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The Barbell Hip Thrust is a popular exercise in athletic populations, for strength and conditioning coaches and general gym goers.

Most use it to develop the glutes for aesthetic reasons, whereas athletes such as sprinters use it to improve horizontal force expression to contribute to improvements in acceleration.

In this article, we’re going to….

  • How to do a barbell hip thrust
  • The benefits hip thrusts for Boxing performance
  • Limitations of hip thrusts
  • How we integrate hip thrusts into strength and conditioning programmes.

What is a Barbell Hip Thrust?

A barbell hip thrust is where an athlete leans the upper-back against a bench and places the Olympic Bar over the hips.

The athlete drives through the heels to extend the hips and propel the bar vertical, holding momentarily at the top whilst tensing the core, hamstrings and, in particular, the glute muscles.

There has been many studies that have found it’s benefits for sporting performance, such as increased hip extension and horizontal forces, increase glute activation and reduce compressive forces through the spine. This makes the Barbell Hip Thrust a popular, safe and effective exercise for athletes across a range of sports.

But how can barbell hip thrusts benefit Boxing?

There are FIVE key reasons why we would use barbell hip thrusts for Boxing.

Get Stronger Glutes!

First of all, why train for glute strength? Well, Strong glutes can contribute to forceful hip extension and rotation – which is an important aspect to the technique of a punch! Also stronger glutes can reduce the likelihood of injury in the hips, knees and lower back… all common in boxing

Increased Glute Activation

In multiple research studies, the loaded hip thrust has increased muscle activation from the glute muscles in comparison to conventional squats and deadlifts 

Avoiding Super-Compensation

During squats and deadlifts – boxers would opt to use the more developed quads, hamstrings and lower back muscles to help perform the movement. The barbell hip thrusts focusses more on glute activation, has low technical demand and is easy to cue to optimal activation

Reducing Compressive Forces

Studies have found that hip thrusts elicit reduced compressive forces on the spine in comparison to Squat and Deadlift variations. This makes barbell hip thrusts a low risk exercise, and may be better to use with athletes more prone to injury.

Reduced Eccentric Stress

Reduced eccentric stress on the hamstrings and quads will help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Eccentric stress is something we need to be mindful of as Boxers are often undergoing low calorie nutritional strategies which causes high negative energy balance, especially when performing high training loads. This can affect the muscles ability to recover effectively from strength sessions and cause increase DOMS.

By selecting Loaded Hip Thrusts, we can reduce muscular soreness and the negative impact it has on training performance.

Limitations of Hip Thrusts

Despite it’s many benefits to boxing performance, there are also limitations to why we don’t use this exercise all of the time.

The PURPOSE of strength training for Boxing is increasing an athlete’s rate of force development (RFD) for this to transfer through the kinetic chain for fast and powerful punches.

Studies have found increased RFD, ground reaction force and barbell speed in Squat and Deadlift exercises in comparison to Barbell Hip Thrusts. Our programmes are geared towards improving these strength qualities as research has found these to be important contributors to the punch, and

Furthermore, boxers tend to have poor strength levels and ability to activate the glute muscles due to low-strength training histories. This will limit the total load lifted during Barbell Hip Thrusts and, in turn, reduce the force development during this exercise.

On a final note, a punch heavily relies on vertical impulse from the lower-body. Squat and Deadlift variations will help develop this, whereas the Barbell Hip Thrust is predominantly to develop horizontal forces.

Get Better At Hip Thrusts

Practice your technique in your warm-ups with Glute Bridge. This video is taken from our ‘Exercise Library’ on the Boxing Science membership

When to use Hip Thrusts

With the benefits and limitations of the Barbell Hip Thrust, we have very specific ways of integrating this exercise into an athletes strength programme.

Adapting Around Injury

The Barbell Hip Thrust can be useful to strengthen the lower-body if an athlete is struggling to Squat or Deadlift due to an upper-limb injury. Furthermore, less compressive forces on the spine make the Hip Thrusts more favourable if an athlete has a lower-back injury or tightness.

Also, if an athlete has a lower-extremity injury, the Barbell Hip Thrust could be a great alternative due to the lower ground reaction forces.

As a key strength exercise, we can load it up to target maximum strength.

3-5 Reps x 3-5 Sets

General Preparation or Avoid Stagnation

Barbell Hip Thrusts can be a great exercise to break in an athlete following a break or using in off-camp to develop the glutes prior to main training camp. This will help improve Squat and Deadlift performance.

We also can use barbell hip thrusts if an athletes Deadlift / Squat performance is stagnating. Hip Thrusts will help develop glute strength hip extension forces that can contribute to improvements in Squat and Deadlift performance.

With this in mind, we use the Barbell Hip Thrust as a key exercise in a training block 1-2 times per year.

General Prep Phase – 6-8 Reps x 3-4 Sets

Max Strength – 3-5 Reps x 3-5 Sets

Warm-Up / Isometric Training

We often use Glute Bridge and hip thrust variations to activate the glutes during warm-ups for strength, running and boxing sessions.

However, the Loaded Hip Thrust can be a great tool to use when implementing Overcoming Isometrics.

Overcoming Isometrics is where force is developed with the intent to overcome the external force. E.g. Working against an immovable object such as the pins of the Squat Rack. This can help increase rate of force development, as well as activating and developing fast-twitch muscle fibers

Common exercises used are mid-thigh pulls and half-squats. However, as mentioned previously boxers will tend to super-compensate using lower-back muscles especially when exerting high forces.

Considering the reduced compressive forces of the spine, we often use the Barbell Hip Thrust as key exercise when utilising Overcoming Isometrics.

We use this as an extended warm-up or as part of a complex set for Post Activation Potentiation (PAP).

COMPLEX TRAINING USING ISOMETRIC HIP THRUSTS

Hip Thrust – 3-4 second holds x 3-5 reps

Rest 90 secs to 2 mins

Explosive Exercise – Jump, KB Swing or Sprint – Perform 3-5 reps

Hip Thrust Variations For Assistance Exercise

We mostly use Hip Thrust and different variations as an assistance exercise, often using single-leg variations. Single-Leg Hip Thrusts can be extremely beneficial to a boxers performance and helping reduce the likelihood of injury.

Successful boxers need to have strong legs and great balance. However, boxers spend so much time in a split stance that they can have imbalances between leg size and strength, resulting in movement and mobility issues, in particular differences in uni-lateral Glute function.

This can cause hip instability, knee and lower back injuries, not to mention affecting our ability to rapidly extend and rotate our hips.

In the video below, we demonstrate the use of the ‘Single Leg Bench Hip Thrust’. Perform 8-10 reps on each leg in your warm-ups or as a ‘filler’ exercise between compound lifts

‼️ WARNING ‼️ These exercises are sometimes hard to optimise Glute activation – we will naturally look to super compensate with our hamstrings and lower back. Here are a few cues that can apply to all of the exercises⁣

  1. Don’t focus too much on achieving full extension – focus on engaging your glutes through the movement. You’re more likely to supercompensate if you force the full extension. ⁣
  2. ⁣Brace the core throughout the exercise – this will reduce the role of the lower back and increase Glute activation⁣
  3. Point your toe towards your shin and drive through the heel⁣
  4. ⁣Use assistance to get into the fully extended position if needed… train the movement and the muscles will follow

Watch the video below for more tips on how to engage the glutes

Summary

The Barbell Hip Thrust can be a useful tool for Boxing as it has increased activation of the Glutes, which contributes to fast and rapid hip extension during punches.

At Boxing Science, we prefer to utilise Squat and Deadlift variations in our programme due to increased RFD, ground reaction forces and barbell velocities. These are important contributors to fast and forceful punches therefore our programmes are geared to improving these strength qualities.

We can use the Barbell Hip Thrust for training variation, adapting around injuries and for Isometric Training.

We most commonly use Barbell Hip Thrusts as assistance exercises, often to improve single-leg strength to improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury.

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