7 Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives You Must Try

Here are the 7 barbell hip thrust alternatives you need when the gym is crazy crowded (ugh) or when you simply can't be bothered with the set-up.

7 Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives You Must Try

Hip thrust alternatives? Why? What even is the point? 

Well, for all its merit as one of the best exercises for building big, beautiful glutes, the barbell hip thrust can be disgustingly difficult to set up

And we’re not even talking about the technical bit — you know, where your shoulder blades should land on the bench or how far your feet should be from the bench — yet.

Just trying to find an available barbell in the gym can feel like  The Hunger Games … much less also scoring: 

  • A bench and
  • A non-crusty hip thrust pad and
  • Enough space to set everything up

Tragically, as anyone who’s ever stepped into a gym at 7 pm would tell you, the odds are almost never in your favor. Which is why this article exists. 

Here are 7 barbell hip thrust alternatives that’ll help you get a bigger butt without having to pray for a gym-clearing miracle.

#1: Some kind of squat

Squats? What are squats doing in this list of barbell hip thrust alternatives? We’ll tell you. 

In this new 2023 (pre-print) study published in bioRxiv, fitness researchers randomly assigned untrained college-aged participants to 2 groups:

  1. Barbell back squats only
  2. Hip thrusts only

Other than the difference in glute exercise, the participants underwent an identical strength training program, where they:

  • Performed 2 supervised workouts weekly, with
  • Training volume equated at 3 to 6 sets, to volitional failure at 8 to 12 reps

There were no significant differences between groups in macronutrient intakes

Guess what the researchers found after 9 weeks?

The barbell back squat and hip thrust were equally effective builders for the upper, middle, and lower gluteus maximus, as well as total glute size. 

And there you have it. This explains squats’ appearance in our list of hip thrust alternatives. Now, of course, you should ideally do barbell back squats.

Here’s the amazing Meg (megsquats) sharing how you could squat with good form:

But if the barbell back squat is impossible because all the squat racks are taken, and by people who obviously look like powerlifters on set 2 out of 100, then any of the following would work fine as hip thrust alternatives, too.

Goblet squat

Here’s how to perform the goblet squat:

Leg press

Just make sure you get the right feet positioning:

Hack squat

Here’s how to perform the hack squat properly:

#2: Bulgarian split squat

OK, so, technically, the BSS, as we so endearingly call it, is also a type of squat. 

But we pulled it out because it’s a special type of pain a unilateral exercise that’ll help address any muscle imbalances in your glutes. 

Imbalances could be a recipe for injury. Plus, having your right glute look noticeably bigger than the left (or vice versa) when you’re wearing that viral Skims dress is … not a good look. Trust us.

Despite its undemanding nature in terms of space and equipment needed, the BSS can be a tricky exercise to get right because of all the balancing. 

To prevent you from hurting yourself by hopping with 20 kg dumbbells in a desperate attempt to find that ✨ perfect ✨ shin angle at the bottom of the exercise … here:

What if you don’t want to do the BSS? Then try these hip thrust alternatives that are somewhat BSS-adjacent.

Split squat

No need to worry about having one foot off the floor:

Reverse lunge

Here’s how to do it properly:

#3: Romanian deadlift

Just like the squats, the Romanian deadlift (RDL) challenges your glutes the most when they’re stretched — and this, i.e., stretch-mediated hypertrophy, has increasingly been found to be a potent muscle growth stimulus

Meaning? The RDL also earns a well-deserved mention on our list of hip thrust alternatives. 

Now, the RDL can seem like a scary and complicated exercise at first, but rest assured that it’s really not. You just need to keep the following form tips in mind:

  1. Brace your core and maintain a neutral spine
  2. Keep your knees slightly bent 
  3. Keep the barbell in contact with your thighs at all times
  4. Only go as low as your mobility allows (where your butt can’t move back further)

We go into more detail here:

How to Get a Bigger Butt (Science-Based Exercises and Tips)
Learn how to get a bigger butt so those ridonkulous perky peaches of your dreams turn into reality instead of remaining an out-of-reach fantasy.

But, in the meantime, here’s a demo video:

You could also do it with dumbbells:

And the Smith machine, too:

#4: 45-degree hip extension (back extension)

You can think of the 45-degree hip extension as a beginner-friendly alternative to the RDL. 

It “locks” you in a set movement pattern, which helps you:

  • Familiarize yourself with what it feels like to perform the hip hinge 
  • Strengthen your glutes

… which are both really transferable to the “big” lifts, including the RDL and the deadlift. Here are a few form tips:

  • Point your toes 45 degrees outwards
  • Think of thrusting your hips into the pad as you contract your glutes
  • Set your pad’s height right under your pubic bone 

And to put all that into action:

#5: Glute kickback

The glute kickback is another wonderful unilateral exercise on our list of hip thrust alternatives.

There are 2 types of glute kickbacks you could do: cable glute kickbacks and machine glute kickbacks. Regardless of which you do, you’ll want to:

  • Brace your core (this prevents you from hyperextending your back)
  • Extend your working leg only until you feel a complete glute contraction (i.e., don’t exceed the active range of motion)

But a special mention goes to the cable variant.

To optimally target your gluteus maximus — as the hip thrust does — make sure you kick straight back instead of sideways. Kicking back sideways emphasizes the gluteus medius and minimus to a larger degree. 

Here’s what that looks like:

And here’s how to perform the machine glute kickback:

#6: Kettlebell swing

If you one day find yourself without access to the barbell, dumbbells, or necessary machines (e.g., cable machine, or leg press), there’s always the kettlebell. 

While kettlebell swings shouldn’t be your first pick from this list of hip thrust alternatives, they’ll work fine in a pinch. Um. TBVH, we don’t have anything much to say about it, so we’ll just let this video do the talking:

#7: Step-up 

Step-ups may seem simple at first glance, but it’s arguably the most difficult exercise on this list of hip thrust alternatives because of how much it’ll challenge your balance (yes, even more so than the notorious BSS). 

Nonetheless, it’s an exercise you shouldn’t pass over because it puts your glutes in a lengthened position. 

As mentioned earlier, that’s like high-octane juice for muscle growth. Psst: If you get the Mad Max reference, consider us instant besties. 

OK. Back to business. Here’s how to perform the step-ups so you don’t go viral for a gym accident 🫣:

Don’t neglect your gluteus medius and minimus

There’s a common thread running along our list of hip thrust alternatives. 

They don’t target the gluteus medius and minimus, which are the butt muscles that wrap around the sides of your upper butt. If you want round, 3D juicy glutes, you need to hit them. 

But how? And with what? Find answers here:

How to Get a Bigger Butt (Science-Based Exercises and Tips)
Learn how to get a bigger butt so those ridonkulous perky peaches of your dreams turn into reality instead of remaining an out-of-reach fantasy.

Happy building!