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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Pedro Mendez

Recent Posts by Pedro Mendez:

Hip Thruster vs. Squat: Which Is Best for Glute Hypertrophy?

GettyImages-1147025300Squatting has always been the go-to exercise for those who want to make glute gains. You have probably heard someone say, “If you want to get better glutes, squatting is the way to go.” Recently, though, hip thrusters have gained momentum as the best exercise for glute development. Although, there is no concrete evidence that one is better than the other, some studies have been done (also here). Hopefully by the end of this blog, you will have a better understanding of the similarities and differences between these two exercises.

Glute Activation During Squats

During squats, the upper gluteal muscles help stabilize the pelvis as you walk out from the rack position. During the eccentric(downward) portion of the squat, only 20 to 30 percent of maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) was shown. At the bottom part of the squat, only 10 to 20 percent of MVC for glute activation was shown through EMG activity. The interesting part is that the bottom part of the squat is where everyone assumed you get the most glute activation, when in reality it is the lowest activation part. The concentric (pushing up) portion of the squat is where glute activation was seen to be the highest, at 80 to 120 percent. This makes sense because the main role of the glutes is to extend the hips.

Glute Activation During Hip Thrusters

During the hip thrust exercise, at the beginning phase, the glutes are relatively off because there is no external force placed on them. Because the first motion of the hip thrust is a concentric action (hip extension), the glutes begin to activate right away. It was measured to be at a range of 120 to 200 percent of glute activation during the concentric phase of the exercise. Another reason why MVC was higher is that the repetitions fairly quickly maintain a constant tension on the glutes.

Biomechanics of Squat and Hip Thruster

Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 12.08.28 PMBiomechanically these two exercises are different because the squat is performed in the vertical plane whereras the hip thruster is performed in the horizontal plane. This difference allows for different forces on the body. In a squat, the glutes must fire to create hip extension torque, but they must also fire in order to create hip external rotation torque to prevent knee valgus (knee buckle). In a hip thrust, the glutes fire to create hip extension torque, but they must also fire in order to create posterior pelvic tilt torque to prevent anterior tilting of the pelvis and lumbar hyperextension.

With the squat, the limitation can be due to back strength, which you do not have with the hip thruster. On the other hand, glute strength is the limiting factor during the hip thruster. During a squat, you are typically able to get more hip flexion to avoid this issue.

The Verdict

For full range gluteal strength, a more complete neurological stimulus, and full development of the upper and lower gluteal fibers, you’ll want to perform both the squat and the hip thrust. Either exercise alone won’t suffice. The good news is that you don’t have to choose between squats or hip thrusts for maximal glute development; you should perform both movements.

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health/Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center exercises muscle mass glutes hypertrophy building muscle squat hips

The Functional Movement Screen Exercises in Depth

FMS-NewIn my last blog I briefly described the importance of the Functional Movement Screen to determine where one should begin with their workout program. The score that an individual receives determines whether they are ready for certain movements. In this blog I will go more in depth about the actual purpose of each test of the FMS, what the scores mean, and the reliability of the FMS.

The Purpose of the FMS

The FMS was created to measure motor control of movement patterns, quickly identify pain or limitations that need to be addressed, and to set a baseline for movement competency within the body. Being able to determine asymmetries in the body will help the tester figure out which movement has the greatest deficiency and which movement needs the most help. The FMS consists of seven movement patterns that are performed without warmup. The reason is that we want to see what a person’s movement capacity is at its natural state.

FMS-logo

The Exercises That Are Part of the FMS

Here is more detail on each of the exercises that are part of this screening:

  • Deep Squat: This test shows us the most about how a person moves. The reason is that it allows us to see total extremity mobility, postural control, and pelvic and core stability. If you think about it, everyone at some time in the day performs a squat, whether that is sitting down, playing sports, picking up something off the ground, and so on. When the dowel is overhead, this requires mobility and stability of the shoulders, and the pelvis must provide stability and control while performing the squatting motion.
  • Screen Shot 2019-10-08 at 11.56.10 AM

    Hurdle Step: This test demonstrates how well someone is able to walk (locomotion) as well as accelerate. The hurdle step is a great assessment to determine any kind of compensation the body performs while you take a step forward. This movement also lets us know how well a person is able to stabilize and control oneself while in a single-leg stance. If pelvic and core control is lacking with this, the person will not be able to stabilize themselves properly and will most likely begin to shift too much or lose alignment.
  • Inline Lunge: This test helps demonstrate the ability that one has to decelerate. This is important because we as humans need to be able to decelerate every day, whether that be in sports or just daily living activities. It also allows the tester to observe the rotational and lateral movement capacity of someone. Pelvic and core control and stability is extremely important to be able to perform this movement properly. Since this test requires the person to be in a split stance, the tester can also see how well a person is able to get into hip, knee, and ankle flexion when lunging down and determine whether there is a mobility or stability issue.
  • Shoulder Mobility: This test helps show the relationship between the scapular-thoracic region, thoracic spine, and rib cage. A person with good thoracic extension typically does well on this test. One side should demonstrate internal rotation and extension and adduction, and the other side should demonstrate external rotation, flexion, and abduction.
  • Active Straight-Leg Raise: This test helps demonstrate many things, even though it might seem very basic. With the leg that is coming up, we typically want to see a good range of hip flexion. On the leg that stays down, we typically look for how good the range of hip extension is. Another variable that I like to look at is how well their core stability is. If they are not able to keep their back flat on the floor, this lets me know that the person is not able to own that position and needs help with core stability.
  • Trunk Stability Push-up: This test often gets mistaken as being an assessment for upper-body strength. This is not the case, though. The actual purpose of this assessment is to measure the stability of the core. If the spine or hips move during the push-up movement, this is usually an indication of other muscles compensating for the lack of core stability.
  • Rotary Stability: This tests for rotary stability in multiple planes. Core, pelvis, and shoulder girdle stability are what is being assessed. This also allows us to measure the ability of a person to crawl. Being able to demonstrate proper weight shift in the transverse plane and also coordination during the stabilization and mobility of this movement will help determine whether a person is ready for more complex movements.

FMS Scoring

I will keep this section short and sweet and explain the basic fundamental purpose of the scoring and what each number means. The FMS scoring ranges from 0–3, so there are 4 possible scores that a person can get. A 0 indicates that there was pain during the movement. A score of 1 usually indicates that the person was not able to complete the full movement properly or was not able to get into the correct position to execute the movement. A score of 2 indicates that the person was able to complete the movement but had to compensate somehow to actually execute it. A score of 3 indicates the movement is optimal and no compensations were detected.

Reliability of the Test

Many research studies have been done to determine the reliability of the FMS in recent years. The main findings that have been discovered are that the FMS can accurately identify people with a higher chance of an injury. The three groups at a higher risk are professional football players, male marine officer candidates, and female collegiate basketball, soccer, and volleyball players.

People always ask me what score determines an elevated risk for injury on the FMS. What most studies suggest is that a score of 14 or lower gives a person a 1.5 times higher risk for injury than a person who gets a score higher than 14. This does not mean that if you score lower than a 14, you should be frightened; again, most studies done are with a specific population (stated above). More studies are needed on the general population, but what is certain is that the FMS is a great tool for personal trainers, athletic trainers, physical therapists, and strength and conditioning coaches to use on their populations to get a better understanding of how well a person moves.

If you are interested in completing an FMS screening at NIFS, click here for more information.

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, MS, CSCS, Strength and Conditioning Coach for IUPUI and Health Fitness Instructor for NIFS.

Topics: NIFS injury prevention pain exercises functional movement assessments movement functional movement screen

Train Like an Athlete with Help from NIFS

GettyImages-969284736I am often asked what kind of workout program I follow, and my response is always, “I follow a program that gets me faster, stronger, and more athletic.” When people hear this, they assume that I am some kind of athlete and that they won’t be able to work out the way I do since they are not “athletes.” This is a huge misconception that I have noticed throughout the years that I have been working out. What people do not understand is that we are all athletes in our own way, and can actually train like one in order to get faster, stronger, and more athletic.

Find Out Where You’re Starting From

For me the key is to understand where you are at in terms of movement. Many programs out there assume that you move perfectly, so starting them might not necessarily be the best if you have not had the training experience needed to actually perform those movements. A good assessment to determine whether you have any compensatory patterns or movement deficiency is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). With the FMS, we can narrow down exactly which corrective exercises are needed to get a person ready for the complex movements that might be programmed.

Start with Exercises That You’re Ready For

Once you have determined where you are at movement wise, it’s important to start with exercises that your body is ready to handle at that time. Possibly regressing a complex exercise like the Barbell Back Squat to a simpler exercise like the KB Goblet Squat or 2KB Squat will allow you to own that movement better and in turn will prepare you to progress back to the complex movement faster while performing it better.

Perform Athletic Movements

Training like an athlete does not necessarily mean you have to match their intensity or lift the same amount of weight as they do. But it can mean performing the same movements, such as these:

  • Warm-up routine
  • Power exercises
  • Squat variation
  • Horizontal upper-body push variation
  • Split squat or half-kneeling variation
  • Vertical/horizontal upper-body pull variation
  • Supine/prone abdominal exercise variation
  • Accessory exercise

These are exact movements that I program for my athletes. The cool thing is that anyone can do these movements as long as the right exercise is prescribed. No two athletes that I have trained move the same, and there are many that actually need to start with the most basic forms of movement (body squat, hands elevated push-ups, etc.). I am sure many of you have performed these “basic” exercises in the past. These exercises are often considered “too easy” at times, but if they are performed correctly, it can be a challenge even to athletes.

You Can Get Help from NIFS Trainers

I get it, it can be very intimidating for a beginner or even an experienced lifter to train like an athlete if they don’t know exactly how to go about starting a program like that. Luckily, here at NIFS, our trainers are well equipped with the materials and knowledge to get anyone who is looking for a new challenge started toward being faster, stronger, and—most importantly—more athletic.

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health/Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS training athletes personal trainer functional movement screen fitness assessment