One Small Step for Man; One Giant Thrust for Mankind

Okay, okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. So my PhD thesis isn’t akin to man stepping foot onto the moon, but I can promise you one thing; the hip thrust is going to be much more popular in the next few years as a result of my research findings. Today I received some very important information about the hip thrust and its transfer to performance.

Setting the Stage…

Almost ten years ago, I thought up the barbell hip thrust while training out of my garage (you can read the full story about it in The Evolution of the Hip Thrust – this link also shows video clips of 100’s of different hip thrust variations, and I keep it updated as new variations are being thought up regularly by various strength coaches and personal trainers). After a few months of incorporating the hip thrust into my arsenal, I started noticing various things – the rate at which clients’ glutes grew increased, and clients would inform me that their running speed improved or that they felt their glutes activating more in everyday life. They’d almost always attribute it to the hip thrust exercise, which caused me to ponder the differences in biomechanics between hip thrusts and other popular glute exercises at the time.

My clients began encouraging me to start up a blog and begin engaging in social media, so eventually I decided to take the plunge and take on the role of fitness writer in addition to personal trainer/strength coach. As most of you know, from day one I’ve heavily promoted the hip thrust in my work.

Over the past decade, I’ve encountered numerous skeptics that based their opinions on functional training or the transfer of training from an exercise to a real life activity on how an exercise looks, not by analyzing the biomechanics or actually performing the exercise and noting any actual effects. This has been frustrating because when responding to these individuals (see You Can’t Stop the Hip Thrust, and You Won’t Break Our Stride), I never had any hard data to throw at them, just a bunch of theories (see Force Vector Training), mechanistic data such as EMG activation levels or torque angle curves (see Hip Thrust & Glute Science), and anecdotes and testimonials (see Testimonials).

Finally, the Time Has Come…

That is, until now. I just received data and stats pertaining to a 6 week study comparing the effects of barbell hip thrusts versus front squats. I was sure to be blinded from the training, testing, and analysis so that no accusations of bias could be made. Here are the performance measurements were examined pre and post intervention:

  • 1RM front squat
  • 1RM hip thrust
  • vertical jump
  • horizontal jump
  • maximum isometric mid-thigh pulling force (sort of like a deadlift lockout)
  • 10m sprint
  • 20m sprint

I can’t divulge the findings as I intend on writing up a detailed report and publishing the data, but what I can say is that:

1. The hip thrust led to significant improvements in 4 of the measurements,
2. The front squat led to significant improvements in 3 of the measurements, and
3. The two lifts complement each other very well

Neither group improved in horizontal jump or 10m sprint. Maybe some of my readers could predict the outcomes. It’s so nice to finally have some data to help validate theories and assumptions. Anyone who says that the hip thrust isn’t functional is dead wrong. After this study is published, the skeptics will no longer be able to say that the hip thrust isn’t functional. Training studies determine the functionality of an exercise, not some idiot’s warped view of how adaptations should happen based on how an exercise looks.

hip thrust 4

Yep, the hip thrust has you lying down. It is highly stable and doesn’t require a lot of coordination. It’s not performed in a standing position. It’s not highly technical. It looks silly. It has you humping a barbell. And guess what? Science has just shown that it’s one kickass exercise for improving performance.

So now we’ll have an EMG study involving 13 trained women showing that hip thrusts activate certain key muscles to a significantly higher degree than squats. We’ll have a training study involving 24 teenage male athletes showing that hip thrusts increase certain key functional performance parameters to a significantly higher degree than squats. And then there’s the identical twin case series that’s currently underway that will examine differences in muscle thickness gains between hip thrusts and squats.

Squats are Still Badass!

Now, this is not to say that squats are still an incredible movement – they’re actually my favorite exercise (even though I suck at them), and I have every single client of mine performing a couple of different squat variations. They’re a staple in S&C – that won’t change. The hip thrust is indeed popular in S&C, but it isn’t yet considered a “big basic” exercise by many coaches, nor am I aware of any strength coaches of any professional sports teams that center their S&C program around the hip thrust. Hopefully this will change, since hip thrusts appear to complement the squat and build certain functional features that squats don’t, including a certain feature that lays the foundation for ground sport performance. The squat isn’t perfect and the hip thrust isn’t perfect, but with optimal program design based on scientific evidence, we can create highly effective programs that build comprehensive athletic ability and muscular development.

camille-back-squat

Much More Work to Do…

My PhD thesis studies are just the tip of the iceberg. I suspect that after my studies are published, they’re going to pique the interest of many sports scientists, and we’ll see an abundance of studies examining the hip thrust emerge over the next several years. This is much needed, as my studies are very meager in the grand scheme of things. We need to examine acute/mechanistic measures (EMG, torque angle curves, ROM, force, velocity, power, RFD, impulse, work, etc.) and longitudinal/training measures (changes in hypertrophy, strength, multidirectional power, speed, etc.) in a wide variety of populations (men, women, elderly, middle age, young, beginners, advanced, athletes from varying sports, etc.) in order to confidently discuss the biomechanics and functional transfer of the hip thrust. Nevertheless;

Today is one small step for man, and one giant thrust for mankind!

hip thrust

28 Comments

  • Alicia says:

    I have a day pretty much devoted to this movement – it’s my glute day. A coach initiated it for me and I have had such better performance (running 5k to 1/2M) and better results that I kept it. Love the article, will look forward to seeing more about hip thrusts in the future! Thanks!

  • Glad to hear the results are lining up with the hypotheses, and looking forward to reading the future publications. Here’s to the hip thrust coming to the fore as a “big basic” in years to come!

  • JuelzJuls says:

    Congrats Brett. Devoted advocate of many variations of the hip thrust. A staple in any athletes S&C program. Looking forward to your updated data. Cheers.

  • Dylan says:

    Travis couldn’t of said it better. Really looking forward checking out the publications!

  • Charles Nankin says:

    i really think the hip thrust benefits the whole posterior chain magnificently. i saw huge growth in my hamstrings, which couldn’t have come from anything else i was doing.

    i was only able to start RDLing and deadlifting after some time on hip thrusts and back raises.

    • Charles Nankin says:

      the modern world imbalance placed on the quads, thru the ubiquity of:
      – cycling
      – especially cycling during our musculature’s formative years
      – and even more so because at this age few bike pedals have clips, which further emphasises the push phase of the pedalling motion,
      – climbing stairs,
      – sitting and rising from chairs,
      – jogging (as opposed to sprinting),
      – and generally running in a straight line on completely flat surfaces as opposed to uneven surfaces and with turns,

      This gives activation and “restoration” of the posterior chain foundational importance!

    • Bret says:

      Very interesting anecdote Charles, thanks for chiming in. I remember when Kellie Davis first started hip thrusting heavy – her glutes grew and her hamstrings grew markedly as well.

  • Greg Nuckols says:

    Congrats Bret!

  • msytc says:

    Yay Bret! History is being made 🙂

  • Helen Crook says:

    I have a love hate relationship with hip thrusts – they make my flutes burn so bad that I wanna do them every day but they also make me want to throw up after haha! Ive just started to do these twice a week 1 day heavy with low reps and another do light with high reps – I can’t wait to see my booty grow over the coming weeks and months! Can’t wait to read the paper 🙂 thanks Bret

  • Itai says:

    Bret,
    Im looking forward to see the results of each research you are conducting.
    I think a research that will put some light on the influance of HIP thrust on Long Slow Distance running is needed.
    I know what the results will be, like you i need the paper to “show off”
    hip thrust became on of the basic exercise i use in every strength program.

    Thank you

  • Anand says:

    Hi Brett,

    Thanks for the informative article. I am looking forward to reading more on this.

    What is your take on hip thrusts from the floor as opposed to from the bench? In my view ( based on my own lifting experience), the ROM is compromised in floor version, but at the same time, one can not use the momentum and in effect, requires more effort. The compensation through lumbar can be avoided when on floor. I am still considering the utility of both versions.

    Would love to hear more on this from you and others.

  • Rehanna Bernard says:

    I’ve very recently started doing hip thrusts and today actually did my first barbell thrust, I did with with 60kg (120lb!?) and could and would have liked to have gone higher, but OUCH it was SO painful on my hips! I used the squat ‘sponge’ for protection but it was still very uncomfortable! Any tips on minimizing pain!?

  • Joe says:

    Well done Bret. I’m personally sold – I’ve been including hip thrusts in a few different forms in my own training for several months now and I’m stronger and faster than ever.

    Having said that, I don’t train anyone else so it’s not a very big sample size. Anyway, keep up the good work 🙂

  • EO says:

    Hi Brett. I am so happy for you. You have worked so hard and have helped so many regular people like me. I found you online when I was desperately trying to find an exercise that would target the glutes. I am 48 years old and have been lifting for about 11 months now. I lost over 30 lbs after I completed Jamie Eason’s Livefit (3 times!) and got great results but not in the glutes department although my quads and upper body look fantastic. Once I started reading your artickes, blogs, FB posts, etc. And learning about how to “activate” and “engage” my glutes, I FINALLY started to “feel” them instead of just my quads doing all the work. Your work made a lot of sense to me. I purchased Strong Curves recently and although. It’s been just one week, I can already feel the glute engagement you’ve been writing about. I’m wondering, at this point in your study, if you differentiate glute activation from a person who is trying to grow glutes vs. Someone like me, with large glutes but looking to build muscke/lose fat on the gkutes. Just wondering because most women I talk to who are predisposed to having “larger” glutes seem to be the ones with the most difficulty in engaging the glutes. I am wondering what your professional exoeruence is on this samoling of mine. Thanks again for your research and willingness to share freely with us!

  • Steve says:

    Congrats on the study and some well-deserved gratification.

    I bought your Glute Advanced Techniques ebook recently and was impressed by the amount of work and effort poured into one piece of work. I come from a pure strength/big three perspective regarding lifting and that biased my reading of your articles in the past. I just recently gained a trainer position and will be working almost entirely with beginners and very overweight/poor-body composition individuals. Your work is a tremendous resource for those looking to skill-up as a trainer and who want to deliver better results!

  • Mick says:

    Hi Bret, congrats on the research. Is there any reason you chose front squats instead of low bar back squats or even deadlifts?

  • Mitch says:

    Yes Bret, what a fantastic exercise to add into ones weekly lower body workout. The hip thrust, it works wonders on the glutes. Its always best to combine the squats exercise.

  • Marc says:

    I use a similar movement in my training and was wondering if there was any difference between the hip thrust you do and ones where you are completely lying flat on the floor. The reason I do them this way is because I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and this is a functional movement with our training. I have several other guys doing them and they fell like they are stronger on their back while bridging. Encouraging to know that this might actually be true!
    Thanks

  • Eric says:

    Hi Brett, quick question: why use the front squat in testing instead of the back squat? Thanks

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