Build-a-Booty PART 4: Finale

The final installment of the build-a-booty series is here! Forgive me, I just had to use that original 80's buns of steel reference before the series ended. If you've missed the previous ones, check out part 1part 2, and part 3!

It's been a booty-full month and I'm excited to wrap up the series with two of my favorite moves: the hip thruster and the deadlift.

A quick overview of the two exercises before we dive into specifics and videos:

  • The hip thruster is currently my number one choice of exercise for the purposes of building and strengthening your glutes. You can do these bodyweight, with barbells, and with bands.

    • Obviously have to credit The Glute Guy, Bret Contreras, for popularizing this wonderful exercise- he even invented the proper equipment just for the hip thruster! While you don't need this device to hip thrust to your glutes' content, it is a wishlist item of mine for sure.

  • The deadlift is somehow simultaneously the simplest and the most complicated exercise to do.

    • Some fitness pros will say, "don't overcomplicate it, just bend down and pick up the bar." While I understand where they're coming from in theory, if I were to realistically tell any new client of mine that and watch what naturally happens, I think I'd be looking a lot like Lucille here below:

  • While I plan on dedicating the entirety of a post on the deadlift one of these days to do it justice, I felt strange leaving this lift out of the booty series, as this is indeed one of the best exercises for your glutes and overall posterior chain (aka your rear view). After all, gotta give people something nice to look at when you walk off! Anyway back to my point, I am just skimming the surface here of the deadlift and hitting the main points.

Now onto the specifics!

The Hip Thruster

As with every exercise, I suggest you begin with bodyweight to make sure you're comfortable with the movement. If you can't execute the exercise properly and with control just using your own body, there's no way it's a good idea to load up with additional weight.

Back to model for us once again is my favorite Nicholas Rodocoy of Rodocoy Fitness. He is also a big fan of the hip thruster, and he's got great form- so naturally, I snagged him for this one:


Let's go over a few things here to take note of:

  • Setup:

    • For your backrest setup, you should use something comfortable yet sturdy enough to not move, as you will be leveraging your entire body against it. A bench at your gym is my usual choice, or if you're at home, a chair padded at the edges should suffice.

    • The height should be so the bottom of your shoulder blades are resting directly against the bench. You never EVER want to slide down so that any part of your cervical spine (c-spine aka your neck) is what is resting on it. Not comfortable, not safe.

    • Remember: your back should serve as the pivoting point for the movement- you should not be slithering like a snake on the bench. Notice how Nick is not budging at all on where his contact with the bench is throughout the movement.

    • Foot positioning: Nick's feet are slightly turned out and his feet are placed so that when he bridges up to the top position of hip extension, his shins are vertical to the ground.

  • Movement:

    • Nick does a great job at primarily using his glutes to complete the lift- not his hamstrings, and not by arching the lower back. He makes sure his core is engaged before he bridges up, to prevent any lumbar hyperextension (excessively arched lower back- that's a major no-no here).

    • He keeps his feet firmly planted in the ground- no lifting the heels here.

    • Hands are folded into the chest- another option is to keep them on the hips when just using bodyweight.

    • His neck is maintaining a neutral position with the rest of his spine throughout the movement- you don't want to overly tuck your chin or tilt your head back to put stress on your neck.

Now let's throw a barbell on him!


ll the same notations as above here with a few additions:

  • Barbell is placed directly in the crease of Nick's hips. If this is uncomfortable for you, feel free to use an Airex pad or a thinner barbell pad.

  • Hands are placed on the barbell to secure the bar from moving during the lift.

  • Just because Nick has weight on him now doesn't mean he changes how he controls the movement- notice how he locks his hips out at the top of the lift in complete control, and his core is activated throughout to make sure he is not compensating through his lumbar spine (lower back).

And ladies, please don't think this is only for the gentlemen. No lifting is off limits for us, and DEFINITELY not this one. Another one of our lovely trainers, Kristen Cabildo, demonstrates an excellent hip thruster for us: 


Few things to note with Kristen's hip thruster:

  • She noticeably takes a deep breath to increase her intra-abdominal pressure and tighten her core before she thrusts up- this helps ensure she is utilizing her glutes as the primary mover, not her lower back or hamstrings.

  • She also holds up at the top of the bridge a bit longer than Nick- this increases time under tension for the glutes and extends the activation period.

  • Also as a side note, Kristen has similar hip issues as I do, but she has found that these have helped her strengthen her glutes to a point where it has significantly helped her pain and discomfort- the healing power of strength training!

Now onto the one and only deadlift. 


The Deadlift

Lord knows there are quite a few variations on the deadlift- the sumo deadlift, the Romanian deadlift (RDL), trap bar deadlift, kettlebell deadlift, etc. Like I said before, while I'm dying to write all my thoughts on this guy, this post is already getting a bit long so we are sticking to the traditional barbell deadlift basics for now. 

Let's take a look first at my dear Josh Knappenberger's deadlift. He purposefully did this delightfully slow for us so we could see every detail:


The key things to note:

  • Setup:

    • Josh walks up to the bar so his feet are right under it, shins nearly touching the bar. Feet are about hips' width apart.

    • He then pushes his hips back to do what we call a hip-hinge: aka move through the hips, not through the lower back. Notice how perfectly straight his back is- no camel humps here, only a nice, neutral spine. No rounding through the lumbar spine (lower back), please!

    • As Josh grabs onto the barbell, he grips it securely with his hands just outside of the knees, tightens the core, shoulders down, chest up so he's got that nice posture. Now he's ready to lift.

  • The Lift:

    • Josh is perfectly maintaining that tension through his body so that when he begin to lift the bar up, there is no jerkiness or hitch in movement as the barbell leaves the ground. We call this "pulling the tension out of the bar." Nice and smooth, is what we like to see people!

    • From the front view, you're able to see how Josh keeps his knees in line with the toes- no buckling of the knees. You want to drive your knees outward, if anything- get that bit of hip external rotation (turnout), thus glute activation.

    • With that strong neutral spine, Josh is able to primarily use his glutes and hamstrings to pull himself up to standing straight into full hip extension (straightening out), locking out by squeezing those glutes.

  • Setting the bar down:

    • You'll see a bunch of dudes fling their barbells to the ground like some primitive caveman, just shy of beating their chests and roaring (some totally do it), but I prefer to utilize this part of lift- it's the more neglected but also good part of the deadlift.

    • Josh is accentuating it here, but you want to set the bar down with control and proper posture.

    • Think of it this way- if you were to rewind that video of him and watch it that way, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between his movement up and on the way down. Get my drift?

Now let's take a look at Nick's deadlift:


All the same great things said about Josh's form applies to Nick, with a few differences in technique:

  • Nick resets his form in between each rep to ensure that he is in the exact setup he wants to be in before he lifts. I highly recommend this, particularly with heavier weight. Why? Because as you get more tired, form tends to slip up, and you don't want sloppy form when deadlifting.

    • I frequently tell my clients to treat each rep individually- for example, I'll say I want "6 individual reps" rather than to think of them as "6 in a row with no hesitation."

  • You'll notice he sets the bar down faster than Josh does- this speed is a bit more common, especially when you get to using higher weights. Nick still maintains a great neutral spine and control on the way down, so it's all good in the hood.

  • Last difference- from the front camera view, you might have noticed he is holding the bar overhand in one hand, then underhand in the other. This is called mixed grip, and is usually used when approaching maximal weight.

    • Grip is a total preference thing- I myself hate the mixed grip and feel imbalanced if I use it, but some people love it and feel that it gives them more control over the bar, especially when toughing it out under very heavy weight. To each their own, both are correct!

And there you have it!

This series has been a lot of fun both to write, and to get my friends and fellow trainers to show off their ass-ets. Hehe. 

As usual, I would love to hear any questions, comments, complaints and finger pointing! I can talk about butts all day- thank goodness my job allows that....