Hip Thrust Vs Deadlift: Strengthening Your Lower Body

Hip thrusts and deadlifts are two key lower-limb strength exercises that feature in our daily programming for athletes we work with in performance pathways, given that they both emphasise the hip-hinge movement pattern and posterior chain strength.  

In this article, we’ll dissect the nuances between hip thrusts and deadlifts, providing insights into the factors that influence why and when we choose to programme each exercise. We’ll also share how to perform each exercise and its benefits. 

Understanding Hip Thrusts and Deadlifts

Both the hip thrust and deadlift target the posterior chain, but hip thrusts are more effective in building the glutes and are relatively easier to learn. In contrast, the deadlift is better for building overall lower body strength but does put more stress on the lower back…

Hip Thrusts: This exercise focuses intensely on the gluteus maximus, with the movement performed by resting the upper back on a bench, placing a weight over the hips, and thrusting the hips upwards. It’s renowned for its effectiveness in isolating and building the glutes.

Deadlifts: A full lower body exercise, deadlifts target a wide range of muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and core. The movement involves lifting a weight off the ground until reaching a standing position, engaging multiple muscle groups for overall strength.

Hip Thrusts vs Deadlifts: Key Differences and Similarities

Muscles Worked

The hip thrust and deadlift both target muscles in the posterior chain, yet there are nuances to the specific muscles they target and the extent to which they engage them:

  • Hip Thrusts: The main muscles the hip thrust works is the glutes, with some engagement of the hamstrings and erector spine and adductors. 
  • Deadlifts: The deadlift engages a broad range of muscles, including the glutes and hamstrings, erector spinae and core muscles. The deadlift also involves more quad and adductor engagement when extending at the knees. 
Labelled diagram of the muscles worked during hip thrusts and deadlifts

Joints Worked and Ranges of Motion

This table illustrates the differences in joint engagement and range of motion between hip thrusts and deadlifts, highlighting how each exercise emphasises various aspects of lower body mechanics.

JointHip ThrustsDeadlifts
Hip JointHigh ROMModerate to High ROM
Knee JointLow to Moderate ROMModerate to High ROM
Ankle JointLow ROMModerate ROM

The deadlift inovlves larger ranges of motion at the hip, knee and ankle compared to the hip thrust. The distinction is attributed to the extension of the knees in the deadlift, whereas the hip thrust maintains a consistent knee angle. 

Technique and Execution

  • Hip Thrusts: Focus on maintaining a stable core and driving through the heels to lift the hips vertically. Ensure the weight is securely positioned and controlled throughout the movement.
  • Deadlifts: Keep the spine neutral and lift the weight by driving through the heels, extending the hips and knees simultaneously. The bar should remain close to the body to minimise strain on the lower back.

Difficulty

The deadlift is a more complex exercise and harder to learn when compared to the hip thrust. 

  • Deadlift: Mastering the deadlift is challenging due to its intricate nature. It demands a constant focus on maintaining tension in the lats, back and core to keep the barbell close to your legs and preserve proper posture – especially to protect the back! 
  • Hip Thrust: Hip thrusts are comparatively more straightforward to learn since they predominately involve hip extension. 

Other Considerations

  • Safety: Proper form is critical in both exercises to prevent injury. Deadlifts require particular attention to back alignment, while hip thrusts necessitate careful weight management to protect the hips and lower back.
  • Stress on the body: The hip thrust places less stress on the lower back when compared to the deadlift which requires you to pull the barbell from the floor, yet, deadlifts can be highly fatiguing which can carry over for a few days. 
  • Progression: Both exercises allow for progressive overload. You could start with lighter weights to master the form before gradually increasing the load.
  • Equipment: Both exercises require a barbell and plates, but the hip thrust also requires a bench in an open space as well as ideally a hip thrust pad to protect the hips, which can be tricky to find in a public gym.

Specific Scenarios for Each Exercise

The hip thrust and deadlift can both be used to build maximal strength in the poster chain muscles in the lower limbs. But, lets get more specific:

Hip Thrusts: 

  • Hip thrusts are excellent for glute development, making them a go-to for athletes in sprinting and jumping disciplines. 
  • Hip thrusts are a great exercise for athletes relatively new to strength and conditioning to hit the ground running to build strength in the posterior chain, given that they are relatively easy to learn and the load can be progressed relatively fast. 

Deadlift:

  • Deadlifts are fundamental for building overall strength and muscle mass of the lower limbs.
  • It’s technically demanding so is beter suited to athletes with an intermediate-advanced training history in the gym and who moves well and has a decent base of strength.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hip thrusts easier than the deadlift?

Most of our athletes typically find hip thrusts easier than deadlifts. They are easier to learn and far less taxing on the body when compared to deadlifts.  

Can you hip thrust more than you deadlift?

Most athletes can hip thrust more than they deadlift. This is attributed to the fact that the glutes, being the powerhouse muscle in the posterior chain, play a significant role in the hip thrust, allowing athletes to capatalize on their strength. 

The amount to which you can deadlift can limited by the lower back. 

Hip thrust vs deadlift: which is better? 

Neither the hip thrust or deadlift is better, they are just different – for maximal global strength, the deadlift is better, but for glute development, the hip thrust is better. 

Conclusion

Hip thrusts and deadlifts each play a crucial role in lower body strength training, with hip thrusts focusing on glute development and deadlifts offering a more holistic approach to muscle and strength building.

Depending on your fitness goals—whether they’re glute-focused aesthetics, overall strength, or functional performance—integrating both exercises into your routine can provide comprehensive benefits for lower body development.

Related Lower Body Workout Articles

  • Enhancing Glute Strength: Beyond Hip Thrusts
  • The Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Deadlifts
  • Balancing Your Lower Body Workouts: Squats, Deadlifts, and Hip Thrusts

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Golf Insider UK | Website | + posts

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.