15 Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives for Shorts-Busting Glutes

By Matt Walter
Published on:
Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives

The hip thrust is a popular posterior chain exercise, performed by both men and women alike. But it’s not only popular for its aesthetic benefits! Not only does it target the glutes and hamstrings, it promotes proper hip extension biomechanics. The glutes are critical for lower back discomfort, hip mobility, deadlifting, squatting, and sprinting.

But you don’t have to be stuck with the hip thrust forever or risk losing your booty gainz. There are a ton of hip thrust alternatives!

By the end of this article, you’ll know how to perform a ton of new hip thrust alternative exercises that will help you strengthen and build your posterior chain.

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What Makes a Good Hip Thrust Alternative?

When looking for hip thrust alternatives, you want to find exercises that target the same muscle groups. The gluteus maximus is the prime mover in the hip thrust, so we’re looking for similar movement patterns and exercises that maximize glute contraction. You need to be able to squeeze your glutes against resistance.

A good barbell hip thrust alternative should focus on working the glute muscles while also targeting the hamstrings and adductor magnus. These exercises should also allow you to safely increase the weight and reps as you grow stronger and more efficient with the movement.

Hip Thrust Alternatives Tips

Use the following tips to perfect your form for any hip thrust alternative exercise

All hip thrust versions are going to be performed the same basic way. The following tips and form pointers work with all versions.

Feet Flat on the Floor

As a general rule, with all weight lifting movements, your feet should be flat on the floor. A lot of people use the cue “weight in your heels,” but this is incorrect for most movements.

You want your weight spread across your Tripod Foot. The tripod foot is made up of your heel and the base of your pinky and big toes. This creates balance and the most optimal force production.

Weight On Your Heels?

You can play with your foot placement on the hip thrust. Once you reach full extension, try lifting your toes off the ground. See if it makes a difference in your ability to flex your gluteal muscles.

Rise Up On Your Toes?

Or try rising up on your toes. Rising up on your toes will activate more hamstrings. This is my favorite method.

Don’t drive out of your toes. Drive with your tripod foot. But when you reach full extension, rise up on your toes and continue to flex your glutes and hams.

Full Extension

Always reach full extension with your hip thrusts and squeeze your glutes at the top

Always reach full extension. If you’re using weight and you can’t reach full extension, back off or remove the weight completely.

Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders all the way to your knees.

Vertical Shin

Sit on the ground and mark a spot on the floor where your shins meet your knees (right at your patellar tendon).

Bring your heels to that line. This should put you in the right position for your hip thrust.

If your feet are too far forward you’ll activate more hamstring than glute, and if they’re too close to your body you’ll activate more quadriceps. Your proportions will make a difference, but you’re shooting for a vertical shin throughout the movement.

Squeeze at the Top

Don’t perform fast reps! Drive with power and pause to squeeze your glutes for a second at the top. Focus on the squeeze!

Static or Dynamic?

Both! Either! Always squeeze at the top, but you can choose to either perform standard reps or to perform one single rep where you hold at the top for a set amount of time.

Try both and switch things up from time to time.

Hip Thrust Alternatives

Hip Thrust Alternative Exercises

Here are some of the best exercises you can do along with or instead of the hip thrust. They target and develop glute and hamstring strength and hypertrophy, all without loading your spine.

Speaking of loading your spine, this group of variations will not include squatting, deadlifting, and lunging movements (the curtsey lunge is the lone exception). All forms of squats, deadlifts, and lunges can be great hip and glute targeting exercises or adapted to be based on your proportions.

The exercises we will discuss are strict alternatives to the barbell hip thrust, not simply a listing of every glute, hamstring, and posterior chain movement I could think of.

This group of variations is less compound and more specific to training the hip hinge and targeting the glutes and hamstrings.

1. Glute Bridges

Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.

Bend your knees and bring your feet toward your glutes.

Brace your core, engage your glutes, and drive your feet into the floor to lift your hips toward the ceiling. Get your hips as high as you can.

Squeeze your glutes at the top.

Lower your hips under control back to the floor and repeat.

I love to do this version with a Crossover Symmetry Hip Halo. You can also use a Rogue Shorty Band. Place the Halo or band around your legs just above your knees and drive out against the band.

This further engages your glutes through external rotation of your hips.

Why It Works

This is where everyone should start with their hip thrust training. In fact, this is a great prerequisite for all squat and hinge pattern movements.

These will create a great burn in your glutes, with little to no chance of injury. Master these before you move on to other variations.

Coach’s Tip

When you reach full contraction, your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, with no dip at your hips.

You can also perform this exercise as a single-leg glute bridge, increasing the challenge and ensuring both sides are balanced.

Single Leg Glute Bridge

2. Bodyweight Hip Thrust

Bodyweight Hip Thrust

Sit in front of a padded bench or box with your legs straight out in front of you. The bench should hit your mid-back, just below your shoulder blades.

Mark a spot on the floor where your shin meets your knee. Bend your knees and bring your feet toward your body. Your heels should land on the line you marked on the floor.

Drive your feet into the floor and push your hips toward the ceiling until they are fully extended. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top.

Lower under control and repeat.

Why It Works

If you haven’t tried barbell hip thrusts, this is a great place to start. You’ll learn the movement pattern and will be able to fully focus on squeezing your glutes at the top. It’s quick and easy, and it’s very safe as long as you use good form.

Coach’s Tip

This move is all about feel, so keep your back straight and neutral the entire way through to ensure that your lower body is working hard.

3. Single Leg Hip Thrust

This is identical to the bodyweight hip thrust, but you will perform your sets with one leg at a time.

Sit in front of a padded bench or box with your legs straight out in front of you. The bench should hit your mid-back, just below your shoulder blades.

Mark a spot on the floor where your shin meets your knee. Bend your dominant knee and bring your foot toward your body. Your heel should land on the line you marked on the floor.

Your non-dominant leg will remain extended in front of you.

Drive your dominant foot into the floor and push your hips toward the ceiling until they are fully extended. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top.

Lower under control and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Rest, and then repeat for the same amount of reps on your other leg.

Why It Works

The single-leg hip thrust is an underappreciated bodyweight exercise as a great alternative to the barbell hip thrust. It targets the same muscles but with a unilateral emphasis.

Because it focuses on one side at a time, it makes for a good progression from the traditional bodyweight hip thrust.

Coach’s Tip

What you do with your non-working leg doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s not on the ground. I prefer to keep my non-working leg completely straight during the set. But you can bend your knee or pull it up towards your chest if you prefer.

4. High Reverse Plank

High Reverse Plank

Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.

Begin to lean back and place your hands on the floor next to your body, with your fingers pointed toward your feet.

Bring you feet toward your glutes, stopping when your shins are vertical.

Extend your arms and push your chest up in the air.

Drive your feet into the floor and raise your hips so they are in line with your shoulders.

Hold this position, similar to a standard plank, for 45 to 60 seconds.

High Reverse Plank Legs Extended

You can also perform this with your legs straight. Either way, squeeze hard at the top!

Why It Works

This exercise is simple to do, targets the glutes and core, and brings in a static hold. Do your best to squeeze your glutes the entire time!

Coach’s Tip

Keep your head in line with your body while holding this pose.

This movement can also be performed on your elbows instead of on your hands. Either way, it requires great shoulder flexibilit.

You can do this version both isometrically (held statically for time) or dynamically for repeated reps like a hip thrust.

5. Stability Ball Hip Thrust

Sit on a stability ball and establish your balance.

Walk your feet forward and lean back until your upper back is lying on the ball.

Your knees should be bent at 90 degrees with your shin vertical. This will maximize glute activity and minimize quadriceps involvement.

Hinge down towards the floor keeping your chest up and raise up and squeeze the glutes at lockout.

Reset and repeat for reps.

Best rep range: 12-20

Why It Works

The stability ball gives constant feedback throughout the movement. This variation of the hip thrust also works your hamstrings, which is a bonus since it’s difficult to lock out without losing your balance.

Coach’s Tip

The closer you put your feet together, the more difficult this movement will be. You can also perform this variation with one leg, dramatically increasing the balance requirement.

Avoid loading this exercise with external weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or sandbags. You can make this exercise difficult enough by increasing the balance demand. Adding weight increases the risk of popping the ball.

6. Mini Band Frog Hip Thrust

Sit in front of a padded bench or box with your legs straight out in front of you. The bench should hit your mid-back, just below your shoulder blades.

Place a mini band or Hip Halo just above your knees.

Put the soles of your feet together and drive your knees apart, abducting and externally rotating your hips.

Tuck your chin, keep your ribs and shoulders down, and drive your hips toward the ceiling. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can at the top.

Lower under control and repeat for reps.

Why It Works

This variation takes your hamstrings out of the movement and places more focus on your glutes and abductors. The band adds resistance, but it’s still rather beginner-friendly.

Coach’s Tip

Start with a very light band and focus on keeping your knees apart throughout the movement. Once you notice you can no longer maintain tension on the band/your knees fully in the frog position, end your set.

7. Resistance Band Hip Thrust

Set up a padded weight bench or box and a set of heavy dumbbells (really heavy) or a power rack with band pegs.

Secure the resistance band on the band pegs, stretching from one to the other, or loop it around the dumbbell handles (this is why you’ll need really heavy dumbbells).

Sit on the ground with your back against the bench and your legs straight out in front of you. The resistance band should be just over your hip crease/lap.

Bend your knee and bring your feet towards your glutes. Your heels should land right where your shins met your knees when your legs were fully extended.

Drive your feet into the floor and extend your hips toward the ceiling, pushing against the resistance of the band.

When your hips are fully extended, pause and squeeze your glutes as hard as you can.

Lower yourself under control back to the starting position.

Why It Works

This is a great resistance-added hip thrust that can be easily done at home.

With free weights, gravity provides resistance. With a band, elasticity provides resistance, which is a completely different feel. And the resistance gets progressively more intense as you reach lockout, making the squeeze at the top difficult and incredibly effective.

The load decreases as you descend, reducing the load on your pelvis. This makes it easier on your joints and a great alternative for a lot of people.

Coach’s Tip

If you don’t have a power rack with band pegs or dumbbells that are heavy enough to stay put, try this:

Stretch the resistance band between the legs of your bench. This will place the band behind your hips when you’re sitting under it, but it will work.

Drive your hips against the band just as described above, but push straight down on the band with your hands to prevent it from pulling you backward.

You’ll see this version in the video above. It’s not perfect, but it works!

8. Single Leg Resistance Band Hip Thrust

Set up a padded weight bench or box and a set of heavy dumbbells (really heavy) or a power rack with band pegs.

Secure the resistance band on the band pegs, stretching from one to the other, or loop it around the dumbbell handles (this is why you’ll need really heavy dumbbells).

Sit on the ground with your back against the bench and your legs straight out in front of you. The resistance band should be just over your hip crease/lap.

Bend your knees and bring your feet towards your glutes. Your heels should land right where your shins met your knees when your legs were fully extended.

Lift your non-dominant leg off the floor and hold it straight out so that your thighs are parallel with each other.

Drive your foot into the floor and extend your hips toward the ceiling, pushing against the resistance of the band.

When your hips are fully extended, pause and squeeze your glutes as hard as you can.

Lower yourself under control back to the starting position.

Why It Works

The single-leg banded hip thrust, like the bodyweight single-leg version above, offers dynamic resistance (the band tension increases the closer you get to the lockout) as well as unilateral movement.

The added stability challenge of having one leg off the ground will force your glutes to work a bit harder as well.

Coach’s Tip

For an advanced unilateral challenge, combine this exercise with the single-leg dumbbell hip thrust coming up.

Secure a resistance band across your lap first and then lift a dumbbell into your lap, right in your hip crease.

The combination of constant external resistance (from the dumbbell) and dynamic resistance (from the band) will smoke your posterior chain!

9. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

Sit on the ground with your back pressed against a padded bench or box. Your legs should be straight out in front of you.

Lift a single dumbbell and place it on your lap, right in your hip crease.

Bend your knees and bring your feet toward your glutes. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor.

Drive your feet into the floor and push your hips toward the ceiling, pressing against the downward force of the dumbbell.

Raise your hips as high as possible and squeeze your glutes at the top.

Lower under control back to the starting position.

You can perform this with a kettlebell instead of a dumbbell as well.

Why It Works

The dumbbell hip thrust is very similar to the barbell version. You won’t be able to handle as much weight, but you may find this version much more comfortable.

Honestly, most people go far heavier than they actually should on the barbell version. You’ll notice most people not reaching full hip extension or pausing to squeeze their glutes at the top.

The barbell hip thrust has become a “look at me and how much I can lift” exercise, which is unfortunate.

Drop back to a dumbbell, and focus on form rather than weight. You’ll likely find you like this version even better than its barbell cousin.

Coach’s Tip

Even though a dumbbell may be more comfortable than a barbell, it’s still no picnic.

You can make it more comfortable by placing a mat, sweatshirt, or knee pads on your lap under the heads of the dumbbell.

10. Single-Leg Dumbbell Hip Thrust

Sit on the ground with your back pressed against a padded bench or box. Your legs should be straight out in front of you.

Lift a single dumbbell and place it on your lap, right in your hip crease.

Bend your knees and bring your feet towards your glutes. Your heels should land right where your shins met your knees when your legs were fully extended.

Lift your non-dominant leg off the floor and hold it straight out so that your thighs are parallel with each other.

Drive your foot into the floor and extend your hips toward the ceiling, pushing against the resistance of the dumbbell.

Raise your hips as high as possible and squeeze your glutes at the top.

Lower under control back to the starting position.

Repeat for the same amount of reps on your other leg

Why It Works

The single-leg dumbbell hip thrust is a great substitute for the barbell hip thrust. It provides the same basic resistance, but adds in a unilateral focus and provides a greater challenge than the bodyweight version.

Because the single-leg dumbbell version places an emphasis on one leg at a time you will notice if you have a stronger or weaker side, and you’ll be able to correct that imbalance.

And the dumbbell allows you to follow progressive overload by gradually increasing the weight as you get stronger.

Coach’s Tip

The dumbbell should be lying on your lap on its side, not up and down. This will help keep the dumbbell balanced and you won’t have to worry about it falling off your lap.

But, just to be sure, hold the dumbbell on your lap by placing a hand on each dumbbell head.

11. Barbell Glute Bridge

Place a loaded barbell on the floor.

Slide your legs under the barbell and sit with the barbell high on lap/in your hip crease.

Lay flat on the floor, holding the barbell in place directly over your hips.

Bend your knees and bring your feet toward your glutes. Maintain a grip on the barbell.

Press your feet into the floor and drive your hips toward the ceiling, pushing against the weight of the barbell.

Extend your hips as high as you can. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.

Pause and squeeze your glutes as hard as you can at the top.

Lower yourself under control back to the starting position.

Why It Works

The barbell glute bridge is a great progression from the standard glute bridge on the floor.

It targets all of the same muscles but allows you to add weight and continue getting stronger for as long as you’d like.

And you don’t have to have a bench, which makes it a great option for home training. Yes, you have to have a barbell, but in my experience, more people have a barbell and weights at home than a free weight bench.

The major downside to this version is that you’ll likely have no resistance at the bottom portion of the movement because the weight will elevate the barbell off the ground. This shortens the range of motion.

Coach’s Tip

Use the smallest weight plates possible. Bumper plates are going to raise the bar quite high off the ground. Get away with 5’s and 10’s for as long as you can.

You can also add a resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees. Driving out against the band increases the abduction and external rotation actions of the glutes, further engaging them and making the movement even more effective.

12. Reverse Hyperextension

I prefer to perform the reverse hyper with one leg at a time when I’m targeting my glutes.

Place your non-dominant foot in the strap and your dominant foot on the machine’s step.

Lift yourself up so that your hip crease sits comfortably against the machine’s pad, and grab ahold of the machine’s handle with your dominant hand.

Externally rotate your hips by pointing the foot in the strap slightly out to the side. This will help you get a better contraction in your glutes.

Raise your leg straight out behind you using your glutes. Try and pause and squeeze at the top (you probably won’t be able to!), and then resist the downward momentum of the pendulum as hard as you can.

Let the pendulum swing naturally, and then raise your leg again, using your glutes.

Perform 10-12 reps per leg.

Why It Works

I don’t know what I did before I bought my Rogue Reverse Hyper. I love this thing!

Reverse hyperextensions are an excellent glute, hamstring, and lower back exercise. They’re a common powerlifting assistance exercise, created by renowned powerlifter, strength coach, inventor, and author, Louie Simmons.

Coach’s Tip

For targeting the glutes, the single-leg version is a definite winner.

The machine is built to be dynamic, and you will likely be able to handle a lot of weight. Even with light weight, you’ll likely struggle to hold the weight at the peak contraction point. Don’t worry about it!

The key to getting the most out of your glutes is to try and resist the downward swing of the pendulum. Make every eccentric count!

13. Curtsy Squats

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed straight ahead.

Take a lunge step backward with your dominant leg, but instead of stepping straight back, step your foot behind and outside your non-dominant leg.

Land your back foot on its toe box as you simultaneously squat down until your back leg’s knee touches the ground.

Drive out of the bottom of your lunge/split squat and bring your feet back together.

You can perform alternative reps or all of your reps to one side, followed by the other.

Why It Works

The curtsy lunge is one of my favorite bodyweight movements, especially for clients that work out at home or travel a lot. It targets the glutes far more than a traditional lunge or split squat, and pairs well with other hip thrust movements.

Coach’s Tip

Focus on squeezing your glutes throughout the entire movement. Feel a good stretch at the bottom, and then squeeze your glutes hard as you return to a standing position.

14. Cable Pull Through

Lower the cable attachment to the lowest position in the tower and attach a rope handle.

Stand with the rope between your feet, facing away from the tower.

Squat down and grab ahold of the rope attachment with both hands. Stand tall with your arms fully extended, and step a few feet away from the tower.

Widen your feet so that they are slightly wider than shoulder-width, with your toes pointed slightly out.

Maintaining a neutral spine and soft knees, hinge forward and allow the cable to pull your butt toward the tower.

Stop when you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings and squeeze your glutes and hamstrings against the tension.

Drive your hips forward and return to a standing position, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement.

You can also perform this movement as a band pull-through, following the same instructions as for the cable version.

Why It Works

The cable pull-through is a great hip-hinging exercise that really works the hamstrings and glutes. It’s easy to set up, can be done with relatively light weight, and is a go-to movement for many strength coaches and personal trainers.

Coach’s Tip

Keep your chest up and shoulders down. Stop when you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. You’re not trying to see how far back you can go here. Just get a good stretch. This will prevent your lower back from rounding and will keep the tension where it belongs.

15. Smith Rack Donkey Kicks

Stand in front of a smith rack machine and lower the bar to about knee height.

Turn away from the matches and drop to your hands and knees.

Lift your dominant leg and place the middle of your shoe underneath the smith rack bar.

Drive the bar toward the ceiling by contracting your glute and hamstring.

Push as high as you can without hyperextending your back. Your back should remain neutral throughout. Pause and the top and squeeze your glute.

Lower the bar back to the starting position, but don’t let it touch the safety supports. Keep the tension on your leg the entire time!

You can also perform this with both feet at the same time by lying flat on the floor or a bench.

Why It Works

The Smith rack donkey kick is a great exercise if you have access to a smith rack. It’s a hip thrust movement, but with the added benefit of using a weight. The Smith rack donkey kick is great for building strong glutes and hamstrings and can be done with relatively heavy weights.

Coach’s Tip

Focus on pushing through your mid-foot and keeping your back neutral. You can place a pad or mat underneath your knees for comfort if needed.

Do as many reps as you can, and finish with some quarter pulse reps for a great burn!

Example Workout

If you’re trying to bring up your glutes and build strength in your posterior chain, give this hip thrust alternatives workout a shot.

2. Glute bridge – 3 sets of 12-15 reps

1. Barbell hip thrusts – 4 sets of 10-12 reps

3. Curtsy lunge – 3 sets of 10-12 reps (each leg)

5. Smith rack donkey kicks – 4 sets of 8-10 reps (each leg)

4. Cable pull through – 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Do this workout 2-3 times per week for best results!

Conclusion: Hip Thrust Alternatives

The hip thrust is a great exercise for building strength and power in the glutes and hamstrings. However, it’s not the only exercise that can get the job done. There are plenty of hip thrust alternatives that can help you build a strong and powerful posterior chain!

What are your favorite hip thrust alternative exercises? Let us know in the comments below!

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AUTHOR

Matt has been a personal trainer for more than 18 years. He is also a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, has a master's degree in teaching, and is a former competitive powerlifter and CrossFit athlete. His passion is helping others get in shape from mid-life and beyond.

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