August Strength & Conditioning Research Questions

Hi fitness folks! Do you know the answer to the August S&C research review questions? If not, you ought to subscribe to our research review service. To subscribe, just click on the button below and follow the instructions…

 

Strength & Conditioning, Power and Hypertrophy

  1. Does supra-maximal eccentric training transfer to sports performance?
  2. Does high-velocity eccentric strength reduce less with increasing age?
  3. Can plyometrics improve sprint running times in trained sprinters?
  4. Is there a box height that maximizes power output during drop jumps?
  5. Does rate of force development predict vertical jump performance in trained athletes?
  6. Do upper- and lower-body strength tests predict punching force in elite amateur boxers?
  7. Is resisted sprinting better than sprinting for improving sprint times in team sports athletes?
  8. Does improving maximal strength enhance change of direction (COD) performance?
  9. Does the order of strength and cardio during concurrent training affect muscular adaptations?
  10. Does protein supplementation enhance muscular adaptations in brief periods of training?
  11. Does altering protein distribution affect gains in muscular size in a rugby athletes?
  12. How does periodization affect gains in muscular strength, size and power?
  13. Does cycling increase thigh muscle size?
  14. What is the age of peak competitive performance in elite athletes of different sports?

sled

Biomechanics & Motor Control

  1. How similar are the strongman log lift and the Olympic clean and jerk exercises?
  2. Why is there an optimal load for power during squats?
  3. Why are cluster sets of squats superior for force production and power output?
  4. Which hamstring rehabilitation exercises produce the most muscle activity?
  5. How do bilateral and unilateral row exercises affect back and core muscle activity?
  6. How does arm position affect core muscle activity during the Ab wheel rollout exercise?
  7. How do touchdown distance and ankle dorsiflexion affect sprint running performance?
  8. How does posture affect gluteus medius muscle activity during lateral band walks?
  9. Can sarcomere non-uniformity explain the residual force enhancement effect?
  10. Can titin explain the residual force enhancement effect?
  11. Could the residual force enhancement effect contribute to stretch-shortening cycle actions?
  12. What are the determinants of the force-velocity relationship at the sarcomere level?

Ab-Wheel-Rollout-1-2

Anatomy, Physiology & Nutrition

  1. Is intermittent fasting beneficial for health?
  2. Is deliberately targeting hormesis an effective strategy for exercise adaptations?
  3. What causes anabolic resistance?
  4. Can vitamin supplementation reduce hypertrophy after strength training?
  5. Do specific tension and voluntary activation reduce with age?
  6. Is resting metabolic rate altered in order to maintain energy balance during physical activity?
  7. Is the adaptive thermogenesis response effective for weight loss?
  8. Does resistance training increase resting metabolic rate?
  9. Do whey protein- or sucrose-enriched water beverages affect satiety?
  10. Does high-intensity interval training without weight loss improve insulin sensitivity?
  11. Does physical activity affect vascular insulin sensitivity?
  12. Does increasing fruit and vegetable intake improve cardiovascular risk factors?

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Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation

  1. Do nerve growth factor injections affect pain in muscle and fascia similarly?
  2. Do foam rolling and dynamic stretching affect flexibility similarly in trained athletes?
  3. Can myofascial release with a tennis ball affect balance in chronic stroke patients?
  4. Is dry needling effective for myofascial trigger point pain?
  5. Does pain education enhance outcomes in dry needling treatment for chronic low back pain?
  6. What methods are effective for managing iliotibial band syndrome?
  7. Does low back pain affect changes in piriformis size in-season among trained athletes?
  8. Is gluteus maximus strength associated with superior movement patters in landing tasks?
  9. How important are placebo effects?
  10. What factors affect pelvic girdle stability and the development of posterior pelvic girdle pain?
  11. How are innominate movement patterns related to sacroiliac joint pain?
  12. Is eccentric exercise effective for shoulder impingement or lateral epicondylar tendinopathy?

Grill the Guru: Respectfully Calling Out Dr. Paulo Gentil

Unfortunately, it’s time to grill another fitness professional. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am from this person’s recent statements, because they come from a member of the sports science community. I thought that we sports scientists were on the same team. I assumed that we all share the same goal: the truth. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

The fitness professional’s name is Dr. Paulo Gentil. My American friends probably haven’t heard of him, but in Brazil he has a rather large following, which makes his comments especially upsetting to me. HERE is Paulo’s website – note the highly impressive résumé, HERE is his Facebook channel – note the 70,000 followers (HERE is the post he made that as of right now has 2,577 likes and 800 shares), and HERE is his Instagram page – note the 139,000 followers (HERE is the post he made that as of right now has 2,994 likes).

The post contains a video showing an absolutely idiotic way of performing a hip thrust – with someone standing on another person’s thighs, in addition to some pictures of dogs and some annoying music, presumably to mock the exercise (I don’t speak Portuguese so it’s hard for me to understand some of this). Maybe this is funny in Brazil? It seems stupid to me, but even though the individual in the picture is positioning the bench too far up on her back and even though it’s poor loading placement, you can still see her glutes contracting very hard.

Who in the hell would perform a hip thrust this way and stand on someone's thighs? This doesn't create an effective loading scheme and makes it seem like Paulo has a hidden agenda.

Who in the hell would perform a hip thrust this way and stand on someone’s thighs? This doesn’t create an effective loading scheme and makes it seem like Paulo has a hidden agenda.

My colleague Chris Beardsley and I have reviewed several of Paulo Gentil’s articles in our monthly strength & conditioning research reviews, and I’ve been very impressed with Paulo’s research. To date, he has published around 30 peer-reviewed articles – references are shown HERE. I have no reason to doubt his integrity or the findings of his published research – it all seems legit to me. In fact, some of his research has caused me to reconsider the efficacy of additional biceps and triceps exercises when compound movements are heavily prioritized (I used to think they led to significant increases in additional mass gains, but now I don’t think they add as much as I previously thought). However, the statements he made yesterday just don’t appear to be statements that would be made from a good scientist.

What I can’t understand for the life of me is why Brazil, of all places, would reject the hip thrust. I assumed that Brazil, the country known around the world for their incredible butts, would embrace the hip thrust. I just don’t understand it. More alarming is some comments I’ve seen on other pages from various Brazilian fitness professionals, accusing me of academic dishonesty. First I’ll deal with Paulo’s comments, and then I’ll address the other professionals’ comments.

Here is what Dr. Paulo said:

“The search for the miraculous exercises for glutes leads to the creation recreation of various exercises. This uncontrolled inventionism (re) raised the hip elevation, an exercise that can have many interesting applications, but has been done in many different and bizarre ways in order to hypertrophy buttocks. With the help of Boxer, we will emphasize three points:

1) higher gains in strength and muscle mass occur when working in large amplitudes, but … if motion starts at an angle of ~ 135 degrees between thigh and the trunk and ends 180, ie only 45 degrees amplitude! In movements such as squat and leg press, it can be down to the knee almost touch the trunk, generating an amplitude at least 3 x higher !!

2) angles close to stretching cause more microlesions, which promotes strength gains and muscle mass, but … the exercise hardly promotes stretching of the gluteus maximus and, to make matters worse, the stretching point is a point of rest in which there is practically no work of the buttocks.

3) an exercise to trigger the muscles you want to work, but … the studies on the subject highlight the action of the erector spinae and multifidus in hip elevation. And it gets worse when you put the burden on the stomach, because it induces the trunk flexion, further burdening the erector spinae.

Anyway, no use putting weight on the belly, give umbigada in Smith nor ask someone to step on you, because this is not a good exercise for glutes! Tip to work well the buttocks? Basic exercises such as squats, leg press, lunges, deadlifts … More science, less invention!”

(Paul Gentil)

I want to see what Paulo is made of. I want to test his academic integrity. Therefore, I’m going to challenge him to a debate.

I will personally fund this debate and see to it that a video or audio recording gets posted on my website and on any website that Paulo desires. If Paulo doesn’t speak English, I will pay for a translator out of my own money.

Here are the things I’d like to discuss:

1. Whether in fact the barbell or band hip thrust are “bizarre” or if that’s just perception based on tradition. If we take a step back, are they really more bizarre looking than placing a bar on the back and squatting or lunging down, or holding a bar in the hands and bending over, or sitting in a seat and pressing a sled up and down?

2. Right now my thesis has examined the transfer of squats versus hip thrusts to several different strength-oriented tasks: 1RM squats, 1RM hip thrusts, maximum isometric mid-thigh pull, and maximum horizontal pushing force (against a wall). I want to ask Paul what he predicts will transfer best to these performance tasks. I’ve also examined the transfer to power-oriented tasks including vertical jump, horizontal jump, 10m sprint, and 20m sprint…we can discuss the transference of these as well.

3. Instead of speculating about strength and hypertrophy gains, I want to know if Paul has conducted any preliminary research on hip thrusts. I want to know if he has conducted any mechanistic research (EMG, force plate, ultrasound, etc.) involving hip thrusts, if he has performed them himself for a period of time and noted their efficacy, if he has incorporated them into his clients’ programs for a period of time and noted their efficacy, or if he has conducted any longitudinal experiments measuring actual hypertrophy from any hip thrust interventions. Or, is he basing his beliefs purely on speculation and what he thinks should happen rather than what does happen?

4. In the future, I’ll be examining gains in gluteus maximus muscle thickness between squats and hip thrusts (right now I have completed an experiment on identical twins). I want to know if Paulo indeed has the hypothesis that squats would lead to greater gains in hypertrophy compared to hip thrusts in an volume equated program with no additional lower body exercises. I also want to know if Paulo would like to join me in funding a study from a 3rd party laboratory (maybe we can pick a lab in Brazil to conduct the study) where we can test his hypothesis. Hell, I’d be happy to fund the study myself if Paulo agrees to change his mind if the research doesn’t support his hypothesis.

5. Is there really 3X more amplitude in squats, deadlifts, lunges, or leg presses compared to hip thrusts? Has Paulo ever measured bar displacement or joint angle displacement in each of these lifts? Is Paulo aware that you can tinker with any of these exercises to get more or less range of hip motion?

HERE is a leg press, HERE is a squat, HERE is a deadlift, and HERE is a hip thrust. Even so, does every exercise one performs for the glutes have to involve peak tension in the stretch position? Should those seeking maximal hypertrophy of the glutes maybe include one exercise that involves peak tension in the contracted position, especially considering my recent EMG findings HERE?

6. Is there really zero tension on the glutes at the bottom of the hip thrust assuming the individual isn’t resting on the ground?

7. Out of the 3 primary mechanisms of hypertrophy (mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage), which does Paulo feel is the most important, and which does he feel is the least important? How does he think the squat and hip thrust fare in terms of these 3 mechanisms?

8. Does he really think that the erectors and multifidi elevate the hips in a properly performed hip thrust? I mean really. Has Paulo ever performed a hip thrust with a neutral spine and achieved hip hyperextension or full extension combined with posterior pelvic tilt? If so, where did he feel it?

9. Does Paulo really think that the bar goes across the stomach? Newsflash – it goes across the pelvis. I want to know if Paulo realizes that this placement induces mainly a hip flexion moment. Which muscles counter this moment and create hip extension torque? And if the knees stay bent, which hip extensors are probably going to do more work? I want to know what Paulo would think produces a more consistent hip extension torque angle curve – hip thrusts, or the exercises he listed (squats, deadlifts, lunges, leg presses). I also want to know if Paulo really thinks that hip thrusts overburden the erector spinae if performed properly, and how he thinks the erector spinae activity in a hip thrust compares to that in a squat or a deadlift.

10. I’d like to know if Paulo has seen my testimonials. Has he gone onto my social media pages  (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) and seen how many women rave about Strong Curves and Get Glutes? Has he read my site for the past couple of years to witness how many lifters, athletes, and coaches experienced incredible results once they started incorporating the hip thrust? Does he think that I’ve effectively fooled the entire industry and that it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out and I get exposed? Does he think my entire body of work is a big lie and that I’m just some sleazy, greedy jerk who is trying to make a buck off of naive newbies?

11. Does Paulo have any evidence that I’ve ever been academically dishonest? He seems to have disdain for inventors. Should all inventors be accused of being greedy? Does Paulo support his fellow Brazilians in bashing my credibility because I’m an inventor, or should one instead evaluate the methods and results before throwing out accusations?

12. THESE ladies love their hip thrusts. One of these happens to be former Ms. Bikini Olympia Nathalia Melo. Are you suggesting that she’s training improperly?

Courtesy of Muscle & Fitness Hers

The lovely Nathalia Melo. Photo credit: Muscle & Fitness Hers.

13. Is Paulo open-minded to being wrong? Can his mind be changed? If so, will he inform his readership that he was off-based in his comments? I certainly am and will.

Brazilians Bashing Bret

It isn’t just Paulo bashing me; I see in THIS Facebook link that my name and integrity are being smeared by various Brazilian fitness professionals. Though some people are trying to defend me and the hip thrust, others are suggesting that I fabricated my recent EMG findings and that I have a hidden agenda for all of this science because I invented the hip thruster.

I want all of these people to know something, and I want to be VERY clear about it.

My academic integrity means FAR, FAR more to me than any amount of money could ever bring me. If someone informed me that they’d give me a billion dollars but I’d have to publish falsified findings, I’d reject their offer. To me, science is pure, and I would never contribute to poisoning the literature with shady or dishonest data. I was a big fan of the show Dexter back in the day, and I could honestly say that I could pull a Dexter and murder a rapist or serial killer with much less anguish than to knowingly put something into the literature that wasn’t accurate.

dexter

I could do this with much greater ease than falsifying data in the literature…

I’ve worked my ass off over the past 5 years to obtain the approval and/or friendship of sports science experts like Alan Aragon, Brad Schoenfeld, Layne Norton, Chris Beardsley, Andrew Vigotsky, John Cronin, Matt Brughelli, JB Morin, Jurdan Mendiguchia, Menno Henselmens, Greg Nuckols, Stu Phillips, Stu McGill, Justin Keough, Jason Lake, Jose Antonio, Eric Helms, James Krieger, and Jason Silvernail.

I would NEVER jeopardize losing their respect or trust for anything in the world. If I were sitting in some giant mansion with tons of sports cars but lost their support, my life would feel empty because collaborating with top sports scientists and helping push the industry forward are what make me tick.

In addition, my colleagues John Cronin (who is like a second father to me), Brad Schoenfeld, Chris Bearsley, and Andrew Vigotsky are listed on my EMG paper with me as contributors. I would never, ever, ever tarnish their names by falsifying data. That would make me feel sick and grotesque, as I have the absolute utmost respect for these guys.

Even if I were shady and dishonest, I wouldn’t be so stupid as to fabricate my EMG data or any other data from my thesis. I’m well aware that my research will be duplicated in time. How stupid would I look if different labs started publishing data that looked markedly different than mine? I’d have some serious questions to answer and it would make me look like a fool at best, and a fraud at worst.

If money were my primary motivator, I wouldn’t have taught the world how to hip thrust without my apparatus (see HERE for all the ways one can hip thrust). I wouldn’t have taught people how to do band hip thrusts without my apparatus. I started making the hip thruster because of all the emails I received from coaches informing me that they wanted a standalone unit so they could have their athletes perform them conveniently in their weightroom, not because I was scheming to get rich. I’m certainly not opposed to making money, it’s just not a primary driving force in my life.

If I were all about the money, I would ditch the hip thruster and instead focus on doing seminars and taking on online clients as I could double or possibly triple my income virtually overnight if I went this route.

But instead, I’m going to keep promoting the hip thrust and the hip thruster in addition to all of the other excellent exercises out there including squats, deadlifts, lunges, back extensions, swings, and more, and I’m going to keep conducting studies and experiments, publishing research, and trying to invent new things. This is what I like doing best, and these are the things that drive me as a human. I hope that one day I get past the point where people accuse me of academic dishonesty, and I hope to earn the trust of my Brazilian friends. I’m here to help your amazing glutes get even more amazing.

Apparently, I haven’t done a good job in the past of showing my true colors. You can trust me. I eagerly await hearing back from Dr. Paulo. If I don’t hear back by next week, I’ll post my answers and thoughts to the various questions I posed above, but I’d much prefer to discuss this in a debate as this is how true fitness professionals grow and learn to understand each other. And I promise to be nice and respectful if a debate does in fact take place.

 

July Research Round-Up: Fascia Edition

The S&C Research review service comes out on the first day of every month. Here is a preview of the August 2015 edition, which comes out on Saturday. Each edition covers a wide range of exciting new research but this edition has a special theme of fascia.

Fascia is a popular topic in exercise science and sports medicine. It is thought to be key to the effects observed during foam rolling and massage, including changes in flexibility and improvements in recovery from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This edition covers a number of new studies exploring the nature of fascia and foam rolling.

Microvacuoles2-web

Does nerve growth factor cause more pain in muscle or fascia?

The study: Comparison of nerve growth factor–induced sensitization pattern in lumbar and tibial muscle and fascia, by Weinkauf, Deising, Obreja, Hoheisel, Mense, Schmelz, & Rukwied, in Muscle & Nerve (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers set out to compare the effects on measures of pain of injecting nerve growth factor (an agent that causes sensitization to mechanical stimuli) either into the muscle or into the corresponding contralateral fascia; they also compared these effects between two different muscle groups. They put injections into either into the muscle or the fascia of either muscle group. Sensitization (both distance from original site and absolute measure of pain) to mechanical, thermal, and electrical stimuli was assessed at 0.25, 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21 days after injection.

What happened?

The researchers found that the time-course and magnitude of nerve growth factor injection-induced sensitization to mechanical stimuli were generally similar across muscle and fascia. They were also mostly similar across two different muscle groups (the tibialis anterior and lumbar erectors). However, the spatial extent of mechanical sensitization in the tibialis anterior musculature was larger in the fascia than in the muscle and displayed a tendency to peak at 3 days post-injection.

To learn why studies using nerve growth factor investigating differences between pain responses in muscle and fascia are important for an understanding of DOMS, pick up a copy of the monthly review HERE so you can read Chris Beardsley’s editorial.

steak-showing-fascia

Does foam rolling increase flexibility as much as dynamic stretching?

The study: The acute effects of deep tissue foam rolling and dynamic stretching on muscular strength, power, and flexibility in division I linemen, by Behara & Jacobson, in Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers compared the acute effects of a single- bout of a lower extremity self-myofascial release protocol using a deep tissue foam roller (the Rumble Roller!) and a single bout of dynamic stretching on tests of performance (as measured by vertical jump power output and velocity (using a Tendo unit) and isometric knee extension and flexion torques using a dynamometer) and flexibility (as measured by hip flexion range of motion during supine passive hip flexion).

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found that both the foam rolling and dynamic stretching conditions improved flexibility acutely without having any effect on any of the performance measures.

fascia_up_close

Can long-term myofascial release with a tennis ball improve function and balance?

The study: A pilot study of balance performance benefit of myofascial release, with a tennis ball, in chronic stroke patient, by Park & Hwang, in Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers set out to assess the effects of a long-term period of myofascial release with a tennis ball on the lower limb on balance (as measured by the Berg Balance Scale) and on physical function (as measured by the Timed Up and Go Test) in chronic stroke patients. All of the subjects received myofascial release with a tennis ball, applied by a physical therapist on the affected side, 3 times per week for 8 weeks. In each session, the therapist first held the ankle of the affected side in each subject and rolled a tennis ball under the sole between the toes and the front edge of the heel for 10 minutes. Secondly, the therapist rolled the tennis ball under the same side calf and thigh of each subject for 20 minutes. The pressure applied was set as the amount that the patients could tolerate.

What happened?

The researchers found that an 8-week period of myofascial release administered with a tennis ball by a physical therapist in chronic stroke patients led to improvements in both balance (as measured by the Berg Balance Scale) and physical function (as measured by the Timed Up and Go Test). They suggested that this might have arisen because of long-term increases in flexibility and/or reductions in myofascial stiffness.

Get the full review!

The Fascia edition comes out on Saturday. It is packed full of 50 study reviews covering a range of topics relevant to strength and conditioning and physical therapy professionals alike and only costs $10 per month. Sign up by clicking below!

 

Squats Versus Hip Thrusts: EMG Activity

I’m very proud to announce that today, the first original research from my PhD thesis was published ahead of print on the Journal of Applied Biomechanics website. HERE is the link to the abstract on PubMed, and HERE is a link to the abstract on the JAB site. If you want the full paper, I’ve uploaded it into my site HERE. Published ahead of print articles usually aren’t fully-formatted, which makes for a rather annoying reading experience because there’s just a sea of writing with all the tables and figures tacked onto the end of the article.

Good Science Requires Patience

A good scientist is patient. This EMG paper is not the “nail-in-the-coffin” with regards to the “Which is superior for glute hypertrophy – squats or hip thrusts?” controversy. We need more research. EMG doesn’t measure hypertrophy; it measures muscle activation. This study is a cross-sectional study that examined mechanisms of hypertrophy. What we need are a handful of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), with each hopefully painting a similar picture with the data. Here’s a quote from the discussion portion of the study:

“Caution should be taken when interpreting the practical implications of this study. It is tempting to speculate that muscle activity can be used as a gauge to predict strength and hypertrophy gains. After all, two recent papers have linked muscle activation with hypertrophy (52, 53), and another with strength gains (54). However, at this point in time no training studies have been conducted comparing the hypertrophic effects or transfer of training in the back squat and barbell hip thrust exercises. Future research needs to be conducted to 1) test the hypothesis that the barbell hip thrust exercise leads to greater gluteus maximus and hamstrings hypertrophy than the back squat exercise, 2) discern whether adaptations transfer to sports performance, particularly in relation to sprint running, 3) verify that male and female subjects activate their hip and thigh muscles similarly during the back squat and barbell hip thrust exercises, and 4) analyze the joint range of motion, heart rate, force, velocity, power, joint power, impulse, work, and torque angle curves between the back squat and barbell hip thrust exercises.”

Much of this needed research is currently underway, so you can expect plenty of interesting data to come. EMG provides mechanistic clues with regards to training outcomes. I happen to be a supporter of EMG and I believe that surface EMG data can indeed be used to help ascertain exercise superiority for hypertrophic purposes, especially for large muscles like the gluteus maximus. However, there are three primary mechanisms of hypertrophy (click HERE for a primer on this topic), with activation influencing tension and metabolic stress to a greater degree than damage. In addition, EMG has its share of limitations (click HERE and HERE for two articles on this topic). Therefore, the “team hip thrust” camp needs to wait until more research emerges to before they do the crotch chop dance in front of the “team squat” camp.

Not there yet team hip thrusts...

Not there yet team hip thrusts…

What I Love About Science

Science hones in on the truth over time. You’ve got this vocal guy (me) who has championed hip thrusts over the past nine years (6 years online). You’ve got all sorts of trainers, coaches, athletes, bikini competitors, and physical therapists around the globe who are in agreement with the efficacy of hip thrusts. On the other hand, you’ve also got a bunch of skeptics who apparently think that the hip thrust is moronic, inefficient, and/or non-functional (I’ve noticed that these people tend to have their own forums, they tend to need to be perceived as world experts on every topic, they tend to dis on anything they didn’t think of first, and they tend to not conduct any research of their own – they just dis on research that emerges, but I digress).

Here’s what I love about science…it doesn’t matter what in the hell I say. It doesn’t matter what in the hell these other people say. The truth is the truth. Science is true whether you believe in it or not. The “truth” about hip thrusts exists. It’s up to us (humans) to discover the truth through research and experimentation.

In five years, we’re going to know much, much more about hip thrusts. I will personally publish probably a dozen papers on the topic, but I expect many other researchers and labs to take interest in the hip thrust and start conducting research (both mechanistic and training studies) on them as well.

My thesis is just the start. I have examined 1) the EMG activity between squats and hip thrusts, 2) the EMG activity of 3 different squat variations, 3) the EMG activity of 3 different hip thrust variations, 4) the force, power, work, and impulse between squats and hip thrusts, 5) the transfer to vertical and horizontal jump, 10 and 20m acceleration, 1RM front squat and hip thrust, and max isometric mid-thigh-pull between front squats and hip thrusts, and 6) the transfer to upper and lower gluteus maximus muscle thickness, 1RM squat and hip thrust, and max horizontal force between squats and hip thrusts in a pair of identical twins. This will provide a great foundation for future research and will generate many hypotheses that require testing.

Even after my thesis is published, we still won’t know much. We’ll definitely know a lot more than we previously did, but we need 50-100 quality studies on the hip thrust before we can confidently discuss its efficacy across the board for varying purposes and populations. The truth will emerge over time, and no guru (not me and not the naysayers) can effectively suppress the truth in the long run. Charismatic leaders can definitely distract people and lead them in the wrong directions, but in the end, science always prevails. Maybe I’ve led people in the wrong direction, and maybe the skeptics have led people in the wrong direction. Maybe the converse is true is well. The truth shall prevail.

In the End

In the end, what I can already say with MUCH confidence is that athletes should perform both squats and hip thrusts. Squats appear to outperform hip thrusts in certain very important outcomes and hip thrusts appear to outperform squats in certain very important outcomes. Most of you reading this are probably nodding your heads like, “no shit,” but there are indeed people that think you shouldn’t squat or shouldn’t hip thrust…hopefully their minds will be changed when they see my findings and future findings of others.

I would think that my TESTIMONIALS would have changed their minds, but apparently that doesn’t matter to them. Anecdotes are cool, but they’re not the be-all-end-all since variables are not controlled which prevents us from pinpointing the mechanisms responsible for improvements.

And Now, the EMG Study Findings

Again, click HERE to download the full paper. There isn’t much more I have to add that’s not included in the paper. The study examined 13 trained women. Here is a chart from the study:

chart

As you can see, hip thrusts appear to be superior to squats in terms of upper gluteus maximus, lower gluteus maximus, and biceps femoris activity. Interestingly, vastus lateralis activity wasn’t far superior in squats compared to hip thrusts – this is something I noticed many years ago. Hip thrusts heavily activate the quads, but squats indeed have the edge considering that they move the knees through a much greater ROM and have slightly higher quad activation.

Here are some graphs that we made that didn’t make it into the article (I never agree with this practice, but peer reviewers want either a chart or a graph, but not both as they believe them to be redundant…I prefer both for numerical and visual puproses).

Mean

This shows mean activation for squats and hip thrusts

Peak

This shows peak activation for squats and hip thrusts

Isoholds: Bottom of the Squat Versus Top of the Hip Thrust

Here is some fascinating data. When I do a pause squat, I feel my glutes working very well. I’m sure that many of you do too. My glutes can get rather sore the next day as well if I do a high volume pause squat session – you can probably relate to this as well. However, the glutes (and the hamstrings for that matter) barely activate at the bottom of a squat. Vasti and the erector spinae activation is through the roof, but it seems that the hip extensors provide force mostly through stretch, not activation. This EMG data jives with the findings of Worrell et al. 2015 and Robertson et al. 2008. The gluteus maximus activates to a much greater degree in full hip extension compared to hip flexion, hence why the barbell hip thrust isohold is so high.

Battle of the Isoholds: Bottom Squat versus Top Hip Thrust in Muscle Activation

Battle of the Isoholds: Bottom Squat versus Top Hip Thrust in Muscle Activation

Iso Mean

This is average muscle activation in the isoholds (bottom of the squat and top of the hip thrust)

Iso Peak

This is the highest muscle activation in the isoholds (bottom of the squat and top of the hip thrust)

Conclusion

There will be much more research to come. We need a high quality training study that looks at actual muscle hypertrophy before confidently claiming that hip thrusts are superior to squats for gluteus maximus growth and development. Better yet, we need a dozen. In the meantime, we should certainly consider these EMG findings along with other forms of evidence such as anecdotes, tradition, logic, and expert opinion. However, we should properly frame these lesser forms of evidence (click HERE to read about the hierarchy of knowledge) and eagerly await the arrival of RCTs.

Team squat camp: You don’t need to dismiss surface EMG evidence and call this research idiotic; it provides good clues. These clues can be useful in predicting the transfer to various activities, which will emerge in time. You should, however, open your mind to the possibility that hip thrusts are indeed highly effective for glute growth

Team hip thrust camp: Don’t be jerks and claim that hip thrusts are superior to squats for glute growth; we don’t know that yet. They might or they might not be, but you don’t want to look like an idiot if the experimental data (actual hypertrophy) doesn’t jive with theoretical findings (EMG). It’s better to be cautious and reserved.

In summary, we’ll know more in time.