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Kneeling Hip Thrust

By Mike Reinold, DPT, SCS, ATC, CSCS

The hip thrust exercise has become a common exercise for strengthening the gluteus maximus that has gained popularity over the last couple of years thanks to its simplicity and effectiveness.

While a weighted bilateral hip thrust is an excellent exercise, I have found that some people have difficulty performing the exercises in the rehab setting.  You could start the hip thrust exercise with just body weight, but some people will still have difficulty disassociating hip extension and lumbar spine extension, making the standard hip thrust difficult to perform with proper form even with little to no weight.

In the rehab setting, I typically need to start working on glute training in most patients.  I am a big believer in strengthening the glutes and training them to extend the hip so that the hamstrings and low back take less stress.  However, sometimes I wonder if we are guilty of jumping right into a glute strengthening exercise, like the hip thrust or even a single leg deadlift variation, before the patient is ready for the movement.  To me, this where the need for glute “activation” prior to “strengthening” comes to mind.

I am always looking for great exercises to “turn on” the glutes and activate proper hip extension firing, so the hip thrust is an intriguing option.  I have started to perform a variation of the hip thrust in the kneeling position. By performing a kneeling hip thrust, it becomes a better activation and lower level strengthening exercise.

Kneeling Hip Thrust Technique:

  • I use a dowel and tubing with handles on both ends so that I can wrap the tubing around a stationary point and slide the dowel through the tubing handles. You can loop elastic tubing or bands around the waist.
  • Assume a tall-kneeling position with the dowel or tubing over your lower abdomen and pelvis area.
  • Your knees should be about shoulder width apart with your feet together.

 

  • Your feet and knees should form a triangle.
  • Begin by sitting on your feet; then lift your body up and out and extend your hips.
  • Squeeze your glutes together at the end range of movement, and avoid hyperextending the low back.

Coaching points:

  • Stay tall from the knees to the shoulders throughout the movement.
  • Keep the core tight and glutes squeezed throughout the movement.
  • For more resistance, you can cable weights or Keiser resistance, but there is a limit to how much weight you can add before the weight is just too much and pulls you backward.
  • If you want to add more resistance, the kneeling position isn’t for you. This is ultimately an activation and basic motor recruitment exercise that I often use to turn on the glutes before performing or progressing to more advanced glute strengthening, including the traditional hip thrust.

Benefits of the Kneeling Hip Thrust:

  • I really like the kneeling hip thrust exercise and have found it to enhance our ability to engage the glutes to extend the hip. I find the kneeling hip thrust takes lumbar extension out of the equation much more than in the traditional supine bridge position, allowing you to focus on hip extension and glute activation without worrying as much about compensation at the lumbar spine.
  • I perform the kneeling hip thrust with my feet together, thereby placing your hips in slight external rotation. This is a common modification for the bridge exercise that I utilize for people with tight hip flexors. The greatest amount of glute firing is going to occur towards the end range of hip extension. If the hip flexors are too tight to allow full hip extension, compensation often occurs in the low back with lumbar extension.  You’ll also be able to get a better “glute squeeze.”
  • In many people you will find that they quickly master the kneeling hip thrust technique and will be ready to move to a more advanced glute strengthening exercise using much better form with less compensation.
  • The kneeling hip thrust can be used as a prehab or rehab exercise and as part of your dynamic warmup.

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Dr. Michael M. Reinold, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC, CSCS is a physical therapist, strength coach, performance enhancement specialists and owner of Champion Physical Therapy and Performance in Boston, MA. He is also a Senior Medical Advisor for the Chicago White Sox and Director of Baseball Performance at Northeastern University. Please go to https://mikereinold.com/ for more relevant articles and videos.

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