Everyone has the same 168 hours in a week. Don’t waste a single minute of your workout time. You have to put in the time, but you can shortcut your goals. By training with an expert, taking the right supplements and nutrition, and keeping up with the latest science you can find the quickest path forward.

Science of Shortcuts

We’re not talking about forum fads for lifting. Shortcuts come from choosing the right lifts based on science – structured experiments to test activation of muscles and see what works best. No more “ this dude swears by it – look at him” evidence.

Activations give us cutting-edge insights into effectiveness. Longitudinal (over time) studies help to prove the effectiveness for strength, hypertrophy, and performance.

That’s “So Three-Years-Ago”

There’s a 2015 study which shows that barbell hip thrusts activate your Gluteus Maximus (GM) and Biceps Femoris (BF) to a higher degree than back squats. This was a great start, but research marches on.

The Latest Research

Research published in March 2018 compares barbell deadlifthex bar deadlift (HBD), and hip thrust exercises for muscle activation.

Under maximum load, hip thrust does the best job (26% higher than hex bar deadlift) activating your gluteus maximus. This makes sense – standing exercises have decreased tension on hip extensors.

Barbell deadlift proved more effective (39% higher activation vs. HBD) than hip thrust or hex bar.

Hex bar deadlifts actually had the lowest muscle activation of the three for BF.

The caveat is that if you’re not doing a regular barbell deadlift correctly (feeling glutes and hamstrings [BF] activate) you’re not getting the benefits. In that instance, Hex Bar might be your best bet. The science only works if you get help with your form – if you’re not feeling the right activation.

Bottom Line

For GM and BF, back squat’s aren’t as effective as barbell hip thrusts. Your best bet: hip thrusts for GM and barbell deadlifts for BF. All three of the 2018 exercises studied had similar erector spinae activations (dealer’s choice there).

If you’re serious about your growth, work with a trainer and know why to build your program specific ways. Trust their knowledge of physiology to make sure you’re doing them all correctly (both for safety and explosive growth).