9 Best Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives (With Pictures)

9 best barbell hip thrust alternatives

The barbell hip thrust is a fantastic exercise for the glute muscles (but also the entire lower body) because it places a serious amount of work on the posterior chain.

However, the barbell hip thrust has some clear drawbacks. 

Unless your gym has a dedicated hip thruster station, you’ll likely need to find a barbell, bumper plates, a pad for the bar, and a bench or box to serve as a raised surface — in addition to the floor space needed to do the exercise. As such, the barbell hip thrust requires a lot of equipment that might be in high demand at a commercial gym. 

So how can you obtain all the benefits of the barbell hip thrust without having to do the barbell hip thrust itself?

The 9 best barbell hip thrust alternatives are:

In the article below, I’ll explain what each barbell hip thrust alternative is, how to perform it, and a pro tip so that you can ensure you’re doing it correctly from the start.

You’ll see that there’s a range of bodyweight, banded, free-weight, and machine variations listed below, so you’ll almost certainly find one that meshes well with your equipment and preferences.

Let’s dive in!

This article is an extension of my 9 Best Romanian Deadlift Alternatives (With Pictures) article. In there, you’ll find similar alternatives for the posterior chain — check it out next!

What Makes a Good Barbell Hip Thrust Alternative

a great alternative to the barbell hip thrust will target similar muscle groups as those in the barbell hip thrust
Barbell hip thrust alternatives need to target the same muscle groups

A great alternative to the barbell hip thrust will target similar muscle groups as those in the barbell hip thrust.

Muscles Used In The Barbell Hip Thrust

The muscles used in the barbell hip thrust are:

• Gluteal muscles (maximus, medius and minimus)

• Hamstrings

• Adductor Magnus

• Erector spinae (low back muscles)

• Quadriceps

• Calves

As a horizontally loaded hip exercise that incorporates continually bent knees, the barbell hip thrust uniquely keeps tension on the hip extensors (gluteals, hamstrings, and adductor magnus) throughout the movement.

While barbell-standing exercises like the back squat and deadlift decrease hip extensor tension as the lifter approaches lockout, the barbell hip thrust shows the opposite — tension on the hip extensors is maximized at the lockout position.

The remaining muscle groups (erector spinae, quadriceps, and calves) assist in extending (straightening) the knees and maintaining a neutral back position during the exercise’s range of motion.

Takeaway: An effective barbell hip thrust alternative needs to predominantly focus on working the glutes while targeting the hamstrings and adductor magnus in a minor fashion.

The barbell hip thrust was rated as one of my top deadlift accessories

Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives

Let’s now cover the 9 substitutes for barbell hip thrusts.  

1. Bodyweight Hip Thrust

The bodyweight hip thrust is a solid bodyweight and at-home alternative to the barbell hip thrust since it works all the same muscle groups.

With the bodyweight hip thrust, the lifter drives their hips upwards, while having their mid-back leaning against a bench. Since it requires no weight, the bodyweight hip thrust can be performed anywhere the lifter can find a back support (a couch at home works great, too).

That said, the lack of external load ends up making this exercise much easier than the barbell hip thrust. In fact, it will likely be too easy for most seasoned lifters to get a significant benefit from it.

How To Do It

  • Find a padded bench, step or box
  • Sit on the ground with your legs straight
  • Place your upper back against the padded equipment piece behind you
  • Scoot your feet towards your glutes and dig your feet into the floor
  • When ready, push your hips upwards while driving your heels down
  • Stop when your hips extend fully or slightly hyper-extend
  • Lower yourself with control back to the starting position

Pro Tip

For your top position, you can stop your reps once your hips reach a neutral position or when they’re slightly hyperextended — it’s your choice.

Personally, I would recommend aiming for the slight hyperextension by performing a strong contraction from your glutes and holding it for a 1-count pause at the lockout position.

Doing this will ensure that you’re recruiting your glutes as much as possible, while maintaining a consistent standard with your reps.

2. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

The dumbbell hip thrust is an excellent barbell hip thrust alternative as it’s a comparable free-weight variation that also targets the same posterior chain muscles.

As a dumbbell alternative, the dumbbell hip thrust maintains the stabilization requirements seen in the barbell hip thrust. 

Although it does a solid job of working your glutes and hamstrings, you’ll likely be limited by the size of the dumbbell that you’re able to comfortably hold in the crease of your hip as you perform this exercise. 

How To Do It

  • Find a padded bench, step or box
  • Grab a single heavy dumbbell (>50 lbs) and place it on the floor nearby
  • Sit on the ground with your legs straight
  • Place your upper back against the padded equipment piece behind you
  • Scoot your feet towards your glutes and dig your feet into the floor
  • Lift the dumbbell into your lap with the dumbbell heads laying across your hip bones
  • When ready, push your hips upwards while driving your heels down
  • Stop when your hips extend fully or slightly hyper-extend
  • Lower yourself with control back to the starting position

Pro Tip

With the dumbbell hip thrust, an extremely heavy dumbbell will probably feel uncomfortable as it rests against your hip bones. 

To make this exercise more comfortable, place a medium-thickness mat (click here to check today’s price on Amazon) on your lap and rest the dumbbell on top. As you perform your reps, the extra cushion on your hip bones should make this exercise more tolerable.

The hip thrust was one of the exercises that I said could help increase strength in your squat lockout

3. Banded Hip Thrust

The banded hip thrust is an awesome barbell hip thrust alternative, as it effectively targets glutes and can also be done at home.

The banded hip thrust does a great job of targeting the glutes, especially since the exercise becomes more difficult at the lockout position — where the glutes are recruited the most. 

Unfortunately, the set-up for this exercise can be a deterrent to performing it. You’ll preferably need a power rack in order to secure the ends of the bands. 

For this exercise, you’ll also need continuously-looped resistance bands. These high-quality bands on Amazon (click here to check today’s price) will last you years of solid use.

How To Do It

  • Find a padded bench, step or box (and heavy dumbbells) or a power rack with band pegs.
  • Grab a single medium or heavy resistance band place it on the floor nearby
  • Sit on the ground with your legs straight
  • Place your upper back against the padded equipment piece behind you
  • Scoot your feet towards your glutes and dig your feet into the floor
  • Secure the band on one band peg and then on the other by crossing the band over your lap (or loop it around the dumbbell handles)
  • Ensure the band is tautly over your hip bones or slightly below
  • When ready, push your hips upwards while driving your heels down
  • Stop when your hips extend fully or slightly hyper-extend
  • Lower yourself with control back to the starting position

Pro Tip

Since you might not have a power rack with band pegs available, here’s a work-around:

Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells (>80 pounds each) and put them on the floor, making sure you can sit between them. Place the ends of the resistance band around the handles of the dumbbells, and scoot under the band.

The weight of the dumbbells should be heavy enough that they stay put when you drive your hips up against the band at the top.

4. Single-Leg Hip Thrust

The single-leg hip thrust makes for a solid barbell hip thrust alternative, since it targets the same muscles and has a unilateral focus (one leg at a time). 

As a great at-home substitute for the barbell hip thrust, the single-leg hip thrust is an underrated bodyweight exercise. The unilateral (single-leg) emphasis placed on one side makes it a better alternative for lifters who find the bodyweight hip thrust too easy.

Unfortunately, strong lifters will likely still need to do high reps (>30 per set for each leg) in order to create enough fatigue to generate a useful adaptation.

How To Do It

  • Find a padded bench, step or box
  • Sit on the ground with your legs straight
  • Place your upper back against the padded equipment piece behind you
  • Scoot your feet towards your glutes and dig your feet into the floor
  • When ready, lift your non-dominant leg off the floor by lifting up at your hip joint 
  • Push your hips upwards while driving the heel of your dominant foot down
  • Stop when your hips extend fully or slightly hyper-extend
  • Lower yourself with control back to the starting position
  • Repeat for the same amount of reps on your other leg

Pro Tip

Some lifters overthink the position of their non-working leg, so let’s cover that briefly.

In short, you can keep your non-working leg completely straight during your set or you can pull your knee up towards your chest with your knee staying bent the entire set. 

Try out both versions for yourself and find out which position you prefer for your non-working leg.

Looking for a single-leg exercise that hits more of your quads than your glutes? Check out my article about the Pistol Squat vs Shrimp Squat to choose the best one for your goals.

5. Single-Leg Dumbbell Hip Thrust

The single-leg dumbbell hip thrust is a stellar substitute for the barbell hip thrust, as it retains the unilateral focus while providing greater overload than its bodyweight version.

Similar to the bodyweight variation, the single-leg dumbbell hip thrust places an emphasis on one leg at a time. However, it also allows the lifter to apply progressive overload by holding a dumbbell at their hip to provide more resistance.

As a downside, a large dumbbell can quickly become too cumbersome to hold in position — making this variation difficult to pull off correctly for smaller lifters.

How To Do It

  • Find a padded bench, step or box
  • Grab a single heavy dumbbell (>50 lbs) and place it on the floor nearby
  • Sit on the ground with your legs straight
  • Place your upper back against the padded equipment piece behind you
  • Scoot your feet towards your glutes and dig your feet into the floor
  • Lift the dumbbell into the crease of your hip on your dominant leg side
  • When ready, lift your non-dominant leg off the floor by elevating it up at your hip joint 
  • Push your hips upwards while driving the heel of your dominant foot down
  • Stop when your hips extend fully or slightly hyper-extend
  • Lower yourself with control back to the starting position
  • Repeat for the same amount of reps on your other leg

Pro Tip

With a heavy dumbbell, it’s common to have a hard time keeping it balanced on your lap without falling off.

To avoid losing your external resistance partway through your set, I’d suggest that you keep the hand of your working-side resting on the dumbbell handle throughout your set.

A light grip on the handle should provide enough extra support, so you can focus on your glutes instead of worrying about the dumbbell sliding off your lap.

6. Single-Leg Banded Hip Thrust

The single-leg banded hip thrust is an excellent replacement for the barbell hip thrust, since it targets the same muscle groups while shifting the emphasis on one leg at a time.

Similar to the dumbbell version listed previously, the single-leg banded hip thrust has a unilateral focus in addition to dynamic resistance (the band tension increases as the lifter reaches lockout)

That said, this barbell hip thrust alternative also requires a power rack with band pegs or heavy dumbbells to secure the band around. The extra equipment required in this exercise can sometimes turn some lifters toward a different alternative instead.

How To Do It

  • Find a padded bench, step or box (and heavy dumbbells) or a power rack with band pegs
  • Grab a single medium or heavy resistance band place it on the floor nearby
  • Sit on the ground with your legs straight
  • Place your upper back against the padded equipment piece behind you
  • Scoot your feet towards your glutes and dig your feet into the floor
  • Secure the band on one band peg and then on the other by crossing the band over your lap
  • Ensure the band is tautly over your hip bones or slightly below
  • When ready, lift your non-dominant leg off the floor by elevating it up at your hip joint 
  • Push your hips upwards while driving the heel of your dominant foot down
  • Stop when your hips extend fully or slightly hyper-extend
  • Lower yourself with control back to the starting position
  • Repeat for the same amount of reps on your other leg

Pro Tip

If you want a serious unilateral challenge, blend this exercise with the single-leg dumbbell hip thrust mentioned previously.

For the set-up, secure the resistance band across your lap first and then lift the dumbbell into your lap and gently hold it during your set.

The combination of consistent external load (dumbbell) and dynamic resistance (resistance band) will deliver a unique stimulus to your posterior chain.

Want to learn about how to use bands so that you can build your deadlift? Click here to read my article The Banded Deadlifts (4 Reasons Why You Should Do Them)

7. Glute Drive

The glute drive machine is an outstanding alternative to the barbell hip thrust as it works the gluteal muscles in an almost identical manner to the barbell hip thrust.

With the glute drive machine, a seatbelt-backrest-carriage design allows the lifter to perform the hip thrust pattern without needing to claim floor space with a barbell and bench as is seen with the traditional barbell hip thrust.

In a similar vein, the design of the glute drive assists the lifter in overloading the gluteal muscles in a comparable way to the barbell hip thrust and removes the stabilization requirement.

How To Do It

  • Step into the glute drive machine’s footprint
  • Set your back against the glute drive back pad
  • Fasten the seatbelt across your hip bones or slightly below
  • Ensure that your feet are securely placed on the platform
  • When ready, drive your hips up to take the tension
  • Push the handles forward to disengage the safety stoppers
  • Let your hips drop and allow your chest to come forward as you descend
  • Stop once you reach a comfortable bottom position
  • Push your heels into the platform to drive back upwards

Pro Tip

Occasionally, some lifters complain of discomfort on their hip bones when performing the glute drive. This is likely due to the seat belt digging into your hips throughout the exercise.

To remedy this discomfort, I’d recommend playing around with the position of the seatbelt. For example, you might find it more comfortable to set the seat belt slightly under your hip bones (on the tops of your thighs) or slightly higher (closer to your belly button).

In any case, one of these different positions for the seatbelt will likely eliminate any pain on your hip bones that you might be experiencing.

8. Smith Machine Hip Thrust

The smith machine hip thrust is highly specific to the barbell hip thrust, so you can rest assured that it targets the same muscle groups — making it an awesome replacement for the barbell hip thrust.

In the smith machine hip thrust, the lifter works the gluteal muscles, the hamstrings, the adductor magnus and all the same supporting muscle groups as the standard barbell hip thrust.

Obviously, the smith machine negates any stabilization work that the lifter would be subjected to, as the barbell is on a set of tracks. That said, it’s still a highly specific exercise that is much easier to load than a standard barbell since the bar is already elevated off the floor.

Bonus tip: To avoid serious hip discomfort, make sure to place a thick foam pad around the bar with the opening of the pad facing upwards (so it won’t slip off the bar). This is the most highly rated one on Amazon (click here to check today’s price).

How To Do It

  • Find a padded bench, step or box and place it a couple feet away while parallel to the smith machine bar
  • Sit on the ground with your legs straight
  • Place your upper back against the padded equipment piece behind you
  • Scoot your feet towards your glutes and dig your feet into the floor
  • When ready, push your hips upwards while driving your heels down
  • As you drive your hips up, rotate the bar to disengage the catch mechanisms
  • Descend to a comfortable depth, then drive your hips back up
  • Stop when your hips extend fully or slightly hyper-extend
  • Lower yourself with control back to the starting position
  • Engage the catches by rotating the bar when you’re finished your set

Pro Tip

Not all smith machines are built equal. 

Although all smith machines will allow vertical travel of the barbell on a set of tracks, some also permit horizontal (forward and backward) movement of the bar.

Managing to find a dual-travel smith machine in a commercial gym is a huge luxury, as these machines allow for more range of motion and freedom of movement that make the exercise feel way more natural.

9. Barbell Glute Bridge

The barbell glute bridge closely mimics the motor pattern of the barbell hip thrust, targeting the gluteal muscles and allowing seriously heavy weights to be lifted.

Similar to the barbell hip thrust, the barbell glute bridge brings the lifter through the same movement pattern (hip extension) but doesn’t have the lifter’s back elevated on a bench or box.

As a result, the major downside in the barbell glute bridge is the shorter range of motion. Since the bar isn’t moving very far, the lifter will need to add significantly more weight to get a similar effect on the glutes. 

Due to the amount of additional load required, this variation probably isn’t the best choice if you’re limited in the amount of weights that you have available or don’t have a thick pad to protect your hips from the bar.

How To Do It

  • Set a loaded barbell on the floor in front of you
  • Sit down behind the barbell 
  • Begin rolling the barbell up towards your hips as you lay back on the floor
  • Scoot your feet towards your glutes and dig your feet into the floor
  • When ready, push your hips upwards while driving your heels down
  • Stop when your hips extend fully or slightly hyper-extend
  • Lower yourself with control back to the starting position

Pro Tip

When performing the barbell glute bridge, some lifters like to maximize the work they place on their gluteal muscles by adding a band around their thighs.

By placing a resistance band around the thighs, the tension from the band will attempt to drive your thighs and knees inward. To counteract this inefficient position, you’ll have to shove your knees outwards — placing a higher workload on your medial glutes.

Bonus tip: hip circles (click here to check today’s price on Amazon) are far superior to the flimsy resistance bands that you’ll find in a commercial gym. Hip circles offer a higher and more consistent resistance throughout the exercise, and are easier to slide up and down your skin.

Final Thoughts

An effective barbell hip thrust replacement targets similar muscle groups as the barbell hip thrust, primarily focusing on the gluteals, hamstrings, and adductor magnus.

All things considered, the best barbell hip thrust alternative for you will depend on: (1) the equipment and space you have access to, (2) whether you’d prefer a bodyweight, banded, free-weighted, or machine variation to replace the barbell hip thrust.

When selected with purpose, any of the exercises listed in the article above can be substituted into your training program as an alternative to the barbell hip thrust.

What to read next?  check out my article on the 18 exercises that improve your deadlift strength.