10 Best Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives For A Strong Butt (Tips and Videos)

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The barbell hip thrust has grown in popularity over the past few years due to its booty-growing effects.

I use the barbell hip thrust in my lower body workouts at least once a week and I always leave the gym barely able to walk after a few sets of these!

The hip thrust delivers both functional and aesthetic benefits, making it a great exercise to add in to your routine.

The hip thrust is a great way to target lots of different muscles in just one exercise, but what if you are unable to perform hip thrusts? What if you absolutely hate performing them in the gym? What if you want to switch up your routine?

Don’t worry! Although the barbell hip thrust exercise produces greater activation of the hip extensor muscles compared to more conventional exercises, there are plenty of alternatives. 

The 10 best barbell hip thrust alternatives are:

You can do these barbell hip thrust alternative exercises to target the same muscles and grow your booty. These are all listed below with coaching tips and video demonstrations to follow along.

What Is The Hip Thrust?

The hip thrust trains hip extension, which is a fundamental movement in daily life and athletic activities.

The movement is loaded horizontally and is performed by displacing the load using hip extension.

Training the muscles required for hip extension will therefore improve functional movement patterns in everyday life and in explosive sports.

Although there are many muscles that are necessary to perform hip extension, the gluteus maximus is the primary muscle responsible this movement. The hip thrust targets this muscle extensively.

Hip thrusts require more hip extension than a back squat. They activate the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris to a greater degree than the back squat when using estimated 10RM loads.

Studies have also shown that they induce greater gluteal activation than the deadlift.

Building strong gluteal muscles (glutes) is key to performance in many sports and can reduce lower back pain or hip immobility.

Ideally, you should be training your glutes and leg muscles between one to three days per week to promote and maximize hypertrophy (muscle growth).

Muscles Used in the Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is a compound exercise, meaning it targets multiple muscle groups at once.

The primary muscles it targets are:

  • The gluteal muscles (gluteus maximum, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus)
  • The hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus)

The hip thrust also targets some secondary muscles, including:

  • The abdominal muscles (transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, and the obliques)
  • The quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius)
  • The hip adductors (gracilis, obturator externus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus)
  • Erector spinae

What Makes a Good Hip Thrust Alternative?

Exercises are good as alternatives to hip thrusts if they work the same muscles.

There are a range of bodyweight, machine-based, and banded exercises you can do to get that booty burn.

What Makes a Good Barbell Hip Thrust Alternative

An exercise that horizontally loads the body such with the knees bent will maintain tension on the glutes and hamstrings throughout. Any such exercise makes it perfect as an alternative to hip thrusts.

10 Best Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives

Below is a list of the best exercises that you can perform instead of the barbell hip thrust. They all use the same muscles, and induce very high levels of gluteus maximus activation.

Research suggests that they all have the potential to stimulate hypertrophy, particularly in the gluteal muscles, just as much as the hip thrust. Most of these exercises do not overload the spine.

I recommend to include some of these exercises into your lower body workouts as part of a well-rounded exercise program.

Alongside the hip thrust, these exercises present high levels of gluteus maximus activation, particularly when more than one of these exercises are incorporated into a larger workout.

1. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

Dumbbell hip thrusts closely mimic the barbell hip thrust.

You will probably have to lower the weight significantly compared to when using a barbell. You are limited to what you can comfortably hold in the crease of your hips.

Feel free to use a mat or barbell pad to add cushioning to your hips when performing this exercise.

Equipment Needed: dumbbell, bench, aerobic step or box, barbell pad, mat

Step By Step Instructions

  • Find a bench, aerobic step, or padded box
  • Place the dumbbell on the floor next to the bench
  • Sit on the ground with your upper back leaning against the bench, with the knees bent at 90 degrees
  • Lift the dumbbell onto your lap and lay it across your pelvic region
  • Squeeze your glutes and push the weight upwards
  • Come back down to the starting position in a controlled manner
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets

Coach's Tips

Make sure you keep your chin tucked even at the top of the movement. Try to focus on a spot directly in front of you and keep your eyes centered there.

Experiment with different distances to see where you feel the best glute activation. Most people find best glute activation when their feet are directly below the knees.

2. Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral movement where the back leg is elevated on a bench or step. Due to it being a single leg movement, it requires stability and balance, and engages the core.

Some people prefer having a wider stance, while others like a narrower stance. Play around with your foot positioning to see what you like best. I find that if I have a wider stance, it targets my glutes more than my quads.

Equipment Needed: bench, aerobic step or box, dumbbell or kettlebell (optional)

Step By Step Instructions

  • Pick up the dumbbell or kettlebell if you’re using extra weight
  • Place your front foot firmly on the ground and your back foot on a raised bench or box
  • Lunge towards the floor, keeping your chest up and your spine neutral
  • Pause for a second at the bottom of the movement before returning to the starting position
  • Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps
  • Repeat on the other leg before repeating the whole movement for the desired number of sets

Coach's Tips

Make sure you experiment with different distances from the bench. A closer distance will focus more on the quads and may result in knee pain. 

To really activate your glutes, flex your butt at the top of the movement. You'll feel the burn here after a few reps.

Keeping your balance will be difficult at first so use lighter weights and keep it centered along your horizontal axis.

3. Single Leg Hip Thrust

Another single leg movement that is great to work the glutes and hamstrings. The single leg hip thrust uses the same movement pattern as the barbell hip thrust, but with just one leg at a time.

Equipment Needed: aerobic step or box, barbell pad, mat, dumbbell or kettlebell (optional)

Step By Step Instructions

  • Find a bench, aerobic step, or padded box
  • Place the dumbbell on the floor next to the bench if you’re using extra weight
  • Sit on the ground with your upper back leaning against the bench, with the knees bent at 90 degrees
  • Lift the dumbbell onto your lap and lay it across your pelvic region if necessary
  • Lift one leg up off the floor
  • Drive through the heel of the foot that is still on the floor to push your hips upwards
  • Extend your hip until your upper body is in line with your quads
  • Keep your chin tucked into your chest and look forwards throughout the exercise
  • Pause for a second before lowering yourself down to the starting position
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps
  • Repeat on the other leg before repeating the whole movement for the desired number of sets

Coach's Tips

Start off by using only your bodyweight to get a feel for the movement. You will notice how your balance has to catch up for the offset center of mass.

Make sure your back is not arched during the movement. At the top of the lift, keep your back in a posterior tilt position.

If you can't feel your glutes working, use your hands to touch and sense your butt contracting. Really feel the muscle working at the top of the movement.

4. Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing uses momentum and lower body strength to move a kettlebell up into the air in front of you. It adds intensity to your workout and can help to improve cardiovascular fitness. Note that with this exercise, you are limited to the amount of weight you can swing safely.

Step By Step Instructions

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart in front of a kettlebell
  • Pick up the kettlebell with both hands and hang it between your legs, leaning forwards with a neutral spine and your knees slightly bent
  • Pull the kettlebell back between your legs. Drive your hips forwards using your glutes to thrust the kettlebell upwards into the air until it reaches eye height
  • Keep your arms straight and keep your chest lifted throughout
  • Allow the kettlebell to lower back to the starting position under control
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets
  • Allow the kettlebell to lower back to the starting position under control

Coach's Tips

Drive your hips forward by flexing forward and standing upright. Your butt will feel maximally contracted at the front of the movement.

Don't lockout your elbows at the top of the movement. You want to be fluid and flexible in your elbow region.

This is a hip hinge movement so your knees don't bend excessively. 

5. Cable Pull Through

This exercise can't be loaded as much as a barbell hip thrust, but is still an effective alternative. It uses the hip hinging movement pattern that the hip thrust uses, and it can be used as a slow, controlled movement at the end of your workout to add intensity.

Equipment Needed: cable with rope attachment

Step By Step Instructions

  • Attach the rope handle to the cable machine and move the pulley to the lowest setting
  • Stand facing away from the cable and grab the rope in between your legs
  • Hinge at the hips to bring your chest towards the floor until you feel tension in your hamstrings and glutes
  • Allow your hands and the rope to travel back in between your legs
  • Pause for a second before returning to the starting position by driving through your heels and activating your glutes
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets

Coach's Tips

Once you reach the top of the movement, let the weight guide your hands through your legs. Don't flex your arms and keep your back straight while slowly letting the weight reset.

Again, this is a hip hinge movement and your knees don't push forwards. Isolate your glutes here and push forward through your hips.

6. Barbell Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is similar to the hip thrust in that it requires the same equipment and the same hip thrusting movement. The difference is that you are lying flat on the floor instead of elevating your upper back. It produces similar levels of gluteal and hamstring activation as the barbell hip thrust, but less quad activation.

Equipment Needed: dumbbell, barbell pad, mat

Step By Step Instructions

  • Place a mat on the floor alongside a barbell loaded to your desired weight
  • Sit behind the barbell and extend your legs under the barbell until they are straight
  • Roll the barbell to your hips and lie down on the floor
  • Drive through the heel of the foot that is still on the floor to push your hips upwards
  • Extend your hip until your upper body is in line with your quads
  • Pause for a second before lowering yourself down to the starting position
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets

Coach's Tips

Keep your neck tucked in here to form a double chin. This will prevent your neck muscles from stiffening and over working.

Imagine you have a walnut in between your butt cheeks to really crush it at the top of the movement. You'll feel your butt here.

Use the posterior pelvic tilt at the top of the movement without arching your back.

7. Glute Bridge Machine

Many gyms now have a glute bridge machine that mimics the barbell hip thrust. The machine is easier to set up and can be loaded to a fairly heavy weight. It limits room for improper form as it positions your body in the right place to perform the movement correctly. This is great alternative for those of you who are beginners, or who want to switch up your routine.

Equipment Needed: glute bridge machine

Step By Step Instructions

  • Sit on seat and set your back down on the pad of the machine
  • If the machine has a belt, fasten the belt to a comfortable tightness
  • Place your feet firmly on the platform
  • Lift the handle and move the safety stoppers
  • Lower your hips towards the floor so your chest comes forwards until you’re in a comfortable position
  • Drive through your heels to push your hips upwards to return to the starting position
  • Keep your chin tucked into your chest and look forwards throughout the exercise
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets

Coach's Tips

Keep your neck tucked in here to form a double chin. This will prevent your neck muscles from stiffening and over working.

Imagine you have a walnut in between your butt cheeks to really crush it at the top of the movement. You'll feel your butt here.

Use the posterior pelvic tilt at the top of the movement without arching your back.

8. Conventional Deadlift

Deadlifts are one of the most important strength building exercises and they target the whole body. They are one of the main powerlifting movements, and are enjoyed by many strength athletes too.

Alongside hypertrophy, deadlifts can increase stability across a wider range of movement, and can enhance joint mobility. There are multiple variations of this exercise.

Check out all the benefits of beltless deadlfits in my article.

Equipment Needed: barbell or dumbbells

Step By Step Instructions

  • Stand behind the barbell with your feet hip width apart such that the middle of your shins are touching the barbell
  • Bend down to grab the bar with both hands using either an overhand or alternate grip at shoulder width apart
  • Hinge your hips so that your arms are fully extended and the middle of your chest in aligned with the bar
  • Squeeze your lats so that the bar is tight in your hands
  • Keeping your spine neutral and your core engaged, pull the bar up of the floor until you are standing tall. Do not hyperextend your spine
  • At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together and activate your glutes
  • Pause for a second before lowering yourself down to the starting position
  • Keep the bar close your body the entire time
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets
  • Note that if your grip is a concern, use straps or chalk

Coach's Tips

Use your whole body to lift the weight and push through your heels by flexing your glutes and core at the top of the movement.

You'll have to experiment with stances and grips to determine what's ideal for you.

Don't round your lower back during the movement. You can round your upper back at the beginning of the movement.

9. Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlifts are a great alternative to conventional deadlifts. They target the glutes and hamstrings more than a conventional deadlift, and just as much as the hip thrust.

Equipment Needed: barbell or dumbbells

Step By Step Instructions

  • Stand behind the barbell with your feet slightly narrower than hip width apart such that the middle of your shins are touching the barbell
  • Bend down to grab the bar with both hands using an overhand grip at shoulder width apart
  • Hinge your hips so that your arms are fully extended and the middle of your chest in aligned with the bar
  • Keeping your spine neutral and your core engaged, pull the bar up of the floor until you are standing tall. Do not hyperextend your spine
  • Once in a standing position, hinge at the hips and slowly lower your upper body towards the floor until you feel tension in your hamstrings
  • Drive through your heels and activate your glutes to pull your upper body back to the starting position
  • Keep the bar close your body the entire time
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets
  • Note that if your grip is a concern, use straps or chalk

Coach's Tips

Be careful not to lift with your lower back here. Similar to conventional deadlifts, use your glutes and hamstrings to bring the weight up.

At the top of the movement, keep your chest up and contract your upper back. Flex your glutes maximally at the front of the lift.

You should feel your hamstrings at the bottom of the movement. Be weary of pulling your hamstrings and warm up before going heavy.

10. Good Morning

This exercise gained its name as it resembles bowing down as if to say ‘good morning’. Although this exercise is not loved by all, it can confer great performance benefits and can be great to develop the posterior chain. The hip hinging technique of good mornings is similar to the movement of Romanian deadlifts. The key difference is the placement of the barbell.

I recommend not to load the barbell too much for this exercise. Due to the load being placed on the upper back, it can be transferred down your spine. This can be dangerous if done with incorrect form, so be sure to check the photo and video demonstrations before attempting this exercise.

Equipment Needed: barbell, squat rack

Step By Step Instructions

  • Load the barbell to your desired weight
  • Step up to the squat rack and place the bar onto your upper traps
  • Keeping your leg slightly bent at the knees, hinge at the hips
  • Lower your upper body so your chest comes closer to the ground. Stop when you feel tension in your hamstrings
  • Keep your spine neutral and your core engaged throughout the movement
  • Drive through your heels and use your glutes to pull your upper body back up to the starting position
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets
  • Note that if your grip is a concern, use straps or chalk

Coach's Tips

The complete range of motion will be different for everyone since lifters have all types of mobilities. Bend down as far as you can till you feel your glutes.

Keep your back neutral and not arched. Be careful not to lean forward too far as it may cause discomfort in your lower back.

Your neck should be straight up and follow the path of a curve. Don't look up or excessively down.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Rep Range Should I Aim For When Doing These Exercises?

For strength 5-8 reps. If you're looking to build mass, hypertrophy, do 8-10 reps. For endurance, 12-15 reps.

How Much Weight Should I Use?

Use a weight that feels challenging where you fail around the rep range that you are aiming for. For example, if your goal is hypertrophy, choose a weight where you fail on the 8th, 9th or 10th rep. Make sure the weight is not too heavy so you don’t injure yourself!

Should I Be Doing All Of These Exercises?

If you enjoy barbell hip thrusts, they are an amazing compound exercise to perform. But if you dislike them or cannot do them for whatever reason, I recommend to choose at least five different exercises from this list to add into your workouts. You could do all five in the same workout, or add one of them into your current routine each day. Whatever works best for you!

Final Thoughts

The barbell hip thrust is one of the best exercises to grow the glutes and hamstrings. However, there are many alternative exercises that can be used alongside the barbell hip thrust or instead of it.

Depending on your preferences and the equipment that you have available, any of the ten exercises above will suffice as a great option if you want to avoid doing hip thrusts in your workout, or try something new.

Since most of these alternative exercises activate the glutes, hamstrings, and hip extensors to a similar degree as the hip thrust, they are beneficial to add into a lower body workout to stimulate hypertrophy.

As they all incorporate the functional movement of hip extension, their benefits carry over into everyday life and sporting activities as well.

You can create a great workout using a variety of the exercises above, or by adding them in to your current workout routine. Try all of these 10 best barbell hip thrust alternatives, see which ones you like, and go and get those booty gains!

References

About The Author

Athina Crilley

Athina Crilley is a Biochemistry graduate and a qualified health, nutrition, and recovery coach. She believes that health and fitness is a lifestyle and should be enjoyable. Athina currently works with online clients to achieve their goals and creates helpful and informative content online through her podcast and social media platforms. She has also written and published a book all about her struggles and recovery from an eating disorder called ‘Diaries of An Anorexic’.

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