If you've ever been in a gym, you might have seen someone doing a barbell hip thrust. That's because hip thrusts are a killer way to target your gluteal muscles.
This move places a huge focus on your posterior chain muscles, which are key muscle groups to strengthen for good posture, functionality, and daily living.
But barbell hip thrusts can have a few drawbacks.
What if you don't have access to barbells? What if you don't go to the gym? What if there isn't space or equipment at your gym?
Fear not! We've collected the best barbell hip thrust alternative moves to target your glutes and lower body.
What Is a Hip Thrust?
A hip thrust is where you, well, thrust your hips toward the ceiling.
Okay, okay, we'll go deeper than that.
A traditional barbell hip thrust is when you lay with your back on an elevated surface, usually a bench. You hold a barbell on top of your hips and move from hips down toward the ground to push them up toward the ceiling.
If you do a hip thrust on the floor (without an elevated back), that's a glute bridge.
TL;DR: A hip thrust is any exercise that involves an elevated back and thrusting your hips toward the ceiling.
What Muscles Are Used in Hip Thrusts?
The hip thrust targets your:
- Gluteal muscles (maximus, medius, and minimus)
- Hamstring muscles
- Adductor magnus (part of your inner thigh)
- Erector spinae (low back)
Basically, your hip extensors and hip flexors, plus some other lower body muscle groups, get a solid workout with this movement.
TL;DR: It's mainly your glutes, but other lower body muscles get hit, too.
Can't I Build My Glutes Without Hip Thrusts?
Short answer: yes, you can. That's why we have this list of hip thrust alternatives, to give you options if you don't have the right equipment, or barbell hip thrusts are uncomfortable for you, or whatever reason you can't do hip thrusts.
Moves like squats and deadlifts will build your glutes. Still, they don't predominantly focus on those muscles while keeping the hamstrings and adductor Magnus minimally used.
The hip thrust is the most efficient way to target your glutes, which is why we also include exercises like the dumbbell hip thrust.
TL;DR: Yes, that's why we wrote this article.
What Counts As A Good Hip Thrust Alternative?
Exactly as I said above: a good barbell hip thrust alternative will target all the same muscles as the traditional move. Each of the exercises in this list will zero in on your gluteal muscles while minimizing the work your hamstrings are doing.
Some of these exercises will have the same movement pattern, and others will shake things up. The point is that you're working the same muscle groups no matter which exercise you choose to incorporate into your lower body exercise.
TL;DR: Good alternatives to the barbell will use the same muscles as a hip thrust.
How Many Sets and Reps Should I Go For with These Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives?
That's going to depend on your previous lifting experience.
If you've never picked up a barbell or touched a resistance band before, you're going to need to err on the side of bodyweight and lower sets/reps.
For example, start your exercise of choice (like a bodyweight hip thrust) with, say, 3 sets of 5–6 reps. Then, if you find you're crushing that, you can either add weight or add sets/reps.
If you've been lifting for a while, have already mastered the glute bridge, and can squat/deadlift a decent amount of weight, you can go heavier and/or higher sets/reps.
For example, say you can currently squat 90 pounds for 4 sets of 8–10 reps. You can try a set/rep scheme of something similar for these exercises.
Check out our ultimate guide to sets and reps, for a deep dive into this.
TL;DR: It depends on your previous lifting experience.
The 12 Best Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives
1. Kettlebell Swings
The kettlebell swing is a seriously underrated move. If you see someone in the gym swinging a kettlebell, take note — they're working their glutes. Plus, swings are one of the top exercises for losing fat, as they use your entire body and are metabolically demanding.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, perhaps a little wider, with a kettlebell between your legs.
- Hinge at the hips, keeping a gentle bend in your knees (not a full squat), and grab the bell by the horn.
- Keep a firm grip (you don't want to throw the kettlebell across the room), but don't overly squeeze it. This is your starting position.
- Exhale, brace your core and lats, and explosively straighten your legs, so the bell swings upward in front of you. Keep your arms loose, so your lower body is doing the work. The bell should float up to about shoulder height and pause briefly at the top.
- Inhale as you allow the bell to fall back and "hike" it between your legs, toward your hips. Again, don't bend your legs so much that you're squatting. Rather, focus on a hinge movement to drive the bell back.
If you can, do your kettlebell swings barefoot. Most of the power of the kettlebell swing comes from rooting your feet into the ground, and the wrong footwear can interfere with this.
Can't do a barbell hip thrust? Add some lunges to your routine! This compound exercise works all the same posterior chain muscles as hip thrusts but without the need for equipment. Plus, lunges mimic everyday tasks like getting up from the ground.
- None, but you can add weight with dumbbells
- Begin in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart.
- Step forward like you do when walking, but take a longer stride so the front leg is ahead of your torso and your back leg extends out behind you. Your front foot is flat while your back heel is lifted off the ground.
- Keep your front knee bent at about 90º as you lower yourself toward the floor.
- Push off from your front leg to return to the upright starting position.
To help really target your glutes (as opposed to quads), take a long enough stride, so your front shin stays vertical to the floor. Also, lean forward more and really squeeze your glutes when you push off to return to start.
3. Good Mornings
A good morning is more than just what we all hope for when we get out of bed each day. Good mornings are a stellar barbell hip thrust alternative to target your glutes and hamstrings. They're like deadlifts, except you keep your legs straight, and the barbell is on your upper back/neck.
- Stand with a barbell across your upper back and with your feet about hip-width apart. Keep your legs straight but don't lock your knees.
- Exhale and brace your core as you hinge forward at your hips. Only lower until you feel a gentle stretch through your hamstrings.
- Inhale as you tense your hamstrings and gluteal muscles to rise back to starting position.
If you feel off-balance, try adding a slight bend to your knees or moving your feet to shoulder width.
4. Dumbbell Hip Thrust
A dumbbell is a great addition to your go-to hip thrust alternatives. The dumbbell hip thrust maintains the exact same movement as a barbell hip thrust but with more accessible equipment (dumbbells are smaller and lighter).
Depending on how your dumbbells are shaped, you might experience decreased range of motion.
For example, if you're rocking a set of adjustable dumbbells, those tend to be a bit bigger at the ends, so when you're in the downward part of the thrust, you might not be able to go as low/get your legs as close to your core.
- Pick up a single dumbbell. Brace your upper body against a padded bench or stable surface. Keep your knees bent and far enough out that at the top of your thrust, they make roughly a 90º angle.
- Lay the weight on your hip bones. Take a deep breath in, then exhale as you press into your feet, using your gluteus maximus muscle to lift your hips upwards toward the ceiling.
- Hold for one second at the top, squeezing your gluteal muscles.
- Inhale as you let your hips drop slowly back down.
The heavier dumbbells you use, the more uncomfortable the weight may be on your hips. Place a thick towel or mat underneath to help cushion as you perform hip thrusts.
5. Banded Hip Thrust
The beauty of this hip thrust exercise is that it's so versatile. You can attach the resistance band to your feet, your bench, two really heavy dumbbells, whatever will hold the ends down as you lift your hips forward.
- Attach your band to whatever very sturdy anchor points you choose. The band should lay across your hip joint.
- Brace your upper body on your padded bench, just beneath your shoulder blades. Keep your knees bent and feet flat.
- Exhale as you brace your core and lift your hips up, driving through your heels. Hold for a second at the top before lowering your hips back down.
6. Bodyweight Bridges
A bodyweight bridge — also called a glute bridge — is the best lower body exercise if you're trying to target your gluteal muscles but are brand new to exercise or rehabbing after an injury. They're a seriously underrated bodyweight exercise that, when done correctly, make for a great stepping stone to a barbell glute bridge.
- Lay flat on a mat or soft surface. Bend your knees so you can barely brush your heels with your fingertips. This is your starting position.
- Exhale, brace your core and tense your gluteus maximus to lift your hips off the ground. Maintain a neutral spine — your knees, hips, and shoulders should make a straight line.
- Hold for a least a second at the top (more if you want to up the intensity).
- Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground.
Imagine crushing a walnut between your butt cheeks at the top of each rep to really activate those glutes.
7. Bulgarian Split Squat
If you don't have access to the equipment to do a barbell squat or barbell hip thrust, Bulgarian split squats have your back. Or, well, they have your gluteus maximus. Whatever, you get it.
- None, but you can hold a dumbbell in each hand if you want
- Find something sturdy to brace your back foot on, like a padded bench or chair, about 12–16 inches off the ground.
- Step a full stride away from the bench and rest the top of your back foot on it. Your ankle should be off the edge for full range of motion. Stepping far enough away from the bench is key to making this move glute-focused.
- Inhale as you lower the knee of your working leg toward the ground. Lean forward more than you normally do in a lunge, again, to work your glutes. Try to keep your front knee at a 90º angle.
- Exhale as you push through the planted foot to drive back into starting position. Even though you're leaning forward, your spine should be in a neutral position (don't hunch your shoulders).
- Repeat on the other leg.
Keep your feet shoulder-width apart like you're stepping on two train tracks to improve your balance.
8. Cable Pull Through
If hip thrusts are out of the question for you, try a cable pull-through. You need a cable machine or a resistance band attached to something very sturdy. A cable pull targets all the same muscle groups in your posterior chain as hip thrusts and deadlifts.
- Pick your desired weight on the machine. Then, face away from it and grab the rope attachment (or your resistance band) with palms facing each other, between your legs.
- Take a few steps away from the machine, so the pulley lifts the weight slightly off the rack. Place your feet wider than shoulder-width, legs straight, toes slightly pointed out.
- Inhale as you bend at the waist and push your hips backward toward the machine. Keep your spine neutral. Keep pushing your hips back until you feel a gentle stretch through your hamstrings (it's okay to have a slight bend to your knees).
- Pause for a moment, then exhale as you reverse the movement and use hip extension to straighten your legs back to fully extended. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top.
This is another great exercise that benefits from barefoot or very lightly soled shoes to feel that propulsion of power from your feet to your legs.
We can't discuss hip thrusts and their alternatives without talking deadlifts. This compound exercise will light up the muscles in your posterior chain. Plus, they're super versatile in terms of equipment — you can even do a trap bar deadlift if you want.
- Barbell, dumbbells, or resistance bands
- Approach the weight you're using, so it's as close to your feet/shins as possible. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width.
- Hinge at your hips to bend forward. Your knees can bend but don't squat. Grab your equipment with an overhand grip.
- Exhale and brace your core. Tighten your lats by imagining squeezing an orange underneath each armpit. Keep your arms straight.
- Press your feet into the floor and focus on using your glutes and hamstrings to lift the weight off the ground until you're in a standing position but don't push your hips forward at the top. Just squeeze your glutes.
- Inhale as you carefully lower the weight back toward the floor.
Imagine "painting" your body with the bar or dumbbells as you lift, so you keep the weight in close.
10. Single-Leg Hip Thrust
If you want to up the intensity of your hip thrust/lower body workouts but don't have weight, try doing the move with only a single leg. Or, you can do a single-leg dumbbell hip thrust if you have that equipment.
- None, but you can add a dumbbell for weight
- Get set up the same way as you did for a banded hip thrust (minus the band).
- Lift one leg off the ground and extend it straight away from you. The leg that's bent with foot flat is the working/dominant leg.
- Exhale as you press your foot into the floor to lift your hips upwards toward the ceiling. Pause and squeeze the gluteus maximus on the dominant leg side.
- Inhale as you slowly lower back down.
Any single-leg hip exercise doubles as stabilization work because you have to use multiple muscle groups to keep your balance.
11. Reverse Plank
"But wait," I hear you say, "aren't planks for your core?" Not when they're reversed. When you face up in a plank, you're using your posterior chain and erector spinae more than your abs.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, and your hands planted slightly outside and behind your hips.
- Press into your palms as you lift your hips and torso toward the ceiling. Point your toes and keep your legs and arms straight. Keep your spine in a neutral position.
- Squeeze your glutes and core, imagining bringing your belly button back toward your spine. Hold for as long as possible.
Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears during your plank.
Ah, the humble-yet-challenging squat. Whether you do a barbell squat, use a squat rack, prefer to hold dumbbells, or wear a backpack full of books, squats will build your booty.
- Your weight of choice
- Grab your weight of choice. Stand with feet hip-width apart or slightly wider. Keep your spine neutral and chin slightly tucked.
- Inhale as you bend your knees to lower into your squat. Maintain that neutral spine and keep your core braced. Watch out for any knee caving inward action. Try to reach at least a 90º angle in your knees or even further.
- Exhale as you press into the floor to stand back up.
You don't actually have to worry about your knees going past your toes when you do squats.
That's outdated information.
Instead, focus on a strong core and going as low as you can.
Bonus tip: wear a band around your knees to help remind you to push them outward, so they don't cave in.
The hip thrust is an excellent exercise to target and work your glutes and lower body.
But, with this list of hip thrust alternatives, you'll be able to attack the same muscles from different directions and angles for a super focused work on your lower body.
So, Go forth and enjoy strong glutes with these hip thrust alternatives!