Strength coaches like complex movements that recruit multiple muscle groups. These movements are closer to athletic skills and may transfer to the playing field better than isolation exercises. So when an athlete wants to focus on his or her glutes, they are often advised to perform kettlebell swings, deadlifts, and low bar back squats.
But is there a case for a dedicated glute exercise?
For athletes who struggle with glute activation, isolation exercises like the hip thruster may prove useful.
When Isolation Makes Sense
- Efficiency – the exercise does not divert resources away from movements more beneficial to sports performance.
- Positive Transfer – the exercise improves the sport-specific skill or activity by improving strength.
A Test and a Solution for Sleeping Glutes
The hip thruster is an excellent movement to combat glute activation issues because it isolates the hip joint so that there is little knee movement. It is usually done with the feet planted on the floor and the knees bent and thrusting your hips into the air by contracting your glutes.
One method for adding weight to this movement is to place a barbell on your hip bone and put your back on a bench. By raising the upper body, you prevent the bar from rolling down onto your face. When using a barbell, wrap a squat pad or towel around the bar to protect your hip bones. Over time, you should be able to lift 1.2 to 2 times your body weight, so protecting the hip bones is important.
Is the Hip Thruster Worth Your Time?
Does the hip thruster fulfill Charles Staley’s requirements for usefulness, namely efficiency and positive transfer? Yes. It is an efficient use of time as it is working multiple glute muscles at once. Adding this movement to your training routine will create positive transfer for your squat and deadlift. Many newer athletes would benefit from this machine to learn how to use their glutes properly, and it patterns the proper movement needed in deadlifts and kettlebell swings.
The hip thruster is also a tool that might have uses beyond specific glute training. I have heard of someone using the hip thruster for rehabilitation after a knee injury because they could not do squats. Once he returned to squatting, he found that he had not lost much strength and had new power in his glutes.
A Place for Isolation in Athletic Training
I do not have a great deal of space for unnecessary equipment, but the hip thruster is important enough to make room. Deadlifts and kettlebell swings are great movements for building strong glute muscles, but the hip thruster isolates the glutes in a way that can teach athletes how to hinge properly, and with weight. Complex movements are generally the most efficient and transfer to athletic endeavors, but the hip thruster is one isolation exercise that I would recommend for athletes at all levels.
More on Glute Training:
Articles by Craig Marker as seen on: Breaking Muscle