Barbell hip thrusts are awesome for building an insane amount of glute, quad, and hamstring strength. Yet, hip thrusts can be a little tough on the lower back if you can’t keep good form.
So, we’re going to talk about seven of the best hip thrust alternatives to target your lower body and go a little easier on your back.
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Table of Contents
1. Barbell Squat
There’s no doubt that squats are the best lower body exercise you can do. They hit the glutes, quads, and hamstrings just like the barbell hip thrust, but they allow you to work against a bit more resistance and build greater overall strength.
All you need is a barbell and a squat rack (and maybe a leather weightlifting belt if you plan on going heavy). Our top pick is the Dark Iron Fitness Genuine Leather Pro Weightlifting Belt because of its high-quality materials and minimal wear and tear.
If you have a weak back, a front squat might be more your speed.
- Begin with your feet about shoulder-width apart and rest the barbell evenly on your back.
- Start to lower your butt toward the floor as if you’re going to sit on a chair.
- When your knees are at about a 90-degree angle, stop!
- Act as if you’re pushing your feet against the floor to return to a standing position.
2. Trap Bar Deadlift
Since barbell hip thrusts can be a little hard on the lower back, the regular deadlift probably isn’t the best choice either. But, the trap bar deadlift is a safer deadlift alternative that’ll allow you to focus on your lower body while keeping your back safe.
The only downside to this exercise is that it requires a trap bar, which not all gyms have.
- Get a trap bar, load it up with plates, and stand right in the middle of it.
- Gripping the side handlebars, begin pushing off the floor with your feet.
- Start straightening your back as you approach the standing position.
- Similar to a squat, “sit” back down into your starting position.
3. Cable Pull-through
Cable pull-throughs are probably the most similar movement to the barbell hip thrust. In this standing exercise, you’ll be able to target your glutes more directly with the assistance of your hamstrings and lower back.
You’re going to need access to a cable pulley machine with a flexible rope extension.
- Set the pulley machine to one of the lowest height settings and make sure it has a rope extension attached to it.
- Grab onto the rope extension and position yourself so your back is facing the pulley machine
- Bend over to about a 90-degree angle at the hips.
- Using the strength in your glutes and lower back, extend your upper back backward until you’re in a standing position.
- Slowly lower your body back to the starting position.
4. Barbell Good Morning
For a little more focus on the hamstring aspect of the barbell hip thrust, barbell good mornings are the top choice. As a bonus, you’ll be holding onto the barbell on your back, which guarantees better form than a deadlift or a Romanian deadlift.
Just load up a barbell with a reasonable number of plates and you’re ready to lift.
- Balance a barbell on your back and position your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your back and legs completely straight, begin bending forward at the hips
- Stop when your upper body is just about parallel to the floor.
- Begin pulling your upper body back up until you’re in an upright position.
5. Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is pretty similar to the motion of the hip thrust, but it requires a lot more momentum. That’s exactly why the kettlebell swing is on this list, as it can help you to build power and strength in your lower body.
The only equipment this exercise requires is a kettlebell, but don’t go too heavy at first. You can hold the kettlebell with either one or two hands, so make sure that you’re alternating hands if you’re going one-handed.
Don’t have a dumbbell or kettlebell to do this exercise? We like the Ludus Imperium Adjustable Kettlebell Sandbag because it resembles a typical kettlebell, but it’s fully adjustable up to 45lbs.
- Grip the kettlebell with one or two hands in front of your body, planting your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Bring the kettlebell back between your legs, keeping your back straight at the same time.
- Using momentum, bring the kettlebell upward until it’s at about eye level.
- Allow the kettlebell to drop back between your legs and repeat.
6. Barbell Stiff-leg Deadlift
This variation of the Romanian deadlift mostly works the lower back and hamstring muscles, but you’ll be getting some glute work in too. Since you’re carrying the weight in front of your body, make sure you’re choosing a weight that allows you to keep your back completely straight.
All this exercise calls for is a barbell and some weight plates.
- Hold a barbell in front of you with your palms facing your body and your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your back and legs completely straight, bend over until your hips are at about a 90-degree angle.
- Generate force within your hamstrings and lower back to bring your upper body back to the starting position.
7. Single-leg Hip Bridge
When you just don’t have enough glute strength to power through barbell hip thrusts, single-leg hip bridges are the best equipment-free exercise. This exercise nicely isolates the glutes and allows you to build up the strength for barbell hip thrusts.
You don’t need any equipment, but you probably could rest a plate on your stomach for some added resistance. Since this is a single-leg exercise, make sure you’re alternating between legs at the end of each set.
- Lie flat on your back with one foot planted on the floor and the other straight out in front of you.
- Push up off the floor with your planted foot until your back is completely straight and your leg is at a 90-degree angle.
- Slowly lower your back toward the floor.
Final Word on Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives
Just because you don’t add barbell hip thrusts to your routine doesn’t mean that your glutes are doomed. There are plenty of exercises out there that allow you an equal chance to strengthen your glutes, quads, and hamstrings without hurting your back.
And if barbell hip thrusts are something you can’t do, check out all the benefits of the dumbbell hip thrust exercise!