6 Best Hip Dominant Exercises to Build Glutes/Hamstrings

Legs 5 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

Hip dominant exercises are movements that target both the glutes and hamstrings. These exercises are also referred to as lower body pulling exercises.

The opposite of hip dominant/lower body pulling exercises are knee dominant/lower body pushing exercises, and those are covered in the article below:

The 6 Best Quad Focused, Knee Dominant Exercises

Hip dominant exercises are a critical part of developing your lower body and cause tremendous growth in the posterior chain. This growth in the posterior chain will lead to big deadlifts, and strong low bar squats.


Good Mornings Muscles Worked Edited

Primary movers are the muscle groups in an exercise that produce most of the force. They will also grow the most and build strength.

Hip dominant exercises consist of three primary movers:

  • the hamstrings
  • the glutes
  • the low back (erector spinae)

The interesting part is that different hip dominant exercises will activate these muscles to various degrees.

Some lower body pulling exercises will target the hamstring very well but not lead to great growth in the low back muscles. Others will work the glutes hard while largely ignoring the hamstrings.

You need to include a variety of hip dominant exercises to ensure you grow as strong as possible.

I’ll outline in each section which muscles the move hits well.

1. Deadlifts

Deadlifts are the ultimate hip dominant exercise.

Use them to build full-body strength with an incredible carry over to life outside the gym.

Deadlifts hit the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors (the muscles on both sides of the spine and travel from the base of the skull down to your butt).

You can use the deadlift to measure your strength, and to diagnose which hip dominant muscles need more work.

This move isn’t a great hypertrophy move unless you stress the lowering portion (eccentric phase) of the lift. Instead, focus on building strength with a powerful concentric phase (the lifting part).

Just make sure you are doing them right by reading the article below.

The Serious Guide On How To Conventional Deadlift

2. Hip Thrusts

We love hip thrusts.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, will build your glutes like good hip thrusts.

You can do hip thrusts with bodyweight only. Then you can up the ante and add weight to your lap. If you want a good glute workout, put weight on your lap and a band around your knees.

If you are interested in more targeted glute work you can download the free guide below for a dedicated glute training program.

The Serious Guide to Glute Training

3. Romanian Deadlifts

Romanian deadlifts will destroy your hamstrings in the best way.

Since the hamstrings cross two joints: the hips, and the knees, hinging at the hip is an excellent way to force growth. The other way to work the hamstrings is with a lying hamstring curl machine–this is a much less functional exercise and should not be the primary exercise for your hamstrings.

If you do Romanian deadlifts with great technique you will also get an excellent mid-back workout.

Learning to do these with the perfect technique will help your deadlifts tremendously.

Romanian deadlifts are the best single exercise for improving your conventional deadlift.

4. Good Mornings

Good mornings follow a very similar pattern to Romanian Deadlifts.

The critical difference is that instead of having the weight in your hands, it is across your shoulders like a squat.

The good morning shifts the posterior chain focus from your hamstrings to your low back and glutes.

The key to great good mornings is to hinge at the hips, and when you reach the point that going any lower would force you to lose tightness in your back, squat just a little to get max range of motion in the hip.

My favorite way to do good mornings is with a safety squat bar. If you have access to a safety squat bar I suggest giving it a try.

5. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts

Like all unilateral exercises, single-leg Romanian deadlifts are great for exposing asymmetries.

This exercise will challenge your balance and let you know if you have one leg stronger than the other (most of us do).

The key is to hold the dumbbell or kettlebell in your left hand when using your left leg and your right hand for the right leg. Holding the weight in the same arm as the leg you have on the ground will help balance the leg you are holding in the air by adding a counterweight.

The goal is not to get the dumbbell or kettlebell all the way to the ground. Your goal should be to get as much stretch in your hamstring as possible as early in the movement as you can.

6. Cable Pull-Throughs

These are tough and great for your glutes and hamstrings.

The hardest part about this exercise is keeping your balance while using a weight heavy enough to challenge your posterior chain.

Keep the weight lower and use high reps, an extensive range of motion, and slower reps to challenge yourself while staying balanced.

You can do these with a cable machine like we do in the video below, and you can also substitute a resistance band. Resistance bands are great because you can bring them anywhere and they are cheap to buy.

Master the Conventional Deadlift

If you’re reading this list of hip dominant exercises you may also be looking to improve your conventional deadlift skills.

The deadlift will challenge how well you can muster the strength of your entire body.

If you want to become a deadlift pro you need to check out the article below.

The Serious Guide On How To Conventional Deadlift

Build Your Glutes for a Powerful Deadlift

Glutes are essential for hip dominant exercises, and you need to target them to build your other lifts.

If you find that you feel deadlifts the most in your low back you may have weak glutes.

Check out the Serious Guide to Glute Training to maximize their development.

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.