One way to categorize exercises is what joints they mainly use. What are some examples of hip dominant exercises you can do in the gym or at home?
Hip dominant exercises are simply movements where your upper body and legs are moving in relation to each other. Movements like this mainly work muscles like the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.
Hip dominant exercises can be done with standard leg workout equipment like a barbell or dumbbells but also without equipment with just your body weight.
Some extra resistance is generally preferred since the muscles targeted are relatively strong.
1. Good morning
For the good morning exercise, you likely need some extra resistance, examples include a barbell or resistance band. Initially keep the resistance low to learn the right technique.
Take the following steps to do a good morning with a barbell:
- Set up the barbell racked at about chest height.
- Step under the barbell, put and hold it on your shoulder, and unrack it.
- Take a few steps back and put your feet at about shoulder width.
- Tilt your upper body forward as far as is comfortable with a good posture (but not farther than a horizontal line). At the same time bend your knees a small amount.
- Return to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
The good morning may look similar to the squat but you go a lot less through your knees. This makes it more of a hip dominant exercise.
2. Hip thrusts
Hip thrusts are similar to glute bridges but instead of doing them on the ground, you will need a bench or any other stable object of the right height.
Take the following steps to do a hip thrust:
- Sit right in front of the bench or other object you will use with your back slightly over the edge. Make sure the object is stable. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width in a position where your knees will be at a 90-degree angle in the next step. If you want, hold a weight on your body at the hip level.
- Move up your hips until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Slowly lower your body again.
Hip thrusts are mainly a hip dominant exercise that engages your glutes but this exercise does engage your lower back and hamstring muscles to some extent. Even more so if you do weighted hip thrusts.
One downside of hip thrusts is that they can require a bit more equipment and time to set up compared to some of the other options on this list.
If you don’t have any equipment you can also do the glute bridge, the no-equipment hip dominant exercise alternative, on one leg.
3. Romanian deadlifts
For the next exercise, you likely need external weights, preferably a barbell. You can also use other free weights and even resistance bands. Take the following steps to do a Romanian deadlift:
- Set up a rack with a barbell at a height just below where your barbell is if you stand up straight with the barbell in your hands. Add the desired number of weight plates.
- Grab the barbell with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing downward/backward. Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room for the exercise. Stand up with your feet at more or less shoulder width and your knees slightly bent.
- Slightly tilt your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back or knees or until the bar is right below knee height. The weight plates should not hit the ground.
- Slowly move back into the position of step 2.
Good technique is important in any exercise to avoid injuries but especially so for Romanian deadlifts. Before trying to deadlift the heaviest weights it is smart to improve your technique first by starting with light or no weights at all.
The Romanian deadlift focuses less on movements with your knee joints compared to the regular deadlift.
The regular deadlift engages your glutes and lower back muscles a good amount too but Romanian deadlifts are an alternative that comes closer to a hip dominant only exercise.
4. Pull throughs
This next hip dominant exercise can be done both with a cable machine or good resistance bands in combination with an anchor. Take the following steps to do a cable pull-through:
- Set the cable machine as close to the ground as possible.
- Stand right next to the cable machine with your back toward it. Grab the double rope handle through your legs so that the cable goes through your legs and take a step forward.
- Bend your knees slightly and bend your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back.
- Slowly move up your upper body until you stand up straight. Keep your back straight and your arms pointing downward. Make sure you don’t hunch your shoulders.
- Alternate between the positions in steps 3 and 4.
One downside of pull throughs is that you are very dependent on the strength of your grip muscles.
If these muscles fatigue before your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back you are missing out on many of the benefits of this hip dominant exercise.
With some of the other options on this list like the good morning exercise you do not have this problem since the weight rests on your shoulders.
5. Reverse back extensions
There are specific gym machines for reverse back extensions but these are not that popular. Chances are you will have to use a weight bench or a stability ball instead.
Take the following steps to do a reverse back extension with a weight bench:
- Lie on your stomach on the weight bench and move back until your hip is able to bend freely. You likely have to hold the weight bench with your hands for balance. Keep your body in one straight line for now.
- Slowly move your legs downward until your feet touch the ground while keeping your back straight. Keep your legs stretched.
- Move your legs up until your body is in a straight line.
The main downside of reverse back extensions is that your range of motion is usually smaller unless you find a better surface or machine than a weight bench or stability ball for this hip dominant exercise.
The upside is that reverse back extensions can be a great exercise for training your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.
6. Rack pulls
As the name implies, for the following hip dominant exercise you need a rack with adjustable safety bars. Besides that, you will also need a barbell.
Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a rack pull:
- Set up a barbell rack with the safety bars at a height just below your knees. Put the barbell on it and load it with the desired weight.
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width right in front of the barbell. Grab the barbell with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing downward/backward. Slowly lift the barbell by tilting your upper body back until you stand up straight. Keep your back straight during the movement.
- Lower the barbell back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
The rack pull is very similar to the Romanian deadlift but you rest at the bottom of the movement. Depending on your training goals and personal situation this hip dominant exercise can be a better or worse option.
7. Donkey kicks
Take the following steps to do a donkey kick:
- Start with your face facing the floor with your hands on the ground, your arms stretched, and your knees on the ground.
- Move one foot upward until the upper leg on this side is in one line with your body. Keep your knees at 90-degree angles throughout the movement.
- Lower this leg back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
- Repeat with your other leg.
In theory, you can do this hip dominant exercise with just your bodyweight. In reality, you will likely need extra resistance to see muscle growth in strong muscles like your glutes and hamstrings.
Some of the most straightforward ways to make donkey kicks more challenging are resistance bands and ankle weights but you can also clamp a medicine ball or dumbbell between the back of your upper legs and calves.