Hip thrust exercises are great for strengthening the lower body and developing the glute muscles. But did you know that there are other exercises you can try to mix things up and target different muscle groups? You can add alternatives for hip thrusts and still achieve success.
Sometimes, it’s good to switch things up to keep your fitness routine interesting and challenge your body in new ways. By incorporating alternative exercises, you can work different muscles and improve overall lower body strength and balance without a lot of equipment.
What is a hip thrust?
A barbell hip thrust is an exercise that targets your glutes. It’s a bit like a bridge but with some added weight and intensity. Here’s how it works:
You start by sitting on the ground with your back against a bench or a sturdy object. Then, you position a barbell across your hips, just below your pelvis. Use a padded barbell or place a cushion or towel over the bar for comfort.
Next, you plant your feet firmly on the ground, about hip-width apart, and push through your heels to lift your hips off the ground. As you raise your hips, squeeze your glutes together and keep your core engaged for stability. You should form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
Hold the position for a second or two at the top, feeling that squeeze in your glutes, and then slowly lower your hips back down to the starting position.
Why an alternative?
While hip thrust exercises are a great way to strengthen the glutes and lower body, having alternatives in your workout routine is always beneficial.
Adding a variety and targeting different muscle groups can provide additional benefits and help you achieve a well-rounded lower body strength.
While hip thrusts primarily target the glute muscles, alternative exercises can engage other muscles in the lower body, such as your quads, hamstrings and core. By working multiple muscle groups, you can enhance overall strength, improve muscle balance and prevent muscle imbalances or overuse injuries.
Trying new exercises keeps your routine fresh and exciting. It can also challenge your body differently, stimulating further muscle growth and progress.
Barbell hip thrusts primarily target the glute muscles, specifically the gluteus maximus, which is the largest muscle in your butt. This exercise is highly effective for activating and strengthening your glutes.
Additionally, it also engages other muscles in the lower body, including:
- Hamstrings: The muscles at the back of your thighs are also activated during barbell hip thrusts. They assist in hip extension and contribute to the overall stability of the exercise.
- Quadriceps: The muscles on the front of your thighs play a secondary role in the movement. They help to stabilize the knee joint during hip extension.
- Core muscles: While not the primary focus, barbell hip thrusts engage your core muscles to maintain stability and support your spine throughout the exercise.
Benefits of the hip thrust
Barbell hip thrusts offer a range of benefits that can help you on your fitness journey. Key advantages of incorporating this exercise into your routine:
- Glute activation and strength: One of the primary benefits of barbell hip thrusts is their ability to target and activate the glute muscles. By focusing on the gluteus maximus, this exercise helps to build strength, shape and tone your booty.
- Improved hip extension: Hip thrusts involve hip extension, which is the movement of pushing your hips forward. This action mimics real-life movements like standing up from a chair or climbing stairs. By practicing hip extension through barbell hip thrusts, you can enhance your ability to perform these everyday activities more easily and efficiently.
- Enhanced posterior chain development: The posterior chain refers to the muscles on the backside of your body, including your glutes, hamstrings and lower back. Barbell hip thrusts engage and strengthen these muscles, promoting balanced development throughout your posterior chain.
Alternative for hip thrust
Hip thrust variations allow you to target your posterior chain and build stronger glutes.
Barbell glute bridge
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Place your arms by your sides with your palms facing down.
- Drive your hips up towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement.
- Lower your hips back to the ground, keeping tension in your glutes throughout the movement.
Tip: Ensure your hips are fully extended at the top of the movement and avoid overarching your lower back.
Variation: Smith machine glute bridge, Hip thrust machine
Kettlebell swings are dynamic and powerful exercises that engage multiple muscle groups while providing cardiovascular benefits.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and push the kettlebell off your body to start the swing.
- As you lower, hinge at the hips by pushing your glutes back.
- When you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, drive your hips forward, swinging the kettlebell up.
- Don’t worry too much about how high the kettlebell gets – the snap at the hips and drive through the glutes is more important than air time.
Tip: Focus on hinging your hips. The swing is like a deadlift, so you should feel it in your hamstring and glutes.
Long handle cable deadlifts are a variation of the deadlift exercise that utilizes a cable machine instead of a barbell or trap bar. This exercise provides a unique resistance profile and allows for increased stability and control throughout the movement.
- Set the cable to start from the bottom of the cable column.
- Attach two long handles or a straight bar to the machine.
- Stand about 1 to 2 feet away from the cable column or far enough so that the cable is always taut throughout the range of motion.
- Stand with your feet hip widths apart facing the cable column.
- Keeping a soft bend in your knee and your back flat and horizontal, push your hips through and extend until you stand upright. Then return back down.
TIP: For single-leg deadlifts, use one long cable handle and stand on one leg while extending the other back. This unilateral exercise can help with imbalances between your right and left side while challenging your gluteus medius.
Long handle cable deadlifts offer several benefits. They target the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and lower back, similar to other deadlift variations. However, the cable resistance provides constant tension throughout the entire range of motion, promoting muscle engagement and control. Additionally, the cable setup allows for a more natural and comfortable grip, reducing strain on the wrists and forearms.
Variation: Romanian deadlift
Cable pull through
- Attach a rope handle in a low position on a cable pulley for this hip hinge exercise.
- Stand with your back against the pulley, with the cable between your thighs and take a few steps forward.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and push your hips back, hinging at your hips.
- Let the rope handle move backward between your thighs while keeping your back flat.
- Do not let your back arch or round.
- Extend your hips forward and stand back up.
- Hinge forward again and repeat.
Single-leg glute bridge (Bosu ball)
Single-leg movement performed on a Bosu ball which adds an element of instability.
- Lie on the ground and place your right foot on the rubber part of the BOSU Ball.
- Extend your left leg straight into the air.
- Extend your arms to the sides and tighten your core.
- Push down with your right foot, elevating your hips off the ground.
- Lower your hips back down and push back up through your heel.
Adding hip thrust alternatives to your workout
Adding alternative exercises into your program can add variety, target different muscle groups, and keep your workouts fresh and engaging.
Here are some tips on how to add to your routine:
- Frequency: Aim for at least 1-2 sessions per week to allow time for recovery and adaptation. You can gradually increase the frequency as you become more comfortable with the exercises.
- Progression: As you become stronger and more proficient in the alternative exercises, progressing gradually is important. Increase the intensity by adding resistance, such as using heavier weights or progressing to more challenging variations.
- Superset or circuit training: Alternate between sets of two exercises with minimal rest in between. This method keeps your heart rate elevated, increases calorie burn and adds extra intensity to your workouts.