Hip Thrust Variations to Build Glutes

Hip thrusts are hip hinge exercises that require strong gluteal muscles, the buttocks, to extend the hips into an alternative direction. This movement is vital for maintaining the hips, pelvis, core, and lower body stability. 

These exercises help tone and build muscle in the buttocks, both the gluteal Maximus and gluteal medius. Hip thrusts also target the hamstring muscles at the back of the upper leg, the quadriceps at the front of the upper leg, and the hip abductor muscles.   

Hip thrusts fall under the strongman classification as they have been an integral part of bodybuilding for years. Variations of this movement can include the addition of weights to help build more muscle and strength. 

Athletes commonly use hip thrust alternative movements to achieve similar results if they need a change or if the necessary equipment is unavailable. For example, the kettlebell hip thrust variation uses a kettlebell weight to add more stress on the activated gluteal muscles and the core, pelvis, and lower body. 

The trap bar hip thrust variation uses a barbell that encloses the individual and sports two handles, one on each side. Although they are common for shoulder shrug exercises, athletes can also use them for hip thrust movements. 

Not all hip thrust variations will work for every athlete. Some alternative exercises will only require body weight, while others may use kettlebells, weight plates, barbells, or dumbbells. 

Hip thrust weight variation exercises are common with intermediate athletes and bodybuilders. However, beginners can still benefit from bodyweight movements when performing the exercise with the correct form. 

1. Body Weight Hip Thrust 

The bodyweight hip thrust is a hip thrust variation that focuses on the gluteal muscles in the buttocks, the hip flexors, core, quadriceps, and hamstrings in the upper legs for stability and lower body power. 

Also known as the glute bridge or hip thrusters, this simple exercise is simple enough for beginners and can incorporate weights for intermediate athletes and bodybuilders. For individuals who perform sports that involve running, skating, or cycling, hip thrust variations can provide the strength and endurance necessary for these activities. 

Naturally, alternatives to the classic hip thrust exercise variations can provide additional benefits. For example, adding weight or using exercise bands and alternating legs can be helpful variations for individuals who may have limited equipment, are recovering from injuries, or want a more intense workout. 

Beginners can perform hip thrust exercises using only bodyweight, graduating to exercise bands, and eventually using weights to increase their fitness level. Of course, any hip thrust variation will work the same muscles when using proper form, although the intensity will vary. 

When performing a bodyweight hip thrust, the most common mistake involves arching the spine, leading to a back injury. Additionally, an improper form will minimize the effect on the gluteal muscles in the buttocks and the quadriceps and hamstrings in the upper legs.  

To maintain form and make this movement as effective as possible, use slow controlled motions and target the active muscle groups in the buttocks, hips, core, and upper legs. Additionally, an engaged core will help the lower body remain stable throughout the exercise. 

The bodyweight hip thrust maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) classification is very high. This measurement is over 60% of muscle activation during the movement, making it highly effective.  

There are numerous variations for athletes looking at alternative bodyweight hip thrust exercises to provide additional challenges. For example, using one leg only, placing the feet on a bench, or yoga ball, or even keeping the heels together in a frog-like position are all effective variations of the bodyweight hip thrust exercise. 

2. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

The dumbbell hip thrust variation focuses on the same muscle groups as the bodyweight version, the gluteals, hip flexors, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Still, it increases the intensity of a more significant challenge. This movement is also known as the weighted hip thrust variation because of the dumbbell addition. 

Typically, intermediate gym-goers, bodybuilders, strongmen, or professional athletes perform this exercise as part of a routine. The dumbbell hip thrust has several different hip thrust variations. These alternatives include using one leg instead of two, a barbell, or a kettlebell as the weight rather than dumbbells. 

One additional benefit athletes find when adding dumbbells to this movement is core stabilization. Individuals need to ensure they engage their core abdominal muscles and remain stable while balancing the weight during the exercise. 

A common mistake with dumbbell hip thrusts includes foot placement. If the feet are not in the correct position, the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles in the upper legs will work harder than the gluteal muscles. 

Play around with the foot positioning to find the best spot for maximum gluteal activation to get the most benefit out of a dumbbell hip thrust exercise. Do not arch the back or thrust the hips too high otherwise, there is a risk of a back injury. 

3. Banded Hip Thrust

The banded hip thrust variation focuses on the standard thrusting muscle groups, the gluteals in the buttocks, hip flexors, the upper leg muscles, the quadriceps, and hamstrings. However, using an exercise band also provides resistance for the ankles and the calf muscles, the gastrocnemius, and the soleus muscles. 

Banded Hip Thrust
Banded Hip Thrust

This movement can be a natural progression for beginners who want to build up strength and endurance before using weights for this exercise. The exercise band is also beneficial for toning the muscles while providing resistance. It is a common Hip Thrust alternative for athletes who do not have access to weights and want to add more challenge to a bodyweight hip thrust movement. 

One common mistake is allowing the knees to fall inward during this exercise, depending on the band selected. If the leg positioning changes, the focus and activation of the gluteal muscles changes, and there is a risk of a knee injury. 

Do not move through the exercise too quickly or arch the back when performing the banded hip thrust. Doing so can create lower back muscle strains and are not beneficial for the key muscle groups. This movement is not complex, but it can be challenging for beginners without prior muscle endurance. 

The banded hip thrust has different variations to improve an individual’s fitness level. These variations include incorporating a yoga ball or bench for the feet or using one foot at a time rather than two feet on the floor. 

4. Single-Leg Hip Thrust

The single-leg hip thrust variation focuses on working only one leg at a time to isolate the target muscle groups more effectively. This way, athletes can ensure that a dominant leg is not compensating for a weaker side during the movement. Additionally, keeping one leg raised will activate the abdominal muscles in the core, providing a more comprehensive workout. 

It is an ideal exercise for beginners or intermediate athletes to perform as they build up endurance and strength in the gluteal muscles of the buttocks, the hip flexors, and the hamstrings and quadriceps in the upper legs. 

The single-leg hip thrust has different variations of hip thrusts to add more challenge. These variations keep one leg raised while bending the knee or extending the leg out straight in front, parallel to the floor. An extended knee will engage more abdominal core muscles during this movement. 

One common mistake while performing the single-leg hip thrust is not keeping the head and spine neutral during the exercise. As a result, if the head falls backward or leans forward, it moves the spine out of line, creating stress and increasing the risk of back injury. 

Plant one foot on the floor with the other foot raised and grasp the bench securely to perform the single-leg hip thrust correctly. Do not allow the head to fall back or forward during the thrust, and use a controlled motion. 

5. Single-Leg Dumbbell Hip Thrust

The single-leg dumbbell hip thrust is a hip thrust variation that focuses on the upper leg muscles, the hamstrings and quadriceps, the hip flexors, and the gluteal muscles in the buttocks. Using only one leg for this movement creates a significant challenge, making this exercise an option for intermediate athletes or bodybuilders who want to increase the intensity of the workout. 

Isolating each leg will help ensure that individuals receive a balanced workout and that a dominant leg does not overcompensate for a weaker side. Gym-goers who want to create a symmetrical exercise routine can use the single-leg dumbbell hip thrust for optimal results. 

One common mistake that can happen during this exercise is becoming unstable. Because only one leg is secure on the floor, the dumbbell needs to be stable on the pelvis during the movement. As a result, athletes may have to adjust their foot positioning to find the best possible choice. 

Individuals should ensure their pelvis is level throughout the movement to execute the single-leg dumbbell hip thrust correctly. This way, the dumbbell will remain stable, and there is no risk of falling weights or injury. Use a full range of motion to get the most benefits out of this exercise. 

The single-leg dumbbell hip thrust has different variations. The numerous variations use weighted chains, kettlebells, or a barbell rather than dumbbells. Athletes can also use a Bosu ball, bench, or a yoga ball to plant one foot to incorporate balance and stability into this movement, making it more challenging. 

6. Single-Leg Banded Hip Thrust

The single-leg banded hip thrust is a hip thrust variation that focuses on the buttocks muscles, gluteals, upper leg muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors. 

This exercise provides an additional challenge that makes it difficult for beginner gym-goers to perform correctly. However, it is a good transition exercise for anyone who has mastered the single-leg bodyweight hip thrust but does not have access to weights or is not comfortable with adding a dumbbell or kettlebell yet. 

The exercise band will sit just above the knees and constantly contract the upper leg muscles, the quadriceps, and hamstrings. Typically, athletes will choose this Hip Thrust alternative when weights are unavailable or to focus on the upper leg muscles simultaneously. 

One common mistake with the single-leg banded hip thrust is bringing the legs too close together during the movement. When the knees are not hip-width apart, there are minimal stress on the upper leg muscles, the quadriceps, and hamstrings, making it ineffective as a banded exercise. 

To get the most benefit from the single-leg banded hip thrust, place the band just above the knees and ensure that it does not slip or move while working through the exercise. Also, keep the pelvis level and do not tilt to one side or the other when thrusting upward. 

The single-leg banded hip thrust has many variations. These are using different exercise bands to increase the tension or foot placement on a yoga ball, bench, or Bosu ball for additional balance and stability training.

7. Glute Drive Machine

The glute drive machine is a hip thrust variation that focuses on all the critical muscle groups in a hip thrust movement, including the buttocks’ gluteal muscles, the hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors. This machine makes it simple to execute the exercise correctly, so it is ideal for beginners right up to bodybuilders who want to include weight plates for extra resistance. 

Alternatives with this gym equipment include using weight and exercise bands to increase the difficulty for athletes of all fitness levels. 

The glute drive machine provides a padded seat and back support to keep the upper body stable and comfortable during the exercise. There is little chance of an individual using an improper form with this gym equipment, so it is beneficial for anyone new to the gym or following a bodybuilding routine. 

When using the glute drive machine, one common mistake is loading it with too much weight. Athletes should be able to perform a full range of motion when using this equipment. If they cannot obtain a full range of motion, reducing the weight load should help them get the most benefits. 

The seat level and proper weight resistance are necessary to use the glue drive machine correctly. If newcomers are unfamiliar with this equipment, performing a few repetitions without weight can help ensure they are using the correct settings and obtain a full range of motion. 

The glute drive machine has a couple of variations for use. These variations include using a single-leg movement or introducing exercise bands when performing this movement. 

8. Smith Machine Hip Thrust

The Smith machine hip thrust is a Hip Thrust variation that focuses on the muscles in the buttocks, the gluteals, the hip flexors, the upper leg muscles, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps. This gym equipment makes it easy for athletes to obtain a full range of motion with proper form. 

Naturally, there are alternatives when using a Smith machine for hip thrust exercises. For example, some individuals will include exercise bands or use a single-leg posture when executing the movement. 

The Smith machine hip thrust helps take the focus from balancing weight during this movement so athletes can concentrate on proper muscle activation. Individuals who want to isolate their gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors without worrying about stability can benefit from using this gym equipment. 

One common mistake when using the Smith machine for a hip thrust movement is not extending the hips up and locking them out at the top. Without a full range of motion, individuals are not getting the full benefits. 

When performing the Smith machine hip thrust, athletes should maintain an even back and neutral spine throughout the exercise. In addition, keeping the feet at shoulder width will help ensure that the weight is balanced across both sides evenly. 

The Smith machine hip thrust has many variations. These variations include adding exercise bands or using alternative foot placement. Additionally, benches, yoga balls, or single-leg movement can benefit athletes using this gym equipment for their hip thrust exercises. 

9. Barbell Glute Bridge

The barbell glute bridge is a barbell hip thrust variation that focuses on performing an explosive movement with the gluteal muscles in the buttocks, the hamstrings and quadriceps in the upper legs, and the hip flexors. It also helps tone and builds strength in the lower back.

Barbell Glute Bridge
Barbell Glute Bridge

Although this movement is simple to execute, beginners should be mindful of proper form or risk a back injury. Using a spotter is recommended for anyone new to the barbell glute bridge exercise. 

Like other hip thrust options, the barbell glute bridge has some alternatives to provide similar results to the athlete. For example, individuals can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or exercise bands rather than a barbell to provide weighted resistance when performing this movement. 

These alternatives help athletes of all fitness levels work through the movements correctly. For example, beginners can start with body weight, move to exercise bands, and then graduate to weights when comfortable with their abilities. 

One common mistake when performing the barbell glute bridge is not pausing at the top of the movement. Taking a few seconds at the highest extension gives the major muscles an isolated contraction before returning to the starting position for maximum benefit. Athletes should ensure they pause with each repetition. 

To correctly execute the barbell glute bridge movement, the heels should be close to the gluteal muscles. If they are too far away, it shortens the range of motion, making this exercise less effective. Also, remember to pull the shoulder blades together, the scapula, so the body maintains a compact form that remains in line during the movement. 

The barbell glute bridge has numerous variations. These variations are defined by engaging only a single-leg movement or placing the feet on an unstable surface like a Bosu ball for additional balance and stability training. 

What to Know About Hip Thrust Variations

Hip Thrust variations are alternative exercises that will target the same active muscle groups by using a different movement, body placement, or equipment. Facts about hip thrust alternatives are listed below.

What to Know About Hip Thrust Variations
What to Know About Hip Thrust Variations
  1. Muscle Growth: Hip thrust alternatives can benefit certain muscle groups better than hip thrust, such as the calves, or isolating each leg independently to ensure both sides receive equal weight training. 
  2. Variety: Hip thrust alternatives can provide variety for athletes looking for different ways to receive the same benefit or if specific gym equipment is unavailable during their workout. 

Hip thrust alternatives can allow you to reap the benefits of regular hip thrust exercise while also targeting specific muscle groups and difficulty levels that fit your workout style. 

What Are the Common Mistakes in Doing the Hip Thrust Variations?

Avoid these common mistakes to get the most out of a hip thrust variation exercise. 

  1. Moving too fast: Quick movements can make it challenging to maintain proper form. Moving too fast can create muscle strains and injuries if an individual cannot handle the weight or the form. 
  2. Arching your back: Arching the back during hip thrust variations can lead to back injuries. Additionally, the improper form will not focus on the intended muscles, making the exercise less effective.
  3. Pushing with your shoulders: By engaging the shoulders rather than the hips, athletes focus away from the gluteals in the buttocks. Unfortunately, this switch puts it on the shoulders and neck, leading to a neck injury.

Which Type of Hip Thrust Variation is Beginner-Friendly?

The bodyweight hip thrust variation is the most beginner-friendly hip thrust variation. Fortunately, most of these workouts are beginner-friendly because they require minimal to no equipment. The following are some beginner-friendly hip thrust variations to add to your workout routine.

  1. Bodyweight Hip Thrust variations 
  2. Banded Hip Thrust
  3. Single-Leg Hip Thrust

Which Type of Hip Thrust Variation is Good for Weightlifters?

The best hip thrust variation for weightlifters is the barbell glute bridge. Using advanced hip thrust variations with weights can provide the most benefit for seasoned weightlifters. These optimal alternatives include the following hip thrust variation exercises. 

  1. Dumbbell Hip Thrust
  2. Glute Drive Machine
  3. Smith Machine Hip Thrust
  4. Barbell Glute Bridge

What Are the Alternatives of Hip Thrust Exercises?

Numerous exercises can help achieve similar results for the gluteal muscles in the buttocks, the hip flexors, the upper leg muscles, the quadriceps, and hamstrings. 

Athletes looking for alternatives of hip thrust movements can try these common exercises. 

  1. Cable Pull-Throughs
  2. Kettlebell Swings
  3. Stiff-leg deadlifts 
  4. Smith Machine Donkey Kicks
  5. Kneeling Smith Machine Hip Extensions
  6. Good Mornings
  7. Deadlifts 

These hip thrust alternatives work the glutes just as hip thrusts do but add variety and different movements to a routine to keep muscles from plateauing. 

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