If you want to grow your glutes, and you’ve looked around online for tips, you’ve almost certainly come across hip thrusts.
But are they better than squats for getting a bigger butt? Should you do squats or hip thrusts?
Well, after years of speculation among booty-building enthusiasts, we now have a scientific study that directly compared hip thrusts and squats in terms of hypertrophy.
And I thought, who better to discuss this study than “The Glute Guy” himself, Dr. Bret Contreras. Not only is Bret a glute training expert, but as the cherry on top (or should I say peach?), he was actually one of the head honchos involved in conducting the study.
In case you’re not familiar with Bret, he’s a PhD in Sports Science, renowned researcher, educator, bestselling author, and a personal trainer for over two decades, whose title “The Glute Guy” reflects his unmatched expertise in lower body training, making him the foremost authority on building a great butt.
Our discussion includes . . .
- The surprising results of the hip thrust versus squats study, including how they compare for glute hypertrophy and non-specific strength transfer
- Bret’s take on a potentially fabricated study that stirred the fitness community
- The benefits and challenges of studying beginner trainees
- An exploration of training the glutes at varied muscle lengths
- The relationship between EMG studies and muscle hypertrophy
- The importance of technique over “feeling the burn” in compound movements
- Nuanced insights into the complexities of muscle growth mechanisms
- Practical strategies for those seeking to optimize their glute training
- And more . . .
So, if you want to learn about the nuances of glute training and how to grow a bigger butt, or want to know what the science says about hip thrusts versus squats, don’t miss this episode!
0:00 – Please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts and make sure to subscribe!
2:39 – Why was this research essential, and what drove its inception?
13:59 – What’s the rationale behind focusing on novice trainees?
17:58 – How would outcomes differ with more advanced lifters?
25:49 – Shop Legion Supplements Here: https://buylegion.com/ and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points!
28:59 – The role of EMG in predicting muscle hypertrophy.
31:42 – EMG’s Relevance in Bodybuilding Science
35:04 – How does this study redefine our understanding of biomechanics and other exercises?
39:22 – What larger impacts does this study have on fitness research?
45:13 – Additional insights from the findings and final thoughts.
49:35 – How to connect with Bret Contreras and his work.
Mentioned on the Show:
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What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: Hello, I am Mike Matthews, and this is Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today for a new episode on the Science of Glute Gains. Specifically, you’re going to learn about a new study on glute hypertrophy that looked at the efficacy of squats versus hip thrusts, and this has been an ongoing debate in the glute growth space.
How good are squats for growing your butt, and how do they compare to hip thrusts? And then you are also going to get some training tips, some practical programming tips for maximizing the efficacy of your glute training. And in today’s episode, you are going to be learning from one of the people who conducted this study.
The glute guy himself, Dr. Brett Contreras, who is a PhD in sports science. He is a renowned researcher, educator, and bestselling author, as well as a personal trainer for over two decades. And as you’ll learn in this interview, the results of this study that Brett conducted with Menno Hensel men’s surprised him a little bit.
They were not what he was expecting. But when you are an active researcher, you get used to such things. You get used to your hypotheses being disproven. The god of glutes has returned, has descended from his lofty throne to regale us with tales of hypertrophy and aesthetics and, okay. I’ll stop now. Hey Brett, it’s good to see you again.
Bret: Thanks for having me on again. It’s been a while.
Mike: Yeah, it’s been a long while. You’ve been busy doing lots of things. Congrats on your book. I know it’s been a little bit now, but I’ve seen that it’s done quite well and I can appreciate that as a dude has written some books.
Bret: Yeah, yours is always recommended when.
Mike: Blame Amazon. Blame Amazon. Uh, well, yeah, again, uh, I appreciate you taking the time to, to do this and we’re gonna be talking about your specialty of course. But, but it is a, it is a great topic for, even though it’s something. You’ve spoken a lot about, but a lot of people listening love to learn more about it.
And, um, I do think today’s discussion is going to be interesting and, and gonna add some context to maybe what some people see people doing in the gym or what’s just kind of generally recommended on social media or opinions that go around on social media. And that is specifically, I thought a, a good framework for the discussion.
Uh, is this study that you and Menno. Funded and worked on. And we can get into some of the details of that and, and then maybe some of the broader implications that we can take from that. So maybe a good place to start is this is a study that you had said you’d been wanting to do for a long time. You were a little bit surprised or there were, there were some outcomes that proved you wrong.
So can you talk a little bit about just why you wanted to do this study and then we can get into some of the details?
Bret: Well, Yeah. First of all, uh, the name of the study was just published, well, it actually hasn’t been, uh, peer reviewed yet. We posted on a, a preprint server. The title is Hip Thrust and Back Squat Training elicits similar Gluteus Muscle Hypertrophy.
And transfer similarly to the deadlift. So if you type that title in, it comes up, you can download the the P d F. So this has been something when I, when I invented the, the barbell hip thrust so many years ago, 17 years ago, almost 18, I remember I would stay awake at night because my clients start telling me, right, I’m running faster.
You know, I haven’t gone running at all. In the last two, three months since training with you, and I just ran a mile and I’m faster and I quit running. It’s the hip thrust, and I’d be like, how do you know it’s the hip thrust? We do like 20 exercises here because I feel like when my foot touches the ground, I feel like more power.
I. Kind of like I like, like I’m using my glutes more like in a hip thrust, so that I remember back in 2006, I would stay awake at night thinking about it. You know what’s different between like a squat and a hip thrust? Well, squats are hardest when you go down deep squats and lunges. You know, hip thrust are the hardest when you lock out.
Took me a long time to learn that all. All you have to say is they have different hip extension, torque angle curves. At that time, I didn’t know, you know, I didn’t. Speak biomechanics. So I went and got my PhD and I didn’t like not knowing the answer to things, you know, I didn’t like. In this study, like most studies provides more questions than answers.
So from the very beginning, I’ve always said, you know, all my articles on my books, hip thrust are superior to squats for growing the glute based on this study. I’m wrong, they’re equal. Statistically speaking, they were very similar. Hip thrust got a slight edge, but not statistically significant. They grew the glute similarly.
Now we’ll get into the nuances, but before I get on this subject, there was a study published in 2020 and kind of a frustrating topic for me because it was a study published by Barlo. I could go on and on about this, but I remember, like, I’ve never been reading a study and thought like, this is fake. This is fake.
But the, the year before this study was published, I was reading a study. Pol and, and it’s this Paulo Gen TEALS lab. He’s a professor in Brazil. And I’m like, I was showing it to my team, my, my Glute Lab trainers. And I remember it like it was yesterday. I was showing them this study and I looked at the data and I go, this is fake data never comes out like this.
It’s never clean. Like they have 20 different graphs and they’re all perfect. Uh, Brad, I published so much with Brad Schoenfeld and we’re always like trying to mix, make sense of the data and we’re like, well, why did this work for this worked? This showed to be the case for quadriceps, but not for the biceps.
Why would they be different? And we’re trying to make sense of it. And I’m like, in all the studies that I’ve published, you know, which is over 50, I’ve never had anything this clean. And I go, this is fake. I called. My buddies at the time I called James Krieger, I called Brad Schoenfeld. I called Andrew Vygotsky and I’m like, I think this study is fake and how could we prove it?
And they’re like, they didn’t care enough back then. They’re like, I don’t know. I don’t know how you’d prove it. So then like a year later, this hip thrust versus squat study gets published and I look and it’s the same group and I’m like, And so I, I glanced over it and I’m like, this is so fake. If you’re a trainer, like I’m in the gym every day, seven days a week.
I think I’m the only evidence-based guy that’s in the gym all day long. Like every other evidence-based guy couldn’t wait to become, become wealthy so they could be behind the desk and I could wait to become wealthy so I could build these gyms and not charge. So I just have. Clients that I train, I don’t have to charge or I don’t have to make revenue from it.
But I, I train people every day. When you train people every day, you know that if you, someone starts off with like squats. So say you start training someone their squats, you know, in six, let’s say 12 weeks, their squats will go up 20 pounds, 30 pounds. Their hip thrust will go up like a hundred pounds.
It’s just the way it is. You know, within a few months I’m getting, people are hip thrusting 2 25 already. You know, it’s just the way it is. So this study didn’t pass the personal trainer test. So then I wrote this writeup about it saying, this is bss. This is like a bunch of crap. It’s not true. Here’s all the reasons why it’s fake.
I thought everyone was gonna be like, yay, Brett. Brett showed us that this is fake. Oh my God. I got, yeah. I was not prepared for this, the industry. This was the first time I’ve, you know, I, I was well-liked before this. I, I, or I thought I was, and so this is the first time I’ve been slammed to this degree.
Memes were made. Brett can’t accept the truth. Trying to pretend like this study’s fake, and I’m like, It’s so obvious that it’s fake. Like it’s so blatantly obvious that it’s fake. No personal trait, no one who actually works with people could even believe this, but a lot of the evidence-based people were like, what a great study.
And I’m like, that’s what kind of made me realize some of the evidence-based crowd is not as smart as they think they are. So at that time, my friend Menno Hanselman and I talked and I’m like, Menno, this study’s fake. So at that time, the statisticians started looking at all the top sports scientists and these guys spent six months analyzing, scrutinizing all of Barolo and Gen TE’s papers.
They basically concluded that they’re all fake, they’re all fabricated. They made these white papers and then like Greg Knuckles put it on his blog. It’s hard to understand. I have a PhD and I don’t understand much of it ’cause it’s high level statistics, but Greg’s blog post does a good job of basically explaining and prs of probability and stuff like that.
Like there’s a. 13 million chance that this would happen. Like it, it wouldn’t, it’s just not the case. But they took so many different angles at it. It was hilarious. Like none the stats led up. But even like you’re taking these, these powerlifters went from like amateur to elite within 16 weeks and like, like from this crappy protocol and it was like this weird periodization protocol where like every fourth week you’re doing super high reps with no rest time, like.
Sets to like 12 to 15 with 30 to 60 seconds rest. So I had my niece do that.
Mike: So you’re you’re going down to the bar essentially?
Bret: Exactly. So that’s, I, I had my niece do it. She could squat 205 pounds, but by the fourth set she was doing 45 pounds and she couldn’t finish the 12 reps and she had, she couldn’t sleep on her stomach.
Because her quads were so sore, like she was messed up from that. Poor Gabby. Anyway, so then when the white paper came out and all the top sports scientists came out and said, look, these are all then the industry. They didn’t believe me ’cause I am. They just like, oh, Brett’s being a hater. He’s just pissed at his hip, his precious hip thrust lost out.
Now they can see, okay, these statisticians are saying it. Now it does pass the sniff test with the sports scientists or the coaches and trainers, and then about four of this group’s papers have been retracted since, so now everyone knows. But at the time I was talking to Minno and I was like, Minno, we should do this study.
We should duplicate it. And he’s like, yeah, and, and we should use M R I because ultra they used ultrasound ultrasound’s hard for the glutes. It’s ultrasound’s fine for some muscles, but the glutes, there’s no bone underneath. You don’t see this clear like skin fat, like muscle. And then, you know, like it’s a fascial border.
That’s hard to, it’s kind of hard to see. You gotta be a skilled technician. So we wanted to use. I, and then we just kinda like lost touch. We covid happened and life goes on. And then coincidentally, I’m talking to Mike Roberts. He wanted to talk to me for some other reason and I’m like, Mike, I’d love to do a like a glute study with you, like a squat versus his hip.
You guys have M R I capabilities you got? And he’s like, I got this guy, Daniel Plotkin. He’s an awesome PhD student. He could do the study. He is a coach, he’s a trainer. And we could do it. And then I’m like, okay, how much would it cost? Okay, we’ll get an estimate for you. And they’re like, 80 grand. I’m like, oh God, okay, I’m gonna do it.
Mike: Is it, is it worth a vindication though? It’s so,
Bret: I was like, you know, I’m getting older, I don’t have kids. I’m not married. I’ve got money. I’ve been lucky to make a lot of money and this is like, I’m so curious, but it needs to be done. So I’m like, I’m just gonna pay the 80. Calls me up. Men’s like, Brett, we gotta get this done.
And I’m like, okay, what do you have in mind? He is like, I got these guys in Norway. I’m like, well, coincidentally, I’ve been talking to Mike Roberts. He can do it, but it’s really expensive. It’s gonna be 80 grand. And he’s like, okay, I’ll split it with you. I was like, what? Like meow. Stepped it up. Didn’t bat an eyelash.
All right, let’s do this. So we both put in 40 grand. We funded the study and you know,
You have to equate volume. You have to make things fair to get it accepted by peer reviewers. You can’t have different volumes and frequencies. So basically, you know, we said, well, we’ll have them squat or hip thrust twice a. Week one, they’re starting out with just three sets. By the end, by like week nine, they’re doing like six sets a day, so twice a week.
So like starting off with like six sets a week of glutes, which is not much ending with 12 sets a week for glutes. But I was always like, you know, that’s the one thing about this study, the everything’s nuanced. The caveat there is that, yeah, we equated volume, but everyone can do way more hip thrust than they can squats, squats.
Beat you up good. Especially if you go to failure. Hip thrust do not beat you up as much. You could do more. So that’s where I still think in the real world, you talk to people and they’re like, my glutes never start growing until I start hip thrusting. I squatted for years. You know, people will say that I squatted for years, Brett.
My glutes never grew until I start hip thrusting. I think it’s ’cause you’re doing a lot more volume
Mike: and you’re probably pushing to failure, close to failure more often on the hip thrust simply because it’s safer. It’s more comfortable to do that than it is to squat, even if it’s not to absolute failure.
Let’s say it’s like zero r i r that is less intimidating on the hip thrust than it is on the squat.
Bret: Well, they, you just, you come up like three quarters of the way, like you don’t quite lock it out. You know, the squat, you’re worried about dying once the, once the weight gets heavy. Yeah, it’s scarier and it’s just that last rep.
You’re like my, sometimes my, actually my voice right now is a little deeper than normal. ’cause I squatted yesterday and I scream as I. Like I just, I’m like on my last rep and yeah, I don’t do that with hip thrust, you know? Okay. So that’s why we needed to do this study. Now what,
Mike: I’m curious why you went with beginners rather than more experienced trainees.
Bret: So I wanted to go with advanced, ’cause I want people to take it seriously, you know? But they said no, we, the first study should be beginners. Because we want the best chance of growing muscle. Beginners grow are gonna grow faster than, you know, if we’re gonna tease out significant differences, we should go with beginners.
I said, okay, that’s a fair point. Future studies, we’ll use advance, but the first study should be on beginners. Some people have, it’s funny, I never thought about this at the time, but some people said, well that gives the hip thrust advantage ’cause it’s an easier lift. Doesn’t require as much coordination.
And then also they think, you know, well, beginners grow from anything. So this doesn’t tell as much. But I don’t think. I’ve seen a lot of studies where advanced grow very differently than beginners. Like they tend to respond similarly. It’s just that beginners will grow more. But that’s a theory out there that some people believe that the, the more stretch related growth, you know, they call it stretch mediated hypertrophy.
My friend Andrew Vygotsky thinks it should be called stretch moderated hypertrophy because mediated, I don’t even know why. He’s a genius. But, um, anyway, some people think like Chris Beardsley, Paul Carter, they have the opinion that as time goes on you don’t get as much, you know, longitudinal like sarcomeres in series.
’cause the muscle can only get so much longer after a certain point. Once it does elongate a little bit, then it’s just sarcomeres in parallel. I always explain this in my seminars, like in series are like sausage links. You’re adding sausages, whereas in, in a, in parallel are like sardines in a can.
You’re adding more sardines after a while, it’s just gonna be, you know, Gains and increases in cross-section, not increases in length. So that’s a theory. Um, it could just be that long length stuff in most muscles signals the muscle to, it’s a better like tighten tight tightens, stretches that is activated more and it’s just better at growing muscle.
Or it could be that’s growing better, growing muscle in beginners. ’cause right now I think there’s 25 studies on this topic of muscle length. I have ’em all in like four different categories. There’s isometrics at like long versus short lengths. There’s full range versus partials. There’s partials versus partials, like partials in the stretch versus partials in the squeeze in the top.
And then there’s different force length exercises that are easy in the stretch and then harder at the top versus exercises that are. Harder in the stretch and easier at the top, different fourth length curves. And they all kind of looking at the same thing. Should you try to have an exercise, be stretch you more and be harder in the stretch or you know, is there benefit to that?
And I think probably outta the 25 papers, like 20. One of them, or 22 of them all show a benefit towards long length training. And it’s been in a lot of muscles now. So, but what about this study? So some people have said, well, this study wasn’t designed to answer the question of whether glute should be trained at long or short lengths.
They want a more targeted study like using like a multi hit machine or something like that. And I’m going. But that doesn’t have ecological validity. This does. So I do think this is a CRI one piece of the puzzle. I think there’s a, a bunch of puzzle pieces that are needed to answer that topic. But glutes could be different.
People just assume the physi muscles, you know, have the same physiology. You know, what were the glute muscle gonna have different receptor, like tighten and things like that, or the things that, probably not. But there are different neural strategies for different muscles. And one thing about the squat, Like going deep into deep hip flexion.
The glutes don’t activate very high. They don’t maximize their neural drive as you go deep. So that could be a F, it could be a limitation with a longer length training. We need a lot more research on this topic.
Mike: And based on what you saw in this study and your extensive experience training many muscle groups and, and also your understanding of the literature, do you have a hypothesis if you were to conduct a study like this with more advanced trainees?
I’m just curious what you think probable outcomes might look like for people maybe who are a bit more advanced in their training. If there’s anything that that might just be interesting for them to think about.
Bret: Yep. I should let you know that Brad and I always joke around, we’re about Brad’s my best bud.
We always joke around that we’re about 50 50 in our hypothesis. We’re not very good. We’re not very good at a hypothesis. We, uh, we, we feel confident about something and we, and we do a study and we’re like, oh, huh, wow. Look at this study, but I’m also biased. I invented the hip thrust. Of course, I’m gonna be biased.
So I do think that advanced subjects would see better growth with the hip thrust.
Mike: And, and when you say that, are you thinking, so let’s say somebody needs to do a, a fair amount of volume per week just to, to get anywhere with their glutes because they’ve trained them quite a bit. They’re strong now and so they need to do 15, let’s say, sets per week for their glutes to, to really see any progress.
And when you say that you think that it’s possible that the hip thrust would beat out the squat, how would you break that up? Are you thinking the majority of their volume would be hip thrust or.
Bret: No, I, I believe in the rule of thirds, which I’ll get to in a second. But one thing I wanna talk about is I had made videos a while back saying the glutes are different than other muscles.
And the reason why they’re different is they have the most active te, they don’t get a lot of passive tension. They come muscles that get a lot of passive tension like your pecs. When you’re at the bottom of a fly, your pecs are like, you know, you think of the hamstrings when you do either like a seated leg curl at the top.
If you’re sitting very upright, or if you’re at the bottom of a, a stiff leg deadlift or something. The, the hamstrings are rock solid. Some muscles like the delts, they don’t even get much tension in the stretch. You can’t stretch ’em that well. You know what I mean? It’s not just that, it’s how the muscle, it’s kinda like the resting sarcomere length and the moment arm, how much it gets stretched, you know, and like it’s the muscle physiology itself.
So I was basing that off of muscle modeling. And Biomechanists use this software called Open Sim and it’s a free software. And I looked at this open sim model and I saw that the ACT peak active tension for the glutes was neutral. So that’s where it gets the most, you know, I’m like, what’s more important?
Active tension or passive tension? If pure passive tension where that important than stretching would be huge for muscle growth. It does grow muscle. It’s just not very efficient. Like you can grow from stretching. It’s just, you gotta do a lot of it.
Mike: Yeah. Or we could just hold weights and just it do like isometrics and we wouldn’t need to lift them.
Bret: Yeah. So what I theorized back then was, well, it doesn’t get a lot of passive tension. Passive tension doesn’t go skyrocket as you go through the range of motion, active tension gets higher than passive tension, so the total tension is highest. So that’s why I made that video. I’m my God, I was dead set glutes.
Are gonna be grow best with short muscle lanes. Not long. And then I came across another study and they referenced a different open sim model. So I downloaded it. And it’s funny, I sent him to, I sent it to Coach Chasm and he and I dissected it, but he modeled, what if the glutes were even bigger, if you had hypertrophy glutes, like, ’cause these models, they’re stringy little.
You know, like they, they’d mimic like elderly people with no muscle. What if you actually had muscle? So he actually went ham on this model modeled if you had hyper perjury, well then you’re getting much greater stretch with the bigger muscles. And this different model we, we looked at had different parameters and it showed the active tension.
Now peak active tension, wasn’t it neutral? It was now at around like, I think it was like 30 degrees of hip flexion and I’m like, What’s the difference between the two models? Like how can this be? And we looked and the only thing they changed was the tendon slack length. So it’s like, do you think they really measured tendon slack with, how do you, how do you even measure that?
How do you measure that with the gluteus maximums, with where like 80% of its fibers attached to fascia? You can’t, it’s not an easy thing to do. I think they just throw in numbers. When you model, you make these assumptions and you gotta make it fit. So now I’m like, okay, now I don’t know what to think.
The muscle modeling, I don’t agree with. Now with E M G, I would’ve predicted the E M G would’ve accurately predicted hypertrophy, but it didn’t in our study, and I, it’s funny ’cause they didn’t wanna do Daniel and Mike didn’t wanna do the E M G. And, uh, I’m like, yes, we’re doing the E M G because MENA and I really want it because we wanted to show MENA was like thinking e EMG iss not predictive of hypertrophy.
And I’m thinking it is, I haven’t told Daniel I’ll, I’ll buy you a beer if you’re wrong. The loser has to buy each other. So I owe a beer. Now, e m G did not predict hypertrophy and what I think is the deal is. Yes, hip thrust gets you much more active tension. They activate the glutes to a higher degree, but they don’t stretch you as much.
The squa gives you more passive tension, more tension in a deep stretch. And so it’s a wash. That’s why they were equal. That’s why they tied, and the E M G doesn’t mention measure the stretch. So it’s so now it’s like you have all these things that we use. We use muscle modeling. Well that’s not all that ’cause it relies on assumptions.
We m g. Well that showed not to be the case. We have sensations. Everyone felt their glutes, all the subject, their glutes working more hip thrust. How much you feel it didn’t equate to more muscle growth? Go even deeper. Alright. What gets you more stretch? The squat that didn’t predict muscle growth. What gets you more sore?
The squat that didn’t line up in our study as being, uh, predictive. So there’s more to hyper perine the meats of the eye. And probably means we should do both. So to answer your question about how would I, if I had advanced subjects, I have this rule, A thirds meaning a third of your volume for glutes should be vertical hip extension exercises.
Those maximize this tension in the stretch, and those involve squats, lunges, split squats, step up deadlift variations, good mornings. Another third should be horizontal. That includes your hip thrust, glute bridge, kickback back extension. Those variations, right? Reverse hypers. And then the remaining third should be abduction.
The reason why you need abduction, and our study showed this. Squats and hip thrust didn’t grow the glute medias or minimus much at all. I think it was like one zero 1% for the squat, and like 3% for the for the hip thrusts. So you’re not meaningfully growing your glute medias. And you know, women want that shelf.
Men should want it too. The glute medias is important. It’s a big muscle group, and it’s a very functional muscle. You should be doing some abduction, and this study showed if you just do hip extension, you’re not gonna grow that muscle. So the remaining third should be abduction. Sometimes in the frontal plane, sometimes in the horizontal plane.
Horizontal plane working. More glute maximus, frontal plane, straight side to side. But actually when you work the glute. You probably shouldn’t go straight out to the side. You should kind of think about the shape of the pelvis because if you go, if you move in the plane of the glute medias, you should probably go at an angle at around, say 30 degrees back, so it’s more abduction than extension, but a little bit back as you basically stay in full hip extension as you abduct.
And so, That’s how it split up the volume. So if they, like you said in this, in the example with 15 sets, I do five, five and five. You know?
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Uh, I’m curious with the E M G, if you could share some more details about why you thought it would’ve been predictive of hypertrophy and what happened and why that might be. Uh, the reason being is I think that that’s, uh, a topic that’s, that’s just relevant to, to other research and other discussions around which exercises are best for which muscle group.
Bret: Because you don’t just get a little bit more activation with the hips, you get a lot more glued activation. And I thought that would matter if there was like just a little bit, like in the case of the, I’ve always said this for decades, like you’ll see like wide grip lat pull downs activate the lats a little bit more than, than close grip pull downs, like supinated pull downs.
But I’ve always said, but supinated gets you a bigger stretch. So which one’s better for hypertrophy? One gets you probably, who knows, you know, 20% more stretch, the other gets you 10% more activation. Do both till we know more. But in this case, hip thrust are getting a lot more glued activation. So I just thought, and based on my experience as a trainer, and it’s funny ’cause like I told my glue squad about this study and they’re like 20 girls.
I’m with like 20 of ’em. They’re like, Brett, I don’t believe it. I don’t buy it. I never start growing until I start hip thrusting and I train people, their glutes grow way better from hip thrusts. I’m like, well, we’re just, this is just one study. We need a lot more. But they’re not equating volume. You know, people do more volume with hip thrusts.
Mike: I mean, how many sets of heavy squats close to failure can you really do in a week? I mean, I would challenge somebody to do
Bret: more than like eight. Yeah, right. I know.
Mike: Yeah. I was gonna say, I would challenge somebody to do more than six.
Bret: Yeah. Really hard sets. I know. So, and with hip thrust, you could do, if all you did was hip thrust, you could do ’em five days a week.
You really could. They don’t beat you up much, and you could do different variations, but what’s optimal? That’s hard to, it’s a different study design and I’ve thought about it a lot, but that’s a whole different topic. We’d need a lot of studies to really clue us in on the optimal way to train the glutes.
This is a one small step if we need start writing those checks, but I. Problem is there’s not many labs that can do m r I and have a, a coach that you don’t want, like someone who’s never trained anyone doing the study. You gotta have someone who knows what they’re doing, you know? Then you’ve, otherwise you find out, you look at their hip thrust and they were five inches shy, lockout.
You look at their squats and they were, you know, five inches above parallel thinking it’s, you know,
Mike: Then, um, if your bar Ballo was the name, then you just make up data and then that and problem solved. But anyway, coming back to E M G, is there anything else that you would add? Um, again, I’m just thinking of many discussions that, uh, I’ve seen people have on social media where that will be used as the barometer of the effectiveness of the exercise and.
Bret: So I’d say our study was the very first to show that it did not predict hypertrophy. So it’s not all that, I still think it’s useful, obviously, like if you do like a hammer curl and a supinated curl and like the hammer curl activates the brachialis more, and the, and the, you know, the, the, the supinate curl activates the, the biceps.
More than that matters if things matter, but it’s not, you gotta consider other things too. You have to look at functional anatomy. You have to look at stretch. Activation you feel, and ideally you’d have longitudinal research ’cause that shows you what really does happen. But then in this case, the only longitudinal study is one showing with beginners training each lift twice a week.
Mike: Which it has limited applicability. Well, that makes sense. And you, you mentioned that some of the subjects felt, or, or maybe even many or most of the subjects felt their glutes were,
Bret: I think was all of ’em, like, yeah, when they did the testing. The, the head researcher Daniel Plugin asked him, he said, which exercise has you feeling your glutes more?
And everyone said, hip thrust funny. It’s very rare. I have a client right now, Bobby Mano, she’s a wellness competitor and she gets such a crazy glute pump from squats. She’s the first I’ve ever trained. Like she racks it and she’s like, huh. And her butt’s pumped up. You can see it. Also, she has like the hammer strength, uh, you know, the squat lunge machine that you do dead off of.
Do light R dls and she gets such a crazy glute pump. It’s funny ’cause I feel R DLS all in my hamstrings. I feel squats all in my, I mean, I feel a little bit of glutes in the stretch, but like interestingly, I did chain squats the other day on the 10th rep. I like the ninth and 10th rep. I, it felt like a hip thrust because it’s harder at the top and I, I was kind of like, Shooting my hips just up a little bit and then pushing my hips forward with the chain.
It was 135 pounds of chains, so that lockout was like a so much glute, but I don’t always fill my glutes with squats. I don’t always put my glutes with dead lifts. Like I remember one time I pulled 4 0 5 for 20 and I, God, it was brutal, but I’m like, rep ATFs not something you’ll never need to do
Mike: Once, I mean, sets of 10.
Sets of 10 taking close to failure already.
Bret: I like spent time working up to it like I did like 16 and two weeks later I got 18. Then I got like nine. I tried, I failed, and then I got 20. I actually don’t think I locked out the 20th, but it was close enough. But anyway, I’m like 18, 19, and 20. It was my glutes that were like limiting me and I’m like, what?
I never feel my glutes with these. But they were like fatiguing more than anything. But anyway, in general, I would say most people feel there are people who don’t feel hip thrust and I’m like, how do you not feel hip thrust working your glutes? But everyone is so different. Everyone’s so unique in anatomy.
I think anatomy is the most important thing. But then just also their experience and their. Mind muscle connection, stuff like that. Their ability to, if you’ve never tried to hone in on the muscle, probably, don’t you, you, that’s an ability you can improve at big time.
Mike: And what does that tell us about just biomechanics in general and, and just about other exercises just to this point where it’s very common for people to say, you know, I don’t really like that exercise because I don’t feel it enough in the target muscle group and I prefer this one in, the one they prefer, might.
By other measures be considered suboptimal, but they feel like because they feel it more in the target muscle group, that’s the one to do.
Bret: Think about when you were a beginner. I hated compound. Like when you first started, the first two months you lifted. I didn’t, I hated compound movements. I’m like, I don’t feel this anywhere.
When I first start out, you’re like, I wanna do tricep extensions and curls. I don’t, I don’t feel when I do these movements. And so you, so you can relate. You can relate to that way of thinking, but quickly guys become obsessed with strength and their bench press and then their pecs grow. And then over time you learn how to feel your pecs more in a bench press you learn techniques and things, you know.
But what this does show is like sometimes you shouldn’t care so much about feeling it. When you and I were, you know, three years into lifting weights, we didn’t try to squeeze everything, feel we wanted to get stronger ’cause we were weak and you want to be. Benching, you know, you want to hit 2 25 and then eventually three 15, you wanna squat four or five.
You wanna throw 6, 7, 8 plates on the leg press, you’re embarrassed. It’s embarrassing. And if you can’t do a chin up or a dip, you wanna get your deadlift up. You care about all these numbers. You. You look around, you’re like, man, that guy’s doing this. I wanna do that too. I want to be able to get 20 dips, or I want to be able to get 10 chin ups, or I want to be able to get, even like I remember walking lunges.
I thought it’d be so cool to be able to do walking lunges with 2 25. That’s not easy to do. Walking lunges are brutal with 2 25, but they look so cool. But you have these goals that you make when you’re doing those walking lunges. You’re not like, I need to feel these in my glutes. You’re just trying to like use good form and, and set prs.
Bench press. You’re not like, I need to feel my pecs. You’re just trying to, you know, touch your chest, come up, you’ll only use whatever you can, and things grow. You know, I don’t ever think I’ve felt my, well, when I do military press, I’m not like trying to lock it out and be like, oh, my shoulders are burning so bad.
They’re not. But they’re getting worked, you know? So on the one hand, quit obsessing about feeling everything. It’s okay to like your first exercise, to not focus on the feel. Focus on. Good technique, full range of motion and setting prs. And then later in the workout, worry about the mind muscle connection, feeling the getting a, getting a pump, feeling the burn, et cetera,
Mike: and, and the mind muscle connection.
It seems to work best with isolation exercise anyway, like practically speaking, it’s hard to be back squatting and trying to focus on your quads, especially when you’re getting deeper into a set and you’re just trying to not get stuck like that. That’s all you can focus on.
Bret: It’s so true, and, and so I hear twice this week, I’ve had girls tell me, you know, Brett, I don’t like going heavy on, um, squats or, I don’t like going heavy on rls.
If I, if I keep it light, I fill it all in my glutes. If I go heavy, I fill up my hamstrings. I fill up my quads and I’m like, you’re supposed to feel squats in your quads. You’re supposed to feel RLS in your hamstrings. Like don’t just go light all the time and never go up. You’ll actually. See better glute results.
If you do go for progressive overload on those, not saying just don’t even try to feel it in your glutes at all. Just quit obsessing about it. Just work on filling your glutes with kickbacks and abduction and thinking, oh, like lighter hip thrust. That’s not on your heavy compound movements. That goes for every muscle.
You know, don’t try to feel your biceps during a chin up or a pull down. Don’t, don’t try to feel your triceps during a, a bench press. You know, try to fill your triceps when you’re doing a, we’re using the cable column, you know, when you’re doing curls. For your biceps
Mike: and just do the exercises properly, the compound exercises properly, and, and know that it’s going to recruit the, the target muscle groups.
Even though you may be more
Bret: and you’re gonna grow all over and get leaner, if you’re bulking, you’ll get, you’ll gain a ton of muscle if you’re, if you’re cutting, you’ll lose more fat if you’re maintaining
Mike: and hopefully less muscle or no muscle. So my next question then is, are there. Any kind of broader implications of this study that we haven’t.
Touched on, uh, I think you’ve done a great job breaking down everything in this paper as regards to glute training, what you learned and some practical training implications. I’m just curious if there are some, even if it’s just kind of questions that it’s raised for you about. Other muscle groups or some other component of training?
Bret: Yeah. Here, here’s what would be cool to know on the hypertrophy front, like what are the signals and sensors of hypertrophy? We don’t know. We don’t know enough. There’s a classic paper by Brad Schofield and Henning Walker and other authors, I can’t remember their names, but basically it was like, we don’t know how muscle grows.
We don’t know what the initial. Signals and sensors are in that paper. They brought up a different of a host of possibilities. I know Mike Roberts just wrote this novel. I have it saved on my computer that I need to read, but it’s, we know Titan probably is a good candidate, you know, ’cause Titan, when you’re lifting weights, Titan, when it’s activated, it binds to the acting.
You know, the, like we used to think it was just actin and myosin. Now we know it’s the three filament model. Actin, myosin, and titan. Part of it binds to the actin and then the part that’s not bound gets a greater stretch. That’s a probably a, a signals hypertrophy. So Titan is one candidate, maybe the nucleus getting flattened out.
When you stretch a muscle stretches it gets tight and the the nucleus flattens out. Maybe that nuclear flattening activates the Hippo pathway or the YAP or something like these different, they have these different names. Maybe there’s parts in the sarcomere. You know, in the, the Z disc or whatever that this, like one candidate, is this filament C bag three or Fila in three bags?
I can, I never get it right, but it’s, it’s basically would be when a muscle is activated, you know, when, when those sarcomeres shorten those, those, the parts where the sarcomeres connect to feels that it gets stretched and activated. Maybe it’s parts in the, you know, I have all this folder full of papers and it’s like different researchers have different takes on it.
One, one group says, The primary cilia of the satellite cells are the primary signals of muscle growth. And I’m like, what the hell is the primary CLIA on satellite cells? Different re groups of researchers have different takes. It’s, I was just talking about the SARCOMERE itself, but there’s other researchers that have, I have a folder full of papers, and it’s like one group.
The title of the paper is like the primary Celiacs on satellite cells. Are the main signalers of muscle growth. And another paper, like the extracellular matrix, is the main signaler of muscle growth. And it’s like maybe everything helps grow the muscle. Maybe all the things in the cellar have some responsibility.
Maybe there’s a lot of different mechano sensors and things like that. Maybe the integrin are important. Maybe there’s all sorts of different things, but maybe some of them respond better to stretch. Some of them respond better to activation. If that’s the case, then hip thrust might’ve grown the glutes more through this filament three bag C or whatever the heck it is.
I always get it wrong. And maybe squats led to better, more glute growth through Titan or nuclear flattening or something like that. So then you theoretically you would get more better results doing both. They’d be synergistic. Or maybe hip thrust, move your glutes. You know, people think hip thrusts are a short length movement.
They do stretch the glutes. You do go down into, like, you go to, it’s like almost doing like a parallel squat. You know what I mean? It’s just not rock bottom, but maybe it’s deep enough and then maybe they only act. Some people think tighten is the only, is the only signaler, uh, of hypertrophy. So maybe hip thrust go deep enough and then, you know, you get the same hypertrophy from them.
So we don’t know. That’s what future research needs to have a combined group. And look at are they synergistic? Like if one group does, uh, six sets of squats, the other group does six sets of hip thrusts. The other group does three sets of squats and three sets of hip thrusts. Who grows best? Are they all gonna tie, or is it the combined group sees better results?
We need a study looking at advanced subjects, not beginners. We need a study looking at different volumes of frequencies. Higher volumes and frequencies, maybe squats, fatigue, you too much and hip thrust prevail that way. But the other thing is with strength, I would venture to guess that squats, you know, let’s say I was just doing deadlifts, right?
One group does squats and deadlifts, the other group does hip thrust and deadlifts, alright? ’cause this study showed they transferred equally to the deadlift, like they gained exactly the same strength, deadlift strength. What would be cool to know is if squats help you with more, and this you could do off a force plate.
Do squats give you more strength off the floor and hip thrust give you more strength at the lockout? Probably. ’cause I’ve taken strong powerlifters, like I remember this guy back in the day, 180 pound powerlifter, had like a 730 pound deadlift and he, but his lockout was weak. I had him start doing, Tons of hip thrust.
He’s like, two months later, he’s like, Brett, my, I feel like now my lockout is my strong point. It was my weak point. Now it’s my strong point. So in that case, then you should do both for maximizing deadlift strength and basically hip extension strength through a full range of motion. So lots of hypotheses generated.
This is, like I said, just one puzzle piece out of like 30 that are needed to really allow us to have a really good understanding of glute training.
Mike: And for people who want to get more questions answered by Brett’s book, and maybe, well you, you said you don’t even charge for your gym support. Brett’s work Somehow Help him.
Help him pay for these studies.
Bret: Yeah. Join Booty by Brett. That’s my main one.
Mike: That that’s, and I was gonna, I was gonna get to that, but before we wrap up, I just wanted to ask, so if there’s anything else, those were the main questions that I had that I wanted to get your opinions on. Is there anything else that I didn’t ask or that is still kind of bouncing around in your head that you wanna say before.
Bret: I, I was training people right before this and I was trying to get home in time. I meant to call Andrew Koski ’cause he’s so much smarter than me about statistics. But I wanted to ask him, you know, Jose Antonio asked this on a podcast. He said, look at the individual plots. He is like the hip thrust group.
You got guys seeing huge growth, but also people losing size. Well, beginner loses size where the squad group, the cluster. ’cause we have the individual plots, which I really like. That’s, I love when, when researchers post all the individual, but the, the squad groups are more clustered in the middle.
Whereas the HTO group, you got people up here and people down here. Is that just due to chance? Statistical noise or is there something about the hip thrust where you either respond really well to it or you don’t at all, you know, and you see more variants? ’cause that was really interesting that the, the groups don’t look alike in the lower middle and upper glutes.
You saw more variants with the hip thrust. So it could be that, you know, Some people, for some reason, grow really well with hip thrust, and then some people don’t at all. Whereas with a squat, it’s more predictable, it’s more in the middle.
Mike: Interesting. So I guess something that people could think with is, I suppose just progression could be a proxy for that, because we can’t go by, which do you feel like, oh, you’re not feeling it all that much in your glutes
Bret: training, do it for yourself, which.
What works best, you know? And trial and error. Right. And yeah, like you said, progress on them and see which one you feel like is doing a better job at growing your glutes. But the problem is most people are always doing both. Like I’m always doing some squatting movements and some hip thrusting movements, but you can prioritize one or the other and you should.
Because training is boring and you should try new things out, you know?
Mike: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you can also, you could, let’s say you’re gonna keep your squatting in, you could swap out that hip thrust volume for a different exercise maybe, and then see how your, how your body responds to that. But yeah, that, that is interesting.
Bret: I’m sure I’ll talk to Andrew and be like, no. Brett, that’s a normal variance. You can see in the standard deviations, you can see that he’s, he’s like so smart and I, it makes me feel stupid all the time, but I never, my professor John Cronin, he was always yelling at me, Brett, you need to, you need to take statistics more seriously.
You’re a PhD. And I’m like, it’s so funny because even with writing, I’m like, I don’t write my papers. Brad is better at writing papers. Andrew’s better. You know? So I would rather. I provide value to these papers with practicality and stuff like, and also readability. I’m like, Brad, this abstract. I have my PhD and I don’t even know what it’s saying.
And why are we throwing these crazy statistics in the abstract? You gotta be, keep it simple. That’s where my value comes into play. Or like I. Planning this study, the study design and stuff. I feel like I’ve got a strong, you know, background with personal training. I can make sure they’re fair, make sure I am gonna think of the things that coaches think about for ecological validity.
You know, I like, I remember when I defended my thesis that one of the guys was going off on me going, why didn’t you equate the range of motion between like the squat and the hip thrust? I’m like, okay, you can only go so deep in the hip thrust. So if I went in a hip thrust versus a half squat or something, say I did lo.
A low bar, half squat, you’re gonna be leaning a lot. So you will get hip flexion, but it’s gonna be about, you know, maybe like a hundred degrees of hip flexion in both. And people would’ve been like, he purposely tried to give the hip thrust the advantage by not going deep enough that you took away. You gotta have ecological validity.
So, and it’s funny ’cause I was a high school math teacher. I’m really good at algebra and geometry and trigonometry. I just hate statistics as its own animal. I hate it. But yeah, I gotta ask Andrew, but it could be that it’s just. No big deal or there could be something to it. It’s interesting. Fascinating to think about.
Mike: And uh, it’s interesting with statistics. That is certainly something I think that you need to have an, a real affinity for to excel at if you don’t like it. But anyway, this has been a great discussion, very informative. Uh, thank you again for doing it. And why don’t we now wrap up with where people can find you, find your work, anything specifically that you would like them to know about.
Bret: Mainly I’m on Instagram these days. Brett can trust one. If you type in the Gluc guy, I probably come up, although now there are a lot of Gluc guys out there. I, I was the only one for like 10 years. But, um, so it mainly on Instagram. Like I have a newsletter that I send out, not enough, like once every few weeks.
But yeah, I try and keep people up to date with stuff. But yeah, just find me on Instagram.
Mike: Cool. And then you did mention Booty by Brett. Am I.
Bret: Yeah, it’s a monthly I film. My one thing that I do that’s good is, you know when most people create an app and then they just film the exercises once, and then you just come up with a new routine each month.
Well, I actually fly, like I’m in Fort Lauderdale right now, but I fly to San Diego every month. I film it with my, my client, Ashley Hodge, and I, I write new programs every month based on what I learned in the research and based on what I learned training all these people, and I’m always training lots of people and high level people.
High level competitors, so it’s always fresh. It’s always new. It’s always cutting edge. It’s not like I’m just bored and recycling old stuff.
It’s always new, new exercise variations, new spinoffs. Like this month, because of all the long lane stuff, I have ’em doing a do your full range hip thrust, do eight reps, then do four reps of two thirds partials, then four reps of one thirds partial, end it with an iso hold at the bottom and then drop the weight.
You know, stuff like that where,
Mike: so people can get, uh, experience doing all types of variations that they wouldn’t necessarily come up with.
Bret: A trainer. Like, what, when do you learn how to do a bent over row or a one arm row, or, I feel like even trainers should join booty breath because I, I explain all the exercises and I, you know, we demonstrate ’em and it’s like, you know, we have this exercise library. I feel like that I would’ve loved to have that when I first started out, but that’s my main money maker.
And then I got BC strength. That’s my equipment. It’s funny because, as you know, this, the online stuff is so much, just all pure profit. And then when you sell real equipment, there’s shipping disasters and people giving the wrong address and then blaming you for it. And there,
Mike: there, there’s the cost of goods.
I mean, in your other business, what’s, what is that? What, what is the cost of goods? I.
Bret: So that’s the labor of love. I love when I go to it, when I love when people tag me and they’re like, I love my BC strength products. I love trying to come up with good products that I would like to, to have seen, you know, to make training convenience.
So those are my two main things.
Mike: Just the, the tangible form of the product. There’s something. A little bit more satisfying, at least for you. Right? Something that you can hold in your hands or maybe it’s too big, but you can touch it and you can say, yeah, that I did that. That’s cool. Um, well anyways, uh, that’s great.
Uh, Brett, thanks again for doing this and uh, I look forward to the next one. Uh, in the future hopefully we can, we can figure out something else to talk about. I know you’re a busy guy.
Bret: Well, thank you so much for having me. And anytime you want me on, just let me know, but it was a pleasure and I appreciate you.
Mike: Thank you. Likewise. Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.
And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have. Uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share? Shoot me an email, [email protected], muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.
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