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Hip Thrust Machine Vs Barbell Hip Thrusts

When it comes to developing powerful glutes, hip thrusts are the undisputed champion. They effectively target the gluteal muscles, focusing on hip extension and engaging the hamstrings.

Two variations of hip thrusts commonly performed at the gym are barbell hip thrusts and machine-based hip thrusts.

This article aims to delve into the differences and similarities between these two variations, helping you decide which might be best suited for your fitness routine. 

So... Hip thrust machine or barbell hip thrusts? Lets compare them!Hip thrust machine vs barbell hip thrusts with an example machine on the left and a woman doing barbell hip thrust on the right

Understanding Hip Thrusts

Hip Thrust Benefits

Hip thrusts are a fantastic lower body exercise that has gained popularity in recent years due to its effectiveness in targeting the gluteal muscles.

Some of the key benefits of hip thrusts include:

  • Improved hip extension: Hip thrusts are crucial for enhancing hip extension by effectively engaging the hamstrings and gluteal muscles.
  • Stronger posterior chain: Hip thrusts contribute to a stronger and more defined posterior chain, which is essential for various athletic and functional movements.
  • Injury prevention: Developing strong gluteal muscles may help prevent injuries to the lower back and improve overall stability.

Muscles Targeted

Hip thrusts primarily target the gluteal muscles (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus), which are the largest and most powerful muscles in the body. Additionally, hip thrusts may also engage the following muscles:

  1. Hamstrings: These muscles at the back of your thighs contribute to hip extension.
  2. Quadriceps: These four muscles in the front of your thighs help support the movement.
  3. Lower back and core muscles: These muscles are involved in stabilizing the movement.

Read More: Hip Thrust Muscles Worked: Comprehensive Guide

Hip Thrust Technique

To perform a barbell hip thrust with proper form, follow these steps:

  1. Position: Set up a bench or step, and sit down with your upper back resting against it. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, flat on the ground, ensuring that your knees create a 90-degree angle when you are at the top of the movement.
  2. Bar placement: Roll the barbell across your hip bones or lower abs, using a pad to provide cushioning. Place your hands on either side of the barbell, well beyond shoulder-width, with your palms facing down.
  3. Execution: Brace your core, lift your hips by pushing through your heels, and extend them until they align with your knees and shoulders. Squeeze your glutes at the top, and then lower your hips back to the starting position.

In comparison, the hip thrust machine provides a similar movement pattern but with mechanical assistance.

Some individuals may prefer the machine due to the guided movement and additional support, while others may find that the barbell hip thrust offers greater flexibility in adjusting their form.

Regardless of the equipment chosen, proper technique and progressive overloading are key to maximizing the benefits of hip thrusts.

Hip Thrust Machine Exercise

Machine Features

The hip thrust machine is a specialized piece of exercise equipment designed to target the gluteal muscles, particularly the lower gluteus maximus.

It offers a few advantages over barbell hip thrusts, including its simplicity, ease of use, and safety features.

Most hip thrust machines provide an adjustable bench with padding for comfort, a weighted platform or lever for increased resistance, and sturdy handles for added grip.

  • Adjustable bench: Users can change the angle of the bench, allowing them to customize the exercise based on their height, comfort, and mobility.
  • Weighted platform: The weighted platform allows for incremental weight adjustments, giving users the ability to progress in strength.
  • Handles: Secure handles on the machine ensure a firm grip, providing stability during the movement.

Safety and Stability

One significant benefit of using a hip thrust machine over a barbell is the added safety and stability it offers.

The machine is designed to keep users in the optimal position throughout the exercise, preventing unnecessary strain on the lower back.

This also reduces the risk of injury, especially for beginners or those with limited mobility.

Additionally, the machine keeps the applied resistance in a fixed path, ensuring better muscle targeting and engagement.

Ease of Use

Hip thrust machines provide a hassle-free experience compared to using a barbell, as users are not required to set up additional equipment, such as barbell pads or weight plates.

This ease of use can encourage those new to fitness or those looking for a quick, efficient workout to incorporate hip thrusts into their routines.

The user simply adjusts the bench and the desired weight, sits on the bench, and performs the exercise using proper form. This streamlined process not only offers convenience but also facilitates consistent and effective muscle engagement.

In summary, the hip thrust machine is a valuable addition to any fitness routine, offering an efficient, safe, and user-friendly alternative to the traditional barbell hip thrust.

Barbell Hip Thrust Exercise

Equipment Required

To perform a barbell hip thrust exercise, you will need the following equipment:

  • A sturdy bench or platform
  • A barbell (preferably with padding)
  • Weight plates to adjust resistance
  • A mat or towel for added comfort

Form and Posture

Proper form and posture are crucial for an effective barbell hip thrust exercise. Follow these steps to maintain correct form throughout the movement:

  1. Positioning: Sit on the ground with your back against the edge of the bench, your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart, and the barbell placed across your hips (use padding for comfort).
  2. Grip: Hold the barbell with a shoulder-width grip and keep your elbows locked throughout the exercise.
  3. Lower Body: By pushing through your heels, lift your hips off the ground while keeping your spine neutral and abdominals engaged. Ensure that your knees are in line with your feet.
  4. Upper Body: Keep your shoulders pressed firmly against the bench for stability.
  5. Peak: Lift your hips until they form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. At the top of the movement, contract your glutes strongly for maximum activation.
  6. Descent: Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground, maintaining control and proper alignment.

Flexibility in Weight Adjustments

One significant advantage of barbell hip thrusts is the flexibility in weight adjustments.

This allows for progressive overload, which is essential for continued muscle growth and strength improvements.

Weight can be easily added or removed by adjusting the weight plates on the barbell.

Additionally, you can make the exercise more challenging by using resistance bands or performing unilateral movements, such as the single-leg barbell hip thrust.

Hip Thrust Machine Vs. Barbells

Strength Potential

Hip thrust exercises help develop the lower gluteus maximus muscles.

Both barbell hip thrusts and hip thrust machines can effectively target these muscles. The barbell hip thrust, however, has a slight advantage in terms of mean and peak activation.

With a barbell, you have more control and freedom to progress in weight increments without being limited by the machine's settings.

On the other hand, the hip thrust machine provides a more guided and controlled motion which can help beginners build strength more safely.

Risk of Injury

When performed correctly, both barbell and hip thrust machine exercises can be safe.

The hip thrust machine provides more stability and control, reducing the risk of injury for inexperienced lifters. Barbell hip thrusts, on the other hand, require proper form and technique to minimize the risk of injury.

Performing the exercise incorrectly or using too much weight can lead to strains and other injuries.


Barbells and weight plates are commonly available in most gyms, making barbell hip thrusts accessible to many individuals.

Hip thrust machines, however, may not be as widely available in all gyms, limiting some people's ability to incorporate them into their workout routines.

Additionally, barbell hip thrusts can be adapted to be performed using alternative equipment like dumbbells or kettlebells in case a barbell is not available.

Cost Implications

For gym owners or those building a home gym, the cost of equipment is an important consideration.

A good-quality barbell and weight plates can be more cost-effective compared to purchasing a dedicated hip thrust machine.

A barbell, weights and bench setup can be used for various exercises, providing more versatile use of the equipment.

A hip thrust machine, although specifically tailored for hip thrusts, may have a higher initial cost, and its use is limited to that particular exercise.

Other Hip Thrust Alternatives

While hip thrust machines and barbells are popular options for targeting the gluteal muscles, you can also benefit from a variety of alternative hip thrust exercises. In this section, we will explore some effective hip thrust alternatives that will help you achieve a well-rounded glute workout.

1. Glute Bridge: A simple yet effective alternative to the hip thrust, glute bridges can be performed with just your body weight or by adding resistance in the form of a dumbbell or resistance band. To perform this exercise, lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Push your hips toward the ceiling while squeezing your glutes and hold at the top before lowering back down.

2. Single-leg Glute Bridge: Similar to the standard glute bridge, this variation targets one leg at a time, increasing the challenge for your stabilizing muscles. Begin in the same position as the glute bridge but with one foot raised off the ground. Press your hips up by engaging your glute and hamstring muscles on the supporting leg.

3. Bulgarian Split Squats: This exercise targets your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps by placing one foot behind you on an elevated surface. Lower into a lunge until your front thigh is parallel to the floor, then push through your front heel to stand back up. This can be performed with or without dumbbells for added resistance.

4. Cable Pull-through: Using a low cable machine, attach a rope handle and stand facing away from the machine. Hold the rope between your legs, hinge at the hips, and use your glutes to pull the cable up as you straighten your body. This exercise effectively isolates the glute muscles and can be adjusted for varying levels of resistance.

Note: Remember to maintain proper form throughout each exercise to ensure effectiveness and avoid injury.

Incorporating a mix of these alternative hip thrust exercises into your training routine will not only help develop your glutes, but also improve overall leg and hip strength, stability, and balance.

Training with various exercises and equipment can help keep your workouts engaging, challenging, and enjoyable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do you put the belt on the hip thrust?

"Where does the belt go on the hip thrust machine?" is a common question we get. The key is placing it just below the hip bones where you're hips crease while squatting or bending over. Make sure the belt is snug but not too tight, allowing you to maintain proper form and engage your glutes throughout the movement.

Where do you place your feet for a hip thrust?

"Where do you put your feet on the hip thrust machine?" is the second most asked question we get. The answer? It depends. Generally, your feet should be placed flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart.

Position your feet in a way that, when you are at the top of the movement, your knees form a 90-degree angle. Also, ensure that your toes are pointed forward or slightly outward.

What is The Best Hip Thrust Machine?

There are different hip thrust machines available in the market. However, choosing the best machine depends on individual preferences and gym availability. We have a guide specifically for helping you find the best hip thrust machine for you and your needs. 

What are the differences in muscle activation between the hip thrust machine and barbell hip thrusts?

Both the hip thrust machine and barbell hip thrusts effectively target the glutes. The main difference is the type of resistance used.

A hip thrust machine provides controlled resistance, which can lead to better glute activation for some individuals.

On the other hand, barbell hip thrusts offer more versatility and potentially greater range of motion, allowing for increased muscle activation when performed correctly.

Can you Also Do A Hip Thrust On The Smith Machine?

Yes, you can perform hip thrusts on the Smith Machine.

The Smith Machine offers a guided path for the barbell, allowing for controlled and stable movement during the exercise.

This can make it easier for beginners or those needing additional support during the hip thrust.

Is The Glute Bridge Or Hip Thrust Better?

Both glute bridges and hip thrusts are effective exercises for targeting the glutes.

The main difference between them is the range of motion and muscle activation.

Glute bridges primarily target the glutes and hamstrings, with your upper back resting on the ground. Hip thrusts involve a greater range of motion, with your upper back on a bench and your thighs moving from a position parallel to the ground.

Choosing between the two exercises depends on your goals and preferences, as well as the availability of equipment.

What are the benefits of using a hip thrust machine over a barbell for hip thrusts?

Using a hip thrust machine offers some advantages compared to barbell hip thrusts.

With a machine, you can achieve better stability and support, as well as controlled resistance for targeting the glutes more effectively.

This can be particularly beneficial for beginners or those with limited core strength.

However, barbell hip thrusts offer more versatility in terms of progression and range of motion, which can lead to increased muscle activation when performed with proper form.

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About The Author

Matt Gemkow, the author of this content section at Select Fitness USA, boasts more than 15 years of fitness experience. He started out in sports and athletic training for many years and has since 2014 transitioned into heavy-weight training and bodybuilding. As a result, he has become one of the most experienced fitness equipment experts out there, and a valuable source of information.