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If you want to train your glutes for maximum growth you don’t have to rely on the hip thrust exercise.
Don’t get us wrong, the hip thrust does have its place in an effective booty workout, but they’re not right for everyone.
Some common concerns include excessive pressure on the neck and upper back, as well as discomfort in the pelvic and lower back regions.
Recommended Reading – 7 Effective Gluteus Medius Exercises To Strengthen Glutes
So, if you want bigger and stronger glutes where does that leave us?
Keep reading as we’re going to recommend some of the best hip thrust alternatives to fire up your glute muscles, helping you pack on size and increase strength.
Can You Build The Glutes Without Hip Thrusts?
You can build and develop your glutes without having to do hip thrusts.
Whether you do the exercise with a barbell or on a hip thrust machine, there are better alternatives that will lead to greater glute activation and therefore more muscle hypertrophy.
The main drawback of the hip thrust is that it challenges the glute muscles the most at the top of the movement when they’re in their shortened state and fully contracted.
However, research shows that exercises recruit the muscles the most at the bottom of the movement (when the muscles are fully stretched) which leads to better growth.
Whether the exercise involves hip extension or hip abduction will also determine what part of the glutes are being worked.
For example, glute exercises like the kettlebell swing or glute bridge require you to move your glutes backward and forwards which is hip extension.
This will work more of your lower glutes and help to banish banana roll fat.
On the other hand, exercises that involve moving your leg out and away from the midline of your body, which is known as hip abduction, is better for recruiting the mid and upper glutes.
These would include exercises like the resistance band crab walk and lateral lunge.
These are better for lifting the glutes.
This shows us the importance of incorporating a variety of exercise variations into your workout routine so that you work all the muscles that make up your glutes; the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
Best Hip Thrust Alternatives For Maximum Glute Growth
The alternative exercises to replace the barbell hip thrust are all tried and tested and will offer the best glute activation to develop both the upper and lower glutes.
The walking lunge is a great alternative to the hip thrust exercise and when done with a full range of motion, it’s going to result in peak contraction of your gluteal muscles.
The key when doing a lunge is to take wide steps to properly engage the working muscles.
That being said, only go as far as you find comfortable and make sure you remain stable and in control throughout.
If you step too far forward, you may find you can’t generate enough force to get back to a standing position.
You can start with body weight and add a barbell when your form and strength allow.
Make sure you have enough space to be able to take a few steps forward.
A common question when performing the walking lunge is whether you should carry the back foot through and go straight into the next lunge or take staggered steps.
We find that taking staggered steps where you stand upright between each lunge ensures you stick to proper form and in truth, there’s no real benefit to
As with any exercise, good technique is key so here’s how to do it:
- Stand upright with feet at a hip-width distance.
- Keep your chest up and core engaged.
- Lift your right foot off the ground and take a large step forward.
- Allow your left knee to touch the floor.
- Pause for a second then push off with your front foot and move back to the starting position.
- Repeat but step forward using your left foot.
Lunge Tips For Best Glute Activation:
- Take long strides forward to engage more of your gluteus maximus.
- Keep your chest up and core tight.
- Push off with your front foot.
- Don’t go too heavy, taking wide steps already adds an element of instability without a heavy weight load.
- Keep reps high at around 15 to 20 for three sets.
Bulgarian Split Squats
The Bulgarian split squat is a challenging compound exercise that primarily recruits the quads and glutes with your hamstrings and calves acting as stabilizers.
By making a small adjustment to your technique you can reduce activation of your quads and place more emphasis on your lower glutes making it a great hip thrust variation.
It’s like the static lunge exercise but involves elevating your back foot on a bench or platform.
This creates a greater range of motion which helps to increase the stretch at the hip flexors and better challenges the glutes.
As you descend towards the ground, instead of keeping your upper body in a straight line, you want to tilt your torso forward which engages more of your glutes.
Here’s How To Do It:
- Begin with your front foot on the ground and your back foot resting on a bench (either flat or on its toes)
- For best results, lean your torso forward by hinging forward at your hips.
- Drop down, so that your front knee starts to bend, and your back knee lowers towards the floor.
- Pause at the bottom then push through the heel of your front foot back to the start.
- Aim for 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Bulgarian Split Squat Form Tips:
- For better glute recruitment, allow your torso to lean forwards slightly.
- Keep your shin over your foot and don’t allow your knee to move forwards.
- Make sure you do equal repetitions on either leg.
- Start with bodyweight to perfect your form before adding heavy weights.
The Romanian deadlift, often abbreviated to the RDL, is an effective exercise for recruiting several muscle groups of your posterior chain: specifically your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
When compared to the conventional deadlift or sumo deadlift, more emphasis is placed on the eccentric portion of the movement, when you lower the barbell to the ground.
When you control the eccentric part of a deadlift this contributes to building more muscle, increasing your explosive power, and improving control and stability.
What’s more, it can help to strengthen your erector spinae which helps to improve your posture and reduce lower back pain.
When compared to other deadlift variations, tension remains on your muscles throughout the exercise.
This is because you start from the top and don’t pull from the bottom, and you don’t lower the barbell to the ground.
How To Do The RDL:
- Position a bar onto a power rack (or smith machine) at above knee height.
- Take hold of the bar with an overhand grip and hands just past shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your spine neutral, deadlift the bar up until your hips lock out at the top.
- Now push your hips back while maintaining a slight bend to your knee.
- As the bar lowers towards the floor you should feel tension in your glutes and hamstrings.
- Once the bar reaches the middle of your shin, stop, and pause briefly.
- Use control to push through your heels back to the start completing 2/3 sets of 5 to 15 reps.
Romanian Deadlift Technique Tips:
- Brace your core muscles as this will help will stabilize your spine.
- Keep your knees soft throughout and don’t lock them out.
- Keep the bar close to your body, it should travel along your thighs.
Cable Kick Backs
The cable kickback is a unilateral exercise meaning you can work a single leg at a time.
This is a great way of working on any muscle or strength imbalances.
The primary muscle worked when doing cable kickbacks is the gluteus maximus making it a great alternative to the hip thrust.
To get the most progressive overload, you’ll want to do it on a cable machine with an ankle attachment.
This is because you can easily increase the weight load over time helping to prevent any plateaus.
However, you can use a glute band at home if you’d prefer.
To do it, you’ll need access to a cable machine and an ankle attachment.
Here’s How To Do it
- Set the pulley on the cable machine to its lowest setting (at floor level).
- Clip on the ankle attachment and then around the ankle of the leg to be worked.
- Facing the machine, lean forward and place both hands on it for stability.
- Move your working leg back and out to a 30-degree angle (or thereabouts).
- Pause, squeezing your glutes and lower back to the start.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps on each leg.
Tips For Doing Cable Kick Backs:
- To get the most glute activation, instead of taking your leg straight out behind you, move it out but slightly to the side (around 30 degrees from your body).
- Keep your back straight and maintain a neutral spine. Avoid rounding or arching your back.
- Focus on using your glutes to lift your leg, and keep the knee of the working leg slightly bent throughout the movement.
The Curtsy lunge is a great exercise for loading your glutes, especially the outer glutes, making it an excellent alternative to the barbell hip thrust.
Aside from working the glutes, it can also help to improve hip mobility and flexibility.
As it involves crossing one leg behind the other in a lateral motion it can put pressure on the knee joint if not done properly.
With that in mind, if you don’t have much knee stability it’s a good idea to work on addressing this first before attempting the exercise.
How To Do The Curtsy Lunge:
- Stand upright with feet hip-width apart.
- Shift your weight to one leg while keeping the other foot on the ground.
- Take a step diagonally behind and across your body with the lifted foot, as though you’re performing a curtsy.
- Bend both knees, lowering your hips toward the ground. Focus on lowering your body straight down rather than leaning forward.
- Keep your chest up and back straight.
- Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground or slightly below. The back knee should hover just above or lightly touch the ground.
- Push through the heel of the front foot to return to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement on the other side by stepping diagonally behind and across with the opposite leg.
Curtsy Lunge Tips For Proper Form:
- Slightly internally rotate the foot of your fixed leg as this can help reduce stress on the knee.
- Start with just body weight before adding additional resistance and don’t lunge too deep until you get used to the movement pattern.
- To prevent losing balance, move in a controlled range of motion and don’t step out too wide.
- Avoid leaning forward and keep your abdominals tight.
Banded Hip Abduction
We love this exercise as, with a set of glute bands, it can be done pretty much anywhere making it a great hip thrust alternative.
The banded hip abduction is a lower body exercise that’s going to work your glute medius (the upper glutes) and improve the strength and flexibility to your hip flexors.
It’s so easy to do, making it a great choice for beginners.
Here’s How It’s Done
- Sit on the edge of a chair or bench and position your glute band just above your knees.
- Place your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart and knees bent to 90-degrees.
- Place your hands on the edge of the chair/bench for support.
- Open your thighs and move your knees away from one another.
- Laterally roll your feet on to the sides at the same time.
- Pause and then use control to return your knees to the start, complete 30 reps.
Tips For Doing The Banded Hip Abduction:
- A common mistake is moving too fast. Avoid rapid and jerky movements and use control.
- Maintain an upright position so you don’t stress your lower back.
- To increase the resistance, you could try placing an additional band just below your knees.
- Play around with the placement of the band ranging from around your ankles or thighs to work the glutes in different ways.
Glute Workout Without The Hip Thrust
Now that we know the best exercises for glute gains without having to do a hip thrust exercise, let’s put some of them together for an effective workout.
As with training any body part, keep your muscles guessing by switching things up and, as you get stronger, consider upping the weight or repetitions.
- Romanian Deadlift – 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps.
- Bulgarian Split Squat – 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per leg.
- Cable Kickbacks – 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps per leg.
- Banded Hip Abduction – 2 sets of 15 to 20 reps to finish off.
The glutes are one of the largest muscles in your body and as it’s made up of several smaller muscle groups, it’s important to target each muscle for proper glute development.
Equally important is proper form, all of the hip thrust alternatives mentioned in this article will only lead to the gains you want if they’re done properly.