Hip Thrust vs. Back Squat - Which is Better for Glute Hypertrophy?


When it comes to glute training, two exercises often dominate the discussion: the hip thrust and the back squat. Both movements are praised for their effectiveness in building the gluteal muscles, but which truly reigns supreme for maximizing glute hypertrophy? Let's delve into the latest research and compare these two popular exercises.

Understanding the Movements

Hip Thrusts: Primarily target the gluteus maximus. The exercise involves a shoulder-elevated position with the feet planted on the ground, driving the hips upward through the force of the glutes. It isolates the glutes without significant involvement of the quadriceps.

Back Squats: Engage multiple muscle groups, including the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, and adductors. The movement consists of lowering into a squat while keeping the back straight and then rising back to a standing position, primarily loading the lower body comprehensively.

Recent Research Insights

A recent study by Plotkin (2023) and colleagues at Auburn University compared the effects of nine weeks of hip thrust and back squat training on glute hypertrophy in untrained college-aged participants. Both groups performed their respective exercises with equivalent training volumes.

Key Findings:

  • Glute Hypertrophy: Both exercises produced similar increases in muscle cross-sectional area (mCSA) of the gluteus maximus. This suggests that squats and hip thrusts are equally effective at inducing hypertrophy in the primary glute muscles when volume is equated.
  • Thigh Hypertrophy: The squat group experienced significantly more hypertrophy in the quadriceps and adductors than the hip thrust group. This highlights the more comprehensive lower body training provided by squats.
  • Strength Gains: Specific to the exercise, squat strength increased more in the squat group, while hip thrust strength was greater in the hip thrust group. Both exercises showed similar improvements in deadlift strength, indicating good transferability to other lifting movements.

Practical Implications

Both hip thrusts and back squats can be effective for individuals focused purely on enhancing glute size. Their choice can depend on personal preferences, goals, and training variability. However, for those seeking lower body strength and hypertrophy, including both movements in a training regimen might be beneficial, as squats also significantly enhance the quadriceps and adductors.


The hip thrust and back squat are powerful exercises for developing the glutes. Choosing between them should consider your specific fitness goals, with squats offering broader hypertrophic benefits across the lower body and hip thrusts providing focused glute activation. Incorporating both into a balanced workout routine could give the best of both worlds, maximizing overall lower body aesthetic and functional gains.

In conclusion, whether you hip thrust or squat, focusing on progressive overload and proper technique will ensure you reap the best results for your glute training endeavors.

Do you want to learn more about glute training? Join our upcoming free webinar next week, 25th April hereLower Body Legends: Crafting the Ultimate Training Program for Glorius Glutes and Legs