The hip thrust is a popular exercise for building lower body size and strength, but what muscle does hip thrust work? And how can you get the most out of the exercise? In this article we’ll be covering:

Let’s jump straight in.

What Muscles Do Hip Thrusts Work?

Hip thrusts are a hip extension type movement that works your leg muscles, specifically the muscles worked by hip thrusts are:

  • Your glutes
  • Your hamstrings (to a lesser extent)
  • Your quads and adductors (to a lesser extent)

What are hip thrusts good for?

Hip thrusts are mainly good for building size and strength in your glutes. They may also have some degree of sporting transfer as they train an aggressive hip extension movement.

Hip thrust vs glute bridge muscles worked

Hip thrusts and glute bridges work identical muscle groups (glutes, quads, hamstrings and adductors) the main difference between them is that hip thrusts make you work through a longer range of motion, making them harder, but also more effective for building muscle and developing strength.

Hip Thrust Muscles Worked Diagram

Hip thrust muscles worked diagram

Do hip thrust work hamstrings?

Yes hip thrusts do technically work hamstrings, however the extent to which they do is pretty limited as the hamstrings are never fully flexed, nor are they stretched under load. If hamstring development is your goal, I recommend exercises like rdl’s and hamstring curls.

Do hip thrusts work quads?

Yes, hip thrusts work your quads to some extent, however since your quads will never be fully flexed or stretched under load, hip thrusts are not a great quad exercise. Far better choices of exercise for your quads include squats and leg presses.

Hip Thrust Variations and Alternatives

There are numerous of hip thrust variations and alternatives that you can use to train your glutes, here are three of my favourites, plus which muscles they work, as well as why you might use them.

Barbell Hip Thrust

Barbell hip thrust muscles worked

The barbell hip thrust is a classic hip thrust variation where you place a barbell across your hips, typically with some sort of padding, and your shoulders on a box or bench. The barbell hip thrust mainly works your glutes, but also your hamstrings, quads and adductors.

Personally, I like the barbell hip thrust because it’s loadable in small increments using 1.25kg and 2.5kg plates, which makes weekly progression sustainable for a long period of time.

Single Leg Hip Thrust

Single leg hip thrust muscles worked

Single leg hip thrusts mainly work your glutes, as well as your hamstrings, quads and adductors to a lesser extent. Since you’ll be working one side at a time the single leg hip thrust allows you to target each leg independently. This makes single leg hip thrusts a great exercise for addressing imbalances and improving symmetry in your legs.

Top Tip: You can often get a great glute workout with single leg hip thrusts using little to no weight. 20-30 reps of bodyweight hip thrusts will have your glutes absolutely on fire.

Smith Machine Hip Thrust

Smith machine hip thrust muscles worked

Smith machine hip thrusts are a unique hip thrust variation that replaces the barbell with a fixed bar on a track. They still mainly work your glutes, but the major advantage is that the smith machine adds more stability, allowing you to focus on mind muscle connection with your glutes in a way that some people struggle to with a barbell hip thrust.

The drawback to smith machine hip thrusts is that they can be a bit of a pain to set up, and you might need to experiment to find your ideal position.

Quick Training Recommendations for Hip Thrusts

How many reps should I do for hip thrusts?

The amount of reps you should do for hip thrust depends on your training goals:

  • For hypertrophy, anything from 5 to 30 reps is acceptable
  • For strength, I would stick in the 5-10 rep range

From experience, whilst the ‘strength rep range’ is typically suggested as 1-5 reps, this type of low rep heavy loading doesn’t tend to work well with hip thrusts, as form breaks down and rep quality decreases. It’s better to use the hip thrust as a strength assistance exercise.

How many sets of hip thrust?

I recommend anything from 1 to 5 sets of hip thrust within a single workout. The amount of sets you do will depend on where you are in your training cycle, how sensitive you are to training volume, and how well you recover.

Personally my glutes are completely toasted after 2 or 3 sets.

How many times a week should I do hip thrusts?

“I recommend using hip thrusts in your training anything from 1 to 3 times per week.”

Any more hip thrust sessions than this per week and there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to recover from them. Just remember that the more often you use hip thrusts, the more variation you will likely need in terms of both exercise selection and rep range.

How much weight should you use for hip thrusts?

You should use a weight for hip thrusts that allows you to perform the exercise with good technique. That means a deep stretch at the bottom, a big squeeze at the top, and your torso in a braced, straight line throughout the movement.

Can I do squats and hip thrust on the same day?

You can absolutely do squats and hip thrusts on the same day, just remember that squats also work your glutes, so you might not need as many hip thrust sets as usual.

Hip Thrust Muscles Worked Frequently Asked Questions

Can I do hip thrust everyday?

No, doing hip thrusts every day is a poor idea, as you won’t be allowing your glute muscles enough time to recover between sessions. This is not good for either muscle or strength development.

Are hip thrusts effective?

Yes, hip thrusts are effective at building lower body muscle, especially your glutes, just make sure you follow hypertrophy (muscle-building) training guidelines.

Are hip thrusts better than squats?

Hip thrusts are no better than squats, but also no worse, they’re simply a different leg exercise with a different purpose. For quad development, squats are certainly better, but for focused glute development, hip thrusts are likely better (or at least offer a similar stimulus with far less fatigue)

Do hip thrusts make glutes bigger?

Yes, hip thrusts do make your glutes bigger. Hip thrusts specifically target your glutes, so when you train hip thrusts regularly you should expect bigger and stronger glutes as a result.

Should I do hip thrust first or last?

You should do hip thrusts at the time that makes the most sense in your workout. If building big and strong glutes is your priority, then you should likely do hip thrusts first. On the other hand, if you’re trying to build overall leg size and strength, you might place hip thrusts later in the workout after more taxing exercises such as squats or deadlifts.

Next Steps

Alright, that’s enough reading for today, time for action…

1) Get in the gym and start using some hip thrust variations to build strength and size in your legs. Or if you need a bit of help planning your training, consider having a look at my custom programme options

2) If you want more training tips, workouts and programmes, feel free to join my mailing list.

3) And if you’re looking for 1:1 strength and conditioning coaching, you can find more information about my services here.

‘Til Next Time


Strength coach

Alex Parry, MSc, BA

Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.

His experience includes 8+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.