Hip Thrusts: Are they All That?

A friend sent me an essay that makes an argument for Hip Thrusts being better than squats for the purpose of improving running speed. This defines and discusses something called the Force Vector Theory of Transfer

[Below is copy and pasted from https://www.strengthandconditioningresearch.com/promotions/horizontally-directed-exercises/]

What is the force vector theory of exercise transfer?

The force vector is the direction in which force is applied with respect to the body.
Typically, these are referred to as “vertical” and “horizontal” although strictly the correct terms are axial (for vertical) and anteroposterior (for horizontal), as these refer to force directed from the feet towards the head, and force directed from the back of the body to the front of the body, respectively.
So the squat has an axial (vertical) force vector, like this:

Image result for squat force vector

Force is applied by the feet into the ground, and the direction of the force is from the feet towards the head.

If the force vector is important, we should therefore expect the squat to transfer better to athletic abilities involving axial (vertical) movements, like vertical jumping. We might expect it to transfer less well to athletic abilities involving anteroposterior (horizontal) movements, like broad jumps and sprinting.

On the other hand, the hip thrust exercise has an anteroposterior (horizontal) force vector, like this:

Image result for hip thrust force vector

Force is applied by the feet into the ground and by the back into the bench, and the direction of the force is from the back of the body towards the front of the body.

If the force vector is important, we should therefore expect the hip thrust to transfer better to athletic abilities involving anteroposterior (horizontal) movements, like broad jumping and possibly even sprinting. We might expect it to transfer less well to athletic abilities involving axial (vertical) movements, like vertical jumps.

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The writing goes on to site a recent study that found hip thrusts to be superior to front squats in horizontally directed movements. The hip thrust group improved their horizontal jump distance and sprint times SLIGHTLY as compared to almost no improvement in the squat group.

Effects of a six-week hip thrust versus front squat resistance training program on performance in adolescent males – a randomized controlled trial, by Contreras, Vigotsky, Schoenfeld, Beardsley, C., McMaster, Reyneke, & Cronin, in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2016)

But I think the much more pertinent question is "Are hip thrusts necessary and more beneficial than deadlifts or other hinge variations?" Instead, we should compare hip thrusts to dead lifts and kettle bell swings.

My opinion is that dead lifts probably "win."  

When you visualize the bottom of a DL or KB swing, the hips are moving front to back and even though the weight is moving vertically there is a substantial (relative to torso) horizontal component to it.

I think DLs and to a slightly lesser extent KB swings provide a much better over-all training effect. I could type all fancy about neurological and proprioceptive benefits, but suffice to say that there is great value when the brain has to learn how to hinge the hips front to back -while- stabilizing the spine and working in an upright position. I see hip thrusts as a great alternative to dead lift variations for individuals who cannot deadlift due to pain or other issues.

To briefly summarize:

Squat variations = better than hip hinge exercises for building leg size and vertically oriented power movements like jumping.

Hinge variations = better than squat variations for building hip and torso (lower and upper back) size and horizontally oriented power movements like horizontal jump and sprinting.

In the real world there definitely should be room for BOTH!

***Also of note:

Bret Contreras seems like a good guy. I really like his work and tone. But he sales these hip thrust devices and is constantly talking about how great they are. I'm not saying his research or research reviews are intentionally misleading...maybe hip thrusts truly are THAT great. But it could -possibly- be biased in some ways. Like experimental design comparing hip thrusts to squats rather than dead lift variations.

Okay. Never mind that. Let's NOT do the Time Warp again...

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