Want Strong, Shapely Glutes? Try Doing Barbell Hip Thrust

The barbell hip thrust exercise is a great option for increasing size and strength in the hip musculature, specifically the glutes. Like a squat or a deadlift, the hip thrust is a compound movement that targets a large number of muscles in the lower body. This particular exercise is ideal for building both strength and size due to the heavy loads typically used. As an example, see the video below.

Take a break from those other more popular leg exercises for a while. Add barbell hip thrust to change things up a bit. This exercise is great for breaking through plateaus for other leg exercises like a squat. Give those other compound leg exercises a break for a few weeks. Transition to a barbell hip thrust along with single-leg exercises for a period before coming back to the squat and deadlift.

Major Muscle Groups Targeted

Exercise Execution

Position the body on the bench so the back touches the bench just below the shoulder blades. Keep the feet flat on the floor with knees bent.

Olympic bar rests across the hip crease with both hands holding onto the bar.

Keep chin tucked and the ribs down.

Lift the hips off the ground performing hip extension. The key is to raise the hips high enough to get maximal hip extension.

The knees are at 90-degree angles and both body and thighs are parallel with the floor at the end (top) of the movement. Keep chin tucked.

Do not over-arch the back during the movement.

The Barbell Hip Thrust Exercise Performed by Jefit Elite Member

Image Credit: @don_fit on Instagram

Does Barbell Hip Thrust Offer More Muscle Activation than a Squat?

Some would say the barbell hip thrust offers a higher glute activation than a squat when looking solely at the involvement of the gluteus maximus. The best way to get more of an understanding is through EMG analysis. Let’s compare the two exercises through research. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine concluded “the mechanics of the BHT favors the greater activation of the extensor muscles of the hip compared to more conventional exercises.” A second study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning, in 2018, also suggested that the hip thrust movement may be optimal for training the gluteus maximus muscle group in comparison to the back squat and split squat. Finally, some additional information from Bret Contreras, PhD, a leading expert on the hip thrust movement, presented here.

Workout with Jefit

Millions of members are having great success using the Jefit app. One such individual is Don who, pound for pound, is one of the strongest individuals we’ve come across in our Jefit community. Check out some of his amazing instagram posts. Jefit is a fitness app that comes equipped with a customizable workout planner, training log, the ability to track data and share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s 1400 exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Stay strong with Jefit.

References

Neto, W.K., et al., Barbell Hip Thrust, Muscular Activation and Performance: A Systematic Review. J Sports Sci Med. 2019 Jun; 18(2): 198–206.
Published online 2019 Jun 1.

Williams, M., et al., Activation of the Gluteus Maximus During Performance of the Back Squat, Split Squat, and Barbell Hip Thrust and the Relationship With Maximal Sprinting. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2018. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002651

Top photo – Image credit: Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Best Leg Exercises According to Science

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What two leg exercises would you add to a training routine when you get back to the gym? It will depend on individual goals and what’s available in terms of exercise equipment. With all things being equal, one way to determine what the best leg exercises are is through research. More specifically, electromyography or EMG research, is a topic that should be part of the decision making process. Previous content that looked at EMG was published here.

Best Leg Exercises via EMG Research

An EMG device is basically used for measuring very small amounts of electricity generated by muscles right below the surface of the skin. The result of electrodes placed on the skin, show what percentage of muscle area is activated during a specific exercise. According to various EMG research data, the following exercises rate highly when looking for the best in class for muscle activation.

Free Weight Exercise: Squat

From an EMG standpoint, the best free weight exercise, no surprise here, is the Squat exercise. It’s a complete multi-joint exercise that is also functional.

Trainer Tips:

  • Doing dropsets is great for improving the amount of weight someone is lifting with the Squat. This is where you reduce the weight by about 25% once muscular failure is reached, and then continue with your set.
  • Manipulate the rest time between sets to increase training intensity.
  • Try to increase reps – on occasion – from 8-12 (for hypertrophy training) to more in the 12-15 rep range.
  • The deeper you go in a Squat, the more you activate your quads & glutes but beware of the knee joint.
  • The best angle is about 70-degree or thighs “roughly” just below parallel with the floor.

Machine-based Exercise: Hack Squat

When it comes to an equipment-based exercise to activate the thigh muscles, run to get in line for the hack squat. EMG data was actually higher in some studies than even a barbell Squat most likely because individuals can push a heavier amount of weight.

Trainer Tips:

  • Once the hack squat is mastered, progress to different foot positions and widths (narrow/wide), and ultimately to one-leg.
  • Switch body position on occasion, facing froward/backward on the machine.
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Jefit Leg Focused Training Programs

The Jefit app features currently more than 3350 different strength training programs on its platform. The following three are just a few with a strong focus on the legs and lower body. Stay Strong!

Lower Body Strength Program

Barbell Workout (3-Day Split)

8-Weeks to Bigger Legs

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The Science Behind the Best Back Exercises

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There are literally hundreds of different exercises to choose from when developing a Jefit strength training program. That number can easily increase to over a thousand when considering all the different exercise variations. The Jefit database, as an example, has more than 1,300 different exercises. Have you ever thought about what the best exercises are or what’s the perfect exercise to choose for a program? One way to choose the best exercise is from an EMG standpoint. In this particular case, we’re going to talk about the best back exercises. Some back exercises are much better than others in terms of muscle recruitment or activation.

Electromyography (EMG) Measurements

Electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles. Usually performed in a research or rehabilitation setting, EMG records the movement of muscle. EMG is based on the premise when a muscle contracts, a burst of electric activity is generated. The higher the load, the higher the firing rate. Muscle contraction strength is related to the number of motor units in the muscle. Finally, here is a definition of EMG from John Hopkins Medicine. EMG “measures muscle response or electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle.”

How do Muscles Move?

Movement actually begins in the brain, specifically with the motor cortex, where neural activity signals the spinal cord, and information about the movement is conveyed to the relevant muscle by way of motor neurons. We can fast forward a bit, a muscle then contracts and produces movement. As muscle fibers contract, they shorten, performing a concentric contraction. Conversely, when muscle fibers lengthen, an eccentric contraction is performed.

A question for you. Can you manage more weight doing a bicep curl when lifting the weight up (concentric contraction) or when lowering the weight (eccentric contraction)? The answer is, you’re stronger during the eccentric phase, where you can actually handle 1.75 times more weight! In addition, 3% more muscle hypertrophy is produced over time during the eccentric phase.

Best Back Exercises Based on this Criteria?

The largest muscle groups that make up the back include the trapezius and latissimus dorsi. There are other smaller muscle groups as well like the rhomboids. Exercise selection typically depends on what a persons goals are, experience level, and equipment availability. All things being equal, the following exercise list includes some of the best back exercises you can do based on EMG.

One study looked at the EMG activation of various muscle groups while doing Pull-ups and Chin-ups. EMG data showed the highest muscle involvement coming from the latissimus dorsi (117-130% range), and biceps brachii (78-96% range).

Other back exercises with a high EMG output were: Dumbbell Bent-Over Two-Arm Row (93%), One-Arm Dumbbell Row (91%), T-Bar Row (89%), Lat Pull-down (86%) and Seated Pulley Row (83%) rounded out the highest EMG activity. Other research on performing a lat pull-down to the sternum with a light lean back also worked well (101%).

There are other exercises, like the Squat and Deadlift that focus on hips and legs but also recruit many other muscle groups, like the back. Both are considered great total-body exercises but the back is used more as a stabilizer than a prime mover compared to a Bent-over Row or Pull-up.

You now have a few back exercises, ranked by science, that you can hopefully start to use more often in your Jefit workouts. Stay Strong!

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