barbell hip thrust alternative
Fitness

10 Best Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives

The barbell hip thrust is one of the most effective exercises for working your glutes and lower body, as it directly targets your posterior chain. 

However, the exercise requires a lot of equipment; you’ll need the barbell itself with weight plates, a pad for the bar, and a bench or box to use as a raised surface. That’s not to mention the floor space you’ll need as well.

So, the barbell hip thrust is not always a viable option, especially if your gym is particularly busy. Here are the 10 best alternatives to the barbell hip thrust.

1. Bodyweight Hip Thrusts

How To:

  • Find a padded bench or box and sit in front of it with your legs straight out in front.
  • Place your upper back against the padded equipment and bend your knees to bring your feet closer to your glutes.
  • Drive your heels down and push your hips upward until they are fully extended.
  • Lower under control and repeat.
  • 12-15 reps.

Equipment Used:

  • Padded bench, box or step

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This is an ideal starting place if you’re not used to hip thrusts as it will help you perfect your form before you start adding weights. It’s also quick and easy to do, and very safe provided your form is correct.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your back straight and neutral all the way through this exercise to ensure your lower body is doing all the work.

2. Cable Pull Through

How To:

  • Attach the rope handle and place it on the bottom slot in the tower.
  • Stand over the rope handle, facing away from the tower, and hold a side of the rope handle in each hand. Keep your feet just over hip-width apart with your arms extended, your knees bent and your spine neutral.
  • Hinge at the hips and lower your chest toward the ground until you feel a stretch in your glutes and hamstrings, allowing the tension of the cable to pull your hands between your legs.
  • Drive through to an upright position by engaging your glutes until your hips lock.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps.

Equipment Used:

  • Cable machine
  • Rope handle attachment

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This exercise doesn’t require much equipment, and it’s very easy to change the weight settings on the cable machine, meaning you can tailor this exercise to your needs. Like the hip thrust, it’s focusing on your posterior chain meaning your glutes and hamstrings are getting a great workout.

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Pro Tip: 

Start with a lower weight to ensure your form is correct, then gradually increase this over time. Pay attention to your lower back; if there’s any sort of pain, then stop and reduce the weight, as well as re-assessing your form.

3. Barbell Squat

How To:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place a weighted barbell evenly onto your traps, keeping your chest open.
  • Bend at the knees and begin to lower your glutes toward the ground.
  • Stop once your knees are at a roughly 90-degree angle, then drive up through your legs to return to the starting position.
  • Reps: 10-12

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell
  • Squat rack

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Squats might just be the best lower body exercise you can do as they hit all the major muscles there, including the glutes and hamstrings. They’re also an excellent way of developing overall strength.

Pro Tip: 

Keep the weight in your heels and your knees in line with your toes.

4. Bodyweight Bridges

How To:

  • Lie down on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat.
  • Engage your glutes and abs, drive your feet into the floor and lift your hips up.
  • Slowly lower your hips back to the floor and then repeat.
  • Reps: 12-15.

Equipment Used:

  • None.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

These can create a real burn on your glutes, and there’s relatively little chance of injury here as well. As you’re only using your glutes and abs to lift your hips up, those muscle groups are getting a targeted workout.

Pro Tip: 

When at the top of the exercise, make a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Tense your core by trying to pull your belly button toward your spine.

5. Lunges

How To:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Step forward with your working leg and bend with it so your leg reaches a 90-degree angle. Your back knee should drop close to the ground without touching it, while your front knee should remain behind your toes.
  • Drive up from the foot of the working leg and step back to the starting position. Complete the reps on one leg before moving to the other.
  • 8-10 reps on each leg.

Equipment Used:

  • None.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

As it requires no equipment whatsoever, you can do this exercise anywhere. It’s safe and easy to perform, plus it’s great for opening up your hip flexors and improving flexibility.

Pro Tip: 

When stepping forward to lunge, make sure you’re also stepping slightly to the side as well; this adds stability and prevents any wobbling!

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6. Good Mornings

How To:

  • Place a barbell onto your upper traps.
  • Keeping a slight bend in your knees and a neutral spine, push your hips backwards and hinge to create tension through the hamstrings.
  • Keep your chest open as it lowers toward the ground.
  • Activate your glutes to drive your hips forward and return to the starting position.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Your hamstrings and glutes are controlling the movement here, so they’re directly targeted by this exercise. Unlike the hip thrust, you also won’t need a huge amount of space to perform these either.

Pro Tip: 

Ensure your shoulders are pinched together throughout the exercise as this will keep your chest open.

7. Single-leg Romanian Deadlifts

How To:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in one hand with an overhand grip.
  • Slightly bend the knee of your working leg and begin to lower the dumbbell to the ground as you hinge at the hips, keeping your arm extended and your spine neutral. As you do this, lift the non-working leg straight behind you.
  • Push through the heel of your working leg and drive through to return to the starting position, squeezing your glutes at the top. Complete all the reps on one side before moving to the other.
  • Reps: 8-10 on each leg.

Equipment Used:

  • Dumbbell

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Not only do these target your posterior chain but they also enhance your balance and coordination. Plus, as you’re using less weight, they’re easier on your back than other deadlift variations.

Pro Tip: 

Once you feel a stretch in your hamstring when lowering the dumbbell down, that’s when you’ve reached the furthest point and should then start returning to the starting position.

8. High Reverse Plank

How To:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you.
  • Bend your arms and lay back onto your elbows.
  • Drive your hips up so they are roughly in line with your shoulders and hold.
  • Time: 45-60 seconds.

Equipment Used:

  • None.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Simple to do, this exercise engages your glutes by having you hold your hips in the air but, like a traditional plank, also works your abdominals too.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your head back so that it’s in line with the rest of your body when holding this pose. 

9. Bulgarian Split Squat

How To:

  • With your feet hip-width apart, stand roughly two feet in front of a sturdy bench, box or chair, facing away from it.
  • Lift the foot of your non-working leg and place it on the bench or chair, keeping the foot of your working leg firmly on the ground.
  • Keeping your chest open and gaze forward, bend the knee of your working leg to squat down until your back knee almost touches the floor.
  • Drive back up to straighten your front leg and then repeat.
  • 8-10 reps on each leg.
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Equipment Used:

  • Bench, chair or box.
  • Dumbbells/kettlebell (optional)

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This exercise isolates one leg at a time, making it a particularly tough one for your glutes. It also focuses your balance and coordination, plus you can make it more challenging by adding weight.

Pro Tip: 

You can either place your foot flat on the surface behind you, on the laces of your shoe, or you can press into it with your toes, with your foot bent. Try both and see which works best for you.

10. Deadlifts

How To:

  • Stand with your feet roughly hip-width apart and the a barbell on the floor, lightly touching the front of your legs.
  • Grab the bar with your preferred grip,  keeping your hands in line with your shoulders and your arms straight.
  • Start to sit backwards, but don’t let your thighs become parallel to the floor; this is a sign that your hips have hinged back too much.
  • Keep your chest open and drive through your legs to stand up fully. Your shoulders should be pulled back and your hips should lock out.
  • Push your hips back and slightly bend your knees to bring the bar down to the floor and return to the starting position.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

The traditional deadlift is one of the most effective exercises you can perform, and it really fires up the glutes and posterior chain. You can usually load more weight onto the bar for deadlifts than compared to other exercises, too.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your chin down throughout the exercise, and let your eyeline move as you progress through the movement.

Conclusion

Hip thrusts are great for targeting your glutes and hamstrings, but they aren’t always the most practical exercise to perform. So, it helps to have a few alternatives to hand, and all of these are a great fit. Whether you have the equipment to use or not, there’s something here to fit your needs and help you meet your goals.

George Gigney

George is a Level 3 Personal Trainer and qualified Behavior Change Specialist. He has been training clients for several years and writing for over a decade, focusing on sport, wellbeing, and fitness.

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