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August 22, 2021 8 min read

Whether you are seeking to tone and strengthen your body or you are simply looking for some new movements to incorporate into your workout routine, you have taken the first step in the right direction by coming to the right place.

There is nothing stopping you now from reaching your goals. First of all, what exactly is toning and strengthening? And how can you do that for your body? Toning and strengthening are two separate concepts. Muscle tone essentially refers to your muscles' ability to resist stretching while they are at rest or they are not being used.

In contrast, muscle strength refers to your muscles' ability to perform when used and required to contract. Therefore, the terms are not interchangeable but by focusing on exercise in general, you are creating a well-rounded platform for your muscles by improving your muscle tone and strength simultaneously.

Hip thrusts are an incredible way to target those lower body muscles including all your glute muscles, the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus, in addition to the hamstrings. By performing this isolated movement, you are also working your quadriceps, your core muscles, and your hip adductors.

What Exactly Are  Hip Thrusts?

Hip thrusts are an easy, fun way to change up your lower body workout routine. They target more than one muscle group which can help improve your mobility and muscular strength. They are not to be confused with glute bridges although they are quite similar.

Glute bridges are typically performed on the floor with your shoulders placed on the ground whereas hip thrusts are more commonly performed with your shoulders on a bench or an elevated platform. There are a couple of key differences between hip thrusts and glute bridges, although both focus on activating those gluteal muscles. 

Young athletic strong woman practicing glute bridge exercise with a heavy barbell on her legs

Hip thrusts typically involve the use of free weights such as a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell which places more force on your muscles, leading, to more activation of those lower body muscles as you lift your body off the floor.

Also, hip thrusts are great for widening your range of motion as they allow for a greater range of motion making it a great exercise to incorporate into your warm-up or glute activation routine. Regardless of which exercise you decide is right for you, you must be focusing on keeping proper form in order to target all those muscles.

What Muscles Do  Hip Thrusts Target?

It's not a surprise that hip thrusts are at the top of the list for most personal trainers as this exercise does not fail to target the largest muscles in your body. By incorporating hip thrusts into your workout routine, you're allowing the movement to improve important movers and stabilizers in your body by strengthening your posterior chain.

1. Gluteal muscles

Glutes are great to look at when they're toned and in shape but they also assist in many ways that are essential for our survival.  They allow us to do things as simple as walk, sit, stand, get out of bed, or essentially any movement that involves our lower body. However, since society has shifted to a digital phenomenon, we're sitting the majority of the time facing a screen which can make our glute muscles weak.

Having glute muscles basically lead to a domino effect of weak muscles. Weak glute muscles can lead to weaker hamstrings and lower back muscles then weak lower back muscles can lead to your abdominals supporting your lower back but if it continuously has to compensate, it could lead to further injury and lower back pain.

2. Hip Flexors

The hip thrust movement prepares your hip flexors for exercises like Romanian deadlifts. You might also be familiar with the term "psoas" for your hip flexors. Every time you take a simple step, you are engaging and using those hip flexor muscles.

3. Abdominals

While you are actively engaging your glute muscles, you also are strengthening your abdominal muscles as they help you lift up during the movement. Your abdominals are part of the core group of muscles in your body that essentially allow you to perform any task at any point in the day. It is good to incorporate exercises like hip thrusts as well as other core exercises to further develop your abdominal muscles.

Hip Thrust Benefits

1. Great for Hypertrophy, Strength, or Power

Hip thrusts provide the perfect platform for individuals seeking to work on their glute muscles and the strength and power associated with them. It is up to you how heavy or how light you load up your hip thrusts depending on your goals.

If you are seeking strength, you might decide to use a heavy barbell but if you are seeking to improve your endurance, you might decide to use a lighter dumbbell and perform more reps. It is an extremely flexible movement that can be manipulated in a variety of ways to allow you to reach your goals

According to  Physiology Reports, the manipulation of acute variables such as volume or intensity can induce an anabolic response to exercise which can lead to hypertrophy.

2. Great Warm-Up Exercise 

Hip thrusts are a great movement to incorporate in both your warm-up and cool-down routine as once again, it is extremely flexible. They can be performed using simply your body weight to help prepare your body for the exercise it is about to endure.

They prepare your body for the hip extension which is extremely important especially when you are about to work your glutes as you are sending a signal to all those agonist and antagonist muscles that they need to prepare for exercise.

3. Wide Variety Of Alternatives

Other than the fact that hip thrusts on their own can be manipulated in a variety of ways with regards to the number of reps you perform, the speed you perform them at as well as the amount of weight placed onto your hips, they are also great as there are so many alternatives to the traditional hip thrust. Keep reading to learn more about finding the perfect one for your workout routine.

Hip Thrust Alternatives for Tone and Strength

At the end of the day, making sure you have proper form is crucial. It is advisable to perform these exercises in front of a mirror to ensure you are safely performing the movement in order to maximize your workout.

Now, if you’re not feeling motivated, go grab the  Ultimate Pre-Workout Stack and give one of these alternatives a try. This stack comes in a variety of flavors that will give you the energy to have a killer workout.

1. Traditional  Hip Thrust

How To:

  1. Find an elevated surface such as a bench, step, or box. 
  2. Place your shoulder blades against the bench, step, or box.
  3. Place your feet shoulder-width apart near your glutes and distribute the weight into your feet. You will be in a similar position as a normal hip bridge but your upper back will be elevated. 
  4. When in the correct position, start pushing your hips up while keeping the weight in your heels. 
  5. Squeeze your glutes and abs throughout the whole process and stop when your hips are extended fully.

It is crucial you do not hyperextend your back as this could cause injury.

  1. Hold at the top for 2-3 seconds and slowly lower your body back down to the starting position
  2. Repeat steps 1-6 for your desired number of reps and sets.

2. Resistance Band Hip Thrust

How To:

  1. Place your back on one of the elevated surfaces mentioned above. 
  2. Grab a resistance band as well as heavy dumbbells and place them near you. 
  3. Get into your starting position by sitting on the ground with your upper back placed on the elevated surface.
  4. Place your feet near your glutes at shoulder-width apart. 
  5. Place the one end of the resistance band looped around one of the dumbbell handles and the other end over your lap. 
  6. Once the band is tightly placed over your hip bones, push your hips upwards slowly. 
  7. Squeeze your glutes and abs at the top for about 2-3 seconds then slowly lower down to starting position.
  8. Repeat steps 1-8 for your desired number of reps and sets.

3.Single-Leg Hip Thrust

How To:

  1. Find an elevated surface such as a bench, step, or box. 
  2. Place your shoulder blades against the bench, step, or box.
  3. Place your feet near your glutes at shoulder-width apart and distribute the weight into your feet. 
  4. Lift a leg of your choice off the ground (try starting with your non-dominant leg) and keep it at the hip joint's level.
  5. Push your hips up while keeping the weight in your opposite heel.
  6. Keep your glutes and abs engaged and squeeze at the top for about 2-3 seconds.
  7. Slowly lower down in a controlled manner to the starting position.
  8. Repeat for your desired number of reps and sets then switch legs to your dominant side.

4. Barbell Hip Thrust

How To:

  1. Place your shoulder blades against the bench, step, or box. Place the barbell of your desired weight on your hips.
  2. Place your feet near your glutes and distribute the weight into your feet. 
  3. Place your feet near your glutes at shoulder-width apart and distribute the weight into your feet. You will be in a similar position as a normal hip bridge but your upper back will be elevated. 
  4. When in the correct position, start pushing your hips up while keeping the weight in your heels. 
  5. Squeeze your glutes and abs throughout the whole process and stop when your hips are extended fully
  6.  Hold at the top for 2-3 seconds and slowly lower your body back down to the starting position
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 for your desired number of reps and sets.

5. Smith Machine Hip Thrust

How To:

  1. Place your shoulder blades against the bench, step, or box. a couple of feet away from a smith machine bar but stay parallel to it. 
  2. Lay on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. 
  3. Place your upper back against an elevated surface and place your feet towards your glutes. Lift your hips upwards slowly and squeeze at the top. 
  4. Once your hips are fully extended, slowly lower with control to your starting position
  5. Rotate the bar to engage the catch mechanisms once you've completed your desired number of sets and reps.

Now, if you simply want to take a break from the hip thrust movement in general, you can try out the following exercises that still target those glute muscles!

6. High Reverse Plank

This is a great alternative that is similar to planks but uses different muscles.

How To:

  1. Lay on the floor with your feet in front of you. 
  2. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and lay back onto them. 
  3. Drive up your hips so you are doing a reverse plank. 
  4. Hold this position for about 30-45 seconds then with control, drop back down.

7. Bulgarian Split Squats

How To:

  1. Stand about 2 feet away from an elevated surface such as a bench or a chair. 
  2. Place your right foot on the bench behind you and make sure your feet are about hip-distance apart. 
  3. Use your back foot as a means for balance. 
  4. Inhale then squeeze your core and keep your chest high while you slowly lower until your left quadricep is parallel to the ground. 
  5. Push through your left foot and slowly come back to standing

Wrap-Up

No matter which alternative you decide to incorporate into your workout routine or if you simply perform a traditional hip thrust exercise, you are one step closer to those muscle gains. Hip thrusts are a great exercise you can incorporate into your warm-up, main portion of your workout, or your cool-down as they are extremely flexible.

They target a wide variety of muscle groups and guarantee engagement as long as they are being performed properly and safely.  It is time for you to work towards your goals and I am sure between the 7 alternatives listed above, there must be one that you’re curious to try out.

If you would like to learn more about alternatives for traditional exercises we are all guilty of repetitively performing, check out the  5 best pull-up alternative exercises. As you focus on working out your toning and strengthening your lower body, you have to make sure you balance it out with your upper-body days!