Hip Thrust Alternatives

Hip Thrust Alternative: Other Solid Exercises to Strengthen Your Glutes

If you’re looking to mix up your lower body lifting routine, you might want to consider some alternatives to the hip thrust exercise. While the hip thrust is a popular exercise for targeting the glutes, it’s not the only glute-building exercise. Let’s explore some alternatives.

Why Look for Hip Thrust Alternatives?

Hip thrusts have become popular for targeting the glutes for women to improve their waist-to-hip ratio by building up their butt muscles and lower body strength. However, there are several reasons why you may want to look for alternative exercises to hip thrusts.

Looking For Variety In Muscles Activated

Hip thrusts primarily target the glutes but activate other muscles such as the hamstrings (back of thighs), quads (front of thighs), and lower back. While this might be helpful for some women, others may want to focus on a more balanced lower-body exercise like a Goblet squat, or they may want to isolate the glutes even more, such as with the glute bridge.

Discomfort Or Pain During The Hip Thrust

Performing hip thrusts can be uncomfortable for some women due to the pressure of the weight sitting on the hips, even with a thick barbell pad. Sometimes there’s pain in the lower back if the core comes disengaged. On top of that, I’ve experienced some dizziness during higher-rep hip thrusts, so sometimes it seems like you try to disengage the ribs from your pelvis to keep your head steady, which can cause the back pain problem.

If you experience any discomfort during hip thrusts, there’s no need to keep doing them. There are tons of other great lifts to hit the glutes that are more comfortable.

Equipment Limitations At The Gym Or You’re Exercising At Home

Hip thrusts requires specific equipment, such as a sturdy bench that doesn’t move and a barbell. If you don’t have access to this equipment at home, or if your gym is crowded and the equipment is unavailable (or you don’t feel comfortable doing this exercise in public), you may need to find alternative exercises that can be performed with minimal equipment.

Hip Thrust Alternatives

If you’re looking for an alternative to the barbell hip thrust, there are several exercises that you can do to target your glutes and hamstrings. Here are some of the best alternatives:

Barbell Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is a great exercise that targets your glutes. While some point out that the glute bridge has a smaller range of motion than the hip thrust making it an inferior lift, that smaller range of motion also allows you to load up the lift even heavier. That means you can push your glutes a bit harder, providing you have access to the weights.

For example, here’s Aomi during her weight gain transformation:

Women's weight gain transformation (before and after photo)

By the end of the Bony To Bombshell program, she was glute bridging 300 pounds for reps.

I find the glute bridge exercise more comfortable than the hip thrust because my head is motionless. Many of our Bombshell members find this exercise easier to set up than a hip thrust since you don’t need to get a bench and find a way to immobilize it (so the bench doesn’t slide around.)

Here’s Marco coaching Marielle doing the glute bridge:

To perform the glute bridge exercise:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground
  2. Squeeze your glutes, making your hips lift off the ground until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  3. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, then lower your hips back to the ground. 
  4. Repeat for the number of reps on your workout sheet.

You can also do the glute bridge with dumbbells.

Single-Leg Glute Bridge

Like the original barbell glute bridge, this exercise isolates the glutes more than the hip thrust. However, your glutes are really strong. When using your bodyweight or a dumbbell that is light enough that you can shimmy onto your lap, it’ll be too easy for your butt to lift. So do one leg at a time to make it heavier on your glutes.

Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift exercise is a staple in the Bony to Bombshell program. It’s another exercise that targets the glutes while also giving a lot of attention to the back of the thighs (hamstrings) and postural muscles like your spinal erectors. That will help you stand up tall instead of slouchy.

Here’s a video of Marco coaching Marielle doing the Barbell Romanian Deadlift:

And here they are doing the dumbbell Romanian Deadlift:

To do the Romanian deadlift:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the barbell or dumbbells in front of your body. 
  2. Hinge at the hips and sit back while keeping a neutral spine.
  3. Lower the weight until the stretch in your hamstrings won’t let you go any deeper without compromising form. This is usually once your hands pass your knees. 
  4. Return to a standing position by thrusting forward and squeezing your glutes.

Single-Leg Hip Thrust

True, the single-leg hip thrust is still a hip thrust, but if the main reason you’re looking for an alternative is related to equipment, this is a great option. You don’t even need a bench. You can use your couch in your living room and do this hip thrust completely at home.

Here’s Marco demonstrating it:

To do this one:

  1. Put your upper back on the couch with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground
  2. Lift one leg off the ground
  3. Then lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees
  4. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement
  5. Then lower your hips back down to the ground 

Repeat for the number of reps you want, switch legs, do the same number of reps, and that’s one set done.

Cable Pull-Through

If you’re at the gym or you have a cable stack, the cable pull-through is a great exercise that targets your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Attach a rope handle to the lowest pulley setting.
  2. Stand facing away from the pulley, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Grab the handle with both hands and walk forward until you feel tension.
  4. Hinge at the hips, allowing your butt to sit back, keeping your back straight.
  5. Thrust your hips forward and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  6. That’s one rep.

Dumbbell Swing Or Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is a solid exercise that teaches you how to use your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles explosively. It’s a pretty fun one. Here’s Marco demonstrating it:

To perform this one:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell or dumbbell with both hands. 
  2. Keep your arms straight and move the kettlebell back between your legs. 
  3. Then, hinge your hips back
  4. Using your hamstrings like an elastic band, thrust forward, letting the weight slingshot forward
  5. As the weight returns, move with it, and repeat the slingshot-style action.
  6. You don’t need to raise the kettlebell extra high with your arms unless you want a bit of extra shoulder muscle action.

Bodyweight / Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

Squats, in general, particularly the front-loaded Goblet Squat, are great for building the glutes. The Bulgarian Split Squat is no exception and is another great tool for building glute strength. Because you’re working one leg at a time, you don’t need super heavy weights to sufficiently challenge the glutes and legs. And like Goblet Squat, when you hold the weight in front of you, you can sink deeper without your back rounding for a larger range of motion, causing more three-dimensional-looking muscles.

To perform this one:

  1. Place one foot behind you on a bench (or couch)
  2. Lower your body down into a lunge position
  3. As you lower your body, make sure to keep your front knee straight in line with your ankle, don’t let it cave in
  4. Then stand back up. 
  5. That’s one rep.

What Next?

So there are tons of good options to replace a hip thrust with. Each exercise has its own unique pros and cons, so experiment to see what best fits you. Even if you like the hip thrust, incorporating more lower-body exercise variety will help you develop stronger, more toned glutes and improve your overall lower body strength and power.

If you liked this article, you’d love our muscle-building newsletter. We’ll keep you up to date on all the latest muscle-building information for women. Or, if you want us to walk you through the process of building muscle, including teaching you the lifts, giving you an entire workout program, a complete diet guide, a recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Bombshell Program.

Jared Polowick, BDes, CPT, has a degree in design from York University and is a certified personal trainer. He co-founded Bony to Beastly, Bony to Bombshell, and Outlive.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell. He's also a certified trainer (PTS) and nutrition coach (PN) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and performance, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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