Can’t Feel Your Glutes When Hip Thrusting? (6 Reasons Why & How To Fix It)

April 10, 2023

Are your hip thrusts feeling more like a ‘flop’ than a ‘pop’? You’re not alone! Many fitness enthusiasts struggle to engage their glutes during this powerful lower-body exercise.

But worry no more – I’ve got the ultimate guide to unlocking your booty’s full potential. Let’s awaken those sleeping glutes and turn your hip thrusts into the show-stopping, peach-pumping move you’ve always wanted!

6 Reasons Why Don’t You Feel Your Glutes When Hip Thrusting?

Lacking Mind-Muscle Connection

Some lifters have a hard time connecting with their glutes. Instead, they feel their quads and hamstrings take over the hip thrust and every other glute exercise. But you must learn to feel your glutes doing the work when hip thrusting.

A great example is a study showing when subjects focused on the triceps when performing the bench press, they experienced greater triceps activation than the group that focused on the chest [1]. You can do the same when hip thrusting by concentrating on the glutes.

Going Too Heavy

Part of the mind-muscle connection problem is overestimating the loads you should use when hip thrusting. Yes, you can typically lift more than when squatting or deadlifting. However, that doesn’t mean you should when getting a bigger butt.

Reduce the load so you can feel the glutes performing the hip thrust, not your hamstrings and quads taking over the movement.

Free Shipping Booty

Hip Pain From The Barbell

This is a common error when hip thrusting for glute size. You may be able to push through the pain of the barbell on your hip bones, but it’s dulling the sensation of your glutes. The pain sensation overrides it all.

Make sure you’re using a thick foam pad to protect your hips so you can squeeze your glutes and get the most out of the hip thrust without bruising.

Feet Too Close Or Far Away

Your feet should be positioned so your shins are vertical. When your feet are too close to your butt, you’ll feel your quads take over. You’ll feel your hamstrings take over when they are too far from your butt.

Have your training partner spot-check your foot position as you set up for the hip thrust, and remember the feeling of your foot position.

Arching The Lower Back

Lifters with poor pelvic control may leave their hips in an anterior pelvic tilt. Also called a stripper booty. I know that created the picture in your mind instantly.

But it’s a poor position for your glutes to work. While you’re standing or sitting reading this, arch your back and try to squeeze your glutes.

Now tuck your pelvis and bum under you and do the same. There’s a stark difference in how hard you can squeeze your glutes.

Pushing With Your Toes

If you’re hip thrusting by pushing through your toes, you’ll find it very difficult to find a connection with your glutes. Instead, you’ll feel your quads and hamstrings mostly. Your feet should be flat on the floor as you push through your heels.

Now I’ve given you why you may not be feeling the hip thrust in your glutes. Here’s how to fix it.

8 Wickedly Effective Tips To Better Feel Your Glutes When Hip Thrusting

how to feel hip thrusts in glutes not quads

Add Hip External Rotation

This is my go-to way to increase the intensity of the hip thrust without adding more load. The glutes primary function is hip extension, but they also perform hip external rotation. The gluteus medius is the muscle primarily responsible for this and helps develop the upper glute shelf.

If we can challenge hip external rotation and hip extension simultaneously, then we have a winner for the ultimate glute exercise. To do this, add a mini band around the bottom of your thighs above your knees or around the top of your calves under your knees.

The goal is not to let the band cave your knees inward, so you must resist the band tension throughout the entire set. It’s brutal, and you should try it.

Squeeze Your Butt At The Top

You can’t perform the hip thrust by pumping reps quickly. You must take your time if you want your glutes maximally stimulated. Squeezing your glutes when the hips are fully extended is where the magic happens during the hip thrust.

This is how you improve your mind-muscle connection with the glutes.

Perform Glute Isolation Exercises First

While glute activation is not necessary, as it doesn’t improve glute activation or strength in the long term [2], it is a tool to help you get more out of the hip thrust.

Performing glute isolation exercises like the glute bridge, glute kickback, and various hip abduction band exercises can help you connect with the glutes before hip thrusting.

The end goal is to go into your hip thrust sets, being able to make them burn from the very first bodyweight warm-up set.

Tuck Your Pelvis Under

I covered this in the previous section but make a point to posteriorly tilt your pelvis at the top of the hip thrust. This will let you squeeze the glutes harder at the top of the movement and take the stress off your lower back and hamstrings.

Look Forward & Close Your Chest

When hitting the glutes, some general training rules go out the window. One of them is maintaining a neutral spine. Having a kyphotic posture with your chin tucked forward is advantageous. It brings the rib cage down and makes it easier to tuck your pelvis under.

Next time you hip thrust, try both ways. Look toward the ceiling with your chest open, tuck your pelvis, and squeeze your glutes. Then perform the next rep tucking your chin and chest and looking forward. You’ll notice how much easier it is.

Drive With Your Heels

Your heels are your ticket to pushing with the glutes. Have your weight through your heels when hip thrusting, and you’ll feel less tension in your quads and hamstrings.

Turn Your Feet Out

Remember when I mentioned the glutes externally rotate the hip? By turning the feet slightly out, you’re externally rotating the hip, placing the glutes in a more advantageous position. The same rule applies when performing the back extension for the glutes.

Perform Burnout Sets

I don’t know what to tell you if you’re not left feeling the biggest glute pump you’ve ever experienced after a burnout set. I get to the point I can’t sit on the floor after finishing the set as it’s so painful. To perform a burnout set, simply reduce the weight after your last heavy set and perform 15-20 reps. Simple and effective.


Troubleshoot why you can’t feel your glutes when hip thrusting through the six reasons presented, then see which hip thrust tip you can implement during your next training session. Depending on your body type, you may need to trial and error.


1. Paoli, A., Mancin, L., Saoncella, M., Grigoletto, D., Pacelli, F. Q., Zamparo, P., … & Marcolin, G. (2019). Mind-muscle connection: effects of verbal instructions on muscle activity during bench press exercise. European Journal of Translational Myology29(2).

2. Cochrane, D. J., Harnett, M. C., & Pinfold, S. C. (2017). Does short-term gluteal activation enhance muscle performance?. Research in Sports Medicine25(2), 156-165.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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