The Hip Thrust Only Experiment

By September 25, 2013 Glute Training, Glutes

My fiance Diana has an incredible body. She’s currently studying like crazy for nurse anesthetist school and doesn’t have much time to train. Her goal is to keep her booty while training as little as possible.

Just over six weeks ago, I posted a video of Diana squatting 135 lbs for 20 reps, deadlifting 135 lbs for 20 reps, and barbell glute bridging 135 lbs for 25 reps. Here it is in case you didn’t see it.

At that time, I measured her waist, hips, and thighs. Here were her measurements.

Measurements 8/9/13

  • weight 118.8
  • thighs 22″
  • hips 37.5″
  • waist 27″

For the past six weeks, I decided to augment her training. Prior to the time the video above was taken, she was performing one set of squats, one set of deadlifts, and one set of barbell glute bridges to failure every 5 days or so. I wanted to see what would happen if I had her stop squatting and deadlifting and just had her hip thrust.

So for the past six weeks, she’s been doing 2-3 sets of hip thrusts and 1-2 sets of band side lying clams or band seated hip abductions twice per week. Here’s her workout from tonight below.

Below are the measurements that I took today.

Measurements 9/24/13

  • weight 120.0
  • thighs 22″
  • hips 37.5″
  • waist 26.5″

As you can see, her thighs and hips have remained the same size, but her waist has shrunk a half an inch. I can visibly see that her lower erector spinae aren’t as large as they were 6 weeks ago when she was squatting and pulling consistently. She’s happy about this as her back can become too muscular for her liking, as can her thighs.

I would have predicted that she would have gained a half of an inch or so on her glutes during this time, but this wasn’t the case. Of course, it would be interesting to see how quickly her glutes shrunk if she stopped training altogether. She feels that she loses glute size quickly if she quits training, to which I’d agree with her. It would also be interesting to see how her squat and deadlift strength was affected. At any rate, this short case study indicates that lifters can maintain their glute size from just doing hip thrusts and omitting squats and deadlifts.

Hip Thruster barbell band

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

To provide another “Hip Thrust Only” anecdote, I just started training my client Sammie again. She stopped training for a while and has recently only been doing hip thrusts. Today was her first session back and her squat and deadlift strength is through the roof. To be honest, today’s session with Sammie was one of the most impressive displays of strength I’ve ever seen, and it’s crazy that her strength in squats and deadlifts have risen from just performing hip thrusts. Go figure! I’m excited to see how strong she can get now that we’re employing squats and deadlifts again. I’ll post the video of Sammie and my other client Erin training with me soon.

Hopefully some of you find this interesting!

Diana & Bret Playing Smashball in San Diego

Diana and Me Playing Smashball in San Diego

68 Comments

  • Alexander Cortes says:

    This actually reflects the results of my current state of training!!

    I had an injury to the head of my femur a number of months ago (cartilage damage to the load bearing surface) and I have not been able to squat, and only recently been able to deadlift from the floor

    However Ive still been able to hip thrust, and Ive used it as my primary lower body movement up to 3 times a week.

    Despite not squatting or deadlift, I have not lost any size off my legs (have been doing leg extensions and single leg press and Glute 45 degree hypers as well)

    Ive been able to deadlift and squat again this past week, and surprisingly my strength has not significant gone down as well either

    This definitely has application for athletes or anyone that wants to maintain muscularity but are not able to squat or deadlift due to injury

    • Bret says:

      Very cool Alexander! Thanks for the anecdote, I appreciate it. This would make for a great study – see how squat and dl strength and hip/thigh hypertrophy is affected by just employing hip thrusts.

      • Jen says:

        Another mini case study here- injured my knee requiring sticthes, and squats and dead lifts were out for the last 7 weeks. I was still able to hip thrust, so I started doing these heavier than ever before (gradually, of course) My waist also shrunk, legs/hips stayed the exact same. My glutes have never looked better. I’m extremely pleased 🙂

  • freddy says:

    You keep coming up with great articles. Your experiments answers questions many trainers may have.Thank you!

  • Polina says:

    HI Bret!
    Interesting experiment. YOur girlfriend definitely has great booty and legs. Does she train only her lower body, now when she’s studying.?
    I ask because in the photo below you can also see her lats and triceps defined.
    Since i started strong curves program, I feel like my upper body became a bit smaller,( cause I now do only 1- row/press movement in a workout, as apposed to whole back/chest workouts as I was doing before ). If one trains mainly the low half of the body, won’t it overpower the upper half? Or it’s just a metter of sructure of the body and personal preference?

    Have a nice day,

    Polina

    • Bret says:

      Yep, this is all she does. No upper body and no core. Her upper body is naturally very lean so her muscle shows through even if she hasn’t lifted in ages. As for Strong Curves, that surprises me as many report increased upper body strength on SC due to the increased training frequency. For example, if they were doing a bodypart split and only training lats once per week, they’ll see better results training lats several times for week even if they do one exercise compared to several on a bodypart split routine. That said, if you want to add in more upper body to SC, remember that you have a free 10-min window at the end of the workout for “free-time” where you can add in additional work. Have a nice day too! BC

      • Polina says:

        Hi Bret’
        Regarding the upper body and SC, I didn’t mean that my strength in the upper body movements suffered from the program. It stayed approximately the same.
        What I meant was that visually my upper half looks better now, when I do less upper bosy movements. Bedore I started SC, I have done too many press/push exercises for the chest/back. Obviously developing big chest muscles wasn’t my goal/:)

  • Every time I do hip thrusts, I think you should be blessed for making them popular 😉 That is the best glute exercise ever. I especially love the single leg variation. Nothing make my glutes burn like this. And since I’ve been doing them, I feel so much stronger. Actually I do not do the conventional deadlifts as often as I used to, but I am still getting stronger. Besides that, since I am doing the hip thrusts, I notice that my pistol squats are getting stronger and easier. SO you have a huge thank you from the other end of the world 😉

    Ines

  • Saoirse says:

    Wow, Diana has an amazing physique.

    Really interested in the results Sammie had in her squat and deadlift strength from hip thrusts. Going to do my own little n=1 experiment in this area for the next couple of months.

    Congratulations on your engagement, btw!

  • Iris says:

    Is high reps to failure superior to 8-10 reps with higher weights? I am asking because I am still confused about the optimal rep range for glute-building for me. There was a time I only exclusively worked in the 5-6 rep range and this did very little to me…

    • Bret says:

      No, they’re all important. My clients get strong in the 3-5 rep range, 6-12 rep range, and 13-30 rep range. They all feed off of each other and the glutes love it.

  • Qipao says:

    Good morning Bret.
    Hope you answer this: i just got the ibook for SC and planning in doing the only glutes program. I understood that progressive overload is like this: more reps for the bodyweight exercises and more weight for the barbell exercises. Is correct?
    Thanks a lot for this amazing work.

    • Bret says:

      Yep, that’s right Qupao. Building up your hip thrust to be as strong as possible is the main thing, but all the other exercises help out a lot too. Best of luck!

  • Joe Miller says:

    Excellent article. Very relevant to folks that need to take some time off from doing knee-dominant exercises. Nice to learn that we won’t lose all of our progress while resting our knees.

    Thanks again.

  • cameo says:

    Cool experiment and intriguing results!
    I got amazing results from SC and one of the things I noticed most was how much more proportional my body looks now – reason being my waist got smaller and my glutes grew! I was amazed that Hip Thrusts did so much for my entire lower body, waist included. Now I look forward to them every training sesh and am throwing in an extra set whenever I have time! Great post! (And I must admit I am a bit jeals of her genetics – what a great physique! Go, Diana! )

  • Elaine says:

    She looks awesome. How tall is she? (And congrats!!)

  • Paul says:

    She only does a couple of sets of hip thrusts a couple times a week? That seems like low volume. Is that all it takes? Is she doing other lower body exercises or is that it?

    • Bret says:

      Paul, in a perfect world I’d have her doing this 5-6 days per week. It’s very low volume indeed, and she’d undoubtedly benefit from training with more volume and more frequency. But she’s in school right now and her studying is intense. So she doesn’t have much time. But this is all she does right now and as you can see it serves her well.

  • Lori says:

    I’m currently recovering from surgery and cannot use exercises that engage my core and chest for awhile. I’m always racking my brain to find ways to maintain my physique while recuperating. Your article gave me hope (and ideas!).

  • Amanda says:

    This is totally off topic, but… Did she go from your girlfriend to your fiancee?? CONGRATULATIONS!! : )

  • Eric Engelken says:

    Hey bret would you ever be interested in having an intern starting next summer?

  • Kyle says:

    Bret this is very interesting. I’ve been dealing with back issues lately, so most bilateral leg exercises, such as squats and deadlifts have been out of the question for me. My only saving grace has been hip thrusts, so its encouraging to see that my squat and deadlift numbers might not have dropped as much as I thought!

  • Ceyenne says:

    You’re the only trainer who actually talks about avoiding muscle gain in certain places while increasing booty mass lol. It is very much appreciated.

    I used to box and am pretty strong/advanced in the upper body (according to your chart on female strength). I always trained full body and have found that my traps are too big for my preferences.

    If your female clients aren’t happy with their trap size do you have them omit deadlifts and upper body lifts completely? I was considering switching to single leg rdl’s and training my upper body minimally.

    • Bret says:

      Great question Ceyenne! In your situation, definitely stick to:

      1. Hip thrusts and bridges
      2. Lateral band exercises
      3. Single leg squatting movements such as pistols and deficit Bulgarian split squats
      4. Single leg RDLs and single leg back extensions

      This will definitely minimize upper body muscle activation while maximizing leg and glute activation.

  • Galen Gentry says:

    Wot! You’re a lucky guy! She’s a knock out.

  • You’re right. Her body is incredible. It’s so reassuring and validating to know that there is indeed more than one way to skin a cat. Thank you!

  • Emilia says:

    So, she lost fat and gained muscle at the same time or am I totally misundestanding the results?

    • Bret says:

      No, due to natural fluctuations in bodyweight she could have been holding some water, so her weight was the same, her muscle in the thighs and glutes stayed the same, but her waist size diminished a bit due to decreased erector and abdominal activation. So the only result was a slightly smaller waist.

  • carol says:

    Hi Bret, would you recommend hip thrusts and bridges if someone has the wrong pattern and activate first quads-hip flexors-glutes everytime she is asked to activate glutes (while standing or side lying?)
    Thanks!

    • Bret says:

      I’d do some prone hip extension drills and feet elevated bridges and crouched lateral band walks and RKC planks along with rectus femoris stretches prior to doing the heavier hip extension exercises. But I’d never avoid them altogether.

  • Irene says:

    I actually have had the same thing happen to me. I lost about an inch & a half from the waist & an inch from my thighs but my hip/butt stayed the same & I was doing hip thrusts like every day for a month. Also, off topic, but have you ever tried hip thrust w/feet elevated on a stability ball? I just tried that but felt it more in my hamstrings than glutes.

  • Mike says:

    Hey Brett. I’ve been doing the same experiment in a slightly different manner so it’s awesome to see this post!

    For three months,my only lower body training consists of hip thrusts and weighted back extensions twice a week (5×5 and 3×10 days) for glute/hamstring development in an effort to increase leg hypertrophy and speed for Flag Football that I play on Sunday. I’ve taken measurements of my thighs and glutes as well as the triple long jump. I would measure 40 yd or 100 m times but these are too inconsistent.

    I’ve been at it for 1 month so far and have yet to measure for progress. Just wanted to say thank you for the inspiration and I hope that I see progress in these metrics because, as much as I enjoy squatting and deadlifting, their carryover to sprinting and sport performance has been questionable for me.

  • Jim says:

    Bret-

    Congrats on your engagement. Your experiment is interesting to me, as I too have limited time for exercise. For general fitness, do you think it’s better to use limited time to focus on one exercise (like Diana) or just do fewer sets of more exercises? I’ve gone back and forth with this idea. It’s really a variation on the body part split vs. whole body debate.

    Thanks. And keep up the good work!

  • ggs says:

    Congrats to you and Diana…Wishing the both of you all the best life has to offer….

  • cman says:

    should i do my hip thrust till failure Bren to increase glute size? Nice blog and information, i will try the hip thrust.

  • Dee says:

    Hello Bret, I just came up on this site today and am very glad I did! Quick question, your girlfriend’s hips are 37.5 and mine are 37 and I’d like to know what size pants she wears? I’d like to compare. Thanks.

  • Sasha says:

    Hi Bret! I’m in a pretty deep cut just for the few weeks before a beach vacation. Right now I work out 2x a week doing squat deadlift, hipthrust and back extensions. I’m progressing nicely on all considering low weekly calories, but I was wondering, if I only care about getting smaller allover except for my butt, would I do better during the cut keeping it even simpler with just hip thrusts or on a program like the one you have here for Diana?

    BTW what sort of bands should I use for seated abductions?

    Thanks!

  • christa says:

    No matter what exercise I do, my thighs get bigger and my butt smaller. I eat 2300 calories and 90 g of protein, and I started doing elevated hip thrust and kick backs but still my legs seem to get more bigger than my butt. Can yu help me?

  • C-man says:

    Will doing the hip thrust to failure increase my glute size and strength? I am a guy and i want to see if i can grow my glutes to a bigger proportion by building glute muscule mass. Can someone please answer this questions? Girls are not the only gender who needs ans wants powerful glutes.

  • C-man says:

    Thanks, bret. Another question though: If hip thrust build the upper glues then what part of the glutes does the barbell glute bridge build?

  • C-man says:

    what is better for building glute mass the hip thrust or barbell glute bridge?

    • Bret says:

      I like hip thrusts more due to the added hip ROM. But some lifters feel their glutes working more during bbgb’s and can go heavier, so it depends on the lifter. This would make for a great study one day…hip thrusts versus bbgb’s on glute hypertrophy.

  • C-man says:

    for the glute bridge do i complete each rep by touching the floor or should i not touch the floor at all?

  • dreana says:

    Hey Bret i ran pass your website today looking for exercises on Google, and before and after pictures on glute training and THANK GOD i found your site. lol I want to make my butt bigger im obsessed with big butts i was going to go a very risky surgery to get a bigger butt, and i just aaid you know what im going to work out to get a bigger butt because that is the most safest and healthiest way. Which program should i use to get a bigger butt, i also want my waist to get smaller and have that S curve starting from my back to my butt that i’ve seen some girls have. Also i normally do have a bigger back than normal females i guess cause i have broad shoulders, so when workout my upper body in the gym like push ups, dumbbell over head press and stuff like that i feel like my back is getting more wider than my liking, any help?

  • jayce says:

    Does it matter when training glutes the time between sets of break?
    and do it do one set to failure

  • Naomi says:

    I would like to offer my opinion about why you are mistaken about Diana’s hip measurements that you believe remained the same. I beg to differ. We all know you can’t spot reduce. If Diana lost half an inch of fat around her waist then it is possible she lost half an inch of fat around her hips and gained half an inch of glute muscle.

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