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Opinion

4 Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives

Hip thrusts aren't the only way to build your glutes.

This is NOT an article trashing the barbell hip thrust.

Bret Contreras, PhD, CSCS aka “The Glute Guy” popularized the hip thrust exercise and invented a piece of equipment to implement it. Ever since then, it’s fairly common to see people training with a heavy barbell across their pelvis. 

Strong glutes help with lower back pain, hip mobility, deadlifting, and can even help you run faster. Suffice to say, the hip thrust is a fantastic all-around exercise.

Hip Thrust
Image via Shutterstock/MIGUEL MARTINEZ FRIAS

However, it’s not an exercise that everyone can do. Nor is it an exercise that feels entirely comfortable all the time. 

In my older age with all the wear and tear on my joints, finding alternatives to keep my lifting longer without discomfort is essential. This means not force-feeding barbell exercises when you’re not up for it.

When you need a break from the barbell hip thrust, here are a few other options to build your behind with.

Note: Please be careful NOT to make eye contact when doing exercises 1, 2, and 3.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Cable Pull Throughs

Cable pull throughs, although awkward (remember no eye contact), are a great way to groove the hip hinge with directly isolating the glutes and hamstrings. This exercise allows you to go through a large range of motion with undue joint stress.

However, there’s an upper limit on loading the pull through. With a narrow base of support and with the weight behind you, losing your balance is a distinct possibility. So be careful.

This exercise is best used for lower weight and higher reps.

Considerations, Form, and Programming

Having the cable on the lowest setting is essential because butting into your private parts isn’t an option.

Keep your chest up and shoulders down. Stop when you feel a good pre-stretch in your hamstrings to prevent lower back rounding.

Pairing this with another glute exercise can be great for glute burn and pump. For example:

  1. Cable pull through: 8-12 reps.
  2. Resistance band lateral walk: 15 reps each side.

Resistance Band Hip Thrust

The beauty of the band here is the ascending resistance during the concentric part of the thrust will have your gluteus screaming for mercy. But when the band isn’t stretched, there’s a reduced load on your pelvis, making it easier on your joints.

You’ll still get the training effect of the barbell hip thrust with less weight, while keeping the intensity high.

Considerations, Form, and Programming

 The set up in the squat rack takes some time but there is no need for a pad, unlike with the barbell version (when you go heavy). Make sure you place the band directly across your pelvis for better training effect.

Throughout this exercise keep your ribs down and your back neutral.

At the end of your training for glute burn, try this ladder set:

  1. Banded Hip thrust: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 reps

Do 5 reps and pause at the top for 5 seconds. Then do 4 reps and pause at the top for 4 seconds. Continue down to 1 reps 1 second pause. Repeat once.

Single Legged Band Hip Thrust

If you have strength imbalances between sides, this exercise is will be particularly beneficial to you. It’s difficult, though but not impossible, to do the barbell version. However, the band makes it easier to unilaterally load your glutes.

Considerations, Form, and Programming

You can load this across the pelvis or above your knee as shown in the video. Again, keep your ribs down and your back neutral during this exercise as you want the extension to come from your glutes and not your lower back.

Try this burn out set at the end of your training:

  1. Banded Single leg hip thrust: 12 reps on each side.
  2. Bodyweight single leg hip thrust: 12 reps on each side.
  3. Bodyweight hip thrust: As many rounds as possible (AMRAP).

Bulgarian Split Squats

These train the glutes as well as the quads, making this exercise double the fun. The hamstring, calf, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus all act as stabilizers to keep you upright.

And like the hip thrust, the elevated split squat gives you a large range of motion to get a pre-stretch on the glutes before the contraction.

Considerations, Form, and Programming

This exercise is set up in various ways. Either dumbbells or kettlebells by your side or anteriorly loaded in the goblet or racked (single or double) style. Or if you’re feeling really ambitious, overhead.

Placing a weight plate in front of your big toe (after your set up) allows you to change sides and NOT waste time finding your ideal foot position.   

Keeping your chest up, shoulders down and maintaining a slight forward lean in your torso helps keep your spine in neutral, so you get the best out of this exercise.

Pairing this with a feet elevated hip extension will give your gluteus a double whammy. For example;

  1. Bulgarian split squats: 8-12 reps each side.
  2. Feet elevated hip extensions: 12-15 reps.

Wrapping Up

The barbell hip thrust is a great exercise, no doubt. But there are other ways to load your gluteus when the barbell feels uncomfortable or you’re looking for variety. Everyone deserves to look great in their favorite pair of pants, and these alternatives to the barbell hip thrust are great tools to help make that happen.

Feature image from James Cerbie YouTube channel.

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