Hip Thrust Modifications for Pregnancy

Hip Thrust Modifications for Pregnancy

Strengthening of the posterior chain is a crucial part in adapting to the postural changes which occur throughout pregnancy.  A pregnant woman’s center of gravity shifts up and out as her belly grows.  The increased joint laxity resulting from the hormone Relaxin combined with the aforementioned center of gravity shift contribute towards the necessity for prenatal women to strengthen their backside in order to maintain a strong, upright posture. 

The hip thrust has the greatest glute activation of the four lower body lifts we will be breaking down for pregnancy (squat, deadlift, lunge, and hip thrust), and it should remain in your movement arsenal as long as possible.  However, with any movement during pregnancy one must be versatile in how she approaches the lift as the trimesters progress.

All trimester recommendations are general guidelines that we have found to work well for our prenatal clients.  As a disclaimer these guidelines should not be considered the set-in stone standard for every pregnant woman as every pregnancy is unique.  Our recommendation is to adjust the variation of the hip thrust based on how you feel each day. 

1st Trimester

Barbell Hip Thrust

Barbell Hip Thrust

During the 1st Trimester the belly is usually not a factor, so the lift may look fairly similar to pre-pregnancy.  Women can continue to do a barbell hip thrust throughout their first trimester as their comfort permits.  The most significant adjustments during this phase will be the loading.  All lifts should decrease to 70% 1RM loading, focusing on muscular endurance with 2-4 sets at 8-12 repetitions. 

Each main lift should be a super-set with a stability exercise (usually 10-20 repetitions).  Stability exercises for the hip thrust should focus on glute stabilization such as lateral band walks, bridge marches, and mini-band or monster walking. 

2nd Trimester

During the 2nd trimester the belly is usually starting to make an appearance, hence interfering with barbell placement for the hip thrust.  A pregnant woman can alleviate this initially with an elevated hip thrust variation by placing the barbell on a set of 3 inch blocks or bumper plates (pictured).  The elevation will allow the bar to rest higher on the thighs, and there will be less compression on the belly.  Ensure the knee achieves a 90 degree angle (knee over ankle) at the top of the thrust, otherwise you may need to adjust the barbell placement or choose another variation.

Elevated Hip Thrust

Elevated Hip Thrust

The next progression is the Dumbbell Hip Thrust.  The dumbbells can be angled around the belly in the bottom position and then adjusted as you thrust upwards.  This variation is the least favorite for our prenatal clients, as they have to lift the dumbbells onto their thighs in order to begin the lift.  As a result the limiting factor for this exercise is usual weight, but some of our prenatal clients still enjoy this variation!

Dumbbell Hip Thrust

Dumbbell Hip Thrust

3rd Trimester

Banded Hip Thrust - Power Rack Variation

Banded Hip Thrust - Power Rack Variation

During the 3rd trimester the belly grows significantly. In order to accommodate for that growth we suggest modifying weight placement.  Some prenatal clients can still do an elevated hip thrust comfortably well into this trimester. However, most have progressed towards our banded hip thrust variations. 

The thinness of the band is fairly comfortable for most of our prenatal clients as the band itself does not interfere with their belly.  The set up can be fairly complicated, and may require a buddy depending on your equipment.  We attached pegs to the bottom of our power racks, route the band underneath the peg to increase the resistance of the band, and then the mother can conduct her hip thrust as normal.  We use a bench for our thrust since the band is set-up higher than our normal barbell hip thrust set up, but again, this will be somewhat unique to your facility.

You also have the option to loop the resistance band around your heels if a power rack set up is unavailable.

Banded Hip Thurst - Heel Hook Variation

Banded Hip Thurst - Heel Hook Variation

The final variation for the hip thrust is the Kneeling Banded Hip Thrust.  This variation still utilizes a horizontal vector but gravity is not a factor.  Kneel on a foam pad or soft surface ensuring the band is taunt in the seated position.  Untuck the toes and lay the feet flat.  This will increase the range of motion, allowing the glutes to lengthen more as you lower while increasing the challenge to initiate the contraction of your glutes as you thrust upwards.  Keeping the toes untucked removes the ability to initiate the lift off with your quads and maintains the activation in the glutes.

Kneeling Hip Thrust

Kneeling Hip Thrust

In review, the trimester progressions previously covered are merely guidelines found to work well for our prenatal clients. Again, remember that every client and pregnancy is unique.  Some of our prenatal clients will exercise in particular variations for longer than others, while some may even exercise in the third trimester variation in their first trimester.  Please approach each lift with awareness of what may feel good in your body each day. Don’t forget to make room for your belly as it grows and ensure that proper form is maintained so the appropriate muscle groups are being activated. 

Gina Conley