The glutes, which are a group of three muscles that make up the buttocks, include some of the largest muscles in the body.
Strong glute muscles contribute to a well–rounded physique and serve numerous important functions, such as keeping your trunk erect, standing from a seated position, and climbing stairs, to name a few.
Many exercises sufficiently target the glutes, including the single-leg hip thrust, which provides the best glute isolation.
This article reviews how to do the single-leg hip thrust, including some of its benefits, the muscles it works, common mistakes, and few variations to increase or decrease the difficulty level.
The single-leg hip thrust is a fantastic exercise for targeting the glutes.
By working each side separately, you can fully isolate your glutes unilaterally, providing maximal training stimulus.
This exercise has a low risk of injury and requires very few items to get started, making it an excellent movement for all fitness levels.
Different variations can be performed, and weights can be used for resistance, making the movement more challenging for even the most advanced trainees.
For this exercise, you’ll need a weight bench or a similar surface to elevate your body, as well as dumbbells or another weighted object to increase the difficulty as needed.
- Start by placing your upper back against a bench with one knee bent at about 90 degrees and the foot of the same leg flat on the floor — this will be your working leg.
- Lift your other leg, bending your knee until both your hip and knee form a 90-degree angle.
- Lay your arms out flat on the bench, or bend your elbows to rest your head in your hands. Focus on using your upper back as a pivot point as opposed to using your elbows to create force and drive the movement.
- Contract the glute of the working leg and lift your hips until they’re in line with your torso.
- Briefly hold this position while continuing to squeeze your glute, and finally, return to the starting position.
- Repeat these steps for the other glute until the desired number of reps and sets is reached.
The single-leg hip thrust is performed by placing your upper back on a weight bench, raising one leg, and extending the hip of the other leg to achieve an isolated contraction of the glute.
Regularly performing the single-leg hip thrust offers several benefits.
Increases hip-extension strength
Hip extension refers to increasing the angle between the torso and the thigh, or moving the thigh away from the torso. From a standing position, it means moving your leg backward, behind the body.
This movement is important in everyday activities such as getting up from a seated position, climbing stairs, or even simply walking.
Hip extension also plays a crucial role in many sports in which explosive running or jumping is required.
The single-leg hip thrust is an ideal exercise for training hip-extension strength, as it isolates the glutes, the major muscle group responsible for this movement.
This means that the hip thrust, including the single-leg variation, is more likely to transfer to improvements in hip-extension strength and glute development than many other exercises.
Therefore, whether you’re looking to improve your hip-extension strength for daily activities or athletic purposes, the single-leg hip thrust is an excellent choice.
May improve sports performance
Many sports require explosive strength and power to run, jump, change directions, and quickly come to a stop.
To efficiently perform these movements, it’s important to have a strong lower body, including well-developed glutes.
For example, a study including 17 female National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) soccer players found that those with stronger lower bodies performed better in a number of tests associated with speed, power, and agility (
To develop lower body strength it’s helpful to focus on resistance exercises like squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, weighted stepups, lunges, and sled pushes.
May help prevent injuries
Whether you’re a serious athlete or just recreationally active, there’s always a risk of injury.
That said, the more demand you put on your body, the higher the risk of injury.
The single-leg hip thrust, in particular, may help prevent hip- and groin-related injuries, as it strengthens the hip extensors and surrounding connective tissue (
That said, it’s always best to consult a certified trainer for more individualized exercise programming recommendations.
The single-leg hip thrust mainly targets the glutes, which are the primary movers for hip extension.
The glutes comprise three muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
These muscles are primarily responsible for hip extension, although they contribute other functions, too, such as balancing the pelvis, hip abduction (spreading the legs apart), and hip adduction (bringing the legs together).
While performing the movement, other muscles serve a supporting role to help keep the body in position. These include the following muscles:
- Spinal erectors. These mid- and lower-back muscles keep your spine straight.
- Hamstrings. The hamstrings are located on the back of the thigh and assist in bending the nonworking leg and supporting the working leg.
- Quads and hip flexors. These muscles on the front of the thigh serve a supportive role, especially in controlling your descent, on both legs.
- Adductors. Located on the inside of the leg, the adductors help keep your legs straight.
The single-leg hip thrust is an isolation exercise that primarily targets the glutes, though supporting muscles include the spinal erectors, hamstrings, quads, and adductors.
Those with varying levels of experience or goals may want to try alternatives to the traditional single-leg hip thrust to increase or decrease the difficulty level.
Below are some of the top variations to get you started.
Weighted single-leg hip thrust
The weighted single-leg hip thrust is similar to the traditional movement, although a weight is added for increased resistance.
To perform this movement, follow the steps above, then after step 1, place a dumbbell, kettlebell, or weight plate on top of the hip of the working leg.
The weight can be increased or decreased depending on your desired level of resistance.
Some find it easiest to use a dumbbell, as it conveniently straddles the hip joint, holding it in place.
Banded single-leg hip thrust
The banded single-leg hip thrust is another effective variation that uses band tension for resistance instead of a weight.
Bands of varying resistance can be used to increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise.
To perform the banded variation, place a band around your legs, just behind your knees, while in the starting position.
The exercise is then performed identically as the traditional movement, lifting one leg up, extending the hip of the working leg, and returning to the starting position in a controlled motion.
The key is to keep your knees aligned and resist the band tension throughout the movement for best results.
Two-leg hip thrust with a single-leg descent
Yet another variation of the single-leg hip thrust is the two-leg hip thrust with a single-leg descent.
This movement is meant to be slightly easier than the traditional exercise, as it only requires you to use one leg on the descent portion.
This exercise provides a suitable progression when working up to performing the traditional single-leg hip thrust.
To perform it, start the same way but with both feet on the ground. Contract the glutes to lift your hips, then bring one leg into the air at a 90-degree angle. Lower back down to the starting position with control, then place the lifted foot back on the ground to begin your next rep.
These alternatives to the traditional single-leg hip thrust allow you to increase or decrease the difficulty based on your level of strength and experience.
Proper form is essential for getting the most out of this movement. As such, there are some common mistakes you should be aware of when performing this exercise.
Hyperextending your back
Hyperextending your back or neck by dropping your head back while performing the single-leg hip thrust prevents you from fully extending your hips, thus preventing the glutes from reaching their maximum contraction.
To prevent this, tilt your chin down slightly to ensure your spine remains straight and your rib cage is in a neutral position.
Pushing with your elbows
Another common mistake when performing the single-leg hip thrust is pushing with your arms and elbows instead of your glutes.
This partially takes the load off of your glutes and transfers it through your arms, affecting the effectiveness of the exercise.
To prevent pushing with your elbows, lay your arms out flat on the bench and focus on using your upper back as a pivot point.
Your hands should be relaxed throughout the movement.
Not fully contracting the muscle
The single-leg hip thrust is a glute-focused isolation exercise, meaning its purpose is to solely target the glutes.
When performing isolation exercises, it’s important to focus on getting a full contraction in the muscle being worked.
By not fully contracting the glute during the single-leg hip thrust, you may be missing out on some of the exercise’s benefits or overcompensating with the muscles of the lower back or hamstring, potentially leading to injury.
To ensure a full contraction during the movement, place your hand on the working muscle at the peak of each contraction (step 5 above).
Some common errors when performing the single-leg hip thrust include hyperextending your back, pushing with your elbows, and not fully contracting the muscle.
The single-leg hip thrust is a glute-focused isolation exercise commonly used to improve hip-extension strength and glute development.
Performing this exercise comes with several potential benefits, including improvement in hip-extension strength, sports performance, and injury prevention.
Several variations of the single-leg hip thrust can be utilized to increase or decrease the degree of difficulty based on your level of strength and experience.
It’s important to be aware of some common mistakes when performing this exercise, including hyperextending your back, pushing with your elbows, and not fully contracting the muscle.
If you’re looking to improve your hip-extension strength and shape up your posterior, the single-leg hip thrust may be an excellent addition to your workout regimen.