Building the posterior muscles will make your physique pop. Only serious lifters have slabs of muscle on the hamstrings, glutes, and back. Popular exercises to target these muscles are the hip thrust and deadlift. But what are the main differences?
Hip thrusts are better for building the glutes, while the deadlift is a better full-body strength developer. Both work the posterior muscles of the glutes and hamstrings, but the deadlift also taxes the back.
So, when should you use the hip thrust or deadlift?
Table of Contents
- Hip Thrust vs. Deadlift: What’s The Difference?
- How To Hip Thrust
- How To Deadlift
- Are Hip Thrusts Easier Than The Deadlift?
- Can You Hip Thrust More Than You Deadlift?
- Can You Hip Thrust The Same Day As You Deadlift?
- Can You Replace The Deadlift With The Hip Thrust?
- Hip Thrust vs. Deadlift: Which Is Better?
Hip Thrust vs. Deadlift: What’s The Difference?
Both exercises work the hip extensors of the glutes and hamstrings. The deadlift involves more quads since the knees extend, whereas the knee angle stays consistent during the hip thrust. The hip thrust works the glutes harder because of the line of resistance.
The barbell is placed on the hips with gravity working vertically and the body parallel to the floor. The deadlift is axially loaded, so the glutes aren’t loaded to the same extent when locked out. Both are intense posterior chain builders.
The deadlift requires a barbell and plates. The hip thrust uses the same equipment but also requires a bench to lean against and a pad to protect your hips from the bar. The tedious setup of the hip thrust can be off-putting for some lifters.
Dragging a bench around a busy gym, then sitting on the floor and rolling the bar uncomfortably over your thighs to get in position makes for a long process to perform the hip thrust.
Training goals typically differ between these exercises. Deadlifts are used to develop full body strength targeting the back, glutes, and hamstrings. Hip thrusts can be used to develop strength but are more commonly used to get a bigger butt.
Deadlifts can also be used to build a thick back, glutes, and hamstrings but are extremely taxing when done for high reps. Hence using the hip thrust to target the glutes is a better option since you don’t incur the same fatigue while creating your upper glute shelf.
The deadlift is a more complex exercise to learn and is even harder to master. It requires keeping tension in the lats and back to keep the barbell close to the body and maintain your posture. At the same time, you must learn to load the hamstrings and have the bar move vertically and not around your knees.
Hip thrusts are relatively easy to learn as it is purely hip extension. However, what takes time is dialing in the mind-muscle connection with the glutes and minimizing hamstring recruitment.
How To Hip Thrust
The hip thrust has exploded, especially within the female lifting community. Booty is to women what chest and biceps are to men. So, we could call the hip thrust the bench press for women.
But it’s highly effective for growing the glutes. No other exercise places the glutes under that much tension with heavy loads and intense mind-muscle connection. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit on the floor with your back against a bench. Roll the barbell so it is in the crease of your hips. Use a barbell pad or mat to cushion between you and the barbell.
- Bring your feet flat so your shins are vertical at the top of the movement. Shift your back up the bench so your shoulder blades are against the edge.
- Drive through your heels and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Stronger hip extension: The hip thrust targets and loads hip extension, making it an excellent exercise for targeting the glute and hamstring muscles.
Reduced knee and back stress: Other glute exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts can aggravate knee and back pain. The hip thrust doesn’t stress the knee and back to the same extent making it an excellent way to load the hips.
Build huge glutes: That is why the hip thrust was invented. To grow a booty worth looking back at.
A hassle to set up: I’ve been in busy commercial gyms trying to set up the hip thrust. Wheeling a bench to the wall and finding a barbell, plates, and a pad is a workout in itself. It’s much easier with a home gym or a hip thrust machine.
How To Deadlift
The deadlift is considered similar to the squat regarding strength development. It takes raw, brutal strength to stand up with a heavy bar from the floor. But raw strength will only get you so far.
There is a technical component to the deadlift that can add pounds to your max with small tweaks. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with the barbell on the floor in front of you.
- Perform a Romanian deadlift to reach down and grab the bar with an overhand or mixed grip, with your hands just outside your legs.
- Pull yourself into position by pulling the slack out of the bar creating full body tension. Load your hamstrings and glutes, and keep tension in your lats, all while keeping a big chest.
- Push with your legs to initiate the deadlift. Once the bar passes your knees, thrust your hips forward as hard as possible to lock out.
- Build full body strength: Outside of the squat, the deadlift is an excellent strength builder. It requires your entire body to pick a heavy barbell from the floor to your hips.
- Improves grip strength: As long as you’re not using straps, your grip increases significantly as you get stronger with the deadlift. One trick is to perform all your warm-up weights with a double overhand grip before using a mixed grip for your working sets.
- Strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and back: The posterior muscles get less love than the mirror muscles of the quads and chest. The deadlift attacks the entire posterior chain.
- Highly fatiguing: Heavy deadlifts can carry fatigue for days. This may not be an issue if you only lift or your primary goal is to get bigger and stronger. But if you’re training for another sport or activity, this could negatively affect other training.
- Not suitable for everyone: Pulling from the floor with a straight barbell may not agree with all body types. Therefore, you may modify it back placing the plates on blocks or using a trap bar.
Are Hip Thrusts Easier Than The Deadlift?
In my experience, hip thrusts are easier than deadlifts. This is why I program the hip thrust with professional athletes during short, intense playing periods, as it’s easier to recover from.
Deadlifts tax the lower back heavily, so depending on your training split or other activities, you may need to be aware of when in the week you perform them.
Can You Hip Thrust More Than You Deadlift?
You can hip thrust more than you deadlift. It typically goes hip thrust > deadlift > squat from heaviest to lightest. The glutes are your body’s most powerful muscle, and the hip thrust takes full advantage.
When deadlifting, your grip, erector spinae, and hamstrings are all limiting factors to how much you can deadlift.
Can You Hip Thrust The Same Day As You Deadlift?
You can hip thrust the same day you deadlift, and they complement each other perfectly if your goal is to gain muscle. Perform the deadlift as your first exercise for low to moderate reps. Anywhere from 1 to 6 reps works well.
When finished, perform the hip thrust for moderate to high reps for a strong glute muscle-building stimulus. You can finish off your hamstrings with the seated leg curl and have a well-rounded session targeting the glutes, hamstrings, and back.
Can You Replace The Deadlift With The Hip Thrust?
Replacing the deadlift with the hip thrust requires context. If your goal is full-body maximal strength development, you should not replace the deadlift with the hip thrust. But if your goal is to maximize muscle growth, then the replacement makes sense.
But you don’t need to replace the deadlift in either instance if you don’t want to. The only times I would replace the deadlift with the hip thrust are:
- You suffer from lower back pain, and deadlifts aggravate it making them undoable.
- You want to reduce fatigue for technical sports training.
Outside of this, the deadlift is an excellent strength builder and not worth replacing.
Hip Thrust vs. Deadlift: Which Is Better?
Neither exercise is better than the other, as it depends on the context. For maximal strength development, the deadlift is a better option. For glute development, the hip thrust is better. But that doesn’t mean you can only do one or the other.
Both exercises complement each other, and you can perform both within the same session or training week.