Which variation produces greater glute activation: barbell hip thrusts, American hip thrusts, or band hip thrusts?

Highlights:

  1. The barbell hip thrust trumps the American hip thrust and band hip thrust in mean upper gluteus maximus activation (70% versus 57% and 49%)
  2. The barbell hip thrust trumps the American hip thrust and band hip thrust in peak upper gluteus maximus activation (172% versus 157% and 120%)
  3. The American hip thrust trumps the barbell hip thrust and band hip thrust in mean lower gluteus maximus activation (90% versus 87% and 79%)
  4. The barbell hip thrust trumps the American hip thrust and band hip thrust in peak lower gluteus maximus activation (216% versus 200% and 185%)
  5. The American hip thrust leads to slightly (non-significantly) higher hamstring activity than barbell and band hip thrusts and slightly (non-significantly) lower quadriceps activity than barbell and band hip thrusts
  6. Around 85% of subjects received the highest mean upper glute activation when performing the barbell hip thrust (8% for band hip thrust and 8% for American hip thrust)
  7. Around 77% of subjects received the highest peak upper glute activation when performing the barbell hip thrust (15% for band hip thrust and 8% for American hip thrust)
  8. Around 46% of subjects received the highest mean lower glute activation when performing the barbell hip thrust (15% for band hip thrust and 39% for American hip thrust)
  9. Around 39% of subjects received the highest peak lower glute activation when performing the barbell hip thrust (31% for band hip thrust and 31% for American hip thrust)
  10. The aforementioned variability helps explain how some lifters feel their glutes working to a greater degree in one particular variation compared to another, despite their similar average mean and peak values
  11. Due to the nature of incremental band loading, it was difficult to obtain true 10RMs for the band hip thrust, therefore the band hip thrust probably produces slightly higher EMG values than what was reported in the study
  12. Since muscle activation is similar between the different hip thrust variations, comfort, goals, and logistics should be taken into account when determining the optimal hip thrust variation to employ/prescribe
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Barbell hip thrust

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Click HERE to see how the hip thrust compares to the back squat

Click HERE to see how full, front, and parallel squats compare to each other

* Special thanks to Andrew Vigotsky, Brad Schoenfeld, Chris Beardsley, and John Cronin for their stellar contributions to this research

 

Which variation produces greater glute activation: barbell hip thrusts, American hip thrusts, or band hip thrusts?
By Bret Contreras

Just today, my team got THIS study published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics. We looked at mean and peak upper glute max, lower glute max, biceps femoris (hammies), and vastus lateralis (quads) during the barbell hip thrust, American hip thrust, and band hip thrust. In case you’re not aware of the different variations, check out this video below:

Here are the tables from the study:

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2

Here are two graphs that didn’t make the study (reviewers tend to think having tables and charts is redundant).

Mean

Mean EMG Amplitudes (BBHT = barbell hip thrust, AHT = American hip thrust, BHT = band hip thrust, UGM = upper gluteus maximus, LGM = lower gluteus maximus, BF = biceps femoris, VL = vastus lateralis)

Peak

Peak EMG Amplitudes(BBHT = barbell hip thrust, AHT = American hip thrust, BHT = band hip thrust, UGM = upper gluteus maximus, LGM = lower gluteus maximus, BF = biceps femoris, VL = vastus lateralis)

To read the full paper, click HERE (this study is published ahead of print so it’s not formatted yet, hence the ugly appearance).

Hip Thruster barbell band

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

9 Comments

  • Connor says:

    What does %(MVIC) mean???

    • Bret says:

      It stands for “Maximum Voluntary Isometric Contraction.” We published a paper showing the two MVIC positions we used to normalize our data (divide by the activation shown in the MVIC position). HERE is the link to that article.

  • X says:

    I discovered this a few weeks back Bret… “One of the biggest series of published EMG data by a group out of Hamburg, Germany, found that that the lying hamstring curl with your thighs elevated and a forced contraction of the glutes activated the glutes best,” says Hyde.
    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/the-best-muscle-building-exercises-for-every-body-part.html
    Any thoughts?.

    • Bret says:

      This was their reference: Boeckh-Behrens, WU, Beier, P., & Buskies, W. (2001). Fitness Strength Training: The Best Exercises and Methods of Sport and Health. Rowohlt paperback publishing house.

      I couldn’t find it online but the results don’t surprise me. This would be an end-range contraction position similar to what you get at the top of a hip thrust. And since the experiment didn’t examine hip thrusts, it would have elicited higher glute EMG readings than the other exercises tested (probably squats, lunges, deadlifts, leg press, etc.). But it wouldn’t build the glutes optimally because it’s really an isometric contraction for the glutes…you need hip ROM to maximize glute hypertrophy.

  • JustToning says:

    Hey Bret,

    Slightly tangential to the study: I’m curious if you’ve ever tried a Reverse Bands Hip Thrust, similar to how you would set up bands in the rack for a Reverse Bands Bench Press. The setup is convoluted and time-consuming, and getting into position is a (expletive), but I’ve felt like I get some of the best end-range contractions from these. I can load them exceptionally heavy and get the benefit of a very strong end-range contraction, although the eccentric forces are obviously greatly reduced by the bands. Just wondered about your thoughts on these…

    • Bret says:

      I have not tried this but one day I would like to. The strength curve in a hip thrust is indeed descending, so it makes sense to try reverse bands as it’s heavier at the bottom and lighter at the top. I can imagine this being an effective way to load the glutes in a hip thrust. But yeah, I can see it being a bitch to set up!

  • Clara says:

    Hi Bret 🙂
    In the BB Hip thrust, I’m curious about the significance of letting the barbell lay dead on the ground for a split second between reps, as opposed to keeping constant tension even if the plates are ALMOST down touching the floor. What are your observations on this?
    I imagine that the results could very well have something to do with the difference between the more or less constant tensions in the band hip thrust and American version, vs the ‘dead stop’ BB Hip thrust.
    Maybe the dead stop in the BB Hip thrust all in all forces more muscle fibers to recruit since the rep doesn’t get any ‘help’ from the stretch reflex; maybe it simply recruits more type 2 fibers than the two other variations? What are your thoughts?
    Thanks for another great and interesting article 🙂
    Bests, Clara

  • Cate says:

    I’ve been performing the American hip thrust religiously for about 3 months now. The only reason I perform the American version is its easier to perform. I’m really short, with only a 27″ inseam. Since the benches at the gym are high, maybe too high for me, it is easier to hip thrust with my back on the bench. I get the best burn with 135 lbs, 5 sets of 20 reps. I’ve definitely made progress.

    I’m wondering now if I should be performing barbell hip thrust with higher weight, lower reps. Maybe I’m wasting way too much energy with high rep American hip thrust. Or should I be performing both?

  • Robyn says:

    What does “mean upper glutes” and “peak upper glutes” means ?

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