Hip Thrust and Squat for Acceleration and Max Running Speed
By Jose Vazquez, PT, RSCC, Napoleon Pichardo, RSCC, Gene Coleman, RSCC*E

For decades, the squat has been considered to be the “King of Exercises” for almost all things athletic. While research indicates that squats are effective for improving many of the movements required in most sports, recent research indicates that they might not be the most effective method of improving acceleration1-5.

A recently published study by a group of international researchers examined the relationship between various neuromuscular tests and the sprint performance of elite track and field athletes across different running distances4. The subjects were 16 top-level sprinters and jumpers (9 men and 7 women) mean age 21.8 +/- 3.0 years. Three of the athletes had participated in the 2016 Olympic Games and the others had competed in the World Championships, Pan-American Games and South-American competitions.

Subjects were tested for squat and counter-movement vertical jump height, short sprint speed at 10-, 20-, 40- and 60-m intervals and longer sprint speed at 100- and 150-m intervals. Speed was measured from a starting position. Mean propulsive power outputs (MPP) were measured in the jump squat and half-squat exercise on a Smith Machine and hip thrust using an Olympic bar.

The results indicated that among elite track and field athletes, horizontally directed hip thrusts were more related to the initial or max acceleration phase of sprinting while vertically directed half-squats and jump squats were more related to the max speed phase of sprinting. The take aways from this study are:

• Athletes should use a combination of both horizontally–directed and vertically-directed exercises in their resistance training programs when training for speed and acceleration.

• The primary emphasis on one or the other method of exercise is dependent on the movement quality sought – acceleration or max speed.

• The traditional half-squat performed with heavier loads at slower speeds may be used to enhance the ability to overcome the moment of inertia throughout the max acceleration phase.

Bottom line – “You get what you train for.” Acceleration is best improved with horizontal loading; max speed with vertical loading. Since acceleration and max speed are both essential for successful performance, both forms of exercise must be included in the training program. When you emphasis each form of exercise is a function of what the primary training objective is at the time.


1. Adams, K., et. al. “The effect of 6 weeks of squat, plyometric and squat-plyometric training on power production.” J Strength Cond Res 36-36.
2. Haff, G. and N. T. Triplett (ed). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 4th ed. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 2016.
3. Hatfield, F. Power a Scientific Approach. Contemporary Books,1989, Chicago, IL
4. Loturco, I., et. al., Vertically and horizontally directed muscle power exercises: Relationships with top-level sprint performance. PLOS One,, 2018.
5. Wisloff, U. Strong correlation of maximal squat strength with sprint performance and vertical jump height in elite soccer players.” British J Sports Med, 285-288.
Jose Vazquez, PT, RSCC is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Texas Rangers. Napoleon Pichardo, RSCC is the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for the Texas Rangers. Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E, FACSM is Professor Emeritus, Exercise and Health Science Program, University of Houston, Clear Lake, S&C Consultant for Texas Rangers and Website Education Manager

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