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Squats Versus Hip Thrusts Part IV: Transfer to Performance

Quick Summary:

  • Hip thrusts are markedly more effective than front squats at improving sprinting acceleration, max isometric midthigh pull force, and max hip thrust strength in male teenage athletes. They also outperform the squat in horizontal jumping in male teenage athletes
  • Front squats are markedly more effective than hip thrusts at improving vertical jump and max front squat strength in male teenage athletes
  • Functional transfer from resistance training to performance is not based on what an exercise looks like but rather a variety of factors including the direction of the force vector, the torque angle curves and accentuated ranges of motion, levels of muscle activation elicited, and more
  • In teenage male athletes, hip thrusts build half as much strength as front squats at front squatting and front squats build half as much strength as hip thrusts at hip thrusting, indicating that various hip extension exercises transfer over to each other quite well
  • Future research is needed to compare the effects of squats versus hip thrusts (and versus deadlifts) in other populations. Different periodization protocols and training durations should be examined and a comprehensive battery of performance outcomes should be tested. Finally, hypertrophic adaptations should be examined in future research as well

Hi Fitness Friends! This is part IV of a 5-part series on squats versus hip thrusts. The data from this series comes from my doctoral thesis, which should hopefully be posted online for anyone to read next year (assuming I pass my defense in December…wouldn’t it be hilarious if I hyped this up and then failed my defense and PhD?). Parts I and III look at mechanistic data, namely what happens when you perform the two exercises while wearing electrodes or while on top of a force plate. Parts II and IV look at what actually happens following a 6-week training protocol. Part V will summarize the findings and point out limitations and directions for future research. I’ll post part V over the next week or so.

And now for part IV – the findings that should make a very large impact in strength & conditioning practices around the world. Speed is king in sports. Don’t believe me? Watch this rugby video:

There’s certainly much more to sports than just speed; Usain Bolt couldn’t simply dominate every ground sport imaginable without mastering other aspects of each individual sport. However, if you can run like the wind, you have a huge advantage in sports like football, soccer, rugby, baseball, lacrosse, and obviously track & field. Until now, the vast majority of coaches believed that the best exercise for improving sprinting speed is the squat. But the squat does not maximally activate the glutes, and it poorly activates the hamstrings, which are known to be the most important muscles in sprinting. Moreover, the squat works the muscles effectively way down deep in a flexed position, but not so much in an upright position which is characteristic of applying force into the ground while running.

I have been saying this for years (that hip thrusts seem better than squats for the purpose of improving acceleration and speed), as have other coaches. However, our speculation has been met with considerable hostility in the fields of S&C and T&F. In the past, all we had was theory, but now there is some evicence. Three months ago I alluded to this study HERE, and it’s the first to lend some support to the claim that the squat isn’t the best exercise for maximizing sprinting acceleration.

The study was 6 weeks in duration and consisted of two training sessions per week. If you think about it, 12 total training sessions is nothing. I was worried that it wouldn’t be long enough to elicit any significant improvements. Luckily, my fears were unfounded, at least for this population of male teenage athletes. One group performed just front squats for lower body for all 12 sessions whereas another group performed just hip thrusts for lower body for all 12 sessions in a periodized fashion that started out with sets of 12 reps and finished off with sets of 6 reps.

Pre and post testing measured 10m acceleration, 20m acceleration, vertical jump, horizontal jump, maximum isometric midthigh pull, 3RM front squat, and 3RM hip thrust. Here are the results of the study:

Chart

Click on the image to enlarge

As you can see, the “Force Vector Hypothesis” does seem to be legit in that front squats better improved vertical jump and hip thrusts better improved acceleration and horizontal jump. The twin experiment detailed in part III also lent support to the force vector theory.

One performance measure that didn’t adhere to the force vector hypothesis was the isometric mid-thigh pull (iMTP). The iMTP is a vertical task, but the front squat didn’t improve this task. In contrast, the hip thrust improved it very significantly. This is likely due to the ranges of motion stressed in the two lifts; front squats work the muscles down deep in hip and knee flexion, whereas hip thrusts work the hips more in greater hip extension.

This could infer that hip thrusts are better suited than front squats for improving deadlift lockout strength, and one thing I failed to mention in the twin study was that following the 6-week DUP protocol, Ashley (the hip thrust twin) was much stronger than Cassy (the squat twin) at deadlifting. I surmise that they were dead equal at deadlift strength prior to the training regimen and that it was the exercise performed that accounted for the improvements, but I didn’t measure deadlift strength pre and post training so this is pure speculation on my part. Future research should examine the transfer of squats versus hip thrusts to deadlift strength, and possibly even break it down into isometric deadlift strength at lift-off, just below or above the knees, and at lockout.

This image shows the differences in position between an iMTP and a deadlift lockout, courtesy of THIS study.

This image shows the differences in position between an iMTP and a deadlift lockout, courtesy of THIS study.

Many powerlifters lately seem to suggest that pure specificity is the only way to improve a lift, and they tend to ignore the potential transfer from one exercise to another. While it is obvious that performing the specific lift is the wisest and most efficient way to improve a lift, many coaches have indeed noted transfer from one lift to another and therefore employ assistance lifts to strengthen muscles and improve sticking regions.

This study showed that an athlete that performed the hip thrust gained half as much front squat strength as an athlete performing the front squat, and an athlete that performed the front squat gained half as much hip thrust strength as an athlete performing the hip thrust. This is very important as it could mean that maximizing powerlifting strength requires the utilization of assistance lifts, and it likely means that strength on one lift can be maintained to a greater during times of injury by performing other lifts. For example, an athlete with a low back or knee injury might be able to maintain much of his or her squat or deadlift strength by performing hip thrusts if well tolerated. This is why it’s so important to train around injuries and not through them.

I’ll expand on the limitations of this research in the final part of the series (part V), so please stay tuned for that in the next week. But I would like to mention that the subjects in this study had performed front squats the previous year and not hip thrusts. This should be considered as it may have impacted the results.

Forward thinking strength & conditioning coaches should seriously consider 1) making the hip thrust a staple in their programming, if they haven’t already, 2) possibly centering their programming around hip thrusts and making it the first exercise performed during the day and week, 3) possibly periodizing training around maximizing vertical and horizontal force production performance, 4) consider having separate stations dedicated solely to hip thrusting so that benches and power racks aren’t being used up.

However, more cautious strength coaches could indeed make a mental note of these findings and wait for future research to duplicate the findings on athletes from other sports, or female athletes, or more highly trained individuals.

Please note that this research was carried out by New Zealand strength coaches; I was blinded from the training and the testing. Also please know that I wanted to test the back squat and not the front squat, but the head coach was more comfortable having his teenage athletes front squat, for which I was very understanding of. It’s important for researchers to be flexible when working with strength coaches during training studies; rigid individuals are unable to collaborate and get any research done. I intend on submitting this research to a sports science journal and getting it published, so hopefully you’ll have a more detailed report pertaining to this data at your disposal in the next 6 months or so.

Hip Thruster barbell band

The Hip Thruster is the best way to do the hip thrust – stable and versatile!

26 Comments

  • Krista says:

    Hi Bret,
    Thanks again for another amazing article that provides some real scientific evidence behind the exercises and how they translate to better athletic performance.
    I’m an avid follower and purchased your strong curves a couple years ago from the recommendation of my trainer. I’ve noticed that many women at my gym are now hip thrusting and it seems to be the norm.
    I have a question that’s a little off topic but wasn’t sure where else to ask.
    I’m currently pregnant and would love to continue hip thrusting, glute bridging and other variations of these exercises but exercises while on your back aren’t “recommended” after the first trimester. Do you have any info on this? I also don’t mind pushing the envelope as I have fairly easy pregnancies and exercised vigorously up until 38 weeks with my last one. If I can push it while not putting my baby at risk
    , it would be great to hear your thoughts.
    Thanks again for all the amazing resources for training!
    Krista
    I

  • Chris says:

    Nice job, Bret!
    I suspect the race wouldve been a bit closer between the back squat and the HT, what do you think?

    And are you worried about the group difference in weight gain? Some strict reviewers could argue the HT group was slightly bulking or at least in a caloric surplus while the squat group was not.

  • Rocky Steele says:

    Bret, from my novice perch, i’m all in as they say here in Vegas. Me, as my own lab rat, at 54 y/o @ 6″, popped out back to back 8’6″ in standing long jumps without any practice. I hip thrust 1-2 time per week. I plan to consistently add 3 HT per week to check results.

    Your data and translation to real world actions is golden. At some point I would love to meet with you and discuss a potential project.
    Thank you
    Best
    Rocky

  • Charles Nankin says:

    theres another aspect to athleticism apart from speed and agility – and that is the advantage of a lower centre of gravity. in the sport of rugby, a lower centre of gravity is thought to be one of the advantages of the typical physique of players from the Pacific Islands. here are some inspiring examples:

    caucau https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJQBUZ50iW8
    tuilagi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaGECYaRwQU
    rokocoko https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcNPLYc9wCE

    and from the other side of the equation – some big hits https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzvkbJ3lym0 a spectacular combination of the posterior and anterior chains!

  • Charles Nankin says:

    1.) I also think the single-leg elevated Hip Thrust (on two benches) must be highly applicable for athletic preparation – due to good specificity/transference/activation whatever. I once felt like my legs wanted to try a slightly larger distance between the benches (>90deg at knee) – you can really feel the whole leg working. in this case your two benches/surfaces need to be pretty sturdy.

    2.) getting back to agility and looking at the incredible turns and dodges the rugby players are making, I wonder if there is a standardised test for these things? ofcourse the glutes are heavily involved in the sidestep: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C26Kf5Hk1nQ

  • Gloria says:

    I’ve learned so much from your website and your articles in Fitness RX than anywhere else. My butt is looking perkier and better than ever (and I’m in my 50’s!). Thank you, Bret, so much!!!!!

  • Marc says:

    Great work, Bret. I look forward to a similar test relating to shot put and discus. Easy to measure results.

    Good luck in your defense. You can do it!!

  • Jim says:

    Bret, interesting research. However I am concerned that hip thrusts will produce beneficial adaptations only for a limited time at least with respect to speed and power. Long term adaptation requires balance between opposing muscle groups as an imbalance results in compensation and compensation leads to joint instability and inflammation. Balance between muscle groups requires that we engage opposing muscles concentrially during the eccentric portion of a given movement. So my objection is not to the hip thrust as a movement but how it is performed. The same goes for the squat.

    Also the lack of gluteal activation seen in the squat probably has more to do with front dominance compensation which is rampant in “civilized” societies. I think your data might be skewed because of this common compensation. If most of the populace cannot properly activate their glutes while standing or walking how can you expect them to do it during a complex multi joint movement like the squat. Hip thrusts possibly act as a crutch for this compensation as you are directly loading the glutes but this does not address the under lining problem.

    I think a better study would be one which compares the gluteal activity of people in “civilized” ( read as chair sitting, seditary populations with “s” shaped spines) and “uncivilized” people (read people who do not chronically sit and who possess “j” shaped spines supported by proper posterior chain activation) with respect to squats and hip thrusts and the other experimental measures you mentioned. I think the results would be radically different.

    • Chris says:

      Where does all this mumbo-jumbo not-backed-by-scientific-evidence bullshit come from, especially that S-vs-J-shaped spine?! 🙂

      We are more than 7 billion members of the homo sapiens species and every one of us – save some affected by bad genetic disorders and very unfortunate accidents involving combine harvesters – possess a double S curvature in the spine. More or less pronounced. A “J” is not even desirable, because as the curve at the bottom of the J has no counterpart – youll simply have bad balance. And its not a choice you can make, its genetics, its biology, its evolutionarily determined:
      “The thoracic and sacral curves are termed primary curves, because they are present in the fetus(!). The cervical and lumbar curves are compensatory or secondary, and are developed after birth. The cervical curve forms when the infant (!) is able to hold up its head (at three or four months) and to sit upright (at nine months). The lumbar curve forms later from twelve to eighteen months, when the child begins to walk.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_vertebral_column#Shape

      In your other points, youre mixing some widely known and valid points, like neglectance of the glutes, with claims that neither squats nor hip thrusts are good exercises bc “they dont engage the antagonists concentrically in the eccentric part of the movement”. Well guess what, thats what is all natural when mother gravity does that part for you. Apart from very weird machines that could exert force in both directions, thats how things work: muscles exert forces to overcome gravity. If they dont need to overcome gravity, because the movement is in line with it – then the musckesc dont need to (and in fact, dont) fire much. So if you want to activate squats´and hip thrusts´antagonists to the hip and knee extensors, you gotta find a movement that lets the hip and knee flexors work against resistance: hanging leg raise, sprinting (the hip flexion part), leg curls, glute-ham-raises.
      Last, I almost dont care if the results are “radically different” when you grab a sample that is very good at glute activation. Because as you yourself stated, a lot of people in first world countries do have gluteal amnesia. So in the perspective of applied sciences, we dont choose squat vs hip thrust exercises for Amazon jungle hunters, but for first world people. Add to that the fact that you can teach ppl to use their glutes and dont need to fly to a reclused tribe with your force plates to replicate the findings (force plates and barbell weights fare heavily in the airline overweight price schemes and will dry up your funding quickly…).
      Jesus, people on the internet… 🙂
      [Sorry for my English, Im a non-native speaker.].

    • Charles Nankin says:

      “Balance between muscle groups requires that we engage opposing muscles concentrially during the eccentric portion of a given movement.”

      I’m afraid very few people will want to try and dialogue with you after a statement like that.

  • Jim says:

    Chris, I would suggest that you do a quick google search before you attack something you are unfamiliar with. A “j” shaped spine is a term used to refer to the spinal shape of individuals in cultures that we might refer to as uncivilized. These individuals were found to posses a spine without the exaggerated lordosis and kyphosis found in the spines of individuals living in modern societies. It was also found that these individuals have almost zero incidents of back pain even into old age despite a far greater amount of physical activity when compared to “modern” people. This spinal shape is due in part to greater activation in the gluteal group in general and the gluteus medias in particular. Again a quick google search would have allowed you to be aware of this knowledge for yourself.
    Second I never said squats or hip thrusts were poor exercises, you put those words in my mouth which I do not appreciate as I’m sure you would not like someone to be misrepresent you. What I did state is that unless you engage the antagonist during the eccentric portion of a movement any exercise is deficient as it leads to an imbalance around the joint or joints. Allowing gravity to control the load is exactly the problem. This leads to compensation. There is a basic neurological principal that again you should do an Internet search on to better inform yourself it’s called “successive induction.” This principal states that contraction of the antagonist allows for greater control around the joint and greater force output by the agonist. Another term for antagonist is dynamic stabilizer. The antagonist needs to play an active part in every movement if for no other reason than it helps stabilize the joint. But it doesn’t just do that it allows for greater force by the prime mover. Stability proceeds mobility or else injury occurs and your brain does not want you injured so what does it do when you are not stable? It limits force output of the agonist. Need a real life example ask any elite bench presser if he allows gravity to lower the bar or if he engages the antagonist ( the muscles of the upper back, last, and biceps) to “row” the bar to their chest. In powerlifting circles this is called staying ” tight” under the bar.
    Lastly, science is limited by it tendency to look at a single variable. But life is full of multiple variables. If we were to do as you suggest and not be willing to look at other populations with respect to strength and conditioning the conclusions made could very well be erroneous and potentially deletrious. Hence my concern that people will take Bret’s findings and apply them all the while unaware that the true limitation to their performance lies else where. In my previous post I explained this concern and my reasons for asserting it. You may see results in the begining but ultimately it will not lead to the highest and best performance possible for a given individual and since most of us bust our ass in the gym to reach our potential we would not want to go in the wrong direction or have a skewed understanding of what will get us to our goals. Our bodies are not different than those found in these ancient cultures what is different is the method of neurological control over those bodies. That is something that we can change and in doing so achieve a bodily position that is more resilient, more capable of powerful displays of strength and coordination etc. I don’t know about you but when I find a problem I try to fix it not patch it or put a crutch under it. That is what you would be doing if you knew that there was a more ideal way to move yet you ignore it and instead create a system to compensate for fixiable limitations.
    Jesus, people on the Internet right back at ya buddy…

    • Jim says:

      Forgot to mention, if you look in many older texts on anatomy like grays anatomy you will see examples of a “j” shaped spine absent the exaggerated spinal curves. Is that enough scientific evidence for you? If not there is always your old friend Google.

    • Chris says:

      a) Well then “J” is a pretty unfitting term of coining a just less pronounced S spine by some parts of the (non-scientific) physiotherapist community. Because it is and will be just that: an S spine. Note again that furthermore, a true “J” is NOT desirable. Evolution gave us a double S for a reason instead of a flat back with a curve on only one end – and that reason is stability, balance and shock absorption. Btw, all the people in the photographs in the link you provided have S spines like every other human being on planet earth. Indeed the Greek statue seems to have only a very slight one. Then again, not every sculptor is created equal…

      b) You simply renewed your complaining about the squat not having high antagonist muscle action in the downward movement. Well, you can complain what you want – that is the most natural thing of the world – thats just like things are with human movement on planet Earth under gravity. And the squat ist one of the most natural and human movements we know . Btw, good technique in the squat IS to control the eccentric movement which needs agonist muscle activation in the eccentric – and a bit of antagonist muscle action as well. But to “engage antagonist muscles” highly in the squat means to do an inefficient movement. If youre referring to Lombards paradox, e.g., the antagonist muscle action is only as high as needed. Or read for example Greg Nuckol´s series about hamstring (an antagonist for the quads) contribution in the squat – its neither high nor desirable: http://www.strengtheory.com/hamstrings-the-most-overrated-muscle-for-squat-2-0/

      Youre right that one-sided dominance of muscles at a joint leads to negative effects. What we simply do about that is that we train a variety of movements – the whole body – to strengthen all of them. We squat and deadlift, we bench and row, we press and pull up. Thats how you train antagonist muscles – as agonists against resistance. You simply cant train or engage them in a meaningful degree in their antagonist function because there simply is no resistance they can work against – prime movers are called “prime” for a reason.

      If you concentrate on engaging your antagonist muscles highly in a movement – youre just practicing to do a movement inefficiently! (Keeping your upper back tight in the bench is a bad example, because were only doing that to get a stable position for high loads and to prevent impingement because of the inability of the shoulder blades to move freely – a thing that only occurs in such an artificial setup like the bench – see Rippetoes Starting Strength).

      To cut it short: Tell and show us how you reach high EMG values in knee flexion in your squat, pec muscles/hor. adduction during rowing and biceps muscles/elbow flexion during bench press (if you know biomechanics you could even imagine a technique how to do the latter – hint: the biceps is a biarticulate muscle). Bret will readily plaster you up with electrodes cause then you both will be awarded a Nobel Prize in biology if you happen to be able to demonstrate that.

      And what is quite ironic is that IF you happenend to succeed to activate the antagonists highly in the squat or hip thrust (which we have seen is both impossible and dumb to begin with) – then what would happen? Then you would strengthen the hip flexors – exactly the muscles that you lament are overactive, overused with high tension in our sitting world anyway. And the reason for an exaggerated S curve in the spine! 🙂

      • Jim says:

        I feel as if I am talking to a brick wall with poor reading comprehension skills. Someone else chime in. Is it me or is Chris habitually misinterpreting my posts and misrepresenting my claims. Re-read my posts Chris because you are making arguments against claims I did not make.
        A) the fact that you are unfamiliar with a term is your issue not mine. The term “j” shaped spine was coined to emphasize the radically different effect spinal shape has on function. That is why quotations were used. A spine that is “s” shaped provides longer lever arms for gravity. That means the whole spine experiences a greater torque acting on it due to gravity. Basically that means that almost every movement you make as a human being with an “s” shaped spine is more difficult and less efficient. This is profound and is justifiably highlighted by using the term “j” shaped spine as that is what it looks like.
        B) Here we go with the misrepresentation. I never complained about the squat or any other movement . What I did say is a movement that is performed without activation of the antagonist is deficient. Allowing gravity to control an eccentric leads to compensation and joint issues. Did you even bother to look into Sherrington’s law of successive induction or did you ignore it because you are unfamiliar with it?
        Recipricol inhibition insures that the eccentric/concentric co-contraction between agonist and antagonist is efficient. So no, engaging the antagonist concentrially during an eccentric does not lead to inefficiency, quite the opposite actually. In reference to Lombards paradox – of course the activity in the antagonist is as high as needed, I never stated that it should be greater and you basically refuted your own argument.
        In the link you posted it talks about using the hamstrings as synergists to the quads and glutes not as antagonists so it has no bearing on the discussion.
        Name one individual who rows as much as the bench press. Now consider an athletic endevour in which you must produce an explosive upper body pressing motion. If the chest is massively more powerful than the back how will you maintain joint integrity during said explosive pressing. We should all know that a ballistic activity or any powerful contraction is proceeded and ended by activity in the antagonist. To prevent you from ripping your shoulders apart your brain will limit agonist activity to the level at which the antagonist can stabilize the joint. Antagonist activity is necessary to insure that joints articulate properly. Bret and anyone with even a cursory understanding of neuromuscular function will agree on that point. We pull ourselves into position (activate the antagonist) to insure efficient communication neurologically between agonist and antagonist. When this occurs one muscle contracts concentrially and the opposing muscle contracts eccentrically ( it does not relax) to a degree appropriate for the movement. This is important for joint stability, agonist efficiency, and metabolic efficiency. In a vertical jump do you allow gravity to pull you down before the jump or do you pull yourself into position rapidly? In a sprint do you allow gravity to bring your foot to the track or do you pull your leg down applying foce to the track?
        You can and should train your antagonist to engage in a meaningful way during an eccentric action. The tension is generated against the agonist and is controlled by the nervous system to insure efficiency. The more you practice this the better your body becomes at modulating the force of the concentrially contracting antagonist so that it both provides stability to the joint yet does not compete with the agonist.
        Here is a simple analogy to help you grasp the concept. A ferry must go up and down a raging river. It is moved via a rope attached up stream. With only the single rope the ferry is tossed side to side from one bank of the river to the other. It takes a lot of effort to pull the ferry up stream or allow it down stream because of forces that move the ferry side to side. Now imagine that there is another rope attached to the other side of the ferry going downstream . Tension is placed on both ropes thus stabilizing the ferry and preventing it from moving side to side. When they want the ferry to move upstream the upstream rope is pulled and the downstream rope is released to an equivalent degree. Tension is maintained on both ropes thus keeping the ferry stable and via good communication between the operators of the two ropes the ferry is able to move up and down the river. This is how our bodies should work. Tension should be generated on both sides of the joint to keep it stable and proper communication between the opposing muscles allows for efficient and stable movement. Training without this communication, without pulling into positions leads to an imbalance around the joint which leads to poor performance and a greater risk of injury.
        For the reasons mentioned above activating the hip flexor in the squat or hip thrust will not create an imbalance. It will do the exact opposite. It will stabilize the joint and allow greater activity and efficiency in the agonist. Imbalances are created when one muscle is more active around a joint than it should be and this can only occur when you are neurologically inefficient because of a lack of communication between agonist and antagonist or a less than ideal level of reciprocal inhibition. You sir are thinking in terms of muscle instead of joints. The brain thinks and operates in term of joints that is why every movement involves communication, either excitation or inhibition, between opposing muscle groups. If you pull into position with the squat, bench, or whatever you will not create imbalances and you will improve the efficiency of muscles to stabilize and mobilize. I highly recommend you research Sherrington’s laws, the alpha gamma loop, and afferent neuromuscular activity.

        • Chris says:

          How muscles work automatically on a micro level (the alpha-gamma-coactivation has little to do with conscious engagement of antagonist muslec in the eccentric) doesnt prescribe how you should perform a movement consciously.
          To summarize the discussion before you lose yourself in explaining obvious physiological mechanisms again that have nothing to do with your claims:
          1) You claimed that the hip thrust would produce “beneficial adaptations only for a limited time” for speed. Well, youre proven wrong by ten thousands of trainees.
          2) You claimed that its the execution of both movements: if you dont engage the antagonists in a movement, it creates imbalance and leads to all sorts of problems.
          I told you that we create balance of strength by performing a variety of movements, where the antagonists are agonists. You simply ignore that fact and continue to claim that you could – and even should – train the antagonists alongside with the agonists in a movement. Well, youre proven wrong again because in reality you simply cant – and shouldnt – engage the antagonists heavily. Show me proof of high EMG activation of antagonists in a movement, do it! I can remember a comment Bret wrote on his FB page very recently, where he stated that you SHOULDNT activate antagonists consciously very much, because that – logically – leads to higher demands of the agonists and thus an inefficient movement (i.e. you cant lift less weight) – his example was the rectus abdominis in the deadlift.
          You obviously never did a row in your life, because noone on earth thinks and cues “chest! chest! contract your pecs!” when you are in the eccentric portion a a barbell row.
          What you describe are automatic mechanisms that occur without us thinking. Thats why your arm ISNT ripped apart when you throw a baseball even if you dont think of “Rhomboids! External Rotators! Squeeze my back!” when you throw the ball (or “chest! chest!” again when you swing back before throwing).
          So I really dont see your point how you would change the way a hip thrust or squat should be performed differently than the subjects in Bret´s research did – how on earth do you even know how they performed the exercises and that they wont benefit from them in the long run (pun intended) if they (and thousands of others) have been squatting and thrusting away happily for months and years already?
          Deliver EMG proof of heavy activation of the antagonists, show that ppl dont benefit from squats and hip thrusts – or better: show how squats and hip thrusts SHOULD be performed (alongside force plate and EMG data to show that there REALLY is a difference to how squats are performed without your technique) and lead to better improvements.
          Until then, your theoretical reasoning (which anyway doesnt fit the macro level were talking about) is useless.

          • Jim says:

            so you don’t engage your hip flexors during the eccentric portion of a vertical jump? Your body only decends at 9.8m/sec/sec no matter who you are and elite high jumper or a high school couch potato… Really… By the way the alpha gamma loop is relevant to the discussion via afferent communication with the brain stem and then to antagonist muscle groups. It is the neurological basis for reciprocal inhibition. That should be obvious if you had even a basic understanding of motor neurology. You want emg proof for basic neurological principals discovered at the begining of the 20th century? Take one moment to look up Sherrignton’s laws. I didn’t make this stuff up and I’m not going to hold your hand. I’ve provided enough facts that you can easily verify with a Google search. Seriously Sherrington’s laws… Look it up but maybe I am wrong and no human can move eccentrically faster than 9.8 m/s/s. Not that this should be necessary but….
            “Don’t simply yield to the weight but actively pull yourself down with your lats in the bench press. In the squat, do the same with your hip flexors and hamstrings: pull yourself down. This makes you stronger through the phenomenon of “successive induction” – Pavel

            “Successive Induction-
            Increased response of an agonist muscle group following the stimulation of their antagonists”
            https://www.studyblue.com/notes/note/n/pnf/deck/9475380

            “Slow reversals: This technique is based on Sherrington’s principle of successive induction, i.e. that immediately after the flexor reflex is elicited the excitability of the extensor reflex is increased.This technique is used to strengthen and buildup endurance of weaker muscles and develop co-ordination and establish the normal reversal of antagonistic muscles in the performance of movement.”
            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/PNF_stretching

            Hand holding over.

          • Chris says:

            I dont want proof for the existence of these mechanisms – I want proof of your claims about the necessity, quantity and effect of these mechanisms for training the muscles and long-term performance. Direct, hard evidence. Data. Not opinions and proof of existence of well-known physiological mechanisms. Those were your “concerns” and claims regarding the squat and HT in Bret´s study (or about squats and HT in general that are not performed how you think they should).
            When all EMG data show there is little hip flexor activity in the squat, little hamstring activity in the squat, little pec activity in the row, little biceps activity in the bench press (again, why are u repeating your bench press lat example when i told u why this is a bad one and the stability the lats are providing has all to do with the “bench” portion of the bench press, and in general with impingement prophylaxis?), we can go on and on with that list: little activity of the quads in glute-ham-raises, little activity of the abs in a RDL, little activity of the rear delts in flys, little pec in revese flys; how on earth can you train these muscles meaningfully by these movements? Yes, you can think of using them for a nice stretch reflex at the point of reversal eccentric to concentric – thats it (and thats all your links are claiming, except the one that claims that you can meaningfully train the antagonists in a movement – well, prove that by EMG pls!). And if you continue to activate them consciously in the concentric portion then youre anyway fighting against yourself. The thing is, even in the eccentric portion of the movement you cant train them properly. Why? Because you dont have external resistance, because gravity is even HELPING the antagonists in the eccentric portion. So all you can do is flex them a little – thats not resistance training in my terms. And surely wont provide you with any substantial effects that a direct training would offer them – for example pec with bench press instead of “engaging them” during rows, or lats with pull-ups instead of “engaging them in the bench” (again: bad, bad example for the activity of the lats).
            Remember your start of this conversationt; you “feared” that squat and hip thrusts wouldnt provide effects in the long run and harm joints, because of “how they are performed”. Well, apart from that you didnt even experience first-hand how the participants of the study executed the squat and HT – you also didnt provide any hard evidence (performance studies, longitudinal studies, EMG studies) that your version of the execution leads to better, long-term performance in the squat and HT. And that that version would additionally train the antagonists muscles in a substantial way; yeah, thats why nobody needs to do pull-ups, bc theyre already benching, they dont need to bench either, bc theyre rowing, they dont need curls bc they have triceps extensions and they dont need deadlifts for the erector spinae cause theyre working their abs with situps (and the erector spinae in the eccentric portion of the exercise).
            Pretty ridiculous claims – and zero evidence.

  • David Bernard says:

    Most interesting ! What does this mean / what are the training implications for Sprint Cyclists ?? Could I ask for some feedback / comment ? Thanx!

  • Anoop says:

    Great post Bret! Honest as always.

    Honestly, I still did’t see hip thrust increasing even in your study. The improvements were not significant and the CI were very wide. So i don’t see the evidence for the force-vector theory as you see it.

    • Hi Anoop. Thanks for your insight. When we calculated p-values, they came up as “significant.” But we chose not to use them. Out of curiosity, have you ever worked with athletes or trained anyone as a personal trainer? Thanks again!

  • Anoop says:

    Hey Bret,

    If it was significant, why are you saying you are wrong. you have 1 study in favor and 2 studies not in favor! That means we clearly need more studies!

    I haven’t worked with athletes. All my clients are mainly older clients hence my research in that area too. The only job I ever had was a personal trainer and has worked in worked in 6 different gyms. I ran a fitness center for almost 5 years and had trainers working for me and still trained people at the gym.

    And, if you don’t post statistical significance in a journal article people will obviously question the results. I hope you understand that.

    • Yes I understand it completely Anoop…the peer-reviewers for JAB demanded that we go that route, and Andrew sort of agreed, so it wasn’t a deal killer for me. Glad to hear you were a personal trainer for many years…what I’ve seen in practice is that every once in a while, you have a client or athlete who sees incredible glute gains, transfer to running, and transfer to squat/deadlift when they begin doing hip thrusts, leaving no doubt in my mind that it works well for some folks. But regarding the doubt…another guy emailed me and is trying to publish a study – he found significant differences with hip thrusts but there was a 2-week taper at the end. So I’m now thinking that the results depend very much on the program design and population (and we need much more research as you’ve indicated). Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Anoop says:

    Hey Bret,

    I know. I usually do most of the stuff reviewers ask just to please them though I may not agree. this was a bit weird though.

    If it werent for my clients and training, I wouldn’t be in this! Without practical application, exercise field is pretty much a big zero. Almost all my articles like pain stuff, posture stuff, FMS and such because I use them on clients and had questions. And i cannot work like you guys can because of my visa restrictions but still does somehow. Infact, not training now bcos of my post doc is killing me

    And to be honest, in exercise field, we need a lot more studies to come to a conclusion, like a meta-analysis. We do studies with very few sample sizes and not much quality control. So I think you just need to waiit for a few more studies. Take your post down saying you are wrong .hahah

    hope to meet you someday

  • […] 6. Squats Versus Hip Thrusts Part IV: Transfer to Performance […]

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