If there is a killer exercise that’s perfect for your lower body days, it’s the hip thrust! This bodyweight leg exercise targets many primary muscle groups in your lower body, particularly your glutes, but also your hamstrings, adductors, quads, and some lower back and hip muscles. They’re great for building a stronger and more toned lower body, and they also help with flexibility, particularly in the hip area. The best part about this exercise is that it can be done in a million different ways, depending on your fitness level and what you want to do on a specific workout day! These variations will challenge different aspects of your body such as your balance and stability, your hip flexibility, overall leg strength, and more. So if you’re looking to build a stronger lower body, and particularly stronger and bigger glutes, look no further than hip thrusts and their different variations!
We’ve come up with a list of the best variations that you can try on your next leg day. They’re categorized by level of difficulty: beginner for those who are just starting out and want to make small modifications to the classic hip thrust, intermediate for those who are looking to get more creative and challenge their muscles at a new level, and advanced for the ones who are confident in their lower body strength and want to take on bigger and more difficult fitness challenges. So keep reading to learn some new movements and variations that you can add to your lower body workout routine!
These exercises are just small variations of the standard hip thrust for those who are looking to challenge themselves a little bit more. They’re simple enough for beginners, but still offer an extra challenge so that you can begin building a stronger lower body!
Dumbbell hip thrust
This exercise is great for beginners because it works as a great weight practice before you get into the popular barbell hip thrusts! It targets your posterior chain, mainly working your glutes as well as your hamstrings, adductors, hip muscles, and lower back muscles. It helps you build proper form and strengthens your lower body, while also helping you develop better hip flexibility.
Hot to do it: Sit on the floor with a bench behind you and grab a dumbbell that’s heavy enough to offer you resistance throughout the movement. Place the dumbbell over your hips and grasp both ends with your hands. Place your shoulder blades and upper back on the bench and begin by lifting your body off the floor, thrusting your hips while you hold the dumbbell with your hands. Drive your body up through your heels until your upper body is parallel to the floor and your hip is fully extended. Squeeze at the top, then lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat.
Hip thrust with banded hips
Similar to the dumbbell hip thrust, the hip thrust with banded hips uses a long resistance band to create resistance on your legs, but instead of working with weight, you’re going to be working with tension throughout the whole movement. The challenging aspect of resistance bands is that the tension is greater as you go up, gradually increasing until you reach peak tension at the top of the movement. This exercise targets your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and hip muscles for a stronger and more efficient lower body.
How to do it: Grab a long resistance band and place it on the floor, looped and secured at each end with a heavy dumbbell that won’t get out of place, without tensing the band too much so that you’re able to work with it. If you don’t have heavy enough dumbbells, you can also tie each end of the band to a power rack with a bench in the middle. When the band is ready, get under it, resting your shoulder blades and upper back on the bench and making sure the resistance band is over your hips. Begin by thrusting your hips off the floor, driving through your heels, and activating your glutes until your body is parallel to the floor. Pause for a moment while stretching against the resistance band, then go back down to the starting position and repeat.
Hip thrust with banded knees
By placing a short resistance band around your knees instead of over your hips, like in the previous exercise, you will create resistance between your legs, making your leg muscles work harder, particularly the hip adductors. This exercise targets your glutes, hamstrings, adductors, and lower back muscles, and will help you build stronger and more toned legs. The challenge will be keeping your legs apart but firm throughout the whole exercise.
How to do it: Sit on the floor, resting your back on a bench, and place a mini resistance band around your knees, but not directly on top of them. You can place them right above or right below your knees, whichever you find more comfortable. Position your shoulder blades and upper back on the bench, and begin the movement by thrusting your hips upward, driving through your heels until you reach full hip extension. Make sure you’re keeping your legs working against the resistance of the mini band, without bringing them together during the exercise. When your upper body is parallel to the floor and your knees are bent at 90 degrees, squeeze your glutes, then lower yourself and repeat.
We’re going up a level in difficulty and getting into more challenging exercises! These movements will require you to focus more on your form and give it your all to truly get the most out of them and grow bigger and stronger legs.
Barbell hip thrust
Being the king of hip thrust variations, this exercise will give you a good burn during your leg workout! The barbell hip thrust, just as the name indicates, uses a barbell to create resistance while you perform the movement, mainly working and strengthening your posterior chain, which is crucial for a great number of different exercises. The muscles involved are primarily your glutes as well as the hamstrings, lower back, and hip muscles, in charge of the pushing part of the exercise.
How to do it: First, sit on the floor with the long side of the bench behind your back and a barbell directly in front of you. Roll the barbell back and place them directly above your hips. Position your shoulder blades and upper back on the corner of the bench and place your feet on the floor shoulder-width apart with your knees bent. Grasp the bar on each side and begin by raising it upward, driving through your heels, and extending your hips until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Make sure to keep the weight in your feet and shoulder blades. Pause for a moment, then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat.
Single-leg hip thrust
This is an isolated exercise perfect for targeting your glutes since you’ll be working one side at a time. Unilateral exercises are the best when it comes to strengthening a particular muscle group, and single-leg hip thrusts do exactly this by hitting all three gluteal heads: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. They also target your hamstrings, quads, spiral erectors, and adductors for support and stability. This is an excellent movement to perform if you want to work on your hip extension range.
How to do it: First, sit on the floor with your back placed against a bench, and bend your knees at a comfortable distance from your body, keeping your feet firm on the floor. Place your shoulder blades and upper back on the bench, and begin the movement by thrusting your hips upward and lifting your left leg up. At the top of the movement, your body should be supported by your right leg, forming a 90-degree angle with your body and the floor, and your left leg should be up in the air, forming another 90-degree angle with your torso. Squeeze your working glute, then lower yourself and repeat. Finish your reps and switch to the other leg.
Elevated hip thrust
This movement works like a regular hip thruster, without any added weights, but since your feet are elevated you’ll have a greater range of motion, making this variation more challenging for your lower body! It’s a great way to strengthen your glutes, as well as your hamstrings, quads, hip muscles, and lower back muscles. Ideally, your shoulders and feet will be at the same height. If your feet are higher, you’ll place more work on the hamstrings, and if your shoulders are higher then you’ll make your quads work harder. So it depends on what you want to focus on!
How to do it: Place a plyometric box or a second bench in front of you, while you rest your back on a bench behind you. Make sure the distance is comfortable enough so that you can move your body freely without being too closed or too open, at about the same distance that you would place your feet for a classic hip thrust off the floor. Place your shoulder blades and upper back on the bench, and your feet on the corner of the bench or box in front of you. Begin the movement by thrusting your hips up while driving your body through your heels. At the top of the movement, your upper body should be forming a straight line and your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold the position for a moment, then slowly lower yourself and repeat.
These exercises require you to stop and think before getting into the exercise because you’ll want to make sure that you’re doing them correctly to avoid any injuries since they not only challenge your form but your balance and stability too!
Hip thrust with one foot on Bosu ball
The reason why this is an advanced exercise is that, by placing one foot on a Bosu ball, you’ll have to keep your balance throughout the movement since the ball is an unstable surface. This is essentially a variation of the single-leg hip thrust, and it’s a great unilateral exercise for developing better stability and lower back strength, mainly targeting your glutes as well as other stabilizer muscles such as the hamstrings, lower back muscles, and hip muscles.
How to do it: Sit on the floor with your back resting on a bench and place a Bosu ball in front of you, placing your right leg in the center of the ball. Position your shoulder blades and upper back on the bench, and begin by thrusting your hips upward and lifting your left leg up. At the top of the movement, your body should be supported by your right leg, forming a 90-degree angle with your body and the Bosu ball, being careful not to lose your balance. Your left leg should be up in the air, forming another 90-degree angle with your torso. Squeeze your right glute, then slowly go back down to the starting position and repeat. Finish your reps and switch to the other leg.
Hip thrust with both feet on medicine ball
Increasing the difficulty up a notch, the hip thrust with a medicine ball will completely challenge your balance to the next level. It requires a lot of activation through your whole body to keep you stabilized throughout the whole movement, so you need to be focused on your form if you want to succeed at this exercise. It will target mainly your glutes, as well as your hamstrings, lower back muscles, and hip muscles. The movement resembles the elevated hip thrust, with the added challenge of the ball.
How to do it: First, find a medicine ball that is firm enough for the exercise, making sure it’s not squishy. Sit on the floor with a bench behind you, and the medicine ball directly in front of you. Position your shoulder blades and upper back on the bench and place both feet on the medicine ball, keeping your balance. Begin the movement by lifting your hips off the floor carefully, so that you don’t lose the ball or your stability. At the top of the movement, your upper body should be forming a straight line and your knees should be at a 90-degree angle on top of the ball. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then slowly lower yourself and repeat.
Frog hip thrust
The frog hip thrust, also known as frog thrust, can be a tough exercise, but it’s incredibly rewarding! It uses a somewhat unusual position for your legs, but this position will isolate your glutes throughout the whole range of movement so that you can really put the work toward growing bigger and stronger glutes instead of recruiting other muscles to do the work. This exercise also activates your hip muscles, but not your hamstrings since you won’t be flexing your knees. It’s a great exercise for flexibility and mobility in your hip and upper leg area.
How to do it: Sit down on the floor, with your back resting on a bench, and bring the soles of your feet together, resembling a butterfly position. Keep your feet at a comfortable distance from your body, not too close but not too far. Place your shoulder blades and upper back on the bench, and begin the movement by thrusting your hips off the floor, keeping your feet soles together in the butterfly position. At the top of the movement, your upper body should be almost parallel to the floor, and your legs separated while you squeeze your glutes. Hold this position for a moment, then lower your body back to the starting position and repeat.
So there you have it! The best hip thrust variations and their respective difficulty level, so that you can choose the ones that work better for you to go all out at the gym next time you’re working out your lower body. Having stronger legs will help you get far in your fitness journey since you need them for a great number of exercises, so never neglect your lower body exercises if you want to get serious about building a stronger and more toned body. And always remember to choose appropriate weights for your fitness level!
If you’re looking to add hip thrust variations to your workout routine and need some help with it, check out the Fit With Iulia app! Iulia plans new goal-focused workouts each week to help you get better and more effective results in your fitness journey. Try your first workout for free by downloading the Fit With Iulia app, choose a goal, and start your first workout with Iulia – no subscription required!