Hip strength is a key component for sports performance and rehabilitation following injury. These muscles are key targets of exercise programs in our Boulder Physical Therapy office for conditions including low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, and ankle pain. Previous research has shown the hip thrust is superior to the bridge for gluteus maximus activation. Another trial documented this exercise was superior to the squat for recruiting the posterior hip muscles when the intensity of the exercise was consistent at 75% of maximum voluntary isometric contraction. A recent research article reported on variations of the hip thrust to determine which variations are best for recruiting different muscles in the lower quarter.
Garcia and colleagues in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the muscle recruitment between 4 variations of the hip thrust exercise (2020). Authors studied healthy male subjects to first determine their 1 repetition maximum for the exercise then each subject’s muscle activation was measured using EMG during each of the 4 variations. The 4 hip thrust variations included
Original Hip Thrust
Pull Hip Thrust – cuing to try to pull heels toward backside during the motion
Rotation Hip Thrust – cuing to increase isometric hip external rotation during the motion
Feet Away Hip Thrust – feet were placed one foot further from bench
Authors reported a 31% greater recruitment of gluteus maximus and medius, with less hamstring muscle recruitment, in the rotation hip thrust compared to the original hip thrust. In addition, this variation was shown to produce 90% of subject’s voluntary contractile force with as little as 40% of their 1 repetition maximum weight. In comparison, hamstring muscle recruitment was increased by 30% and quadriceps recruitment was decreased in the feet away hip thrust without a reduction in gluteus maximus recruitment.