7 Hip Thrust Variations to Build Lower-Body Strength at Any Fitness Level

Thanks to these hip thrust variations, fitness newbies, people with limited mobility, and pro exercisers can all benefit from the strength-building move.

MTM: Hip Thrusts
Photography by Jena Cumbo.

Welcome to Modify This Move, the ongoing series where you'll find everything you need to amend a standard exercise to meet your goals, your body, and your mood. Each story breaks down how to perform a foundational fitness move, then offers various modifications based on your current fitness or energy level, present or prior injuries, or the muscles you want to target most. So check your ego at that door and ensure every workout meets you where you're at today.

When you think of so-called functional exercises, squats, shoulder presses, and deadlifts — moves that practically mirror the movements you do IRL — are likely the first to come to mind. But the sneaky hip thrust, which involves the fundamental hip hinge movement pattern, can also improve your daily functioning outside of the gym.

“You need to incorporate hinging movements into your exercise routine to be successful in daily movements,” says Jill Goodtree, an NASM-certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and RRCA-certified run coach. “Think about picking up a bag of groceries from the ground: You don't want to flop over from your spine. You want to hinge from your hips and bend your knees.” By practicing the hip thrust, you’re able to perfect your hip hinge form, build up glute and hamstring strength, and boost hip mobility so you’re able to move with ease — and without injury — in your everyday life, she says.

Plus, you can tackle the hip thrust no matter your fitness level, abilities, or goals just by making simple tweaks to the exercise’s technique and your form. For example, beginners and folks short on equipment can practice a bodyweight hip thrust variation on the floor to score the move’s key benefits. People looking to build up strength in specific muscle groups (think: the core, glutes, or hip abductors) can test hip thrust variations that swap out the equipment or change your foot positioning to target those areas. And folks dealing with muscle imbalances or hip mobility issues can also use hip thrust variations to get their bodies back to feeling their best. The TL;DR: There’s no shame in adjusting the traditional hip thrust so it syncs with your wants and needs. 

Ready to test out the butt-building move? Follow the instructions below to nail down the basic hip thrust, then watch as Goodtree demonstrates how to mix up the exercise with seven different hip thrust variations that can work for all abilities and fitness goals.

How to Do a Hip Thrust

A. Sit on the floor with upper back resting against a bench, legs extended in front of body, and hands resting on the floor at sides. Bend knees to a 45-degree angle and plant feet on the floor slightly wider than hip-width apart. Then, drive through palms and feet to lift butt off the floor a few inches, shoulder blades now resting against the bench. Rest both hands on stomach. This is the starting position. 

B. Keeping back flat, chin tucked, and gaze forward, engage glutes, push through heels, and extend hips toward the ceiling. Knees should be in line with heels and bent at 90-degree angles and body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees.

 C. Keeping back flat and knees stable, slowly lower hips back to the starting position.

7 Hip Thrust Variations

If the classic hip thrust feels too strenuous or isn’t giving you exactly what you’re looking to gain from the movement, don’t push yourself to stick with it. Instead, try a hip thrust variation that’s specifically designed to work for your body and goals. Here, you'll find hip thrust variations that scale the exercise up or down, including options that target your core, hip abductors, and glutes. Plus, Goodtree shares hip thrust variations that help correct muscle imbalances and improve hip mobility. 

No matter which option you choose, continue checking in with your body as you power through your reps and try a different exercise if it doesn't feel right. And remember, avoid arching your spine as you go through the movement and keep your head stable to avoid injury and discomfort, says Goodtree.

Hip Thrust Variation to Scale Down: Floor Glute Bridge

Folks who are totally unfamiliar with the hip thrust are best off starting with a floor glute bridge, which limits your range of motion, says Goodtree. “It's basically doing half of a hip thrust to help you build strength and stability before you might be ready to progress to a full hip thrust,” she explains. The bodyweight hip thrust variation can also be useful for more experienced exercisers who don’t currently have access to a bench or weights, she adds.

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent, feet placed flat and hip-width apart, and hands resting on stomach.

B. Keeping core engaged and tailbone tucked, exhale and slowly push through both heels to lift hips off the floor. Lift hips up as high as possible without allowing lower back to arch.

C. Inhale and gently lower hips back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.

Hip Thrust Variation to Level Up: Single-Leg Hip Thrust

As you power through this hip thrust variation, you’ll keep one leg lifted off the floor, so you'll need to keep yourself balanced and produce all the force to lift your hips in just one side of your body, says Goodtree. “Any time you use one leg or one side of your body, you're increasing the demand on your muscles to stabilize you,” she explains. “So it really requires extra stability and core strength.”

A. Sit on the floor with upper back resting against a bench, legs extended in front of body, and hands resting on the floor at sides. Bend knees to a 45-degree angle and plant feet on the floor slightly wider than hip-width apart. Then, drive through palms and feet to lift butt off the floor a few inches, shoulder blades now resting against the bench. Rest both hands on stomach.

B. Keeping knee bent, lift right leg off the floor and raise it toward the ceiling until right knee is stacked with right hip. Right toes should be pointed toward the ceiling. This is the starting position. 

C. Keeping back flat, chin tucked, gaze forward, and right leg in the air, engage glutes, push through left heel, and extend hips toward the ceiling. Left knee should be in line with left heel and bent at a 90-degree angle and body should form a straight line from left shoulder to left knee.

D. Keeping back flat and left knee stable, slowly lower hips back to the starting position.

Hip Thrust Variation to Correct Muscle Imbalances: B-Stance Hip Thrust with Dumbbell

During the B-stance (aka staggered stance) hip thrust, one of your feet will be positioned just a few inches behind the other, almost like a kickstand. This move is similar to a single-leg hip thrust, but you’ll have a bit of assistance and stability from your other leg, says Goodtree. In turn, the B-stance hip thrust is useful if you’re not quite ready for the full single-leg progression or if you’re looking to correct muscle imbalances, as the workload is split roughly 80-20 between legs. And fixing any strength discrepancies you have between your two legs is important: Muscle imbalances can cause movement compensations that ultimately lead to injuries in both the stronger and weaker limbs, as Shape previously reported.

A. Sit on the floor with upper back resting against a bench, legs extended in front of body, hands resting on the floor at sides, and a dumbbell in hip crease. Bend knees to a 45-degree angle and plant feet on the floor slightly wider than hip-width apart.

B. Drive through palms and feet to lift butt off the floor a few inches, shoulder blades now resting against the bench. Hold the ends of the dumbbell with hands, then lift right foot off the floor and place it a few inches behind left heel. Right heel should be lifted and toes should be resting on the floor. This is the starting position. 

C. Keeping back flat, chin tucked, and gaze forward, engage glutes, push through heels, and extend hips toward the ceiling. Left knee should be in line with left heel and bent at a 90-degree angle and body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees.

D. Keeping back flat and knees stable, slowly lower hips back to the starting position.

Hip Thrust to Build Core Strength: Stability Ball Hip Thrust

Swapping your workout bench for a stability ball can put your core through the wringer, as the muscle group will need to stay active in order to prevent you from toppling over as you thrust, says Goodtree. “By adding any elements of instability, you increase your core strength,” she says. Since this variation is more advanced, Goodtree recommends trying the move only after you can do glute bridges and traditional hip thrusts with good form

A. Sit on the floor with back resting against a stability ball, knees bent at a 45-degree angle, and feet planted on the floor slightly wider than hip-width apart. Rest both hands on stomach. This is the starting position. 

B. Keeping back flat, chin tucked, and gaze forward, engage glutes, push through heels, and extend hips toward the ceiling. Knees should be in line with heels and bent at 90-degree angles and body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees.

C. Keeping back flat and knees stable, slowly lower hips back to the starting position.

Hip Thrust Variation to Target Glutes: Frog Pump Hip Thrust

This hip thrust variation may look a bit silly, but it will leave your glutes burning. The diamond shape of your legs (much like a frog's legs) will amp up the activation in your gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus while allowing your quads to relax, says Goodtree. 

A. Sit on the floor with upper back resting against a bench, legs extended in front of body, and hands resting on the floor at sides. Bend knees to a 45-degree angle, then rotate feet outward so outsides of feet rest on the floor and soles press against one another.

B. Then, drive through palms and feet to lift butt off the floor a few inches, shoulder blades now resting against the bench. Rest both hands on stomach. This is the starting position. 

C. Keeping back flat, chin tucked, and gaze forward, engage glutes, push through sides of feet, and extend hips toward the ceiling. Body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees.

D. Keeping back flat and knees stable, slowly lower hips back to the starting position.

Hip Thrust Variation to Improve Hip Mobility: Feet-Elevated Hip Thrust

By placing your back on the floor and your feet up on the bench, you’ll work to improve hip mobility (aka your joints’ ability to move through their full range of motion with control), says Goodtree. “You definitely get a larger range of motion, and you also get a stretch in your hips at the top of that thrust,” she adds. 

A. Lie faceup the floor with feet hip-width apart, calves resting on a bench, knees bent at 90-degree angles, and hands resting on stomach. This is the starting position. 

B. Keeping core engaged, tailbone tucked, and back flat, engage glutes, push through heels, and extend hips toward the ceiling. Lift hips up as high as possible without allowing lower back to arch. Body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees.

C. Keeping back flat and knees stable, slowly lower hips back to the starting position.

Hip Thrust Variation to Target Hip Abductors: Banded Hip Thrust

Looking to build up strength in your hip abductors (aka the muscles on the outside of your hips and move your leg away from your body)? Try a banded hip thrust, which encourages those muscles to light up. “By putting tension and resistance on the outside of your knees, your legs are more encouraged to stay neutral and your knees stay aligned with hips,” says Goodtree. “So that increases the work in your abductor muscles.”

A. Sit on the floor with upper back resting against a bench, legs extended in front of body, a small loop resistance band wrapped around thighs just above knees, and hands resting on the floor at sides.

B. Bend knees to a 45-degree angle and plant feet on the floor slightly wider than hip-width apart. Then, drive through palms and feet to lift butt off the floor a few inches, shoulder blades now resting against the bench. Rest both hands on stomach. This is the starting position. 

C. Keeping back flat, chin tucked, and gaze forward, engage glutes, push through heels, and extend hips toward the ceiling. Simultaneously, press knees out to the sides to maintain tension in the resistance band. Knees should be in line with heels and bent at 90-degree angles and body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees.

D. Keeping back flat and knees stable, slowly lower hips back to the starting position.

Credits

Photography and art Jena Cumbo

Model and fitness expert Jill Goodtree

Activewear Girlfriend Collective

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