Last updated on November 13th, 2022 at 03:48 pm
In the search for fantastic glutes you probably realise that you have to hip thrust.
However, depending on your gym, you may not have the required equipment.
This is why many gym-goers have turned to using the leg extension machine to perform hip thrusts.
But, is the leg extension machine as effective as using a barbell?
Allow me to explain what you need to know about leg extension hip thrusts.
Are Hip Thrusts on Leg Extension Machine Effective?
You can certainly perform hip thrusts on the leg extension machine and get a great glute workout. However, this should typically be used as an alternative, as it won’t be as effective as barbell hip thrusts. When using a barbell you have to balance the weight, it’s more challenging, plus your core is activated to a far greater extent.
Use the Leg Extension Machine as an Alternative
I know for a fact that I was amazed the first time I did hip thrusts using the leg extension machine.
It felt comfortable, was easy to set up, and I really felt my glutes fire up during and after the movement.
So initially, I assumed that this would be my new way to hip thrust.
Gone were the days of trying to find an available bench in the gym.
And once I had found a bench it was still extremely awkward to set everything up.
Plus, even once I was set up, there’s always the chance that the bench is going to slide around when doing hip thrusts.
Basically, for such a great glute exercise, hip thrust can often feel as though they’re more trouble than their worth.
Enter hip thrusting on the leg extension machine.
Now, in principle this sounds great.
And the way your butt will feel after trying this for the first time, you too like me may be swayed into thinking that this is the new way to hip thrust.
However, it wasn’t long until I realised that hip thrusting in the leg extension machine wasn’t as effective as I first assumed.
With that being said, I still think it works the glutes very well, but I would only use the leg extension machine as an alternative to a barbell.
Perhaps you just want to perform a quick 3-minute butt finisher.
Maybe, there are no benches, barbells, or even the Smith machine, available.
Whatever the reason, the leg extension machine is no longer my first port of call when it comes to performing hip thrusts.
Leg Extension Machine isn’t as Good as Barbell Hip Thrusts
So, doing hip thrusts in the leg extension machine obviously works, but I don’t feel as though it compares to the barbell hip thrust.
Basically, if you can, always aim to hip thrust with a barbell.
There are a number of reasons for this.
Firstly, using a barbell is clearly more challenging, but that’s the point.
You’re not going to the gym for an easy ride, but rather to really test yourself.
I would also say that using a barbell will activate your core to a much greater degree.
Plus, doing hip thrusts with the leg extension machine won’t allow you to move your body naturally.
In fact, the same can be said of doing hip thrusts with the Smith machine.
When hip thrusting with a barbell your body doesn’t move linearly.
By this I mean that hip thrusts don’t simply involve moving a weight up and down.
I guess you could say exactly the same about squatting with the Smith machine.
Basically, when using machines the weight will always move directly up and down.
And this hardly ever occurs when you use a barbell.
In fact, the leg extension machine will force your body into a certain position, one that you’re unlikely to find yourself in when you hip thrust with a barbell.
Once more, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do hip thrusts with the leg extension machine.
However, just be aware that in terms of your body movement it’s not a perfect like-for-like replacement.
Leg Extension Machine Has Limited Weight
Another factor to consider is that you are limited to how much weight you can use with the leg extension machine.
With that being said, if you’re just starting out with hip thrusts, this isn’t such an issue.
Additionally, I believe that the glutes respond better to high rep hip thrusts.
In fact, I always aim to perform sets of 15-25 reps.
I just feel that I experience better glute activation and growth when using the higher rep ranges.
However, it’s not unheard-of for most gym-goers to build hip thrusts up to being their heaviest barbell exercise.
So, in effect, many people are hip thrusting several hundreds of pounds.
And unfortunately you’re never going to get a leg extension machine that allows for that much weight.
So, as I say, when you’re first starting out, this isn’t something that will probably concern you.
But, eventually you’ll want to progress in terms of weight used for hip thrusts.
Hip Thrusts on the Leg Extension Machine
Is The Leg Extension Machine Comfortable?
Okay, I’ll admit that comfort can be an issue when performing hip thrusts with a barbell.
In fact, most of us turn to using a pad in order to protect our hips and pelvis area.
The great thing about the leg press machine is that it already has a pad fitted.
However, the main problem with the leg extension machine is that your rear delts and upper back are going to be against the edge of the seat.
So, in effect, the seat will be digging into your back.
This will be absolutely fine for some people, whereas for others it may feel extremely uncomfortable.
And this is when you end up concentrating more on the pain in your back rather than actually performing the movement correctly.
If you find this to be the case then place a couple of mats between your upper back and the leg extension seat.
Basically, you want to fully focus on the hip-hinge movement, while ensuring that you fire up your glutes.
Once more, your back and shoulder position can be a cause for concern when you use a barbell and a bench.
However, a bench won’t typically dig into your back as much as a seat.
So, just be aware of this whenever you use a machine to hip thrust.
So, I hope you understand that using the leg extension machine for hip thrusts is effective.
However, it will never be as effective as using a bench and a barbell.
Therefore, I would recommend that you only use the leg extension machine as an alternative.
Hip thrusts are made much easier, but you don’t always want “easy” in the gym environment.
Plus, the body doesn’t typically move in such a linear fashion as you are forced to do by the leg extension machine.
Additionally, there is a lot more core involvement when you use a barbell to do hip thrusts.
And don’t forget that the leg extension machine only has limited weight and some people may find it quite uncomfortable.
You’re obviously looking for great ways to build your glutes, and I applaud you for that. So, please take a moment to look through the following glute workout program. You’ll train twice a week, 4 weeks in total, while using 36 glute-specific exercises to get a stronger, rounder, and firmer butt. You can learn more in my personal review of the Unlock Your Glutes workout program.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.