Random Thoughts

By August 6, 2015 Random Thoughts

Greetings fitness friends, here are 9 random things to announce before the weekend gets underway.

1. Brazilian Support and Possible Appearance

Boy was I wrong about my assumption that Brazilians were anti-hip thrust and anti-Contreras (see HERE for the original post). In reading through blog comments and comments on Facebook, I learned that the Brazilian sports science community is pro-hip thrust, pro-Contreras, pro-science, anti-pseudoscience, and anti-bullshit. I even received personal emails from several professors thanking me for my hard work – one even tentatively invited me to speak at a big conference next year. So maybe I’ll be Brazil-bound soon and can meet some of y’all! Thank you my Brazilian friends, the support you showed me this week means the world to me. I realize that I still need to respond to Paulo – I’ll get to it in the next few days.


2. New Study Acceptance: Full Squats, Parallel Squats, and Front Squats: Glute, Quad, and Ham EMG Activity

Check this out brothers and sisters!!! My team just got a new study accepted last week in The Journal of Applied Biomechanics. Of course I’ll share the link and write up a synopsis on my blog as soon as it’s published ahead of print (probably 3 weeks or so).


3. PubMed: Squat versus Hip Thrust EMG

My team’s latest EMG study is now on PubMed – it’s so cool seeing it there! HERE‘s the link.


4. The Bret Contreras Podcast

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I have a podcast! I’m excited to record something new. Expect something next week.


5. Hip Thrusts and Quadriceps Tendon Pain

Has this happened to anyone else? It hasn’t happened to any clients I’ve ever trained, but it happens to me. Every time I start hip thrusting heavy 2-3 times per week, after 3-4 weeks my quadriceps tendon starts acting up and interferes with my squatting. I imagine that this is due to the intense quadriceps contractions that are inherent to hip thrusting. Some people are surprised about the quad activity in a hip thrust, but it makes sense biomechanically. I’ll write a blogpost on this next week.

Quad Tendon

6. Doctoral Thesis is Completed

I finished this bad boy up on Saturday night! Now to defend in New Zealand in December and hopefully shortly after I’ll have a PhD. I can’t wait to share all my findings with you; it ended up being a fascinating thesis.


7. I Finally Hip Thrusted 700 lbs

On Saturday night, right after I submitted my thesis, I finally got it!

8. Southpaw

I saw this movie last Friday night. Holy hell it was hard not to shed a tear. Such a sad scenario emerges fairly quickly into the movie which caught me by surprise. Anyway, much props to Jake Gyllenhaal; he played the role so well and his physique was shredded. Seeing actors in peak physical shape inspires me to try to get leaner.


9. What Next for Bret? 

Now that I’m done, I’d like to:

  • Revamp my blog design
  • Continue to collect data and publish studies with my team
  • Keep trying to improve upon the hip thruster design
  • Maybe write another book or film a DVD
  • Start blogging, YouTubing, and podcasting more often
  • Continue training my personal training clients well

But honestly, I’m just enjoying getting back to the old Bret. Last night I read an interesting blogpost by a fellow strength coach, which prompted me to delve into the research on the topic, thereby keeping me occupied until 4:15 am. I’m a night owl and I love studying.

Okay that’s all my friends, have a great rest of the week! BC


  • Alvina says:

    Hi Bret,
    about your point nr.5, do you think hip thrust can interfere negatively on jumpers knee rehab? i’ve been out of basketball for one season now and only been lifting, still not back on track. I love the hip thrust, and I know you need strong glutes to support the knees, but I dont want to do exercices that can hurt my rehab progression.

    Hope you have time to answer me, I’m a big fan of you and it’s a shame I cant come to see you in Oslo where I live.

    Best regards
    Alvina Kvamme

  • Maja says:

    I have some problems with quadriceps muscles, probably because of the Hip Thrusts. I am Hip Thrusting 3-4 times per week (or sometimes more), 5 sets, 10-20 reps (100 – 120 kg). From time to time I try to do it with heavier weight (up to 150 kg, cca. 5 reps – my bodyweight is 60 kg).
    Last week I get a muscle spasm( when squatting after Hip Thrusts) in quariceps and it was quite painful in medial side of my right knee, near patella. These days I am rolling on my foam roller and a plastic ball, I stretch a lot … And I am noticing i have very tight vastus lateralis TFL, gluteus medius/minimus and adductors. These muscles are always problem for me.
    I was thinking, maybe I should try narrower stance while doing Hip Thrusts, because it is not confortable for me to squat wide … Can’t wait to read your blog about this.

  • Nice going, Bret. For your information, I’ve never had a client experience a knee injury from hip thrusting, but some of my clients with knee pain (patellar tendinosis or patellofemoral pain syndrome) can’t hip thrust without pain until later in the rehab process (after pure hip extensions and the like).

  • Cody Bidlow says:


    It is interesting that you post about the knee pain and hip thrusting. I almost emailed you LAST NIGHT about that. I have noticed that I get odd sensations in the knees, primarily when doing a glute bridge or bodyweight hip thrust. I have never had pain when loading the bar, but maybe that has to do with some dumbing down of pain receptors during movement.

    Anyways, funny timing.

    Thanks for your continued contributions to science!

  • Alyssa W. says:

    Glad I read this! I have been experiencing pain right above my kneecaps lately, which was most noticeable when I tried to do pistol squats and had to stop the set short because of the discomfort. Until now this has been inexplicable since I’ve never had knee problems before, but I’m realizing that the time frame matches up with me starting Get Glutes. Interesting because I don’t notice how much my quads are apparently working when I hip thrust. I can’t wait to read your blog about this and hopefully recommendations!

  • Andrew Dixon says:

    I have a messed up left knee. Arthritis from old injury. I can full squat and split squat no problem, but hip thrusts cause my knee to ache.

    I could be because hip thrusting is the most kids that goes through the knee. I feel it also has something to do with the loading at 90 degrees of flexion. I tend not to articulate at the knee much at all.

  • Derrick Blanton says:

    RE: the knee pain/soreness with hip thrusting issue. I’ve definitely experienced it, but only when the load starts getting really heavy, and the body starts substituting, going off the script.

    Possible cueing Rx:

    With a “soft knees” mindset, focus on pushing straight DOWN through the floor, NOT driving the floor AWAY. So the external cue is “Crush the floor!” Don’t spread the floor away.

    I think down through the floor, gives you more glute anyway, and maybe a bit more hamstring to buffer the 90-degree shear that the knee will face up top.

    Seems to me, the HT requires a different quad/hip motor pattern than a squat. The agonist/synergist relationship has switched around. So knee pain might come from a form of synergistic dominance, i.e. unconsciously recruiting the quad as a concentric agonist, rather than a synergist, and then isometric stabilizer. The leverage is not really at the knee anyway, and you are not going to knee extend HT loads. You basically need just enough quad to keep the tibia vertical, no more.

    Of course, it could happen due to a tight RF as well!

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      Theory, pt. 2: I guess it’s a bit like somebody who pulls with their arms on a chin up or row. It’s timing and degree of activation ratio, patterning.

      If arm puller is loading the smaller bicep/rotator cuff first, it’s going to get irritated because it is exposed to the brunt of the load early, far more than it could do in isolation. If however, the lat and trap fire first and take the load, and only then, the arm flexors come on to assist and finish the movement, all is well.

      So in any compound move, the muscles “spot” for each other.

      Again, just enough quad to verticalize the tibia, and let the glute work its magic. If the quad overshoots, it will end up firing maximally and unnecessarily, locked at 90-degrees trying to finish a knee extension that will be impossible to complete.

      Theory, brainstorming, caveat, YMMV, etc…derp.

  • Joonatan says:

    Hey, Bret! Congratulations on the thesis and that crazy strong hip thrust.

    Another random thought: Do you think training most low rep sets close to failure could slow strength gains on the big lifts?

    I’ve done some notable lean mass increases in the last year since I decided to be a PT and got really interested on the science behind hypertrophy. Despite that my squat, deadlift and bench haven’t increased that much (fast progress on the hip thrust tho, big thanks to you!). I have trained most my sets pretty hard in an attempt to get stronger, but it hasn’t worked very well on the strength side. Maybe it’s not the best approach, since enough volume at high enough intensity is the main cause of strength gain, do you agree? Too much fatigue and muscle damage could just slow the recovery?

    I understand if you don’t have the time to answer all these questions, you being a super busy (glute)guy and all. I highly respect you anyway, Bret, and wish you a great time being finally free haha!

  • Rob Panariello says:

    Although I have never observed a study on the biomechanics of the hip thrust (perhaps you have Bret) my “guesstimate” of why knee pain is occurring during the HT exercise performance is multifactorial.

    1. The 90 degree angle of the knee – is documented that at the 90 degree knee flexion position, open kinetic chain isometric knee exercises (i.e. knee extension) result in a posterior tibio-femoral sheer force at the knee. It is also acknowledged during closed kinetic chain exercises (i.e. back squat) performed at 90 degrees or greater deep knee flexion angles this posterior sheer force phenomenon also exists. During KT-1000 and KT-2000 knee ligament arthrometer testing with the knee flexed to 90 degrees and the foot fixed, a posterior tibial translation occurs during isolated hamstring as well as during isolated quadriceps muscle contractions (due to the resultant patella tendon and quadriceps vector forces), the same knee position that occurs at the concluding (brief isometric hold) HT exercise performance. It is also recognized that there are increased patello-femoral joint compressive forces at the deeper knee bend positions.

    2. The initiation of the HT exercise performance requires the hips to be extended from a flexed position (knee flexion is also greater than 90 degrees), as the rectus femoris the only 2 joint quadriceps muscle, changes from a shortened position at the hip to a lengthened position at the hip which may result in increased muscle “tension” at the hip and knee. Additionally the weight intensity + body weight “system” of overload to be lifted likely results in increased muscle activity in the concluding extended hip exercise position when compare to the starting exercise position.

    3. High volume sets – in my experience in the rehabilitation and S&C settings although exercise weight intensity and exercise volume (repetitions) go “hand in hand”, it is the excessive accumulation of exercise volume that result in overuse type injuries such as strains and tendonitis. Performing unwarranted high volume sets of ANY exercise over time will set the athlete/client up for possible overuse type injury. It is the quality of work, not quantity of work that keeps the athlete fresh and recovered. As an example, if you rubbed your thumb lightly over a small area on a friends arm for an hour although the stress applied is low, the accumulative stress applied over the hour will likely result in an irritant such as a blister.

    So to put this all together, due to a fixed 90 degree fixed knee position at the conclusion of the HT exercise performance, Bret’s EMG documentation of very active biceps femoris (hamstring) and active the vastus lateralis (quadriceps) contraction that occurs during exercise execution, perhaps a posterior tibial translation may occur at this 90 degree position. Due to the insertion of the patella tendon (an extension of the quads) on the tibial tubercle this possible posterior translation likely results in a lengthening of the patella tendon, quadriceps tendon, and quadriceps muscle creating increased patello-femoral compressive forces and quad tendon stress. Add the increased quadriceps tension due to the rectus femoris lengthening that occurs at the hip from the starting hip flexion to concluding hip extension executed HT exercise position and that may also result in additional stress at the quadriceps tendon as well as the patello-femoral joint. The additional load from the previously mentioned “system” of weight to be lifted likely continues to increase these tendon and joint stresses.

    Lastly these increased repetitive executed stresses that occur with excessively high repetition HT executed exercise sets the stage for a possible “overuse” type injury to evolve over time i.e. quad tendonitis, patella-femoral pain. An additional consideration to those stating they have quad tendonitis is this pain actually patello-femoral pain in nature as the quad tendon does pass over the proximal patella before changing its name to the patella tendon.

    That’s my two cents and just my opinion
    Rob Panariello

  • Sven says:

    Wouldn’t the rectus femoris would likely be the least activated head out of the four, for the same kind of reasons that hamstrings don’t fire maximally during squats? Anyway, is it possible that the other heads of the quadriceps fire hard to : 1. keep the knees from flexing and indirectly contributing to hip extension 2. allow the hamstrings to contribute to hip extension as much as they can, despite the mechanical disadvantage (by countering the knee flexion force)?

    • Rob Panariello says:

      My thoughts:

      “Wouldn’t the rectus femoris would likely be the least activated head out of the four, for the same kind of reasons that hamstrings don’t fire maximally during squats?”

      As Bret’s study appears to have only reviewed the vastus lateralus muscle activity I’m not sure of the contribution of the rectus femoris. I do know that you cannot isolate an individual quadriceps muscle as all of the quad muscles are innervated by the same femoral nerve. I’m not even sure if one plays more of a role than another in the performance of the HT as future studies would have to review the role of the RF during HT exercise execution. As far as the hamstrings contribution (activity) during the squat exercise performance, that would depend on a number of factors including the point in the exercise range of motion reviewed as well as the type of squat performed (back squat, front squat, vertical tibia, etc.)

      “Anyway, is it possible that the other heads of the quadriceps fire hard to: 1. keep the knees from flexing and indirectly contributing to hip extension”

      With regards to the quads firing hard see above. The knees do flex and extend as they are positioned at greater than 90 degrees at the initiation of the HT exercise and at approximately 90 degrees at the conclusion of the repetition then flex once again to return to the starting exercise position. The flexion and extension at the knee is a result of the flexion and extension that occurs at the hip/trunk due to the fixed foot placement during the HT exercise performance.

      “…allow the hamstrings to contribute to hip extension as much as they can, despite the mechanical disadvantage (by countering the knee flexion force)?”

      The hamstrings appear to make a significant contribution to the exercise performance as Bret’s study has indicated (BF muscles) as the hamstrings have been documented to play a role as a hip extensor. However the gluteal muscles (in this study) appear to make the most significant contribution to the HT exercise performance. This may be due in part to the eventual position of hamstring active insufficiency as the hip approaches and concludes at full extension with the knee flexed to 90 degrees.

      Further research on the HT exercise would assist to answer many of these and other additional questions.
      Just my opinion
      Rob Panariello

  • TOI says:

    Hi Bret,

    Thanks for keeping the good info coming.
    I have a question about loading the hip-thrust for optimal progression: I find that once I go above a certain weight (around 120 lbs), I stop feeling my glutes as much as I do with a lighter weight. Does this mean I should go back to lower weight and just add reps or in other ways increase the stress, or should I expect that adding weight will make it heavy for the whole body and thus not be as noticable in the glutes?
    I do full range reps with no problem at up til about 160 lbs, but I stop feeling the intense glute burn around 120 lbs (I am a small female and weigh about 115 lbs)

    Thanks a lot in advance!! 😀

  • Meghan says:

    Can you subscribe to your podcast on ITUNES?

  • Brittanie says:

    Hi Bret,

    In regards to hip thrust and quad pain… I have noticed lately that after a heavy session of hip thrusts, my piriformis muscle on my weak side acts up. I used trigger point therapy/stretching and it cleared up the pain, but now my upper thigh and outer thigh (more specifically, my adductor longis or my adductor magnus – the mild pain seems to be right near them both and my tensor fascia latae) starts acting up. I don’t believe it’s my iliopsoas muscle. This only happens on my weaker side… and is a recently new thing for me. I have been hip thrusting for more than a year, but recently started doing the no handed hip thrusts to critique my form. I, more often than now, warm up with 2-3 rounds of glute activation exercises. It’s just interesting to me that the muscles acting up only seem to happen after a glute specific lifting day… Foam rolling and stretching do help.

    Any thoughts or do you think I just happened to twinge my muscles differently one day and need to ride it out?

  • Rachel says:

    Hey Bret, can you do a workshop here in Orange county, CA? You got many fans here 🙂

  • Tyran Tesmer says:

    “5. Hip Thrusts and Quadriceps Tendon Pain

    Has this happened to anyone else? It hasn’t happened to any clients I’ve ever trained, but it happens to me. Every time I start hip thrusting heavy 2-3 times per week, after 3-4 weeks my quadriceps tendon starts acting up and interferes with my squatting. I imagine that this is due to the intense quadriceps contractions that are inherent to hip thrusting. Some people are surprised about the quad activity in a hip thrust, but it makes sense biomechanically. I’ll write a blogpost on this next week.

    Quad Tendon”

    Greetings Bret. I’m becoming a keen follower of your postings and will look forward to what you produce in future.
    In response to your above question, would the Quad Tendon pain you have described not possibly be due to excessive tension created by the quad muscles that are almost forcing ones toes to push through the front of their shoes? Something that may be corrected if one were to press more through the heels or by having a block of wood placed beneath ones heels while thrusting?

    I would imagine that its not a pain that shows up while doing seated leg extensions but that would possible start to show if you were to do Sissy Squats for instance when the knee is at the 90deg angle when the most tension is being applied on the tendon. TY.

    These are just thoughts though

  • dani says:

    YAY! Congratulations!!!! Best of luck to you!

  • dani says:

    That’s congrats on both your thesis AND your 700 lb hip thrust. ; )

Leave a Reply


and receive my FREE Lower Body Progressions eBook!

You have Successfully Subscribed!