As with any exercise, you should start with a weight that is comfortable for you. If those are 45lb plates, she is doing hip thrusts with 135 pounds, hardly appropriate for someone just beginning the exercise. I would start with the 45lb bar alone and execute with perfect form
• That looks like it hurts the neck/shoulder area! I’m sure it’s beneficial, though. It just looks painful. HAHA. I bet it’s a great workout.
• This method seems better if your concerned about your spine. (I’ll post the link he showed later in the blog – a link to a Smith Machine hip thrust).
• Some saw me doing that and showed me something is I think is also good. Place shoulders on a ball. One leg off the floor while one leg dips your butt down and ten back up while pushing high at the top. It also helps with balance.
I will respond to each one of these as quickly as possible.
• It’s okay to point the feet straight, but it’s also okay to flare slightly. Her hips are abducted slightly to give her a stable base (which we usually do in a squat), and her feet follow the natural path of her thighs. Her knees are tracking just fine. There’s no danger in how Gabrielle is performing the movement. The problem is that bodybuilding-types think there’s only one way to do things. While bodybuilders usually point their feet straight ahead on lower body movements, powerlifters usually squat and sumo deadlift with their feet flared. When I coach the hip thrust, I’m not nit-picky about foot flare as I want the exerciser to feel comfortable and natural. As long as there isn’t considerable flare, there’s no need to worry.
• Slow eccentrics always? I won’t belabor this point much more, but there are many ways to skin a cat. Many bodybuilders usually like to perform slow eccentrics. Ironically, I have videos of many top bodybuilders and they perform fast repetitions; both concentric and eccentric, and many don’t use a full ROM. This method works great for “constant tension” and hypertrophy. T-Muscle rockstar Christian Thibaudeau has written about the benefits of fast eccentric training for years. Here’s a quote from an article he wrote a while back:
A fast yielding phase: by lowering the bar or your body faster you produce more kinetic energy. There is actually some research to back up this technique, not that the results from the Westside powerlifting crew doesn’t already speak volume for the its efficacy! For example a study by Farthing and Chilibeck (2003) found that “eccentric fast training is the most effective for muscle hypertrophy and strength gain“. This is in accordance with the findings of Paddon-Jones et al. (2001) that following a fast eccentric training program led to a decrease in type I fibers (from 53.8% to 39.1%) while type IIb fiber percentage increased (from 5.8% to 12.9%). In contrast, the slow eccentric group did not experience significant changes in muscle fibre type or muscle torque.
• Any and all eccentric contractions should always be performed slow and controlled? I guess we should never play sports! Never do any plyometrics! Never try to improve reactive strength or stiffness! Again, this is an example of a bodybuilder thinking that there’s only one way to do things. They have no clue as to what we do as strength coaches.
• People should start out with 45 lbs? What if that’s too much for them? I believe that people should start out with bodyweight resistance, which is where many “out of shape” people belong.
• It does not hurt the shoulder/neck area.
• The method you posted is not better for your spine. The way Gaby was doing it is better for your spine. Gabrielle does not hyperextend her low back; she keeps it in neutral. In the video you posted, too much of the girl’s upper back is on the bench which will cause her low back to hyperextend.
• Don’t use a stability ball for hip thrusts. It decreases prime mover activation by decreasing stability and spreading much of the upper back’s surface area out over the ball thereby decreasing the lever length. I confirmed this in my EMG studies.
• The stability ball does not improve balance. While the research is eqivocal, stability balls appear to get you balancing better on stability balls, not the ground. And last time I checked nearly every client who has ever asked me to train them said they wanted a better physique, more strength, more conditioning, or better overall health, not better balance. A stable hip thrust will improve balance over what a stability ball hip thrust because it will allow for maximum glute strengthening.
Jamie’s Second Post
In Jamie’s second post, she linked this video and said this comment: “I showed that hip thrust video just because I love that exercise and I was impressed that she was 13. But, yes, her form is not the best and technique not the safest, as Natalie and Tony mentioned. So here is a great demo that Tony shared, using the smith machine. (Holding dumbbells on each hip can work as well).”
This was the same video as the guy in the previous post had linked. If you watch the video, you’ll see that his name is John Parillo. John claims to have created the exercise and even renamed it the “Parillo Pelvic Pushes.” I wasn’t even cocky enough to name the exercise the “Contreras Hip Thrust”…although some of my colleagues refer to it as that…and I’m the inventor!
Lots of people thrusted and bridged in the past but nobody ever used a loaded barbell until I came up with the movements and popularized them via my TMuscle articles, Youtube videos, eBook, and bloposts. Now I see all of these trainers copying my methods and claiming to have created the exercise. I don’t mind this too much as my goal is for the exercise to spread in popularity and benefit as many people as possible. I want other trainers to talk about it, write about it, and film videos of it. I just get annoyed when they pretend that they are the creators. It’s not in my moral inventory to do something like that.
I could have Gaby use 95 lbs and go super slow so the bodybuilding crowd would be satisfied but first of all I’m training Gaby for sports purposes and second of all even if I was training Gaby for hypertrophy purposes fast lifting is shown to be more effective than slow lifting. The key is fast lifting while under control, which I believe Gaby was doing.
Here are the comments that came from this video:
• sorry for harassing! I like these two much more!
• she def needs to slow down her movements; which will improve the tension on the muscle, and the slower she moves the more she will work the muscle groups-Plus it will get rid of the jerking motion she makes at the end of each thrust that could hurt her back if she is not careful
• You like the smith machine version more? I’m certainly no “machine hater” but the smith machine may alter kinematics and therefore be more dangerous and less effective.
• Why does she need to slow down? Is there only one way to do things? How will it improve tension on the muscle? When you accelerate the bar you create more tension.
• The slower she moves the more she will work the muscle groups? Somebody kill me right now! I thought that “super-slow training” was extinct…apparently there are still some die-hards trying to resurrect it. If you want to activate as many high-threshold motor units (HTMU’s) as possible, you must lift with the intent to move fast. I tell people to control the weight so they don’t spring up too quickly with their hamstrings and fail to use the glutes at lockout, but I never tell people to lift as slow as possible. Not trying to be rude, but that’s just idiotic! Science has done away with this theory. Regardless of science, that’s not even what any of the top bodybuilders do, nor the powerlifters, nor the weightlifters, nor the strongmen, nor the athletes. Do you buy DVD’s, watch Youtube, or dare I say read any journals?
• I don’t see any jerky-motion. Maybe I’m blind. How is this un-safe for the low back? Please tell me the mechanisms of injury. Is she flexing the lumbar spine? No, so no disc herniations. Is she hyperextending the low back? It appears she might at the bottom of the lift due to the majority of her upper back being placed on the bench (not how I teach it), but she definitely doesn’t hyperextend up top like you suggest. So no damage to the posterior elements of the lumbar spine. You could argue about spinal load but if you go that route then I’ll make you be consistent with your approach and therefore you’ll have to take nearly every great exercise out of your program due to spinal loading. Remember the load on the spine comes from both external loading as well as “internal” loading via contractions of muscles that are connected to the spine.
Jamie’s Third Post
In Jamie’s third post she posted this video along with this quote: “Here is one I found with really great form and control. Really squeeze at the top.”
I know that bodybuilders avoid low reps like the plague, but in Gaby’s defense she was using a 3-RM load. It’s much tougher to use great form when going this heavy. We go this heavy because I’m training Gaby for sport purposes and we’re teaching her body to explode. In Gaby’s video, she ramps up her nervous system and contracts a ton of motor units all at once to perform the lift. This is why she’s getting so fast and explosive. We do squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, sprints, plyos, etc. which all influence the nervous system and cause adaptations. This is how you train an athlete!
I like the lady’s form in the video but first, she’s using training plates (light weight), and second, I believe her form could still be better. From what I can see, she could still learn how to use the glutes a little more.
• I do a similar exercise, and it is GREAT for the butt. The one I do, you have your shoulders on a stability ball instead of a bench, and you do 12 reps then hold it up for a 12 count.. Do that 3 or 4 times without ever dropping to the ground. It’s a killer! But you definitely don’t want to start with too much weight regardless of how you do this exercise. You have to work your way up.
• Im going to assume this works abs too.
• much better control and contraction and she is using training weights not 45’s…
• So I tried it…I found it difficult to balance the bar on my hips and even with the pad, the bar was pretty uncomfortable on my hips. I felt it in my low back a little afterwards…but I’ll try it again
• It works the abs more if you use the stability ball instead of the bench.
• Could be dangerous without the correct form!
• Ahhhhhh! Don’t use a darn stability ball! If you want nice glutes you need strong glutes. Tell me how in the hell you’re going to use a lot of weight while using a stability ball. If you want nice quads do you squat on a Bosu ball? If so then you’re stupid and I can’t talk to you. The glutes like stability. Read my EMG research in my eBook or in some of my articles and maybe it will all begin to make sense. I have more dramatic before-and-after pictures than anyone in the field in terms of glute shaping results so I’m pretty sure that no one is getting better glute-results than me. No one! I’ve never once had a client of mine use a stability ball for hip thrusts.
• It does not work the abs much. The abs don’t have to brace much to stabilize the spine in this movement. Stabilization of the spine has more to do with glute strength and proper hip motion than core contraction in the hip thrust. I know this because I tested the EMG activity in many different muscles while performing the movement on multiple individuals.
• Again, Gaby was using 155 lbs and she weights 105 lbs at 13 years old. She was performing a 3RM. The girl in this pic is using much lighter weight and is not receiving nearly as much glute activation as the woman in the video. In my eBook I show the amount of glute activation you get with various percentages of loads.
• It’s definitely uncomfortable on the hips, which is why I recommend getting a Hampton thick bar pad. It makes the exercise pain-free, you won’t feel a thing. My clients have never performed a set of hip thrusts without the Hampton thick bar pad.
• If you feel it in your back you’re doing it incorrectly. We strength coaches spend a great deal of time with newer athletes teaching them the difference between lumbar ROM and hip ROM. We get them to activate their glutes, move at the hips, and keep their low back in neutral. When people have weak glutes, they create what’s know as “false hip extension” as their synergists must pick up the slack so the erector spinae and hamstrings take over. Great glute activation can take time. In bodybuilding it’s know as the “mind-muscle connection.”
• The hip thrust doesn’t work more abs when on a stability ball! I did the research. Stop spreading mistruths. When you use the ball you can’t use a lot of weight. I get my clients great asses because they get strong! It’s not about pumping away with bodyweight or pink dumbbells and bouncing around on stability balls. This is serious business. You need to learn to lift heavy via progressive overload.
• Every exercise could be dangerous without good form. At the end of this blogpost I’ll teach you how to do the exercise correctly.
If you want to know about the hip thrust, listen to the inventor – yours truly. I’ve been doing this movement myself and with clients for almost four years now. I know how to get people really strong by gradually progressing and ensuring good form. If you want to learn about good form when going heavy, consult a strength coach (CSCS), not a bodybuilder. Better yet, come ask me. I’ve read nearly ever journal article ever written on the glutes. I’ve performed more EMG studies than any other individual on the glutes. I’ve created more innovative glute exercises than any other individual. And I’ve done more for advancing the effectiveness of “glute training” than any other individual.
As strength coaches our methods will differ from bodybuilding. I study sport-specific training, bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and strongman training. I also read journals and textbooks, attend seminars, and try to learn as much biomechanics, physical therapy, and physiology as humanly possible. If there was someone else who knew more about the hip thrust than me then I’d consult them…but there isn’t!
Here are some basic rules about the hip thrust:
1. Master bodyweight before adding extra weight. Move up in gradual increments over time.
2. Place the upper back against the bench in the same spot you place the barbell when you squat (low bar position). Don’t place the upper back too high on the bench as it will decrease the exercise’s effectiveness by decreasing the lever arm length.
3. Don’t allow the lumbar spine to flex or hyperextend; brace the abs slightly and move solely at the hips; not the low back.
4. The knees should be at right angles at the top of the movement. Make sure the knees aren’t too wobbly and aren’t squirming around during the movement.
5. Push through the heels and don’t come up onto the toes during the movement.
6. Variety is good; heavy weight for low reps, medium weight for medium reps, light weight for high reps, pause hip thrusts, explosive hip thrusts, single leg hip thrusts, etc.
7. Don’t let the bench slide back. Some don’t need to anchor the bench (depending on how much the bench weighs), while others do. I always anchor mine so it doesn’t move.
8. Most important – buy a Hampton thick bar pad! No pain on the hips – ever.
Best of luck readers! I hope I didn’t offend anyone.
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