The 5 Exercises You Should Be Doing for Great Glutes

Sculpting Strong Glutes

… to the Maximus, Medius, and Minimus

3-Gluteus-Muscles

Glutes. Butt. Booty. Bum. Behind. Rear. Tush. Tokus. Hind-quarters. Buns. Keister.

You get the picture.

A perfectly round derriere seems to be one of the most coveted physical features by women (and some men) nowadays. The rising popularity of Brazilian Butt Lift workouts and workout programs promising to add inches to your posterior are plentiful and profitable.

Genetics certainly have a large role in glute development. Some people just have a greater propensity to store fat and build muscle in certain areas than others. Unfortunately for me, I was not given any favors in that department. #GeneticPancakeButt AKA Flat-Ass Syndrome.

Call a doctor!

It does not help that I also have a wide waist – another genetic factor. A narrow waist coupled with wide hips will give you a larger-looking butt. Unfortunately, unless I wear a corset, my waist is not getting much smaller, so we’re stuck with having to get those hips (glutes) bigger!

But, that’s also why I have made it a major focal point in my training for the past 1-2 years. I have not, nor will I ever, reach Kim K proportions, but I am building bigger and stronger glutes – slowly but surely.

The gluteal group is actually made up of the maximum, medius, and minimus. As you may be able to discern fro the name, the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle of the group and is primarily involved in upper leg extension and is the main player when it comes to talking about the overall shape and size of your butt.

Following is a list of my Top 5 Favorite Glute-Building Exercises. Note: These are what I have found to be the best exercises for me. These may not be the best for you based on individual biomechanics and anatomy.

1. Low-Bar Squat

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True, squats are primarily a quadriceps exercise. However, with proper depth and by utilizing a low-bar (vs. a high-bar which is higher up on the back/trapezoids) position I personally feel like my squats are more stable and better able to activate my glutes as well. This is also a much more comfortable bar position for my knees, which I have had some problems with due to Osgood-Schlatter in my right knee.

However, squatting alone will not get you the results you are after if you desire bigger glutes. You should really be performing assistance and isolation exercises as well. Perform a couple of heavy compound exercises (such as the squat or deadlift) in the 8-12 rep range, followed by 4-7 sets of lighter isolation exercises for 8-12 reps with short rest times.

2. Pull-Through

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This exercise can be done on a cable machine or with an anchored band. This is much the same movement that you would get with use of a kettlebell swing. However, few gyms have kettlebells and even fewer individuals have one, let alone a set of, at home. This is a fantastic exercise to introduce the hip-hinge pattern and, due to low amounts of spinal loading, is often comfortable for those who normally struggle with back pain.

3. Hip Thrust

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I have really seen this exercise pick up in popularity over the past 2-3 years, due in large part to the information and research put out by Bret Contreras. The hip thrust is his baby – over 10 years in the making. When performed correctly, this exercise activates the quadriceps, glutes, hamstring, as well as the adductors for all-around thigh development. The glutes also stay under constant tension throughout the movement. Greater time under tension -> more muscle mAss. While the exercise is usually demonstrated using a barbell (for heavier loading ability), they can also be done unloaded, with bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, or chains, as well as with single-leg variations and shoulder- and/or feet-elevated variations. I have also seen individuals adapt the exercise for use on a Smith machine, leg extension, or hamstring curl machine. Note: many experience hip pain with barbell hip thrusts due to pressure on the area where it rests on the body. For some, a yoga mat provides enough padding. Personally, I use this bar pad and have not experienced any discomfort or problems with it.

4. Bulgarian Split Squat

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Where they came up with this name, Lord know because it has nothing to do with Bulgaria or the Bulgarians. A more descriptive name would be “split squat with the back foot elevated”. Anywho, I think it is important to build single-leg exercises into your programming to ensure better right-left strength symmetry. Many of us are dominant on either our left or our right side and this applies both to our arms (think, which side do you write with?and to our legs. While the asymmetry may be more difficult to catch when performing compound lifts like the squat or deadlift, by working only one side at a time, you may find that you are stronger or have better recruitment on one side versus the other. In the past, I was performing this exercise with too narrow of a stance. By placing my foot further away from the bench (or other elevated surface) and ensuring my shin stays perpendicular to the ground, I have felt better glute activation throughout the movement. This is another great exercise that can be done with weights or with bodyweight alone.

5. Lateral Donkey Kick on Glute Kickback Machine

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I will admit, this is a newer exercise for me. I will also admit that I completely made up the name because I have no idea what it’s called, or if it even has an official name at all. While I have used variations of this on a leg press machine in the past, those versions were always uncomfortable to me. Discomfort = I’m not going to do it. Anyways, I have been trying to get better about incorporating at least one lateral lower body movement on my lower body days. While my focus is primarily on aesthetics and bodybuilding, I still consider myself an athlete. As an athlete, and as a human being living in the real world, I believe that it is important that my body be able to handle loads and forces in all directions. By strengthening throughout multiple planes of movement, the hope is to avoid more serious injury when things go awry and optimal body mechanics cannot be utilized, such as when slipping on a patch of ice or if you have to rapidly change direction to jump out of the way of a speeding bicycle. If you have a glute kickback machine in your gym, consider throwing this in as an accessory exercise, or another lateral movement.

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BONUS POINTS for using one of these puppies pictured above! This is the SlingShot Hip Circle and I use it before every lower body workout to help wake up my sleepy glutes from a day filled with sitting. While any band would do, I like this specifically because of the non-slip material and heavy resistance that I can’t find with regular bands.

Looking to develop your upper glutes? Perform side lying hip abductions, cable standing hip abductions, and lateral band walks.

Looking to develop your lower glutes? Perform squats, lunges, and Bulgarian split squats.

Looking to develop your glutes, overall? Perform barbell hip thrusts, back extensions, cable kickbacks, band hip thrusts, and single-leg hip thrusts.

Looking to develop your outer glutes? TOO BAD! Unfortunately, it is not possible to target the inner or outer regions of the glutes because the muscle fibers activate identically from left to right along the length of the gluteus maximus fibers.

If you want to learn more or are looking for a tested and trusted glute-building program to follow, I highly recommend you check out Bret Contreras (“The Glute Guy”) and his offerings. He truly is THE current expert in all things glutes and glute training.

because no one ever wrote a song about small butts.

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