Barbell pads are placed over a barbell to reduce discomfort from barbell squats, hip thrusts, and other exercises such as lunges. Normally, they are optimized for squats.
However, with the growing popularity of hip thrusts, there’s more demand than ever for barbell pads that cater to hip thrust workouts’ specific needs on the hip and lower abdomen area.
The best overall barbell pad for this purpose we found was the Iron Bull Strength Advanced Squat Pad, which has the best value, comfort, performance, and ease of use combined.
Top 5 Best Barbell Pads for Hip Thrusts
What is a barbell pad for?
Essentially, a barbell pad is a padded cushion placed over the center of your barbell, which protects sensitive areas of your body when the bar repeatedly hits them. During a hip thrust, a barbell pad protects your hips and lower abdomen.
To figure out if a barbell pad is right for you, you’ll probably want to test out some of the exercises mentioned later, such as the barbell hip thrust, and review your comfort levels.
Another exercise to try is the barbell squat, which places the barbell over your upper back as you squat. If the barbell pressing into your muscles feels sensitive or uncomfortable during these, getting a barbell pad will likely be a worthwhile investment for you.
#1- Advanced Squat Pad - Barbell Pad for Squats, Lunges & Hip Thrusts - Neck & Shoulder Protective Pad...Check Price
There are a few things we’re looking for in a barbell pad for hip thrusts.
First, we want it to work well, which means feeling comfortable and protecting the hip area. Second, we want ease of use, which means putting it on and taking it off the barbell should be relatively easy, and yet the pad doesn’t come off mid-session.
Third, we want good value, meaning a good price for the level of quality in the design and materials.
The Iron Bull Strength Advanced Squat Pad combines the best value with ease of use and comfort, making it the best overall choice on this list. Other barbell pads on this list have denser foam or larger size, but the 16” Iron Bull’s pad actually helps when it comes to carrying it around more easily and doesn’t sacrifice much in terms of comfort.
The overall thickness of the Iron Bull pad is excellent for hip thrusts, although it can get more in the way when squatting. Therefore, although advertised as a squatting bar, it is even better for hip thrusts. The anti-slip matte finish also reduces the risk of slippage between reps and works well for dealing with sweat, although not as well as synthetic leather would.
One of the differences between pads is the use of straps. On the beginner side of things, straps will more likely be a frustration than a help. Therefore, the easy slip-on system of the Iron Bull pad works just fine for most users. But if you are a more experienced user looking to use more weight, consider getting a pad with straps available—just something to keep in mind.
#2- ProFitness Barbell Pad Squat Pad- Shoulder Support for Squats, Lunges & Hip Thrusts - for Olympic or...Check Price
The ProFitness Barbell Pad is our choice for best performance for a barbell pad for hip thrusts. The ProFitness Pad still has great value and comfort but sacrifices ease of use in the name of better performance.
The most significant difference, when compared with the Iron Bull, is the use of straps, which lock in the pad during reps for heavy performance. It’s also a bit longer, which makes it a bit harder to pack. However, this is a solid trade-off for the great thickness and density of foam you’re getting, as it’s still relatively compact.
The ProFitness Pad is an excellent deal if you want the added security of the straps. It is relatively easy to put on and take off the barbell. The thickness and length of the foam are perfect for hip thrusts, which can use the extra padding to cushion the relatively thin protection we have on our hip bones.
Like with the Iron Bull, we have a non-slip matte design and universal fit for all sizes of Olympic barbells. Overall, this one has a leg up in terms of optimal performance but merely keeps up with the Iron Bull pad in most other features.
#3- Dark Iron Fitness Barbell Pad - 15-inch, Extra Thick, Padded Cushion for Squat, Hip Thrust, Weight...Check Price
It was hard to find a great budget pick for this list – almost all the great barbell pads out there are around the $20 mark. The Dark Iron Fitness pad is no different but is a fantastic bang for your buck. We’ve got a more compact design here with great ease of use.
The only place the Dark Iron Fitness bar falters a bit is its level of comfort. It isn’t as well designed for the neck if you are interested in using it for squats. However, the extra thick padding and dense foam won’t flatten quickly and are actually great for hip thrusts.
The Dark Iron Fitness pad has a velcro locking mechanism on the inside that is great as a securing mechanism (although not as secure as straps). On the outside, we’ve got synthetic leather with a non-slip surface. This is ideal as an outer casing.
The leather is great at keeping out moisture, which can be annoying with other materials as it can lead to foul odors and dampness.
On the style front, there are a couple of fun designs you can choose from if you are interested in that kind of thing like “Drop It Like A Squat” and “Shut Up And Squat.” Or you can just stick with classic black, no pressure!
Best Ease of Use
#4- POWER GUIDANCE Barbell Squat Pad - Neck & Shoulder Protective Pad - Great for Squats, Lunges, Hip...Check Price
The POWER GUIDANCE Barbell Squat Pad is perfect for someone looking for the easiest slip-on and take-off experience. This means it doesn’t provide quite the same level of security as other pads on our list, so keep that in mind. However, the POWER GUIDANCE pad is very comfortable for its size.
We’ve got black, red, and pink for color styles and an overall sleek design that works with its simplicity. The anti-slip design is solid but not as moisture-wicking as a synthetic leather design.
Value-wise, the POWER GUIDANCE is a solid choice, although its list price is a little higher than others on the list. This is a good deal for the thickness that it provides and the ease of use that is perfect for the beginner user, or just for the person looking to hop in and out of their workouts with maximal efficiency.
#5- BEAR STRENGTH & CONDITIONING Barbell Squat Pad - RedCheck Price
A fantastic overall pick but especially for its comfort, the BEAR Strength and Conditioning Next Gen. Barbell Squat Pad is our top pick for hip thrust comfort. The thickness and length of the pad are excellent.
At 18”, it’s one of the longest ones on our list, which might hurt its portability slightly, but at the increase of comfort. In terms of ease of use, it’s an excellent slip-on and take-off design with no straps or velcro.
That does mean it’s not as secure as it could be, but it should be more than adequate for the average user.
The non-slip, matte materials work well, although not as great at moisture-wicking as synthetic leather would be. There are both black and red designs available with the BEAR logo on each printed on an overall sleek design.
Buying Guide – What to Look for in a Barbell Pad
Do I Really Need a Barbell Pad?
For a great many lifters, the odd towel or yoga mat has become the go-to solution. There are numerous problems with these solutions, but if you can make them work for you, go for it.
- Mainly, the security of keeping the towel on the barbell is very difficult. The pads allow for a secure method of maintaining the padding on the barbell.
- It’s going to be a pain to keep the makeshift padding from slipping, whereas genuine barbell pads have non-slip surfaces and can deal with sweat well.
- The comfort level provided is going to be much lower. These pads’ high-density foam is perfect for the comfort needed when weightlifting in these sensitive areas.
- Finally, the pads also conform to your body instead of bunching up or getting uneven like a towel.
The Purpose and Uses of Barbell Pads for Hip Thrusts
Let’s begin by saying that barbell pads are really inexpensive for the benefits they provide. They are worth looking into for that alone. But specifically, here are the main benefits using a barbell pad will provide:
They protect from serious injuries.
If you’ve been working with barbells for a while, especially with heavy weights, you’ll know how dangerous these things can be. It’s why we have a spotter when doing bench presses.
With a hip thrust, you’re pushing down on your bone structure in a way that can cause severe injuries from repetition. The pads can help reduce that risk. Even just looking and feeling the way a barbell sits on your body during this tremendously beneficial exercise, you’ll know that there’s going to be some risk involved.
Why deal with that risk when there’s a simple, comfortable, and inexpensive solution right in front of you?
They prevent bruising
Another significant benefit is preventing the bruising that would naturally occur on the hip bones with repeated hip thrusts exercises. The pressure of the barbell is massive during a hip thrust, and bruising is almost guaranteed if you do it without a pad in place.
Beyond the bruising just looking bad when you get it, the pain can actually be substantial enough to prevent the continued performance of the exercise. Why risk it?
The thickness and comfort the barbell pad provides are just an added bonus to this more serious issue.
Of course, the comfort they provide is worth mentioning in its own right. Even if injury and bruising were not of the utmost concern, just the general feeling of using the barbell pad will make your workouts that much more enjoyable. It doesn’t always have to be about the tangible benefits but can be about general excitement and feeling the workouts themselves can provide.
Comfort plays a huge role in this. When you’re going through a lot of different exercises that don’t feel great to do in row because they are uncomfortable on your body, you are not going to want to continue working out for as long or as hard. Comfort feeds into performance and should be a genuine concern on that front.
Preventing Direct Contact
Direct contact with the bar also has lots of problems in its own right. Barbells can get dirty and full of oils and germs and transferring those onto the body isn’t great. But much the same will happen with padding unless you clean it, so make sure to do so regularly.
More importantly, scraping the skin and the friction the bar can cause are the real dangers. Pairing these two concerns together can lead to pieces of dirt and germs getting stuck under your skin in the worst cases.
Finally, we’ve mentioned it before, but barbell pads are also useful for a range of other exercises that all have similar issues, just in different body areas. A barbell squat and lunges are two such examples. Protecting one’s shoulders and neck during such exercises is very important, and injuries to those areas can be even worse than with one’s hips.
Materials and Design
It can be hard to know precisely what to look for when it comes to barbell padding. Here’s what to look for when shopping for one that will work best for your specific situation:
Length and Thickness
You want between 15” and 18” in length. The tradeoff in length is between portability and maximal comfort. The longer the pad, the greater the comfort, but you’re going to lose out on portability in the process. A similar tradeoff exists for padding thickness. A thickness of three quarters of an inch is on the low end and probably not optimal for most people’s hip thrust comfort. Many pads go up to 2” thickness, which is great for comfort.
The material of a barbell pad comes in two main parts: the foam and the outer casing. Generally speaking, a leather or synthetic leather outer casing is best for keeping the pad from getting too damp with sweat – but it doesn’t always feel the best and can add expense. You want high-density foam that won’t flatten too easily for the inner core. It’s a quality issue that’s hard to track without getting your hands on the padding yourself, but just feeling it will probably tell you intuitively whether it will be supportive and maintain its shape.
When it comes to the standard design of barbell pads, there’s a bit of a problem. You see, most pads are mainly built to support the neck for squats and feature that in their designs. However, the hollow of the neck they usually have doesn’t get in the way of hip thrusts, and should just be considered a bonus in versatility. The thicker the outer part, the better its going to be for hip thrusts, generally speaking.
Another key element is slippage from the inner and outer casings. Here’s where the synthetic leather comes in, but also the different securing mechanisms can help. The sweatier you get, the more chance there is for slippage. Thankfully, most pads have non-slip materials anyways, but be sure to look for that design feature.
Securing the Pad
The main methods of pad security are: (1) slip-on, (2) velcro, and (3) straps. These are in order of least secure to most secure. Your main concern for this is the amount of weight you plan to use. For all but the highest weights, straps aren’t necessary and can get in the way and feel cumbersome. At the same time, the just slip-on pads can feel insecure even at medium weight ranges. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, but do consider it if you plan on using the pads for very high weight ranges.
What are barbell hip thrusts?
Working out your upper body using a barbell is easy, and the exercises for it are well known. But there’s a lot more you can do with your barbell, and using it for a strong lower body workout is not talked about enough.
The barbell hip thrust works out your lower body, including your glutes, lower back, and hamstrings. It builds on the motion performed when doing the best raw bodyweight exercise for one’s glutes, the glute bridge.
The glute bridge involves laying on one’s back on the ground with one’s knees up and thrusting one’s hips forward. The barbell thrust adds serious weight to this general motion, which supercharges the body’s ability to build muscle in the lower body.
The hip thrust is performed by sitting up against a workout bench with a barbell over one’s hips, pushing one’s hips forward until everything above one’s knees is parallel to the floor.
Glutes are not often thought of as the most important muscle to grow, but if we’re talking overall speed and power, the glutes are one of the most powerful muscles in the body.
For overall fitness, they are key to general athletic ability. For those reasons alone they are worth seriously investing in, although they can also be important to build up for aesthetic balance reasons as well.
To perform a barbell hip thrust, you’ll need a couple of things: (1) a barbell with weights; and (2) a workout bench to lean up against. Most people will also want a hip thrust pad, to cushion the space between your barbell and your abdomen. See the beginning of this article for suggestions.
- To begin a barbell hip thrust, place the barbell over your lower abdomen from a seated position (just above the hip bones).
- Press your shoulders flat against your workout bench to support your back as you remain seated.
- Then, thrust your hips forward, extending as far as you can with the barbell being lifted with the hips by your hands.
- In the fully extended position, your back and shoulders should be laying flat on the bench and your body parallel to the ground except for your thighs and feet.
- Repeat about 15 times for a good starting point.
Proper Form and Common Mistakes
One of the common mistakes when performing a hip thrust is where you are looking as you thrust. It is essential to keep one’s head and eyes tilted downwards and not looking up towards the ceiling.
This arches one’s back is not optimal for the exercise and can cause excess discomfort after the workout. Essentially, you want all the power and focus to be on the hips, which you’ll feel more of with the head tilted downward.
For full activation, you need to make sure you complete the full range of motion. That means your back and hips should be parallel to the floor when fully extended.
A couple of other tips:
- Don’t rise up on the balls of your feet when you extend into the thrust. Use the whole bottom of your feet.
- Coming up on the balls of your feet can be caused by improper foot placement. Make sure your feet are neither too far forward nor too far back. If placed correctly, you should feel the stretch and weight primarily in your glutes.
Barbell hip thrusts can be done as part of a larger focused lower body routine. Just be sure to give your muscles a bit of rest between rep cycles. They are also good in a full-body workout routine.
Hip Thrust Benefits
The main benefits of barbell hip thrusts include being one of the best exercises for the glutes and lower body. This group of muscles is key for many athletic activities, including almost all leg-intensive sports and exercises. For example, running, leaping, climbing, and pivoting.
Developing one’s lower body muscles also increases the size and look of one’s calves, thighs, and posterior area, supporting one’s back and upper body. The overall balance this provides to the body has numerous benefits to overall health.
Barbell hip thrusts are also helpful in preventing back pain in the long term. In particular, its exercise of the hip flexors and posterior chain are known to help with stabilizing the lower back. Building one’s glutes can also help with knee pain, stabilization of the pelvis, and other injuries.
Hip Thrust Workouts and Variations
You can use the barbell hip thrust with a few other exercises to really get that variation and complexity into your lower body workout routine. Here are a few other exercises that can help with that rotation and how to properly perform them.
The Glute Bridge
We’ve mentioned this one before, but it is the best bodyweight-only exercise for training one’s glutes. It is also easy to perform anywhere with no equipment—the most beginner-friendly exercise on this list.
To perform a proper glute bridge,
- First, lie flat on your back on the floor.
- Put your knees up, with feet flat on the floor.
- Pull your hips and abs towards the ceiling, lifting your pelvis off the ground until your body forms a slanted V-shape hinging at the knees.
- Slowly lower yourself to the ground and repeat.
- 15 repetitions is a good starting point.
Weighted Walking Lunges
Lunges are a great addition to any lower body workout. Weighted lunges in particular add difficulty and strength training to the exercise. In particular, weighted walking lunges are going to target your glutes, calves, and hamstrings.
- Begin in a neutral, standing position as though you are about to go for a walk, holding one dumbbell in each hand.
- Take a big step forward with your right leg and lean down, forming a right-angle at the right knee.
- Your right knee should not go past your toes in your eye line, while your left leg should be stretched straight behind you from stepping forward.
- Arms should be kept neutral at one’s sides throughout the whole lunge.
- Hold for a moment, then return to standing, alternating legs for each repetition.
- Two sets of 10 for each leg is a good starting point.
The kettlebell swing is an explosive exercise for one’s entire lower back and glutes chain of muscles. It is a bit more advanced and for proper activation of the glutes, one should understand how it feels to activate them using easier exercises first before seeking the same development in the kettlebell swing.
- Put the kettlebell down in front of you. Stand up straight in a neutral position with the kettlebell in front of you.
- Then, bend forward at the waist like you would to stretch towards your toes, but instead grab the kettlebell by its handle with both hands, gripping firmly.
- Lift the kettlebell and let it hang between your legs, which should be opened in a V-shaped stance.
- Let your knees bend slightly but keep your shoulders and back from rounding. Your back should be flat and parallel to the ground in a tabletop position, and you should feel the weight in your glutes.
- Now you’ll be moving from this tabletop position into a forward-facing plank position and back again. The momentum of the kettlebell will swing back between the legs when lowering in the tabletop position and then forward with the handle at eye level in the forward-facing plank position.
- Repeat about 15 times for a good starting point.
Doing these three exercises in conjunction with barbell hip thrusts will make an excellent lower back, glutes, and hamstring workout routine.
We’ve covered just about everything you would need to know about barbell pads for their use in hip thrusts. The hip thrust is a great exercise, especially for the glutes and lower back area. This is an area often neglected in workout routines, so it’s nice to give it more recognition here. But as we’ve seen, without padding, repeated performance of hip thrusts can lead to discomfort, even serious injuries.
We found the best barbell pad for hip thrusts was the Iron Bull Strength Advanced Squat Pad, which had the best overall combination of features and value. If you want added comfort, go for the BEAR Strength and Conditioning Next Gen. Barbell Squat Pad with its extra thick padding for a good price. If you want the best performance and security, go for the ProFitness Barbell Pad with its secure straps.