The fastest, strongest, and most powerful athletes in the world have one thing in common: strong glutes. It doesn’t matter how much you can bench press, or if you can knock off pull-ups with a 70-pound kettlebell hanging from your waist. The highest levels of athletic prowess necessitate super strong glutes.
That’s why the deadlift, kettlebell swing, and lunge variations should be programmed into any training plan. However, sometimes those exercises aren’t enough. There are plenty of guys out there who have a big squat but relatively weak glutes. Their nervous system created a motor pattern that would emphasis the low back and hamstrings to make up for the weakness. This glute weakness sets them up for a low back or hamstring injury while limiting their ultimate strength and development.
Glute aficionado, Bret Contreras, has probably contributed to glute training more than anyone else. He’s spent plenty of time in the lab measuring muscle activity in every glute exercise you can imagine. Contreras found that the hip thrust produces some the highest level of muscle activation of all the movements he tested.
The hip thrust with a barbell is a fantastic exercise that will strengthen and develop the glutes. If you have the right equipment, and if you do the exercise correctly, it’s one of the best glute builders out there.
However, some people don’t have access to a barbell and plenty of 45-pound plates. Other people find that the exercise is too uncomfortable as the huge load presses into their pelvic bone – even when using thick padding. When that’s the case, one of my favorite alternatives is the glute bridge performed against a strong resistance band.
Compared to the barbell hip thrust, there are a few advantages of the glute bridge with a resistance band. First, it’s more comfortable to perform since there’s less compression force against the pelvic bone. Second, the required equipment is more economical. A pair of heavy dumbbells and a few strong resistance bands is cheaper than buying a full Olympic barbell set, and it takes up less space. If you’re a personal trainer who goes to a client’s home, you can easily throw everything you need into the back of your car.
The barbell hip thrust and glute bridge with a resistance band are both terrific exercises. It’s just a matter of which exercise suits your available equipment and comfort level.
I sent the following video to Bret Contreras awhile back to get his feedback and he gave the exercise “two thumbs up.” My clients thrive on this exercise, so give it a try.