Barbell Hip Thrusts And Modifications When You Don't Have A Barbell

It's all about the booty!

One of the most popular exercises over the last five years...

The barbell hip thrust has taken social media by storm... especially for women.


It's all about the booty.

Though there is scientific controversy about the hip thrust being better for glute growth compared to deep squats... but that's not the point of the article. We'll get there in another post.

We care about hip thruster form and varitions. We'll cover the best booty exercises in another post.

The hip thrust movement targets your:

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    Glute muscles the primary movers. I'll show you some variations to make it even more effect. So keep reading.

In this post, we'll cover:

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    How to do the barbell hip thrust.

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    Modifications if you don't have a barbell or you want to get more from the exercise.

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    Why this particular movement should seem really similar if you're into kettlebell training.

Let's get into it. This post should not be too long.

How To Do The Barbell Hip Thrust

Let's look at the motion first and then we'll add in the barbell.

1. Position Your Back And Shoulders

Position your back so the edge of the box or bench is right below your shoulder blade line.

This is the hinge point on your back.

Use a mat to protect your bad if you don't have a bench with padding.


2. Place Your Feet

Place your feet about shoulder width apart and have your hips driven into the sky so you're in a table top position.

Make sure your feet are not too close to your hips. If they are too close, you'll want to naturally push through your toes. We don't want that.

Make sure your feet are not too far away from your hip. You'll lose power and slowly start sliding off the box.

Check the picture so be clear about the position.


3. Thrust Your Hips

Move your hips down to the ground and back up... squeezing your butt at the top of the hip thrust.

Keep in mind the hinge point is right below your shoulder blades. Your spine stays straight... no arching or bending.

form tip

Make sure you keep your feet flat.

There is a tendency for beginners to get on their tippy toes. But this takes away from having the hamstrings and glutes do the primary work of thrusting your hips up in the sky.

One more things...

Make sure you activate your arches and keep your weight to the outside of your feet.

Again this ensures the correct muscle activation. If your knees cave in... you lose power and the structure of the exercise completely changes for the worse.

Check out the pictures and you'll see what I mean right away.


That is essentially the hip thrust off a box. Let's add in the barbell because it's pretty much the same.


Add The Barbell To The Hip Thrust

1. Slide Under The Barbell

Have the barbell in front of the box or bench. Slide underneath it so it's directly over the top of your hip bones.

I suggest you use another yoga mat or padding or some sort for your hips.

It's really uncomfortable to have the hard bar dig into your hips... especially when you're going heavy. In fact, I can't do hip thrusts without a pad of some sort. They always bruise my hips.

No joke... after taking pictures for this post... my hips were bruised.


2. Re-position Shoulders and Feet

Take some time to re-position your shoulders and feet. Pre-pull the bar to do this... see below.

You'll probably need to re-position your feet or shoulders a little bit. It's important when you go heavy too... need your form to be on point.

Sometimes, I'll even thrust the bar up and while my hips are up... I'll reposition again. It's normal not to be in a perfect position as you start this exercise.

3. Pre-Lift And Get Your Hips Up

Don't fling your hips into the bar... pre-pull.

A pre-pull is when you engage your body by:

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    Pressing your feet into the ground to engage your legs.

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    Pressing your hips into the bar a little so your ready to go.

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    Digging your shoulders into the box so you won't slip.

It's about prepping your body for the lift before you use all of your strength to actually life the bar.

Plus a pre-pull with the barbell hip thrust will help you determine if your shoulders are on the box correctly... and your feet are at the correct distance.

A lot of women and men will go from a relaxed body straight into a weighted lift or exercise.

When you go from relaxed into your lift, you'll experience immediate form breakdown. This opens you up to injury depending on the weight your using.

You have to pre-pull and create tension so your body is ready to take action.

4. Press Into Your Feet And Get Your Hips High

Now that you're engaged... you can just press into your feet hard and thrust your hips into the sky.


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    Keep your feet flat and engage your arches.

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    Push through your entire foot... not only your toes.

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    This is a hamstring and glute exercise so squeeze your butt at the top hard.


5. Come Back Down

If you're going light... come down slowly and in control.

If you're going really heavy... you can come down harder. Just be careful.

Rinse and repeat.

Make sure you read about using a band below. The band will take this exercise to an entirely new level.

How Many Reps Should You Do?

This depends on the goal of the workout.

The rule of thumb is...

If you're going heavy... your reps should be lower.

If you're going light... your reps should be higher.

You want the reps... especially at the end... to be hard. You have to stress your muscles to get a response. If it's not tough, really tough... nothing happens.

Hip Thrust Variations


This is going to be a high rep variation.

Be careful when you get the dumbbell on your hips. It is awkward.

Typically when I go light... I like to move a little faster, but not jerky. Keep the rep tempo smooth. Keep momentum and jerky movements out when you're using the dumbbell or the kettlebell.



This is even more awkward than the dumbbell.

What I like about using a kettlebell is you load only one side at a time. This is a great way to bring balance to your hamstrings and glutes.

You will have to go a little lighter with the weight, like the dumbbell.

So you're rep count will be higher.


Banded Hip Thrusts IMPORTANT

This is an important section.

You need a small loop band. You can buy these from Amazon or your local sporting goods store for pretty cheap.

Place the band either...

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    Right below your knees

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    Right above your knees

The only difference between these two positions is comfort for yourself. So try them both out and pick the one you feel is better for your.

Push Your Knees OUT!

During your hip thrust... both on the up and down... push your knees out into the band.

This does a couple things...

First, you'll feel the arches of your feet activate. If you were wondering what I meant about active your arches... you'll feel this now.

Second, you'll activate your gluteous medius.

This is a smaller glute muscle in the upper, outside corner or your butt.

The glute medius is responsible for external rotation of your legs and opening your hips.

big idea

Stand up with no weight or anything.

Press your feet into the ground and without actually moving them... twist them into the ground so your toes are moving out and your heels are moving in.

You'll immediately feel your butt contract. This is your glute medius muscle at work.

Using a band during barbell hip thrusts... dumbbell... any of the variations will make the exercise far more effective.

It's almost like pre-pulling in that you're engaging more muscle before you life and through the entire lift.

Your glutes are going to BURN!!!

Get a set and use them!

Foam Roller

You've probably never tried this before. I'm about to blow your fitness mind a little.

This seems so easy but it's hard and it burns like crazy.

Step 1

Grab a foam roller and place it horizontally on the ground.

Step 2

Lay on the floor and position your foot on the foam roller securely. It's best if the middle of your foot is on the foam roller.

Step 3

Lift your other leg into the air.

Press into the foam roller and start doing hip thrusters... all bodyweight. Do not use a weight for this variation.

You are going to feel your hamstrings and butt light up.

The instability of the foam roller activates your muscles a lot more. Plus the single leg action really gets things going.

I use this variation in my online personal training workouts for FWW LIVE all the time!



If you're brand new to hip trusts... start here.

Start on the ground.

Then do bodyweight off a box or bench.

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    Play with both feet on the ground.

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    Go single leg on the ground.

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    Use a band and work on holds and slower tempos as well as fast tempos.

Bodyweight hip thrusts are a great exercise and I use them all the time during my FWW LIVE workouts.


Okay... What Is The Hip Thrust Movement?

If you're into kettlebell training or you love deadlifts...

It's a hip hinge.

It's not a fully hip hinge because your legs are staying bent.

However, it is hip hinge and very similar to swings and deadlifts.

This is the fundamental movement pattern for your hamstrings and glutes. Learn how to correctly do the hip hinge with by learning the kettlebell deadlift here.

If you get into kettlebell training with me... you'll use this movement all the time.

- Learn the kettlebell swing
- Learn the kettlebell snatch
- Read my kettlebell getting started guide

The hip hinge is every where in strength training and it's vital you learn it.

If you have any questions about the barbell hip thrust... kettlebell... dumbbell... or foam roller variations...

You know where to ask me.

Contact me here or follow me on social I love helping you get stronger and exercise more efficiently.

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