A Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis Electromyographic Activity in the Back Squat and Barbell Hip Thrust Exercises

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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  • 1 Auckland University of Technology
  • | 2 Arizona State University
  • | 3 CUNY Lehman College
  • | 4 Strength and Conditioning Research Limited
  • | 5 Edith Cowan University
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The back squat and barbell hip thrust are both popular exercises used to target the lower body musculature; however, these exercises have yet to be compared. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare the surface electromyographic (EMG) activity of the upper and lower gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, and vastus lateralis between the back squat and barbell hip thrust. Thirteen trained women (n = 13; age = 28.9 years; height = 164 cm; mass = 58.2 kg) performed estimated 10-repetition maximums (RM) in the back squat and barbell hip thrust. The barbell hip thrust elicited significantly greater mean (69.5% vs 29.4%) and peak (172% vs 84.9%) upper gluteus maximus, mean (86.8% vs 45.4%) and peak (216% vs 130%) lower gluteus maximus, and mean (40.8% vs 14.9%) and peak (86.9% vs 37.5%) biceps femoris EMG activity than the back squat. There were no significant differences in mean (99.5% vs 110%) or peak (216% vs 244%) vastus lateralis EMG activity. The barbell hip thrust activates the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris to a greater degree than the back squat when using estimated 10RM loads. Longitudinal training studies are needed to determine if this enhanced activation correlates with increased strength, hypertrophy, and performance.

Bret Contreras and John Cronin are with Auckland University of Technology, Sport Performance Research Institute, Auckland, New Zealand. Andrew D. Vigotsky is with the Department of Kinesiology, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ. Brad J. Schoenfeld is with the Department of Health Sciences, CUNY Lehman College, Bronx, NY. Chris Beardsley is with Strength and Conditioning Research Limited, London, UK. John Cronin is also with the School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Brad J. Schoenfeld at brad@workout911.com.