Horizontal force production at the hip joint is a key component to acceleration speed during sprinting. While resisted-sprint training (e.g., sled-towing) has been shown to improve acceleration ability in athletes, there is minimal research on the effects of horizontal force producing weight-room movements on sprint performance. It’s been hypothesized that improving maximal strength in movements such as the barbell hip-thrust will transfer over to improved acceleration ability. This is because the barbell hip thrust produces higher gluteus maximus muscle activation than other lower body exercise such as the squat and deadlift. One previous study in youth athletes with minimal training experience demonstrated enhanced sprinting speed following a training intervention featuring the hip thrust, but it is unclear whether this exercise can be useful for more highly trained individuals.
A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research evaluated the effects of increased hip thrust 1RM on acceleration speed in collegiate athletes. A group of 21 athletes with at least 1 year of training experience with the barbell hip thrust were randomly allocated to a control group and an experimental group. The experimental group performed 2 hip thrust workouts per week for 8 weeks (5 sets of 5 with 85% of 1RM and 2.5% progressive increments) while the control group did not perform any resistance training. Before and after the training period, all subjects were tested for 1RM hip thrust strength and 40 yard dash sprint time. The authors hypothesized that the experimental group would see greater improvements in 40 yard dash time than the control group.
The results showed that the control group demonstrated no significant improvement in maximum hip thrust strength or 40 yard dish time. The experimental group demonstrated significant improvements in 1RM hip thrust (effect size = moderate). However, the improved hip thrust maximal strength demonstrated no effect on sprinting speed. Even when analyzed for split times (i.e., 0-10, 10-20, 20-30, 30-40 m) there were no significant changes in sprinting speed for the experimental group. Therefore, this study demonstrated that increasing hip extension strength alone via the barbell hip thrust is not effective for improving maximal 40 yard sprinting speed. However, from this study it is unclear if a combination of hip thrust strengthening and sprint training would be more effective than sprint training alone in training athletes.
Jarvis, P., Turner, A. N., Edwards, M., & Bishop, C. (2017). Heavy barbell hip thrusts do not effect sprint performance: an 8-week randomized–controlled study. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.