Your glutes are your body’s powerhouse, and they fuel nearly every action you do—jumping, running, climbing. Sadly, hours spent parked at a desk can cause these muscles to atrophy and fire less effectively, inevitably leading to muscle imbalances, low-back pain, and dampened performance at the gym. Luckily, there is a majorly effective (if little known) move that can help.
“The barbell hip thrust is the best exercise for maximizing glute development,” says strength and conditioning expert Bret Contreras, who’s done extensive research on the move’s benefits. “Forcefully bridging the hips under the weight of the barbell creates lower- body strength that carries over to squats, dead- lifts, and acceleration,” says Contreras, “and it helps safeguard the body from injuries to the hips, knees, and lower back.” More proof: A recent study found that men who performed the move regularly for eight weeks saw a 31 percent increase in squat strength.
How To Do It: Prop shoulders on the edge of a bench with butt on the floor, a loaded barbell resting in hip crease, feet planted shoulder-width apart. Drive through heels and powerfully extend hips up, creating a straight line from knees to chest and squeezing butt at the top; slowly lower back to the floor. Perform three sets of 8–12 reps twice a week.
Below, check out some tips on knocking out each step of the lift.