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9 Hip Thrust Alternatives for a Fitter Body

Although hip thrusts are an effective, functional exercise, they only became popular to the wider fitness community when people (especially women) realized they were an amazing ‘booty’ builder. Over the last 5 years or so an exercise that was generally only the reserve of athletes and rehab programmes has become a part of daily training for many. 

They’re an easy exercise to set up and perform, plus they don’t need much in the way of technique. They’re accessible to most people too. 

But what if you can’t do them, perhaps because of discomfort of a weight across your hips? Maybe you’ve got a lower back issue that makes the movement pattern uncomfortable? 

In this article I’m going to show you a list of effective hip thrust alternatives, explaining how and why they’re effective exercises for anyone who can’t do hip thrusts. They’re all exercises that can be performed with general home gym equipment too, so you won’t need to invest in anything out of the ordinary to be able to do these exercises.

In my personal training career, I’ve had to use alternatives for lots of different exercises without reducing client results. These hip thrust alternatives are just another example of this – they’ll give you all of the same results, without forcing you to do an exercise you can’t!

The hip thrust – why it’s so popular

In my opinion the hip thrust has been unfairly reduced to an exercise many believe is just a booty builder, but that’s absolutely not the case. 

Long before the glute brigade claimed it as their own, hip thrusts were popular with sprinters, weightlifters and powerlifters because of the incredible impact it has on glute strength, therefore hip drive (an important aspect of weightlifting and powerlifting).

This isn’t just coaches’ opinion either – it is backed up by the research. When studied, barbell hip thrusts have been shown to activate huge amounts of muscle (gluteus maximus, erector spinae, hamstrings, and quadriceps femoris), plus the movement helps athletes to record faster sprint times

There’s also a rehab element to the exercise as well. Many physical therapists use hip thrust patterns to activate the glutes and hamstrings post injury, or post surgery. 

Biomechanically speaking, strong glutes and hamstrings help to stabilize the lower back, hip and knees and prevent re-injury. The hip thrust is more effective at activating these muscles than the back squat, so is often preferred in these situations.

Given the athletic and functional benefits of the exercise, the prehab/rehab benefits, the stability benefits and the physique improvements, there should be room for a hip thrust or hip thrust variation in your training programme.

Hip thrust alternatives

There will be some people who are unable to do a hip thrust – they might have hip issues or lower back issues that prevent comfortable and effective technique of the exercise. 

The reality is that the hip thrust is a unique movement, so we won’t have many ‘exact’ replicas of the exercise, but we can still perform exercises that mimic the target muscles and the effects. 

I’ll split them into two different categories, separated by the target muscles of each exercise. To ensure you mimic the benefits of the hip thrust fully, I’d suggest you take an exercise from both categories. That way you’ll be targeting the glutes and the hamstrings, leaving no stone unturned.

Glute dominant exercises

These are exercises that target the glutes specifically. There’ll be other muscles that are activated by the exercises too, but the primary target is the glutes. These exercises are a mixture of pulls, lateral movements and single leg work. None of them need huge amounts of equipment so are perfect for a home gym

  1. Cable glute pull through

The cable through is a very close match to the hip thrust and activates the same muscles. If you don’t have a cable machine you can still use a thick resistance band anchored to a dumbbell, kettlebell or bench to do the same job.

The plan here is to go heavy and perform smooth, high quality reps.

Equipment needed for cable glute pull throughs:

  • Cable/Band
  • Anchor point (cable, heavy dumbbell/kettlebell)

How to do cable glute pull throughs:

  1. Take the cable/band between your legs with a with a neutral grip
  2. Step forward to create tension in the cable when you’re bent forward with your hips back
  3. With your hips back, keep your back straight and pull directly through
  4. Push your hips forward and squeeze the glutes together tightly at the top of the movement. Pause briefly
  5. Slowly return to the start position
  6. Repeat as many times as required

Cable glute pull through muscles worked:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower back

2. Lateral band walks

The lateral band walk is a simple yet very effective exercise. It’s not designed to build massive strength, but it’ll work on glute endurance, stability and movement quality. I personally use these with almost all of my clients and they’re a staple of my warm ups.

All you need is a band and a little space to move in. 

Equipment needed for lateral band walks

  • Resistance band

How to do lateral band walks

  1. Stand inside the band and loop it around your feet (or knees to make it easier)
  2. Open your feet to create tension in the band
  3. Stride laterally with one leg, keeping tension in the band throughout
  4. Bring the standing leg in towards the middle, but only slightly – you still need to keep the band under tension 
  5. Repeat as many times as required

Lateral band walks muscles worked

  • Glutes

3. Single leg deadlifts

Single leg deadlifts can be performed using either a kettlebell or dumbbell, but I suggest the kettlebell because the handle and grip is better suited. It requires excellent balance and single limb stability under load.

The single leg deadlift challenges the core as well, so enhances that ability.

Equipment needed for single leg kettlebell deadlifts:

  • Kettlebell

How to do single leg kettlebell deadlifts:

  1. Hold the kettlebell at your side with one hand, your back straight and both feet on the floor
  2. Keeping your back straight, tilt forward at the torso, taking the opposite leg straight back as you do
  3. You will be standing on one leg, so move slowly and keep your balance and the kettlebell moves towards the floor
  4. When the kettlebell touches the floor and your torso is parallel to it, return to start position with a straight back and controlled movement
  5. Repeat as many times as required for the set, then switch sides

Single leg kettlebell deadlifts muscles worked:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower back
  • Core

4. Rear foot elevated split squats

The rear foot elevated split squats allow for great squat depth, plus the single-limb nature of the exercise reduces strength imbalances between limbs. It’s a great way to focus a lot of work on the glutes, replicating the hip thrusts.

This is an exercise that will really challenge you, so start lighter than you think you’ll need to and build up from there.

Equipment needed for rear foot elevated split squats:

  • Weight bench
  • Dumbbells

How to do rear foot elevated split squats:

  1. Place the back foot on the bench behind you and hop your front foot ahead
  2. Hold the dumbbells at your sides and engage the core
  3. Keeping the chest up throughout, bend your back knee towards the floor and lower the front thigh until it reaches parallel to the floor
  4. Drive front foot into the floor and stand back to the start position
  5. Repeat as many times as required.

Rear foot elevated split squats muscles worked:

  • Quads and hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Core

5. Dumbbell box step ups

The step up is a similar exercise to the rear foot elevated split squats in the sense that it is a unilateral exercise, forcing each leg to work on its own. This helps to strengthen the core too. The other benefit is that you challenge your grip (if the weight is heavy enough).

Dumbbell box step ups are a really tough exercise and will challenge you from a cardio point of view too.

Equipment needed for step ups:

  • Box or weight bench to step on
  • Dumbbells

How to do step ups:

  1. Place the front foot on the step 
  2. Hold the dumbbells at your sides and engage the core
  3. Step up onto the box by pushing up through the front foot – don’t cheat by springing off the floor using your bottom foot!
  4. When both feet are on the box, lower the back leg down slowly and under the control of the front leg
  5. Repeat as many times as required per leg

Step ups muscles worked:

  • Quads and hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Core

Hamstring dominant exercises

The other muscle that is engaged through hip thrusts is the hamstring. In these hip thrust alternatives I’ve selected exercises that will engage the hamstrings via hip movement, rather than the knee-dominant version which you’d find with a leg curl for example. 

  1. Stiff legged deadlifts

The stiff legged deadlift is a great hip thrust alternative because it shares a lot of commonalities. There’s a rigid torso, a single point of movement and an emphasised eccentric contraction. It’s also a solid compound lift.

The other great point with the stiff legged deadlift is that it’s really easy to do in a home gym – all you need is a barbell and plates. Technique-wise, it’s pretty simple to anyone who knows how to deadlift and the results are excellent.

Equipment needed for stiff legged deadlifts:

  • Barbell and plates

How to do stiff legged deadlifts:

  1. Hold the barbell with the grip of your choice
  2. Deadlift the bar into your starting position, which is where you’re holding the barbell with straight arms
  3. Keeping your back and legs straight, tilt your hips back as your torso starts to point towards the floor
  4. Keep pushing your hips back, with your legs straight as you lower the bar towards the floor
  5. As you feel your hamstrings stretch fully, push the hips forward and lift the bar back to the starting position
  6. At the top of the movement squeeze the glutes together
  7. Repeat as many times as required

Stiff legged deadlifts muscles worked:

  • Lower back
  • Legs
  • Glutes
  • Erectors
  • Core

2. Kettlebell swings

The kettlebell swing is a fantastic exercise for the hamstrings and the glutes. It’s a movement that requires a big hip drive, especially when the weight gets heavier and the emphasis is on strength and power. 

The hip drive is very similar to that on a hip thrust, making it very similar to a standing version of the exercise.

Equipment needed for kettlebell swings:

  • Kettlebell

How to do kettlebell swings:

  1. Hold the kettlebell with both hands in an overhand grip
  2. Keeping your back straight, tilt your hips back and drive them forward using your glutes – this puts momentum into the kettlebell
  3. At the top of the swing, squeeze your glutes together hard
  4. Keep your legs mostly straight throughout the whole exercise – the only joints to move a lot are the hip and shoulders
  5. Keeping your back and legs straight throughout, build momentum with each swing until you’re reaching chest height with the kettlebell
  6. Repeat as many times as required

Kettlebell swings muscles worked:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Lower back
  • Core

Knee-dominant hamstring exercises 

Where these knee-dominant hamstring exercises don’t replicate the hip thrust very well, they’re still useful for hamstrings and the lower back, which will have excellent crossovers into general fitness, strength, injury resistance and athleticism. If you’d like even more hamstring exercises, check out our article on leg curl alternatives.

  1. Nordic hamstring curls 

The Nordic hamstring curl is a fantastic exercise because it’s incredibly effective, easy to set up and there is little technique to learn. It’s a very challenging exercise because it forces the hamstrings to control the descent of the torso, but research shows it’s a very effective way of training the hamstrings. 

Equipment needed for Nordic hamstring curls:

  • Foot anchor point – this can be a weighted barbell, a friend or under a chair. 
  • Knee pad or mat to protect the knees.

How to do a Nordic hamstring curl:

  1. Anchor your feet so you can lead forward with control
  2. From a kneeling position, lower your torso towards the floor, using your hamstrings to control the speed of descent
  3. When your torso reaches the floor push yourself back to the starting position
  4. Repeat as many times as required.

Nordic hamstring curl muscles worked:

  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Lower back

2. Suspension trainer hamstring curls

The suspension trainer hamstring curl is a fantastic exercise because it challenges you in so many ways – there’s the obvious hamstring element, but there’s also the issue of balance – the suspension trainer can move in all planes. The core has to remain strong in order to minimise side-to-side movement and the hamstrings and calves control the front-to-back movement.

It’s a great home gym option because of the limited equipment requirements too. 

Equipment needed for a suspension trainer hamstring curl:

  • A suspension trainer – TRX is best, but any sturdy one will do

How to do a suspension trainer hamstring curl:

  1. Lie on your back and put your feet (heels down) in the strap loops. Start with the legs extended.
  2. Lift the glutes from the floor, keeping your back and torso straight and shoulders in contact with the floor. 
  3. Draw the feet in towards the glutes, maintaining a straight torso. Shoulders remain flat on the ground throughout. The hips will rise slightly.
  4. When the heels reach the glutes, slowly extend the legs out again until knees are at full extension
  5. Repeat as many times as required.

Suspension trainer hamstring curl muscles worked:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Lower and mid back

Hip thrust alternatives – the bottom line 

The hip thrust has been recently cast as little more than a booty builder in some circles, but I hope in this article I’ve explained it’s so much more than that. 

It’s a genuinely useful exercise that has legitimate athletic, injury prevention/rehab and strength benefits. Coaches have known for years it’s an incredible addition to a strength programme and you should follow suit.

However, if you can’t do hip thrusts and need something a little different, look at these 9 hip thrust alternatives and you won’t miss out on the benefits of this excellent exercise.

by Steve Hoyles
Hi! My name is Steve Hoyles. I’m a personal trainer, gym owner and fitness copywriter. Since graduating with my Sports Science degree in 2004 I’ve worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. My writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries.

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