The hip thrust has over time become one of the more popular lower body exercises that primarily trains your glutes. But, does the hip thrust improve your squat?
Additionally, we’ll also be evaluating the reverse of this, can the squat improve your hip thrust?
In this article, we’ll be answering these questions based on two cool research papers.
Comparing the Hip Thrust and Squat
The hip thrust has you place the bar on your hip crease, while your upper back is located on something elevated (like a bench).
The load primarily aims to flex your hips, and thus you must produce hip extension. This hip extension would be carried out primarily by the gluteus maximus.
There is some movement at the knee joint, but overall this is minimal. As most already know, hip thrusts are probably not going to significantly hypertrophy the quadriceps in the long run.
With the squat, the bar placement would vary depending on the squat variation. With the hip bar back squat, the load is placed on your traps, with the low bar back squat, the load is placed on your rear deltoids, and with the front squat, the load is placed on your anterior deltoids.
Regardless of the squat variation, the load attempts to flex your spine, hips, and knees. Therefore you must produce spinal extension, hip extension, and knee extension. The spinal erectors carry out spinal extension, the gluteus maximus & adductors almost entirely carry out hip extension with the squat, and the quadriceps carry out knee extension.
When comparing the hip thrust to the squat, the key similarity here is that both movements heavily involve the gluteus maximus.
Let’s now move on to answering the article’s question.
Does the Hip Thrust Improve Your Squat? (And Vice Versa)
The first study we’ll overview is this one by Hammond et al.
They had 14 trained men (minimum of 6 months of training experience) assigned to either a back squat group or hip thrust group.
The back squat group performed the high bar back squat only. The hip thrust group trained the hip thrust only.
Both groups trained their respective exercise for 3 sets to failure with an 80% one-rep max load, twice per week for 4 weeks.
One-rep max on the high bar back squat and hip thrust was measured before and after the 4 weeks for both groups.
On average, the squat group increased their front squat three-rep max by 12.9%, while they increased their hip thrust three-rep max by 21.2%.
The hip thrust group on average increased their squat one-rep max by 7.7%, while they increased their hip thrust one-rep max by 24.8%.
The graphs above also include the data for each individual. It should give you a fair idea of how varied individual responses can be.
Anyway, as we can see, the squat group experienced the greatest increase in squat one-rep max, while the hip thrust group experienced the greatest increase in hip thrust one-rep max. According to the principle of specificity, this would be expected.
That said, the squat group did experience a notable increase in their hip thrust one-rep max (13.3%). Likewise, the hip thrust group also experienced a notable increase in their squat one-rep max (7.7%).
Therefore, the hip thurst does seem to improve your squat. The reverse of this is also true, the squat does seem to improve your hip thrust.
Before we try to explain why these two exercises seem to have a decent carryover, let’s explore another study by Contreras et al.
They had 24 trained men (at least one year of squatting experience) allocated to either a squat group or hip thrust group.
The squat group performed the front squat, while the hip thrust group performed the hip thrust.
Both groups trained their respective exercise twice per week for 6 weeks.
In week 1, 4 sets of 12 reps to failure were performed. In weeks 2 and 3, 4 sets of 10 reps to failure were performed. In weeks 4 and 5, 4 sets of 8 reps to failure were performed. In the last week, 4 sets of 6 reps to failure were performed.
A three repetition max for the front squat and hip thrust was measured before and after the 6 weeks for both groups.
On average, the squat group increased their front squat three-rep max by 12.9%, while they increased their hip thrust three-rep max by 21.1%.
The hip thrust group, on average, increased their front squat three-rep max by 7.1%, while they increased their hip thrust three-rep max by 42.8%.
Similar to the Hammond et al. study, the squat group experienced the greatest increase in front squat three-rep max, whereas the hip thrust group experienced the greatest increase in hip thrust three-rep max. Again, according to the principle of specificity, these results are expected.
However, like the Hammond et al. study, there was a good degree of carryover between the front squat and hip thrust. The squat group experienced meaningful increases in their hip thrust three-rep max (21.2%). The hip thrust group also experienced meaningful increases in their squat three-rep max (7.1%).
Why Does the Hip Thrust Improve Your Squat, and Vice Versa?
Based on the two valuable studies overviewed in this article, it’s clear to see that the hip thrust does improve your squat. Additionally, the squat does improve your hip thrust.
But why is this?
Overall, the reasons are probably similar to why the squat and deadlift have some degree of carryover.
As mentioned earlier in this article, one of the key similarities between the squat and hip thrust is they both heavily involve the gluteus maximus.
Training either of these exercises for some time would result in hypertrophy of the gluteus maximus.
Assuming this hypertrophy is myofibrillar hypertrophy, growth of the gluteus maximus would allow it to produce more force. In other words, this muscle is now stronger.
A stronger gluteus maximus would allow you to be stronger in both the squat and hip thrust. This is likely why the hip thrust and squat have some degree of carryover.
However, something that is worth mentioning is that the stronger you get on either the squat or hip thrust, the less carryover there would likely be between the two exercises.
Once you become extremely strong on either of these exercises, your gluteus maximus is going to be certainly very well developed, and thus the further growth you would experience would be less and less.
Moreover, other factors such as coordination and overall technique are important when it comes to getting strong on a particular exercise. This relates to the principle of specificity.
When moving impressive weight on either the hip thrust and/or squat, training only one of the exercises for numerous weeks would probably reduce your coordination and overall technique on the other exercise, negatively impacting strength.