Glute development is essential for athletes who need strength and power and everyday people who want to improve their appearance. When looking to increase the size and strength of your glutes, some lifters will suggest that performing squats alone can be sufficient. Our goal was to determine if the hip thrust or the squat is better for developing the glutes.
In this article, we will take a deeper look at the hip thrust and the squat and which one is best for glute development:
The Hip Thrust
The hip thrust is an effective glute exercise that improves hip extension performance, glute activation, and hip power and strength.
The hip thrust is a popular exercise among strength, power, and fitness athletes because it can help build a strong squat and deadlift and improve glute development.
How To Do Hip Thrusts
1. Place the loaded bar in the hip crease.
Position the barbell in your hip crease and adjust your position until you’re comfortable if you’re experiencing pain in your hips while weightlifting, you can try placing a pad or mat in the hip crease to reduce the pressure on your hips from the barbell.
Secure the barbell in the hip crease, so your back is flat and flexed, with the feet pushing downwards into the heels and with bent knees.
Your knee joints should be bent at about 90 degrees. This will help increase stability.
2. Stabilize the upper back on the bench.
Position yourself on the bench so your upper back is against it and your body forms a 90-degree angle with the floor.
To perform the exercise correctly, your shoulder blades should be pressed into the bench. Or if you’re working without a bench your head and upper back should be pressed against the floor.
When doing the hip thrust, try to lift your hips so that your torso is parallel to the floor. If you’re uncomfortable on the bench or upper back, you may need to adjust your position.
3. Press through the heels and lift the hips.
Sit on the bench with your upper back pressed against the backrest so that your body forms a 90-degree angle with the floor.
The head and upper back should be on the bench or slightly behind. Shoulder blades should be pushed into the bench.
When performing the hip thrust, you should be able to lift your hips upwards so that the torso is parallel to the floor. If you feel you cannot complete the full thrust, you may need to readjust your position on the bench, adjust where your upper back rests on the bench, drop the weight down, or use a stable platform that is lower than a standard bench. If you don’t have a bench, you may thrust from the floor, bringing your calves to a 90-degree angle to your torso.
The hip thrust is a movement in which you thrust your hips forward, using your glutes and hamstrings for strength. This movement can help to increase the power of your glutes and hamstrings. Below are the main muscle groups used during the hip thrust:
- Gluteus Maximus (hip extension)
- Gluteus Medius and Minimus (hip abduction and stability)
The hamstrings help the hip thrust movement by aiding in hip extension.
Squats are an excellent way to build muscle mass and strength and can also help train your body for movements that are common in daily life and sports. Many different types of squats are used in power, strength, and fitness sports; each providing benefits for developing leg, back, and gluteal muscles.
How To Do Squats
1. Set your base.
Position the barbell across the back of your shoulders and hold it in place with your hands. Action: Place a barbell in a rack and position it across your shoulders, holding it in place with your hands. This is key because it’s your chance to engage your upper back properly (step 2), set a firm foundation with your core, and mentally prepare for un-racking the barbell.
It is recommended that you place your feet in the squat stance or slightly narrower when taking the weight off the rack hooks, as you want to think about “squatting” the load rather than stepping in and out with one foot, etc. This is especially the case as the loads get heavier.
This step is crucial when lifting heavy weights. Do not rush this process.
2. Get a grip.
The width of your grip on the barbell will vary, but it’s vital to grasp the barbell fully. This will allow you to maximally contract the upper back/traps/forearms to secure the barbell in the high-bar squat position properly. The barbell should be placed on the traps rather than on the rear delts or lower on the back.
When performing this exercise, actively flex your upper back and traps by pulling them into the barbell. This will provide some “padding” for the barbell to rest on.
Additionally, avoid arching the back too much, as this can result in a loss of tension and bracing in the stomach area.
Squeeze the bar and find a secure position. Make sure that the barbell is close to your body and that you are stable before lifting.
3. Get out and get stable.
When you are ready, take the barbell out of the rack by either taking 2 or 3 steps (this is often the best way to minimize barbell movement and conserve energy).
Your feet should be approximately hip-width apart, with your toes pointing outwards. Modify the position of your torso so that your chest is held high and your core and obliques are contracted.
It would be best if you did not lean too far forward, as this will cause you to lose your balance.
Coach’s Tip: This can be challenging and inconsistent for many beginner and intermediate squatters (the pre-squat routine). Practicing the same setup and walkout techniques every time you squat will help it become more automated.
4. Pull yourself down into the squat.
Stand with your feet flat on the ground, distributed evenly. Slightly push your hips back and allow your knees to bend forward, tracking over your toes.
Keeping the upper back locked minimizes the forward lean or collapse of the thoracic spine.
To create space for the belly, think about gripping the floor with the toes and widening the thighs. A common cue is “knees out,” which can help some people.
Try to straighten your torso so that your abdominal muscles and hip flexors help lower your body.
When lowering yourself into the squat, take your time and be aware of your bodyweight distribution and any tendencies you have to collapse your torso.
5. Squat to depth and stand up.
Many people squat to a depth where their thighs are parallel to the ground or lower. Once you have assumed the desired depth, push your back upwards into the bar by moving your feet aggressively through the floor. Make sure to keep weight in the heels (and toes). As you stand, keep your chest high and core locked.
Make sure your back is straight, and your heels are on the ground. A good rule to go by when assessing someone’s high-bar squat technique is that their shin should be at a parallel angle to their spine.
The intersection of the angles could indicate that the person has a forward lean, which is not ideal.
You should feel your legs working when you do this exercise, as well as your upper back and hips.
The squat is a lower body movement focusing on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. The amount of muscle groups targeted in a squat depends on the squat’s style, such as back vs. front, low bar vs. high bar, etc.
Generally speaking, the high-bar and front-squat variations target the following:
The low-bar back squat shifts the weight lower on the back, which goes more loading to the:
What Causes Muscle Growth (Glute Science)
1. Mechanical tension
Mechanical tension refers to loading a muscle group through a full range of motion.
You can place tension on a muscle by stretching it passively. You can also actively place pressure and force by flexing it as hard as possible. As you move through a range of motion, you create both passive and active tension on the power-up stroke, which is superior for muscle growth.
Neither the hip thrust nor the squat creates more tension in the glutes than the other. However, the hip thrust produces more vertical force, while the squat produces more horizontal power.
The hip thrust puts more pressure on your glutes at the top of the stroke the whole time you do it.
Research indicates that the hip thrust begins to target the gluteal muscles as soon as the hips start the motion, with the most significant muscular activation happening at the top of the movement.
In the squat, there are portions of the lift where the glutes don’t have to generate any force to move the weight. The glutes are most active in the middle of the ride, but there is less tension on the muscle at the beginning and end of the lift.
This means that when you hip thrust, the tension on your glutes is more consistent, whereas when you squat, the pressure on your glutes will be on and off.
This means that your glutes don’t work as hard during the squat as they do during the hip thrust.