Last updated on November 10th, 2022 at 01:01 pm
You’d be hard-pushed to find two better exercises to train your glutes than hip thrusts and squats.
In fact, if you wish to kick things up a notch or two you could always throw deadlifts into the mix as well.
However, this always begs the question of which exercise you should be doing first in your workout.
Should you do hip thrusts before squats or vice versa?
Allow me to explain what you need to know.
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Should I Do Hip Thrusts of Squats First?
The order in which to perform hip thrusts and squats initially comes down to which exercise you wish to improve the most. Additionally, you should always train power/speed or strength before hypertrophy. With that being said, if growing your glutes is your main aim then hip thrusts are the better exercise. Therefore, hip thrusts deserve more of your attention and should be done first.
Which Exercise Do You Wish to Improve the Most?
Forget hip thrusts and squats for a moment, as the answer to which of two similar exercises you should be doing first will always be, “it depends”.
Basically, it all comes down to your training goals and what you’re trying to achieve.
With that being said, I will always say that you should perform the exercise that you wish to improve most first.
This simply comes down to the fact that you don’t want to perform a preferred exercise when you’re tired.
Plus, your form will typically suffer when performing any exercise while fatigued.
So, even though both hip thrusts and squats are fantastic exercises, it really comes down to what you want most.
If you feel your hip thrusts are lagging behind and are in dire need of improvement then do them first.
And of course, if you need to pick up your squat game then do them first.
Personally, I’ve always felt that if there is an exercise I don’t enjoy doing, or that I feel I don’t perform particularly well, then I make it a priority in my workouts.
In effect, there is no right or wrong with the order of exercises, it all comes down to your training goals.
I know that many people will say that you must perform certain exercises before others.
But, in reality, there are no real “rules”.
Focus on your areas of improvement and not so much on what “should” be done.
Always Train Speed/Power or Strength First
Now, to go slightly against the grain of what I’ve just said, there is a preferred order in which you should perform certain training protocols.
However, once more, these aren’t set in stone, and you can always choose the order of exercises that suits you.
With that being said, if I’m having a “multiple training protocol day”, I will always perform speed/power first, then strength, and finally hypertrophy.
I feel this is generally how the human body reacts best to training.
So, for speed work you’ll want to keep it to 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps, typically with 40-50% of your one-rep max.
For strength work, the reps and sets are exactly the same, but you’re looking to hit 85-100% of your one-rep max.
Finally, for hypertrophy work, 3-4 sets of 8-25 reps with 65-80% of your one-rep max.
I’ve set the reps very high for hypertrophy work, as I feel that the legs respond better to high rep training.
However, based on this you can decide which exercise to train first.
Plus, if you train both regularly, and on the same day, then it makes sense to change the order of things workout-to-workout.
Therefore, you could train squats for power and strength first, and then hip thrusts for hypertrophy.
Your next workout you switch to hip thrusts for power and strength, and squats for hypertrophy.
Additionally, swapping things around every once in a while helps your body to avoid adapting to a specific order, and potentially plateauing in your workouts.
Hip Thrusts & Squats For Glutes
If you asked me to pick one exercise between the two to grow your glutes then I’d have to pick hip thrusts.
Firstly, hip thrusts provide constant tension on the glutes, whereas the tension from squats will change throughout the range of motion.
This is often why people complain of not feeling squats in their glutes, as the tension differs depending on where you are in your squat.
Furthermore, hip thrusts provide more of a pump and greater metabolic stress on the glutes.
Granted, squats will provide more of an overall lower body pump, but hip thrusts will still stress the glutes more.
Something you should be aware of is that squats will create greater muscular damage to the glutes than hip thrusts.
However, you need much more than muscle damage alone to boost muscle growth.
So, if your focus is to grow your glutes, then always perform the better glute exercise first, i.e. hip thrusts.
Are You Struggling to Feel Hip Thrusts?
Once more, this does go slightly against what I’ve mentioned already, so bear with me.
Now, while hip thrusts may be lauded as one of the greatest glute exercises ever (if not the greatest), this doesn’t mean that you’ll always feel them in the target muscles.
Then again, perhaps you feel hip thrusts in your quads or knees.
Trust me, I know, it happens.
However, something I have noticed from personal experience is that if I do squats first then my hip thrusts tend to hit my glutes better.
Admittedly, if you’re feeling hip thrusts in the various other lower body muscles there are certain ways to fix this.
This will typically involve playing around with your foot position, pushing through your heels, and even changing head, neck, and chin position.
But, when you do squats first you’ll generally find that your quads, hamstrings, and adductors are slightly fatigued, so your glutes should take over when you hip thrust.
I guess the same can be said about feeling your glutes activate more during squats when you do hip thrusts first.
However, this once more comes down to which exercise you wish to improve most, and whether you want to concentrate more on glutes.
But, I’ll reiterate, if you find that your non-target muscles seem to take over when you hip thrust, e.g. quads, then fatigue them by squatting first.
Stop Doing Your Hip Thrusts Wrong
So, as you can see, there are no specific “rules” to whether you should squat or hip thrust first.
Initially, I would say that you should always perform the exercise you wish to improve first in your workout.
Then again, depending on how you’re actually training it’s best to do power work first, then strength, and then hypertrophy.
If you’re looking specifically to grow your glutes then I’d always suggest doing hip thrusts first.
However, if you find that your quads or hamstrings tend to take over when you hip thrust, fatigue the muscles by squatting first.
So, the debate to which exercise you should do first always comes down to your training goals and what you wish to achieve.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.