The purpose of this research was to compare muscle activation of the gluteus maximus and ground reaction force between the barbell hip thrust, back squat, and split squat and to determine the relationship between these outcomes and vertical and horizontal forces during maximal sprinting. Twelve male team sport athletes (age 25.0 ± 4.0 years, stature 184.1 ± 6.0 cm, body mass 82.2 ± 7.9 kg) performed separate movements of the three strength exercises at a load equivalent to their individual three repetition maximum. The ground reaction force was measured using force plates and the electromyography (EMG) activity of the upper and lower gluteus maximus was recorded in each leg and expressed as percentage of the maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC). Participants then completed a single sprint on a non-motorized treadmill for the assessment of maximal velocity, horizontal and vertical forces. Although ground reaction force was lower, peak EMG activity in the gluteus maximus was higher in the hip thrust than the back squat (p = 0.024; 95%CI = 4 – 56%MVIC) and split squat (p = 0.016; 95%CI = 6 – 58%MVIC). Peak sprint velocity was correlated with both anterior-posterior horizontal force (r = 0.72) and peak ground reaction force during the barbell hip thrust (r = 0.69) but no other variables. The increased activation of gluteus maximus during the barbell hip thrust and the relationship with maximal running speed suggests that this movement may be optimal for training this muscle group in comparison to the back squat and split squat.