Baby Got Back! Best Glute Exercise!
Okay ladies, this is going to hurt so I am just going to say it, “Squats are not the best exercise for getting better glutes!” What about all the Brazilian Butt workouts and Get a Better Butt articles which say that squats are the best exercise for building a great butt. The squats “used” to be the best exercises for getting a better but before the newest research published in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics, which found that there is a new king of glute exercises for women.
The back squat and barbell hip thrust are both favorite exercises used to target the glutes; however, there has never been a head to head study comparing hip thrusts to squats for glute activation. Researchers examined the surface electromyographic (EMG) activity of the upper and lower gluteus maximus, biceps femoris (i.e. hamstrings), and vastus lateralis (i.e. quadriceps) between the back squat and barbell hip thrust. This means they hooked up sensors all over the ladies glutes and legs and measures the muscle activation of the muscles during exercise. Thirteen trained performed estimated ten-repetition maximums in the back squat and barbell hip thrust.
At the end of the study, the barbell hip thrust elicited significantly greater activation of the glutes compared to squats:
Hip Thrust Squats
Upper Gluteus Maximus
mean 69.5 vs. 29.4%
peak 172 vs. 84.9%
Lower Gluteus Maximus
mean 86.8 vs. 45.4%
peak 216 vs. 130%
mean 40.8 vs. 14.9
peak 86.9 vs. 37.5
The barbell hip thrust activates the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris to a greater degree than the back squat when using estimated 10RM loads. There were no significant differences in mean or peak vastus lateralis EMG activity. Longitudinal training studies are needed to determine if this enhanced activation correlates with increased strength, hypertrophy and performance.
Contreras B, Vigotsky AD, Schoenfeld BJ, Beardsley C, Cronin J. A Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis EMG Activity in the Back Squat and Barbell Hip Thrust Exercises. J Appl Biomech. 2015 Jul 24.