Training

8 Hip Thruster Exercise Variations for Glute Strength

 
The hip thrust is definitely a favourite glute exercise – hands down. That’s not to say it’s the only exercise you should be doing for a better glutes, but I’d highly recommend adding it into your glute training for both shape and strength. In this article I’ll go through 8 variations for you to try!

It might look and feel a little odd to do at first, but believe me, from experience with my clients and myself, it’s well worth it! Even The Glute Guy himself Bret Contreras recommends the hip thrust – however, he does advise not to make eye contact whilst performing them…


Setting Up The Hip Thrust

 
You might need to improvise with the set up if using a barbell (which we’ll go through shortly), as you’ll need support behind the bench or step to avoid it tipping over (bodyweight/band variations tend to be okay).

There is a specific piece of equipment called The Hip Thruster for this, but they’re not very common in gyms at the moment.

Try the following variations to really feel the glute burn!


Variation #1 | Bodyweight Hip Thrust

 
Bodyweight variations are a great way for you to train pretty much anywhere, with no need for equipment. As I mentioned above, I’d recommend getting used to the exercise with bodyweight first, before moving onto some of the more advanced versions using a barbell or resistance bands.

Bodyweight Hip Thrust

Exercise Technique

a) Position your upper back (around your shoulder blades), on top of a bench or step, and position your feet so that when flat, with your weight through your heels, your shin is approximately vertical.

In terms of foot width, start around shoulder-width and adjust from there. Again, due to people being different, some people will feel it better with a wider stance, and some with a narrower one. Trial and error is the best approach here. You may also want to try comparing how it feels with your toes pointing forwards, or out at 45 degrees.

If you feel your hamstrings working in the top position (image B), bring your feet slightly closer to the bench. On the other hand, if your weight pushes through the balls of your feet rather than your heels, move your feet slightly further away.

b) Tense your abs (which will stabilise your hips meaning that your glutes can work even more effectively), and push as hard as you can through your heels and lift your hips until your body is in line with the top of the bench and your shin is vertical. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can at the top, rather than using your lower back and over-arching.

c) Lower your hips back to the ground under control.

*OR #2 Bodyweight Glute Bridges

 
If you find that bodyweight hip thrusts are too difficult for you at first, doing glute bridges will help you build up to them.

Bodyweight Glute Bridge

Exercise Technique

a) Lie on the floor (you might want to use a mat for comfort), and place your feet flat on the floor with your heels close to your bum. In terms of foot width, try the same approach as with the bodyweight hip thrust above.

b) Tense your abs and push as hard as you can through your heels and lift your hips up until you’re fully extended and your shin is around vertical. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can at the top, rather than using your lower back and over-arching. If you feel your hamstrings working in the top position (image B), bring your feet slightly closer to your bum.

c) Lower your hips back to the ground under control.


Variation #3 | Barbell Hip Thrust

 
Of all the different variations, this will be the one you can get the strongest at!

Barbell Hip Thrust

Exercise Technique

a) Sit in front of a bench (or step), and place/roll a bar across your hips – I’d recommend using a foam pad around the bar for comfort, and position your upper back on top of the bench, and position your feet in the same way as the variations above.

b) Grip the bar and push it away from you, into your legs so it doesn’t sit on your lower abs. Tense your abs and push as hard as you can through your heels and lift the bar up with your hips until your body is in line with the top of the bench and your shin is vertical. Make sure you squeeze your glutes as hard as you can at the top, rather than using your lower back and over-arching.

c) Do the reverse to lower the bar back to the ground under control.

Remember: if you feel your hamstrings working in the top position (image B), bring your feet slightly closer to the bench. On the other hand, if your weight pushes through the balls of your feet rather than your heels, move your feet slightly further away.


Variation #4 | 1-Leg Hip Thrust

 
This is another great bodyweight version if you ever find yourself with no access to any equipment, and any single-leg training is really effective for strength and muscle development (i.e. ‘toning’ – giving the muscle some shape). Bear in mind that this is a pretty advanced variation and isn’t easy!

1-Leg Hip Thrust

Exercise Technique

a) Get into the normal bodyweight hip thrust position, with your upper back on top of the bench, and feet positioned in front of you with your weight through your heels. Raise one leg slightly off the floor, so all of your weight is through the heel of your standing foot.

b) Push through the heel of your standing foot and raise your hips until you’re fully extended, and your body is in line with the top of the bench and your shin is vertical. Make sure you squeeze the glute of your standing leg as hard as you can at the top.

As with the variations above, if you feel your hamstrings working in the top position (image B), bring your standing foot slightly closer to the bench. On the other hand, if your weight pushes through the ball of your foot rather than your heels, move your feet slightly further away.


Variation #5 | Resistance Band Around Knees Hip Thrust

 
Resistance Band Around the Knees Hip Thrust

Exercise Technique

a) Double up a resistance band and place it just below your knees. Get into the normal bodyweight hip thrust position, with your upper back on top of the bench, and feet positioned in front of you with your weight through your heels.

b) Tense your abs, and push as hard as you can through your heels and lift your hips until your body is in line with the top of the bench and your shin is vertical. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can at the top, rather than using your lower back and over-arching.

c) Lower your hips back to the ground under control.

You might also want to try placing the band just above the knees and see which you find more effective.


Variation #6 | Resistance Band Hip Thrusts

 
I’ve had to improvise with the set up of this one, but it’s another great alternative to try out – the tension of the resistance band at the top is crazy!

Resistance Band Hip Thrust

Exercise Technique

a) Slide under the resistance band and get into the normal bodyweight hip thrust position, with your upper back on top of the bench, and feet positioned in front of you with your weight through your heels.

b) Place the band on your hips, in the same position as you’d have the bar. Tense your abs, and push as hard as you can through your heels and lift your hips until your body is in line with the top of the bench and your shin is vertical. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can at the top, rather than using your lower back and over-arching.

c) Lower your hips back to the ground under control.


Variation #7| Feet-Elevated Hip Thrusts

 
Feet-Elevated Hip Thrust

Exercise Technique

a) Get into the normal bodyweight hip thrust position, with your upper back on top of the bench, and feet positioned on a step in front of you with your weight through your heels.

b) Tense your abs, and push as hard as you can through your heels and lift your hips until you’re in the top position. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, rather than using your lower back and over-arching.

c) Lower your hips back to the ground under control.


BONUS | #8 Glute Marches

 
This bodyweight variation is similar to the 1-leg hip thrust above, with a fun twist!

Glute Marches

Exercise Technique

a) Get into the normal bodyweight hip thrust position, with your upper back on top of the bench, and feet positioned in front of you with your weight through your heels. Tense your abs, and push as hard as you can through your heels and lift your hips until you’re in the top position.

b) Staying in the top position, raise one leg off the floor, leaving tension on the glute of the standing leg (image B).

c) Return it back to the floor and repeat on your other leg. Really focus on keeping your hips in exactly the same position the whole way through your set, not letting them drop between reps.


Take Home Message

The burn you’ll get from doing it properly, is probably going to be like no burn you’ve ever felt before! 

I’d always advise getting used to this with your bodyweight first, then moving onto the other, more advanced variations.


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