There remains a great deal of debate among performance coaches regarding topics such as optimal exercise selection for enhancing sprinting speed, the limiting factors of maximum velocity sprinting and so forth. Slowly over time as more research is produced, more evidence in support of a given training theory becomes revealed and open-minded coaches adjust their programming accordingly. The squat exercise has long been hailed as the kind of lower body movements for strength and power development as well as for transfer to sprinting speed. However, more recently and based on the strong link between horizontal force production and acceleration ability, specialized exercises (e.g., the barbell hip thrust) that strengthen the hip extensors in a horizontal plane are becoming more popular. However, it’s unclear which exercise (i.e., a squat variation or hip thrust) better transfers over to performance variables such as sprinting and jumping.
A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning research put the front squat and the hip thrust exercises in a head to head battle to determine which elicits the greatest improvements in performance variables. A group of 24 young athletes (age 14-17) were matched for baseline characteristics and randomly divided into a front squat group and a hip thrust group. Before and after a 6-week training period, subjects were tested in 3RM hip thrust and front squat, 10 and 20 m sprint times, vertical and broad jumps and isometric mid-thigh pull. The program progressed from 4 sets of 12 in week 1, 4 sets of 10 in weeks 2-3, 4 sets of 8 in weeks 4-5 and 4 sets of 6 in week 6.
The hip thrust group experienced a -1.06% and -1.70% improvements in 10 and 20 m sprint time, respectively; a 9.27% improvement in isometric mid-thigh pull; a 30% and 6.63% improvement in hip thrust and front squat 3RM, respectively; and a 3.30% and 2.33% improvement in vertical and horizontal jumping, respectively. The front squat group experienced an 11.39% and 17.40% improvement in front squat and hip thrust 3RM, respectively; a 1.69% and 6.81% improvement in horizontal and vertical jumping ability, respectively; and a 1.87% improvement in isometric mid-thigh pull. Changes in 10 and 20 m sprint times were trivial for the front squat group. Collectively, these results show that the front squat group outperformed the hip thrust group in improving front squatting and vertical jumping while the hip thrust group outperformed the front squat group in hip thrusting 3RM and 10 and 20 m sprint times. Therefore, if improving short distance sprinting ability is an objective of your training, incorporating the hip thrust exercise into the program may be worthwhile.
Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., Schoenfeld, B. J., Beardsley, C., McMaster, D. T., Reyneke, J., & Cronin, J. (2016). Effects of a six-week hip thrust versus front squat resistance training program on performance in adolescent males: A randomized-controlled trial. J Str Cond Res. In Press.