Squats have been crowned the king of lower-body exercises for years. But recently, hip thrusts have gained popularity and threaten to dethrone squats as the go-to glute exercise. Both movements have their pros and cons, but hip thrust fans boasted their favorite exercise held a unique benefit: Building strong and shapely glutes without adding muscle mass to your thighs. This alone was enough to make many gym-goers opt for hip thrusts instead of squats.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
But are hip thrusts really superior to squats when it comes to building a better backside?
Little research existed to challenge that claim until recently. A 2020 study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine compared the effects of squats and hip thrusts on strength gains and hypertrophy (increased muscle size) in the glutes and quadriceps (front of the thigh). The study found squats resulted in not just an increase in quadriceps size (12.2% compared to 2% for hip thrusts), but that squats increased glute size by 9.4% compared to just 3.7% for hip thrusts.
Per this study, squats can increase muscle mass in the glutes and thighs more than hip thrusts, but as previously believed, hip thrusts isolate the glutes more than squats. So, if you want to build your booty while keeping your legs the same size, hip thrusts fit the bill.
However, that doesn’t mean you should stop doing squats. To get the best of both worlds, you’d benefit by doing two lower-body workouts per week — with one workout focusing on hip thrusts and the other on squats.
MASTER THE SQUAT AND HIP THRUST
Make sure you pick the right squat and hip thrust variation based on your strength and experience level. This ensures proper technique and that you maximize your glute gains.
Here are two great articles to brush up on squat and hip thrust form:
SAMPLE WORKOUT ROUTINES
Here are two sample workout routines, one that focuses on isolating the glutes with hip thrusts, and another that focuses on full lower-body development by using squats and hip thrusts in the same workout.
For both routines, perform the workouts with at least two days off in between (for example, Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday). Start with lighter weights and try to add a little weight to each exercise (5–10 pounds) each week.
Check out “Workout Routines” in the app to discover and log a wide variety of routines by UA Performance Specialists, or build your own routine with exercises that fit your goals.