Hip Thrust vs. Squats for Glute Growth Summary
- Squat and hip thrust resistance training elicited similar glut growth; however, squat training resulted in superior quadriceps and adductors hypertrophy compared to hip thrust training.
- Hip Thrust resulted in higher muscle activation than the squat, but this did not reliably predict muscle growth. Higher muscle activation with EMG does not translate into more muscle growth.
- Subjects “felt more” muscle activation during the hip thrust, but this did not translate into more muscle growth.
- Neither the squat nor the hip thrust resulted in hamstring muscle growth.
In the fitness world, few debates are as heated as the one surrounding the best exercise for glute growth. Some swear by the traditional squat, while others are staunch advocates of the hip thrust. This controversy has sparked countless gym debates, online discussions, and scientific studies. But which exercise truly reigns supreme when it comes to sculpting the perfect glutes?
Is it the time-honored squat, renowned for its full-body benefits, or the hip thrust, praised for its targeted glute activation? This article delves into the heart of this debate, armed with scientific evidence and expert insights, to finally put this fitness feud to rest.
What is the hip thrust?
The hip thrust is a glute workout that involves lifting your hips off the ground while lying on your back. This exercise is a famous hip flexors bodybuilding exercise for strong glutes, increasing strength, endurance, and athletic performance. You can perform it with or without added bodyweight, and it targets several muscle groups like the lower back and gluteus maximus.
How to properly perform a hip thrust
For proper execution of this exercise, begin by placing your shoulder blades/upper back against a bench or similar stable surface. Position your feet flat on the ground with knees bent to shoulder-width apart. Next, initiate the movement by driving your pelvis toward the ceiling while simultaneously contracting your glute muscles and backside.
Maintain a neutral spine to avoid lower back pain throughout the motion, and refrain from excessively arching your lower back. To build glut strength, gradually increase resistance to challenge yourself and ensure progressive overload in this essential element of any glutes workout routine. Remember to focus on the contraction of your glute muscles during the movement of each repetition.
Loading the Barbell for Proper Exercise Execution
For effective loading of the barbell in thrusts, always begin with a weight that challenges you but allows maintain proper form. Gradually increasing weight and reps in progression will help gain better results. Many have commented that the barbell on your hips can cause discomfort. For added comfort during this workout routine, use a hip pad or towel, such as a barbell pad, to cushion your hip crease while engaging your glutes and core muscles throughout the range of motion to strengthen the lower body muscle group.
Correct foot placement for hip thrusts
Proper foot placement is key to achieving maximum benefit from hip thrusts. To avoid injury and ensure proper form, position your feet shoulder-width apart with toes pointing forward and starting position. Consider using a bench to support your back and adding weights or resistance bands for increased intensity during this effective glute-strengthening exercise. Remember to engage your core muscles throughout the movement and maintain a straight line from shoulders to hips for optimal glute activation. Single-leg variations of hip thrusts can also be performed to target each glute individually and improve overall balance and stability.
Benefits of hip thrusts for glute growth
Incorporate thrust exercises into your workout routine to build better-looking and stronger glutes. Hip thrusts target the glutes more effectively than squats and involve using a loaded barbell to perform a glute bridge motion. Correct foot placement is crucial for maximizing benefits and avoiding back pain. If you want to learn more about how to incorporate strength-building hip thrust exercises into your workout routine, check out our blog for more information.
Resistance bands can be used for added intensity during workouts. Incorporating hip thrusts with a resistance band into your workout routine could lead to significant glute gains over time, specifically targeting the gluteus medius muscle.
Muscle Activation of the Barbell Hip Thrust Compared to the Squat
A study compared the electromyographic (EMG) activity (i.e., muscle activation) of the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and quads muscles during the back squat and barbell hip thrust exercises. The results showed that the barbell hip thrust elicited higher gluteus maximus activation than the back squat. (Bret Contreras et al., 2015)
Similarly, another study found that the tension on the hip extensors is the greatest near lockout in the hip thrust, leading to increased gluteus maximus activation. (Vidar Andersen et al., 2018) These findings suggest that the barbell hip thrust may more effectively target the gluteus maximus than squats.
The scientific exploration of the hip thrust versus the squat for optimal glute growth has been extensive and revealing. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the muscle activation of the gluteus maximus during the barbell hip thrust, back squat, and split squat varied significantly. Muscle activation of the glutes was higher in the hip thrust than in the back squat and spit squat. Interestingly, the study also discovered a correlation between increased muscle activation of the glutes during the hip thrust and maximal sprinting speed. (Williams et al., 2021) However, another study found that heavy hip thrusts for 8 weeks did not improve sprint performance. (Jarvis et al., 2019)
Further research has shown that the mechanics of the barbell hip thrust favor greater activation of the hip extensor muscles compared to more conventional exercises, regardless of the variation of the barbell hip thrust used. The muscle excitation sequence was found to be gluteus maximus, erector spinae, hamstrings, posterior chain, arch, and quadriceps femoris. (Neto et al., 2019)
The review found that the barbell hip thrust activates the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris muscles more than squats do. Also, short-term studies showed that the barbell hip thrust improved sprinting activities. However, the long-term effects of this exercise on these activities were unclear.
A systematic review that analyzed the activation levels of the gluteus maximus during exercises involving hip extension and external load found that exercises like step-ups, deadlifts, hip thrusts, lunges, and squats elicited very high gluteus maximus activation and are considered the best exercises. (Neto et al., 2020) These studies have shown that hip thrusts activate the gluteus maximus more than squats. (V. Andersen et al., 2018; B. Contreras et al., 2015; Lin et al., 2017; Williams et al., 2021)
Barbell Hip Thrust vs. Squat for Glute Hypertrophy
There is limited direct evidence comparing the two exercises regarding hypertrophic effects or muscle growth. A 2020 study by Barbalho et al. found that squats resulted in greater glute growth than barbell hip thrust. However, this study was retracted for false information.(“Retraction: Barbalho et al (2020),” 2020)
However, more accurate studies have since been published. A study found that adding the barbell hip thrust to a training program enhanced gluteus maximus hypertrophy in young women. (Kassiano et al., 2023) This suggests the barbell hip thrust may effectively promote muscle growth in the gluteus maximus.
The Study of the Year: Hip Thrust vs Squats for Glute Hypertrophy.
In a new study just published by Daniel Plotkin, researchers examined how a set-volume equated resistance training program using either the back squat or hip thrust affected hypertrophy and various strength outcomes.
The study involved a 9-week training protocol in untrained college-aged participants who underwent supervised training for nine weeks. The participants were divided into two groups, with one group performing back squats and the other performing hip thrusts. After testing both exercises, the study also sought to determine which exercise the participants “felt more” in the gluteal muscles. This was assessed through verbal feedback from the participants.
The study showed similar glute growth in the squat and hip thrust groups. However, there were modest differences in hypertrophy favoring the hip thrust for the lower, middle, and upper gluteus maximus muscles.
Changes in thigh muscle growth were greater in the squat group for the quadriceps and adductors. Strength improvements favored the squat group for squat 3RM, while the hip thrust group saw improvements in hip thrust 3-RM. Deadlift and wall push strength also improved similarly in both groups.
Interestingly, although the initial bout of hip thrust showed higher gluteal muscle activation, it did not consistently predict gluteal hypertrophy outcomes. The study concluded that squat and hip thrust training led to similar gluteal hypertrophy, with greater thigh hypertrophy in the squat group and strength improvements specific to each exercise.
Contextualizing the Findings
However, Plotkin’s study suggests that both exercises are equally effective in building the upper, middle, and lower gluteus maximus muscles and total glute size. (Plotkin et al., 2023) The study also found that squats stimulated more growth in the quadriceps and inner thighs, while hip thrusts also stimulated significant growth in both thigh areas. However, neither exercise led to significant hamstring growth.
Electromyography (EMG) data showed that hip thrusts elicited higher glute muscle activity than squats, with greater mean and peak EMG levels. However, no consistent correlations were found between EMG levels and muscle growth measured by MRI scans, indicating that EMG activity and subjective muscle sensation may not directly indicate muscle growth6.
Implications and Recommendations
The findings of this study have important implications for fitness enthusiasts and trainers. While both exercises are effective for gluteal hypertrophy, the choice between squats and hip thrusts should be based on individual goals and preferences. For those seeking to maximize thigh hypertrophy, squats may be the more effective exercise. Conversely, those who prefer to focus on gluteal hypertrophy without significantly increasing thigh size may prefer hip thrusts.
It’s also important to note that while EMG data can provide useful insights into muscle activation during exercise, it may not directly correlate with muscle growth. Therefore, individuals should not rely solely on perceived muscle activation when selecting exercises for muscle hypertrophy.
In conclusion, the study by Plotkin et al. provides valuable insights into the effect of hip thrust and back squat training on gluteal hypertrophy and strength outcomes. It underscores the importance of individualized exercise selection based on personal goals and preferences. As with all fitness regimens, it’s crucial to maintain proper form and technique to maximize results and prevent injury.
The debate between the effectiveness of the hip thrust versus the back squat for glute development continues in the world of fitness and strength training. However, the study by Plotkin et al. suggests that both exercises can lead to similar gluteal hypertrophy and strength improvements. Therefore, the choice between these exercises should be based on individual goals, preferences, and physical condition. As always, performing these exercises with proper form and technique is important to maximize results and prevent injury.
Andersen, V., Fimland, M. S., Mo, D.-A., Iversen, V., Vederhus, T., Hellebø, L. R. R., Nordaune, K., & Saeterbakken, A. H. (2018). Electromyographic Comparison of Barbell Deadlift, Hex Bar Deadlift, and Hip Thrust Exercises: A Cross-Over Study. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001826
Andersen, V., Fimland, M. S., Mo, D. A., Iversen, V. M., Vederhus, T., Rockland Hellebø, L. R., Nordaune, K. I., & Saeterbakken, A. H. (2018). Electromyographic Comparison of Barbell Deadlift, Hex Bar Deadlift, and Hip Thrust Exercises: A Cross-Over Study. J Strength Cond Res, 32(3), 587-593. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001826
Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., Schoenfeld, B. J., Beardsley, C., & Cronin, J. (2015). A Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis Electromyographic Activity in the Back Squat and Barbell Hip Thrust Exercises. J Appl Biomech, 31(6), 452-458. https://doi.org/10.1123/jab.2014-0301
Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., Schoenfeld, B. J., Beardsley, C., & Cronin, J. B. (2015). A Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis Electromyographic Activity in the Back Squat and Barbell Hip Thrust Exercises. Journal of Applied Biomechanics. https://doi.org/10.1123/jab.2014-0301
Jarvis, P., Cassone, N., Turner, A., Chavda, S., Edwards, M., & Bishop, C. (2019). Heavy Barbell Hip Thrusts Do Not Effect Sprint Performance: An 8-Week Randomized Controlled Study. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000002146
Kassiano, W., Kunevaliki, G., Costa, B., Nunes, J. P., Castro-E-Souza, P., Tricoli, I., Ribeiro, A. S., & Cyrino, E. S. (2023). Addition of the Barbell Hip Thrust Is Effective for Enhancing Gluteus Maximus Hypertrophy in Young Women. https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-2882506/v1
Lin, K.-H., Wu, C.-M., Huang, Y.-M., & Cai, Z. Y. (2017). Effects of Hip Thrust Training on the Strength and Power Performance in Collegiate Baseball Players. Journal of Sports Sciences, 5.
Neto, W. K., Soares, E. G., Vieira, T. L., Aguiar, R., Chola, T. A., Sampaio, V. d. L., & Gama, E. F. (2020). Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review. Journal of sports science & medicine, 19(1), 195-203. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32132843
Neto, W. K., Vieira, T. L., & Gama, E. F. (2019). Barbell Hip Thrust, Muscular Activation and Performance: A Systematic Review. J Sports Sci Med, 18(2), 198-206.
Plotkin, D. L., Rodas, M. A., Vigotsky, A., McIntosh, M. C., Breeze, E., Ubrik, R., Robitzsch, C., Agyin-Birikorang, A., Mattingly, M. L., Michel, J. M., Kontos, N. J., Fruge, A. D., Wilborn, C. M., Weimar, W. H., Bashir, A., Beyers, R. J., Henselmans, M., Contreras, B. M., & Roberts, M. D. (2023). Hip thrust and back squat training elicit similar gluteus muscle hypertrophy and transfer similarly to the deadlift. bioRxiv, 2023.2006.2021.545949. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.06.21.545949
Retraction: Barbalho et al (2020). (2020). Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 15(6), 914. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2020-0372
Williams, M. J., Gibson, N. V., Sorbie, G. G., Ugbolue, U. C., Brouner, J., & Easton, C. (2021). Activation of the Gluteus Maximus During Performance of the Back Squat, Split Squat, and Barbell Hip Thrust and the Relationship With Maximal Sprinting. J Strength Cond Res, 35(1), 16-24. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000002651
What are the benefits of doing a hip thrust?
Hip thrusts are a great exercise for targeting the glutes and improving lower body strength. They help to activate and build the glute muscles, improve posture, enhance athletic performance, and reduce the risk of injury.