THE HEAVY HIP THRUST IS RUINING OUR BACKS AND THIS INDUSTRY
“That’s right I said it!”
As a Coach, I would never want any of my clients to go through or experience a similar experience to the pain and discomfort that Lower Lumbar back pain can bring.
This is the one of many reasons I pay extremely close attention to the detail selection of my clientele’s programming.
It is this attention to detail which has led me to question the fitness trend of maximally-loaded barbell hip thrusts, that has become the newest craze. This phenomena has little to do with under the bar experience, and more to do with social media hype. The jury is still out on whether this “new lift” is the root of all evil. But we are starting to see more injuries from maximally-loaded barbell hip thrusts versus its lower intensity counterpart, the glute bridge.
Only 30 minutes ago I was watching an IGTV video of a guy hip-thrusting 410kg (you know who you are). An amazing feat, lifting such a weight dead from the floor. But what with? Gluteal Maximus? Medus? Or maybe the Iliac Crest (Hip Bone).
While it is a good lift when performed in the proper context, the barbell hip thrust or smith machine hip thrust becomes a problem when it is used as a max-effort test. Or 1RM (One Rep Max) as we sometimes call it. The barbell hip thrust cannot be utilised similarly to the powerlifting triad: bench, squat and deadlift. Nor is it an Olympic movement or lift. The maximal barbell hip thrust should not be treated as a measure of strength.
I am a big proponent of sport-specific training done properly, and have an even greater focus on training movements for strength that transfer to sport. However, understanding the body and how it is meant to move is extremely important when selecting exercises. The glutes gain most of their hypertrophy through slow, high-rep movements and have proven not to respond as well in maximal-loaded, low-rep ranges.
Firstly I am going to explain this in a Coach to Personal Trainer/Coach term:
By using maximal weight, our clients try to put more force into the bar, which can result in hyperextension of the back. Spinous processes compressing on each other, possible disc protrusion through repeated hyperextension and weighted pelvic posterior tilt at the bottom could also cause spinal problems and ligament laxity.
Now for Coach to Client terms:
By attempting this 1RM on the barbell hip thrust you’re f&*king up your back and spine, not just for the following week, but for life!
Evidence supplied by Practitioners, GPs, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and Chiropractors all support the proper and so more manageable weight as far as barbell hip thrusts are concerned. More frequently they are seeing SI joint pain, lumbar spine issues and have to perform major lower spine adjustments with lifters who are performing max effort hip thrusts. This is not even weekly however, or as a one off challenge, people are doing these movements TWICE even THREE times weekly to attempt the highest lifted weight. *Head Desk*
DIETING/LOADING OF THE BARBELL HIP THRUST AND ITS EFFECTS:
Not only is there just one way to load the barbell hip thrust, but it’s also very painful. The bar is going on part of the hip that does not have a lot of muscle tissue or fat bellies to protect the bone. Outside of telling my athlete to put on fat, there is no way to improve that buffer. Even for the heavier athletes I work with, this is still not a good position. You’re able to see the discomfort from the athlete having to roll the bar on top of themselves and then off again. If we are unable to load this pattern in a safe manner then why is our end goal heavier weight?
While there’s been equipment designed to help fix this problem, I have always been one to believe that the less equipment needed for a lift, the better. The less I need to have a consistent pattern, the more likely I can load it to develop power. This cannot be done with the barbell hip thrust and leads me to question whether or not the body was meant to move that way with heavy loads.
My personal favourite and is honestly the most effective at triggering the glutes is the glute press machine at JDGyms – Wolverhampton just 25kg loaded for 15 reps with a strong contraction and slow 4 second eccentric hold will get your bum cheeks singing.
MAXIMAL WEIGHT BARBELL HIP-THRUSTS:
In order to perform this lift you will need a bar, a bench and a pad. You also need your athlete to be able to manoeuvre their body underneath the bar in order to begin the lift.
What happens if my athlete is too big to fit under the bar?
Now I need to put the bar on top of blocks. What if the blocks are too high compared to where my athlete should be starting?
Now he is in a bad position from the start and I have to worry about them getting under and out from underneath the bar in a safe manner.
The hip thrust also goes against the strength curve. The hardest point of the strength curve is the top portion of the lift, but this is not the case with the hip thrust. It is actually easier to lock out at the top than it is to begin the movement. Until we get three-quarters of the way up, we aren’t seeing proper loading position because the bar isn’t moving straight up, it’s moving at an angle away and then coming up.
This leads to a lot of shear in the lower part of the spine because you’re loading in a horizontal position as opposed to vertical amongst the discs. The body isn’t meant to have a lot of horizontal pressure in the lower part of the spine. You cannot fully lock out the bar due to the loading position being on the actual hip, which needs to get into extension. If you did fully lock out the weight, you’d be dealing with a lot of hip issues.
When you set up with the bar you are fine and on the way up there might be some positional issues, but as you come down we notice you’re usually not stable. The coccyx and the hip position are getting a lot of small jolts that are creating micro-damage. This problem is not fully realised until you stand up.
We will see people stand up after the lift and turn to the side, then try to perform these minor adjustments on themselves. It’s mainly due to the soft tissue stress, which could later contribute to spine damage by a spasmed muscle pulling on the spine. The next day they will be dealing with major SI joint issues and their hips are an even bigger issue. As we know with most athletes in general, the hips are usually problematic to begin with.
Our stance is to proceed with caution and attain as much research as possible to see what the possible implications are.
My clients have not experienced pain at lighter loads with controlled movement. However, the pain experienced with heavy load is not standard, because some of smaller clients have no complaints. I have girls that can use 100kg for the barbell hip thrust with no issue, but guys that can squat 180kg struggle with 60kg.
If just 5% of your clients have a negative feedback to a certain exercise, why would you continue to implement it in your program design? With the banded and body weight controlled movements, I am seeing no issues.
Regardless on your outlook on the above issue. Thank you for taking the time to read.
If you’re after a Voluptuous Booty without the spinal issues in 10 years time. Why not consider my Project Peach Challenge?
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Transformed by Spence
Spencer R Lissamore