For example, you can do bodyweight glute bridges to get the full range of hip motion. Other butt activation exercises include four-way kicks with a resistance band and hip circles in the quadruped (tabletop) position.

Slipping on a mini-band just above your knees or your ankles and doing some side-stepping can also get your gluteus medius (side glutes) in on the action, DeMattos says. When you’re doing the side steps, make sure to do them with a hip hinge versus a squat and maintain tension in the band throughout the exercise by stepping your leg wide enough. (Try this glute activation circuit to put all these suggestions into play!)

You can also use that same mini-band during the actual hip thrust for an added challenge.

“Having a band around your knees and pushing your knees out against the band as you’re doing the hip thrust will get a little more gluteus medius activation,” says DeMattos. “So it’s a great way to challenge yourself a little more, especially if a regular hip thrust is getting easy.”

2. Play around with your foot placement.

Your hamstrings, or the muscles in the back of your upper legs, will be working a little bit in the hip thrust, but they shouldn’t be the main drivers of the move. So if they’re the primary muscle you feel firing, you may want to make a foot placement tweak to bring the movement back into your glutes.

To get more out of your butt when doing a hip thrust, bring your feet in closer to your hips, DeMatos says.

“The farther away your feet are from your body, the more it becomes a hamstring-dominant movement,” she says.

You also want to make sure that your feet are placed flat on the floor, about shoulder-width apart, or at a distance that creates a 90-degree angle between your knee joint and tibia (shinbone) when in a hip extension, or the top of the movement, Rice says.

Some people may prefer to have their feet turned out slightly, which will allow you to hit more of your external hip rotators, like your gluteus medius, piriformis, and tensor fasciae latae, DeMattos says.​​

3. Think about pushing the ground away from you.

One of the most common mistakes DeMattos sees people make with the hip thrust is not intentionally thinking about pressing their entire feet into the ground to get into full hip extension. You should push evenly through your feet throughout the range of motion, Rice says. This is ultimately going to help you get more glute activation from the movement.

“You want to be a straight plank and make sure you’re pushing the ground away from you,” DeMattos says. “Everyone’s reaction is to just think, ‘Oh, let me just try to get my hips up. So I like to tell people to push the ground away using your whole foot, not just your heels.”

As you get stronger and want to make the hip thrust more challenging, DeMattos suggests elevating your feet on a small step stool or some weight plates so that your hips have a greater range of motion to go through.

4. Find the right setup so you can reach full bridge.

When setting up for your hip thrust, you want to make sure to find the right height on a bench, couch, or box so that your upper back is comfortably positioned against it, Rice says. This will help you come to a full bridge at the top of the move, forming a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.