The hip thrust is an excellent compound exercise for developing strength in the muscles of the posterior chain, particularly the glutes. Nevertheless, there are plenty of alternatives to the hip thrust, that offer similar benefits by targeting similar muscle groups or training outcomes.
Here, we’ll share 12 alternatives, and explain when and why you might choose them over hip thrusts.
Hip thrust alternatives:
- Glute Bridge
- Romanian Deadlift
- Trap Bar Deadlift
- Cable Pull Through
- Kettlebell Swing
- Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
- Reverse Hyperextension
- Cable Kickback
- Step Up
- Barbell Back Squat
- Quadruped Hip Extension
- Box Jumps
The glute bridge is a hip-hinging movement pattern that targets the glutes, similar to that of the hip thrust. It involves laying on the back, supporting the upper body on the ground, and lifting the hips upwards. In this position, with the back stabilised on the ground, it reduces the range of motion and complexity of the movement, making it ideal for beginners.
While the glute bridge can’t be loaded to anywhere near the same extend as the hip thrust, it proves valuable for skill development for beginners, serves as a glute activation exercise during warm-ups, and contributes to building robustness in the glutes when executed with the proper intent.
The Romanian Deadlift, also known as an RDL or stiff-legged deadlift, involves a hip-hinging movement that targets the posterior chain. However, it is different in that the movement is performed standing up holding a barbell and with a more stiff-legged position.
This straighter leg position, places a greater emphasis on working the muscles throughout the length of the hamstrings, as well as the glutes and lower back muscles.
The use of the barbell can lend itself to an effective approach to developing strength, similar to that of the hip thrust.
Trap Bar Deadlift
The trap bar deadlift, also known as the hex bar deadlift, involves lifting a barbell-shaped like a hexagon off the ground while standing inside the trap bar. This exercise utilizes a combined squatty hip hinge moment pattern, engaging muscles predominantly from the posterior chain. The unique squatty nature of the trap bar deadlift results in the increased recruitment of the quadriceps when compared to the hip thrust.
Like the hip thrust, the trap bar deadlift frequently holds a central role in athletic development programmes, serving as a compound lift for developing global strength, particularly in the posterior chain.
Cable Pull Through
In the cable pull-through, you attach a cable to a low pulley, face away from the machine and pull the cable through your legs by extending at your hips.
This movement is more of a stiff-legged hip-hinge movement when compared to the hip thrust, which emphasises the hamstrings to a greater extent. Athletes may use this exercise to enhance hamstring strength during hip extension.
The kettlebell swing involves a dynamic and explosive hip hinge movement where you swing a kettlebell between your legs and thrust it forward using the power generated from your hips and glutes.
The kettlebell swing engages the entire posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. If you’re looking for a dynamic exercise that emphasizes explosive hip power from the posterior chain, the kettlebell swing may be favoured over the more controlled hip thrust.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
The stability ball hamstring curl is an exercise where you lie on your back with your heels on a stability ball, lifting your hips towards the ceiling while curling the ball towards your glutes using your feet and then reversing that curl movement.
This movement targets the hamstrings and engages the glutes and core for stability. Given this exercise’s inherent instability, it’s particularly well-suited for enhancing stability and control around the pelvis, while simultaneously building robustness in the hamstrings and glutes.
The reverse hyperextension is an exercise performed on a reverse hyperextension machine, where you lie face down with your hips on a raised platform and your legs hanging freely. From this position, you lift your legs upward, extending at the hips.
This exercise primarily targets the lower back, glutes and hamstrings. In contrast to the hip thrust, which emhpasizes vertical hip extension, the reverse hyperextension emphasizes the posterior chain through horizontal hip extension.
Athletes and individuals seeking to condition their lower back, glutes and hamstrings in a way that complements a hip thrust may incorporate the reverse hyperextension into their routine.
The cable kickback is an exercise performed using a cable machine, where you attach an ankle strap to your ankle, and facing the machine, kick your leg backwards against the resistance of the cable.
This movement primarily targets the glutes, particularly the glute maximus, where it provides a focused activation for those seeking to isolate and strengthen the glutes, whilst also activating the hamstrings.
Athletes and individuals looking to emphasise targeted glute development or address muscle imbalances may incorporate the cable kickback into their routine.
The step-up is an exercise where you step onto a platform with one leg and bring the other leg up, engaging the muscles of the lower body, especially the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. It also activates the stabalizing muscles of the hips and core and works on unilateral strength and balance.
Unlike the hip thrust, which focuses on hip extension while seated, the step-up involves a dynamic movement that mimics stepping or climbing stairs.
Athletes and individuals aiming to enhance unilateral strength of the glutes and quads and improve lateral hip and core stability may choose the step up over the hip thrust.
Barbell Back Squat
The barbell back squat is a compound exercise where you position a barbell across your upper back and shoulders, then lower your body into a squatting position and return to a standing position. Unlike the hinge movement of the hip thrust, the barbell back squat involves a squatting pattern engaging multiple muscle groups, including the quadriceps, adductors, glutes, lower back and core.
Athletes and individuals seeking to develop well-rounded lower body strength may choose both the barbell back squat and hip thrust. However, those prioritizing quadricep development over the posterior chain, may opt for the squat.
Quadruped Hip Extension
The quadruped hip extension is an exercise where you start on your hands and knees, then lift one leg straight back, extending it behind you while maintaining a neutral spine.
This exercise emphasizes stability and unilateral activation of the glutes and hamstrings, which is in contrast to the hip thrust which is a compound exercise that lends itself to developing strength of glutes.
The box jump is an explosive plyometric exercise where you jump onto a raised platform, typically a sturdy box. This movement requires a powerful hip and leg extension, engaging the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
In contrast to the hip thrust, which involves controlled hip extension in a seated position, the box jump is a dynamic, full-body exercise emphasising vertical power and coordination. The box jump offers a functional movement pattern that translates well into activities requiring explosive lower body power, making it a valuable addition to training programmes, in addition to the strength developed from the hip thrust.
This article presents 12 hip thrust alternatives, each offering unique benefits.
- Glute Bridge – for beginners learning to hinge and glute activation.
- RDL – strengthen the hamstring throughout its length.
- Trap Bar Deadlift – develop global strength, particularly in the posterior chain.
- Cable Pull Through – develop hamstring strength.
- Kettlebell Swing – enhance explosive hip power from the posterior chain.
- Stability Ball Hamstring Curl – stability around the pelvis and hamstring robustness.
- Reverse Hyperextension – condition their lower back, glutes and hamstrings.
- Cable Kickback – isolate and strengthen the glutes, and address imbalances.
- Step Ups – enhance unilateral strength of the glutes and quads.
- Back Squat – develop well-rounded lower body strength, emphasizing the quads.
- Quadruped Hip Extension – stability and unilateral activation of the glutes and hamstrings.
- Box Jumps – develop explosive lower body power
This article provides a guide for athletes, coaches and students to choose alternatives to hip thrusts based on their training history and goals. Let us know which alternative you prefer!
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Will is a sport scientist and golf professional who specialises in motor control and motor learning. Will lecturers part-time in motor control and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider UK and consults elite athletes who are interested in optimising their training and performance.