When you’re initially attempting to perform hip thrusts as a newcomer to strength training, you may have a vague idea of how to position your shoulders on the bench and lift your buttocks up from the floor. However, the correct placement of your feet might not be as instinctive.
Fortunately, this clever tip on Instagram will assist you in learning the optimal way to position your feet in under 10 seconds. The technique, shared and demonstrated by fitness trainer @studio.jibby, involves sitting with your shoulder blades resting against a bench and fully extending your legs in front of you. Then, you’ll place your fingers next to your “knee pits” (also known as the shallow depression at the back of your knee) and slide your feet back until your heels touch your fingertips.
This is not too good to be true, either. In fact, this form cue can be incredibly helpful when you’re learning how to properly set up a hip thrust, according to Kelly Froelich, a certified personal trainer and co-founder of the digital fitness platform Balanced. To perform the exercise effectively and safely, your feet should be positioned slightly in front of your knees, she explains. And using this trick ensures that your feet are in the precise position they need to be—no guessing required, says Froelich.
Taking a few extra moments to correctly position your feet is worth it, as it can significantly impact the muscles that are activated during the exercise, says Froelich. Remember: Your glutes are the primary movers (the muscle group most responsible for the movement) during a hip thrust, but your quads, hamstrings, and adductors also engage to assist you in completing the exercise. Placing your feet too far away from the bench or box will shift more of the workload onto your hamstrings, while your glutes will be slightly less engaged, says Froelich. On the other hand, if you place your feet too close, you’ll increase pressure on your knee joints when thrusting upward, which increases the risk of injury, she adds. “You want to have your feet an inch or half-an-inch in front of the knees so that you protect them but you’re still activating the glutes,” says Froelich. And this clever fingertip trick can assist you in achieving that proper positioning, she explains.
Given the potential disadvantages of improper foot placement, Froelich suggests that anyone new to the hip thrust exercise incorporate this tip into their routine to master the form. “A couple of inches can really, really impact which muscles you activate, so if you’re interested in doing hip thrusts, it’s key to ensure your form is correct,” she explains. “And this hack is a really effective way to check that.
That being said, this method doesn’t provide you with the complete picture when it comes to hip-thrust foot placement. Generally, you’ll want to begin with your feet hip-width apart to effectively target your gluteus maximus, but positioning them slightly wider than that can activate your gluteus medius, which is located on the side of your glutes, according to Froelich. “If you bring them closer together, you’ll still achieve that glute activation, and it’s actually beneficial for enhancing stability,” she explains. “It will engage your core more because you’re less stable – your base of support is smaller – and therefore, you’ll require a significant amount of core engagement to maintain the desired plane of motion and prevent tipping over.”
The specific part of your feet that bears the majority of your weight – either your heels or your toes – is also significant. “By pressing your heels into the ground, you activate your posterior chain, which heavily engages your glutes, whereas if you’re on your toes, the primary focus shifts to your quadriceps,” Froelich states. “In a [conventional] hip thrust, you want to prioritize activating the back of your body, so digging your heels in and even lifting your toes up helps ensure that you’re truly targeting the posterior chain.”
Even if your foot placement is precise, you won’t reap all the benefits of this exercise for building your glutes unless you possess the necessary hip mobility and core stability to perform it safely and effectively, notes Froelich. If your hips are tight, you won’t be able to achieve the full range of motion and you may be more susceptible to injury. Furthermore, failing to engage your core – which aids in maintaining stability – throughout the exercise puts excessive strain on your lower back, potentially resulting in back pain. The prescription for success? Practice a few exercises that improve hip mobility, employ techniques for core activation (such as this resistance band trick), and only then position your feet correctly before executing a hip thrust, advises Froelich. Rest assured, you’ll notice a difference after just one repetition.
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