Looking for some hip thrust alternatives to spice up your glute training? Here are some alternate exercises you can do at home or the gym.
The barbell hip thrust is one of my favorite exercises on the planet.
The reality is that nothing quite fires up the glutes like a barbell hip thrust.
That said, there are times when you won’t be able to perform the movement.
Maybe the benches are all taken. You left your trusty hip thrust pad at home. Or maybe dry-humping a barbell towards the sky makes you blush a little.
Whatever the case, in times like this, it’s great to have exercises that can mimic the muscle groups used in the hip thrust… without having to hip thrust.
In this article, we will take a look at the movements and exercises that most closely resemble the hip thruster in muscle stimulation.
Let’s jump right in.
Hip Thrusts – Overview
Hip thrusts emerged on the scene within the last decade or so and has quickly taken a major role in most lower body training programs.
There are a lot of reasons for this, with benefits of hip thrusts including a short learning curve, applications to high-performance sport, and of course, significantly more glute activation compared to other popular leg exercises like squats.
Hip thrusts can be done with a bench and a barbell, or one of the growing number of hip thrust machines populating gyms.
The muscles that hip thrusts work include:
- Upper glute
- Lower glute
- Biceps femoris (hip extensor)
As well, there are other muscles that are stimulated as you send that barbell into the air:
- Erector spinae (lower back muscles)
The primary reason that people do hip thrusts is to target the glutes.
With the exercises listed below, that’s where we will place our focus.
We’ll include alternatives that can be done at the gym as well as hip thrust alternatives that can be done in the comfort of your home.
My 5 Favorite Alternatives for Hip Thrusts
1. Glute bridge
⭐ Best hip thrust alternative you can do at home
The glute bridge and the hip thrust get mixed up because, well, they look so similar!
The general movement of the exercise is the same, and the muscles worked are nearly identical.
But here’s where the two exercises differ: the hip thrust has a longer range of motion, recruits more muscles (especially in the hip extensors) and requires equipment (a bench, plyo box) to prop your shoulders up.
How to do it:
- Lay on your back, hands at your side
- Slide your feet up so that your shins and thighs are 90-degrees
- Extend one leg straight in a controlled manner
- Bring it down
- Repeat on other side
That’s one rep.
There are a lot of ways to ramp up the difficulty with this exercise, including using a resistance band (to increase muscle recruitment in the adductors), “fluttering” the legs (really works the stabilizing muscles around the hips and core), or even doing little circles with your ankles for max stability work.
Trainer’s Tip: For people who want the glute-building benefits of hip thrusts without building more thigh muscle, try barbell glute bridges. The shorter range of motion reduces quad recruitment.
This hip thrust alternative is perfect for people who want more control of the lift, want to toy around with different variations, and is especially helpful for lifters who are trying to avoid adding thigh muscle.
Reasons I really like this alternative:
- Can be done anywhere, anytime
- Hard to do improperly
- Lots of variations for increased difficulty
- Closely resembles hip thrusts
2. Reverse hypers
⭐ Best hip thrust alternative at the gym
I really, really like this exercise. The only downside is that this exercise will require a trip to the gym for you to jump up onto a reverse hyper machine.
Like the hip thrust, it is wildly effective at hypertrophy in the glutes and hamstrings.
Reverse hypers are also an excellent option as a secondary exercise on days after you’ve done squats or deadlifts as this exercise option won’t compress the spine (handy especially after a big day of squats) or crush your central nervous system (handy especially after a big day of deadlifts).
The exercise is an excellent replacement for hip thrusts while also being a great choice for secondary exercises.
Research has shown that reverse hypers are way more effective at recruiting muscle fiber in the glutes, lower back and hip extensors compared to regular hyperextensions (back extensions)1.
How to do it:
- Lay stomach-down on the machine
- Grip the handles and slide your feet in front of the rollers
- Contract the glutes and “kick back” the roller, pulling the weight up
- Control the eccentric descent for maximum hypertrophy
The only downside to this hip thrust alternative, obviously, is the equipment required.
That said, if you are looking for another way to really target the glutes, and to hit them with a lot of resistance, the reverse hyper is pretty tough to beat.
Trainer’s Tip: This exercise can also be done on a glute ham developer machine. Simply turn around, place your hands on the foot roller, rest your torso on the main pad, and kick out.
3. Cable pull-throughs.
The cable pull-through is an excellent exercise for building glute strength, improving hip hinging movements, and dialing in hip extension.
Although most typically done with a cable machine, this exercise can be also be done with a resistance band, making it a hip thrust alternative you can do on the road or at home.
How to do it:
- Wrap the resistance band around something sturdy and set it between your legs
- Pick up the band, take a couple small steps forward to create tension
- Push your butt back, allowing the tension of the band to “pull” you back
- Shins should remain vertical, back straight
- Pause to feel the stretch in your butt and hamstrings
- Contract your glute to drive the hips forward
This exercise is awesome as it requires very little equipment (like the glute bridge), and can be done in a variety of rep ranges for different training goals.
4. Kettlebell swings.
The mighty kettlebell swing was the first exercise I started doing in my quest to achieve posterior chain dominance years ago (still a work in progress).
The kettlebell swing is a killer exercise that can be used for developing core strength, improving posture, open up your hips, develop glute strength, and even be used for conditioning.
In other words, it’s a monster.
Kettlebell swings are an excellent alternative to hip thrusts as they closely resemble the arc of the movement, similar to a cable pull-through.
How to do it:
- Stand straight with the kettlebell in your hands
- Push your butt out, keep your shins almost vertical, drop the bell back between the legs
- Drive forward with your hips and heels and launch the kettlebell out in front of you
- Upper body should be braced, but not participating in swinging the bell
5. Bulgarian split squats
The Bulgarian split squat is a hybrid leg exercise that targets the quads, the glutes, and is an essential for athletes.
The movement recruits a lot of stabilizer muscles to balance the body and puts the knee in a range of flexion that also makes it an excellent alternative to regular squats.
How to do it:
- Grab your bench or box of choice that is knee height
- Rest the top of your back foot on the bench
- The front foot should be just outside of shoulder width
- Descend slowly, sinking your butt until the thigh is parallel with the floor
- The front of the knee shouldn’t track past the tip of your shoe
- Drive through the middle and heel of the foot skyward
Because of the additional stability requirements and unilateral aspect of the exercise, you’ll want to go light on the weight when getting started.
Trainer’s Tip: Anytime you are driving through the heels on an exercise, you are recruiting more of the muscles on the backside of your body, glutes included.
This exercise is great for evening out muscle body imbalances and is almost an essential for athletes looking to generate more power on the field or court.
Hip Thrust Alternatives – FAQs
How do you do a hip thrust without a barbell?
The hip thrust can be done with any other kind of weight-bearing equipment. This can include a weight plate or bumper plate, dumbbell, or a kettlebell.
Weight plates in particular are nice as they can be laid flat across the hips, spreading the weight out (kettlebells, especially as they get heavier, can be uncomfortable to hip thrust with, for example). Plates are also easier to balance and won’t teeter (like a longer barbell would) when you drive the weight skywards.
Can you grow your glutes without doing hip thrusts?
Absolutely! Although the hip thrust is a reliable way to build a stronger and more muscular backside, there are other options out there.
The glute bridge is a great exercise for beginners and can cranked up easily in terms of difficulty. The reverse hyper is a proven way to develop to hit all the same muscle groups as the hip thrust, including the glute.
The Bottom Line
While the hip thrust has a place in my heart for building serious muscle in the booty, there will be times where you can’t use it in your workout routine.
Because of the hip thrust does have some limitations (the equipment required, for starters), having this set of hip thrust alternatives at the ready means you can take your glute training to the next level no matter what.
More Hip Thrust Guides
🏆 8 Best Barbell Pads for Hip Thrusts. Here’s everything you need to know about performing the hip thrust—the best exercise you can do for strong and muscular glutes.
💪 6 Benefits of the Hip Thrust. The hip thrust is an essential exercise for people looking to build glute strength and size. Here’s why you should add the hip thrust to your routine today.
💪 What Muscles Does the Barbell Hip Thrust Work? The barbell hip thrust is a killer exercise for developing lower body strength and muscle. Here’s a detailed look at what muscles are being worked when doing hip thrusts.