Hip thrusts are a powerful exercise but you likely need to do them weighted to grow and strengthen the strong glute and hamstring muscles.
These muscles are used to moving the weight of your entire body around during walking, running, and many other activities.
Resistance training beginners could see small results with bodyweight hip thrusts but some extra resistance is likely needed and/or just offers faster results.
In the gym, most people will prefer barbell and smith machine hip thrusts in terms of effectiveness and comfort.
For hip thrusts at home, workout sandbags will generally be the best choice due to their price, compactness, comfort, and heavy weight options.
1. Barbell hip thrust
A barbell is the metal bar in the gym on which you put weight plates. This piece of equipment is the most popular way to do weighted hip thrusts and for good reasons.
First of all, hip thrusts mainly work your glutes and the upper parts of the hamstring muscles. These are some of the biggest and strongest muscle groups in the human body.
To be able to grow and strengthen them, you need to pressure them with enough resistance.
One of the benefits of barbells is that they basically have the highest resistance limit of all pieces of fitness equipment.
While you want to check the weight limit of the specific model you want to use, Olympic barbells can often hold up to 700 pounds (317 kg). This should be enough for most people to do a good hip thrust.
The second benefit of a barbell hip thrust is that it is easy to get the resistance in the right place. When you load the barbell with weight plates, there is some room left under the bar to sit down.
Compared to other pieces of fitness equipment where you have to lift the resistance on your hips from an awkward sideways sitting position, this is a big improvement.
Lastly, barbell hip thrusts can be made relatively comfortable compared to other weighted variations by using a barbell pad. Other types of resistance can be painful on your hips.
2. Dumbbell hip thrust
Dumbbells which are basically handles with weights on each side are a popular second choice for weighted hip thrusts.
The barbells in your local gym may often be occupied, you may only have dumbbells at home, or you may not like the extra effort of setting up the barbell.
In these cases, you could consider using dumbbells to make hip thrusts more challenging for your glutes and hamstrings.
That being said, you do want to keep the downsides of this option in mind.
First of all, dumbbells can be lacking in terms of weight. If you can do more than 25 hip thrusts with the heaviest dumbbell available, you could likely use more resistance if glute muscle growth is your goal.
You can resolve this to some extent by doing single leg dumbbell hip thrusts but these require more time since you have to work each side separately.
Besides that, getting the dumbbell on your hips and keeping it there can be awkward and uncomfortable. This could take your attention away from having a good workout.
3. Smith machine hip thrust
The smith machine comes down to a barbell that follows a rail system and can be racked at different positions due to its hooks. This hip thrust equipment option has similar benefits as the barbell.
Smith machine hip thrusts are relatively easy to do with a lot of weight and can be made relatively comfortable with a barbell pad.
On top of that, the rail system makes it so you don’t have to pay attention to keeping the bar in place.
In turn, this could allow you to focus more on the glute training part of the exercise and in turn, see more muscle gains and strength progress.
When it comes to the training itself, the smith machine is likely the best way to do weighted hip thrusts.
That being said, one downside of this option is that not all gyms have smith machines and that the few ones they do have could be occupied.
4. Banded hip thrust
Resistance bands are a relatively popular equipment choice to do hip thrusts at home for a few reasons.
The main ones are that resistance bands are budget-friendly, compact, and still offer a lot of resistance which is needed to make this glute exercise challenging enough.
One downside of this type of banded hip thrust is that it is a bit awkward to set up and that the resistance does not pull straight down.
Additionally, some people don’t like the fact that resistance bands become more challenging as you stretch them out. You will get more tension from the bands at the top of the movement.
More generally, resistance bands, even the good ones, need to be replaced every once in a while. They are just not as durable as the metal alternatives on this list.
Something to note is that you can also combine resistance bands with other weights by looping them around your upper legs instead. This is a hip thrust variation that works your outer thighs to a larger extent.
5. Kettlebell hip thrust
Kettlebells are basically metal balls with a handle. They are mainly used in exercises where their unique shape is useful but you could also use them for exercises like the hip thrust.
Their main benefit is that the pressure on your body from the weight is distributed over a bigger area. This can be more comfortable than some of the other options.
At the same time, kettlebell hip thrusts have many limitations.
They are typically not that heavy, can be challenging to get into position, and take a lot of attention to keep the kettlebell from sliding or rolling off your hips.
In short, kettlebells are generally not the best way to do weighted hip thrusts. Additionally, not many people will only have kettlebells available. Often, some of the better equipment options are present too.
On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that there are still situations where kettlebells are the best option. Compared to bodyweight hip thrusts, they definitely offer more glute and hamstring growth potential.
6. Hip thrust with plate
While they are theoretically an option, most people will never have to try plate hip thrusts and it is better that way for a few reasons.
Before going into these reasons, most people will never have to try this weighted hip thrust variation because there are not many situations where you have weight plates available but not a barbell.
It could be that all the barbells in the gym are occupied but that there are weight plates left. However, even then, some of the other equipment options on this list are likely available.
Now, the reasons why weight plates are not great for hip thrusts is that they are generally hard to get in position, hard to keep in position, and not that comfortable.
Especially because you likely have to stack a few weight plates to get enough resistance to grow and strengthen your glute and hamstring muscles.
7. Cable hip thrust
The cable machine is a construction with one or two cables that are connected to weights and pulleys. These things allow you to create resistance in directions that are different from gravity.
You could make something work on the ground but most people do cable hip thrust standing up, also known as a pull-through.
In this exercise, you hold a double-rope cable handle against your hips and to the resisted hip hinge movement that way.
Two benefits of cable hip thrusts are that it is easy to adjust the weights and that this exercise does not require a lot of time and effort to set up.
On the other hand, a big potential downside is that your forearm grip muscles could fatigue before giving your glutes and hamstrings a good workout.
Besides that, most people do not have a cable machine at home and your local gym may only have a few cable machines which may or may not be occupied.
All things considered, you can give the cable hip thrust a try if you don’t like the other weighted variations. At the same time, you will likely get better workouts with many of the other options.
8. Workout sandbag hip thrust
Not everyone knows they exist but workout sandbags can be great for home resistance training workouts. These are basically sandbags with extra handles that make it easier to use them in exercises.
Workout sandbags mainly stand out for hip thrusts because they allow you to create a lot of resistance at home. There are not many other relatively budget-friendly and compact equipment options that can do this.
Additionally, they are relatively comfortable on your hips because the weight is distributed over a wide surface. Besides these things, you can also use workout sandbags in other exercises.
One small downside is that you often have to fill these bags with sand yourself. This requires an extra trip to the store before you can start growing and strengthening your glutes and hamstrings.
They are also not quite as easy as barbells to get into position.
9. At-home objects
Fitness equipment options are great for resistance training exercises because they are actually made for this purpose. At the same time, if you are on a tight budget, you may be able to do weighted hip thrusts in other ways.
More specifically, you likely have grocery bags or backpacks at home. You can fill these up with heavy objects like books and use them as resistance for the hip thrust exercise.
The benefit of these at-home objects is that you likely don’t need to invest any extra money in them.
On the flip side, they are obviously also lacking in a few ways. It could be hard to find enough resistance for the glute muscles, they could be challenging to keep in place, and getting them in position is not that convenient.
You can see this option as a last resort. Keep in mind that good resistance bands can be relatively budget-friendly too.
10. Medicine ball hip thrust
Medicine balls are basically weighted balls with a somewhat soft outer shell. These are typically used in throwing and core exercises but in theory, you could also use them for a hip thrust.
“In theory” because medicine balls are definitely one of the worst equipment options for weighted hip thrusts. They are typically not that heavy and it is hard to keep them from rolling off your body.
On top of that, there will not be many situations where someone has a medicine ball available but not one of the other equipment options.
If you only have a medicine ball available it is likely better than no resistance. That being said, you won’t find many people doing medicine ball hip thrusts and for good reasons.
How heavy should weights be for hip thrusts?
How heavy weights should be for hip thrusts depends on your current strength level. You generally want to use a number of pounds or kilograms where you are able to complete between 6 and 25 repetitions before fatiguing your muscles.
What muscles do weighted hip thrusts work?
Similar to regular hip thrust, the weighted version mainly works your glutes and hamstrings. There is also a banded hip thrust where you loop the band around your upper legs and in turn, work your hip abductors (outer thigh muscles) more.
Do hip thrusts make glutes bigger?
With the right weights, repetitions, nutrition, and rest, hip thrusts can make your glutes bigger.
Are hip thrusts with dumbbells effective?
Hip thrusts with dumbbells are more effective than no resistance. At the same time, there are more effective options for doing weighted hip thrusts that have a higher weight limit, are more convenient to get into position, and are more comfortable.
Can you do weighted hip thrusts with dumbbells?
You can do weighted hip thrusts with dumbbells if needed but other equipment options like barbells, smith machines, workout sandbags, etc. are typically more effective and convenient.