I’ll start by saying that I’m likely the wrong guy to ask because I don’t like heavy hip thrusts. I have never included them in any of my client’s programs and I never used it myself. Coach Justin Kavanaugh wrote a great article explaining why heavy barbell hip thrusts are not a great idea.
I’ve used lighter hip thrusts with bands, or dumbbells with a slow tempo and iso holds as an activation exercise but that’s it.
THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT IT IS DOESN’T WORK.
It means that I don’t like it.
So if you are asking me if it’s okay to substitute the squat for hip thrusts my answer will be NO.
But that’s my answer. And I’m not saying that it wont work.
Now regarding the squat. Do you have to squat? No. You don’t have to do anything. Unless you are a competitive powerlifter you don’t need to do the squat because only powerlifters are judged on the squat. Olympic lifters and strongman competitors also need to squat (front or back) because it is necessary for optimal performance in their sport. But if your goal is just to look better then there are no mandatory exercises.
HOWEVER I do agree with Dr.John Rusin that you should train all the basic movement patterns to some extent:
- Hip hinge
That doesn’t mean that you need to back squat or train it for performance, but you should do some form of squatting motion in your training.
Now, can the hip thrust replace a squat? No because it doesn’t work the whole lower body like a squat does. If you feel a hip thrust in your quads you aren’t doing it right. Plus the squat has the added benefit of strengthening the core a lot more. As such a properly done squat is vastly superior to a hip thrust. You really can’t put both in the same category.
As for the leg press method. It cannot really be your muscle building method. It does help for a brief period but you adapt really quickly to it.
But again my answer will be: do whatever you want, it’s YOUR training. You aren’t paid to perform. You are training for your own pleasure and to get the body YOU want. If you don’t want bigger legs you don’t have to train them as hard as the rest of the body. If you DO want bigger legs you will have to do more than hip thrusts and super light leg press.
I will not judge you either way. There were period in my life where I didn’t train the lower body at all for many months. I trained for football for 9 years, in which I squatted 2-3 times per week, then for olympic lifting for 6 years in which I squatted or front squatted 4-7 days a week and up to 12 sessions per week!!! And after that I did a “powerlifting” type training (similar to Westside) for 2 years in which I squatted twice per week. After 17 years of squatting on average 3x per week AND being quads dominant even when I don’t train legs they are still muscular, separated and big enough to not look out of proportion.
BUT do not fool yourself into thinking that the hip thrust and light leg press is an adequate substitute for a real lower body workout.
EDIT: I just read your log and you seem to be an inexperienced teenager. In that case you don’t yet have a good foundation. So I would definitely include some form of squatting in your program.