The quest for a perfect, firm ass is a noble one indeed, and the single-leg hip thrust exercise can help you out. This is a glute workout that’s laser-focused and great for balance, mobility, and explosive lower-body strength.
How to do a single-leg hip thrust
Speed round! Here’s everything you need to know at a glance about this delightful booty workout:
- To do this kind of hip thrust, you’ll need a bench to support your upper body.
- It’s a unilateral exercise — you’re working one leg at a time.
- The exercise targets your glutes, developing hip strength, lower-body performance, and injury resistance.
- Weight-assisted variations can help you step things up once you’ve perfected your form.
- This is a very focused exercise, so it’s vital to fully engage your glutes throughout for max effectiveness.
Ready to work that butt? Let’s get thrusting!
Here’s what you need and how to pull off a single-leg hip thrust.
What equipment do you need for a single-leg hip thrust?
The beauty of this exercise is that you barely need anything to get started.
Ideally, you’ll use a bench to support your shoulders and upper back, which you can almost certainly find at most reputable gyms. Any sturdy surface raised a foot or two off the floor is perfect in a pinch.
Doing a single-leg hip thrust at home
Finding equipment to pull off the single-leg hip thrust in your own house is likely to be mega easy. If you don’t have a bench, a stool or coffee table should be fine.
Whatever you use, make sure it’s robust enough to take repeated reps of your body weight without shifting around on the floor.
Perfect single-leg hip thrust form: A step-by-step guide
Here, have some easy steps you can follow to totally nail this glute-enhancing thrust:
- Support your upper back on a bench.
- Place one foot flat against the floor with your knee bent at 90 degrees.
- Raise your other leg until your thigh points upward, with this knee also bent at 90 degrees.
- Engage your glute muscles in the leg that’s set on the floor.
- Pivoting from your upper back, raise your hips so they line up with your torso.
- Hold for a couple seconds, keeping those glutes squeezed.
- Steadily lower back to the starting position.
- Swap your legs and repeat.
Aim for 2 or 3 sets of 6–12 reps on each leg.
Building the single-leg hip thrust into your regular workout carries some big positives.
Improved hip strength
First off, it’s good for your hip strength. Specifically, it helps your hip extension, which controls motions like sitting down, standing up, walking, and running.
Studies suggest that lower-body strength is a key driver of sprint performance and that hip thrusts could be even better than deadlifting for activating those key muscles (the glutes, aka your butt).
A boost for overall sports performance
Hip thrusts could boost your sports performance in general. Plenty of physical activities call for explosive strength and stability in the lower body, and well-developed glutes play a key role in that. Research links lower-body strength to speed, power, and agility.
Reduced risk of injury
Exercising any muscle group can lower your injury risk. Your glutes are no exception. Developing them can make you less prone to injuring your hips and groin.
Single-leg hip thrusts target your glutes. Those are three muscles in your booty called the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. They help with hip extension, balance, and leg positioning.
While your glutes are the star of the show, the thrust also engages these other muscles:
- hip flexors
- spinal erectors (stop giggling!)
A simple single-leg hip thrust with your shoulders on the bench is an effective exercise that requires next to no equipment to get started. But with a few tweaks, you can switch things up and add some extra bite to the experience.
Take a look at these alternatives to the single-leg hip thrust. Most involve cranking up the difficulty, so set a realistic plan and lay the groundwork for the harder stuff first.
Single-leg elevated hip thrust
For this variation, you’ll need a box or another raised platform that stands a couple of feet off the floor. To start elevating your glute strength:
- Lie faceup on the floor with your feet on the bench and knees bent at 90 degrees.
- Elevate one foot until one thigh is at 90 degrees to the other.
- Engage your glutes.
- Lift your hips until they’re in line with your torso.
- Hold for a couple seconds, then steadily return to the starting position.
- Swap your legs and repeat.
Dumbbell single-leg hip thrust
This variation is exactly the same as a regular single-leg hip thrust except that you’ve got a weight tucked into the crease of your bottom leg. Using a dumbbell, you can rest the bar across your thigh, with the weights on either side to balance it.
Wait until you can comfortably rattle off 10–12 thrusts on each leg with nothing but your own body weight before trying the weighted kind. Even a small amount of weight can add a serious burn to the exercise.
Single-leg banded hip thrust
Using a resistance band around your thighs, you can unlock a little extra benefit per rep. Here’s how:
- Secure a resistance band around the middle of your thighs.
- Rest your upper back on a bench, as you would in a normal thrust.
- Place one foot against the floor, with knee bent at 90 degrees.
- Raise your other leg until you feel tension in the resistance band.
- While keeping the stretch in the band, engage your glutes and lift your hips until they’re in line with your torso.
- Hold for a couple seconds before returning to the starting position.
Don’t loosen the tension in the band until it’s time to swap legs. The resistance helps make sure your glutes stay fully engaged as long as possible.
Landmine single-leg hip thrust
Talk about explosive movements! This is a variation of the single-leg hip thrust with a weight — dialed up to nightmare difficulty. It uses a landmine unit, which is like a barbell but with one weight placed flat against the floor to steady it.
If you don’t have access to a landmine, you can use a regular barbell — just remove the weight and secure the naked end against the corner of a room. From there:
- Rest your upper back against a bench as usual, with one arm flat against it.
- Start with both feet flat against the floor, with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
- Cradle the weighted end of the landmine or barbell across your lap.
- With your free arm, grip the bar at the far side of the weights.
- Lift one leg up and follow through with your hips.
- Engage your glutes as you raise into a full extension.
- Hold for a couple seconds, then steadily lower back to the starting position.
- Repeat a full set of reps before switching legs (it’s less hassle that way).
With practice, you’ll start to feel the barbell rolling more naturally back and forth across your lap. At first, you might worry about it rolling too far backward. If you focus on slower, controlled motions at first, that’s less likely to happen.
This is a pretty safe exercise in the grand scheme of things. You’re well supported and isolating one half of your body at a time. But that makes it even more important to get your form right and reap as much benefit as possible from each rep.
Here’s the general thrust of how to avoid mishaps:
- Keep your spine straight and your ribs in a neutral position. Don’t let your head tilt backward — that will hyperextend your back and neck, stopping your glutes from contracting properly. It helps to tilt your chin down slightly while you extend.
- Push with your glutes, not your arms. If you use your elbows to elevate yourself, you’re cheating your glutes for negligible benefit to your arms. Instead, keep your arms flat on the bench and relax your hands. Pivot from your upper back.
- Engage that ass! This is a glute exercise. You need to focus on contracting your glutes when you reach a full extension. If you half-ass the job (LOL), you risk straining your lower back or hamstring to compensate.
As a welcome break from squats and deadlifts, a single-leg hip thrust with your shoulders on a bench is a strong addition to your workout toolkit. The minimal equipment and the range of options for bumping up the difficulty make it hard to ignore.
And don’t forget: It’s a unilateral exercise. You’re training one side of your body at a time. That’s ideal for correcting any strength imbalances, and it’s even handy in recovering from injury. Talk with your physical therapist if you’re working through something — a more focused routine might be exactly what you need.