You might have heard that squats and deadlifts are all you need to pack on some glute gains. While there’s absolutely no doubt that they’re both amazing exercises, and are definitely ones you should consider including in your training for better looking, stronger glutes, there’s no guarantee they’re the only exercises that you, personally need for the best results.
We’re all unique – that’s a given; from the length of our bodies and limbs, to our lifestyles, to our genetics. These and many other factors will all have an impact on the bestpossible training for your glutes (i.e. one size doesn’t fit all). What worked for one person may or may not work for you.
What we do know however, based on a combination of scientific research and anecdotal evidence, is that a variety of movements, covering the different functions of the gluteal muscles will give you the best chances of success.
Why Should I Train Glutes?
Your glutes are one of the largest muscle groups in your body, and aside from just looking good, are incredibly important for your general health.
Unfortunately, most of us sit on them for the majority of the day, and they sort of ‘forget’ how to work properly (called ‘gluteal amnesia’). In fact, whatever you’re doing right now, I want you to try to squeeze your bum as hard as you can – imagine trying to pinch a penny between your cheeks.
If it didn’t feel like a very hard squeeze, yours are probably quite inactive at the moment, but don’t worry we can do something to improve that, just keep reading on to find out how…
Benefits of Glute Training
Does your lower back ache at all?
That’s a really common result of weak/inactive glutes, because it can compensate for that weakness. By training them to be stronger you may find that pain is reduced, and day-to-day activities become much easier.
Another reason training your glutes is so important comes down to how often we tend to use the front half of our body compared to the back half (A.K.A. the posterior chain). Whenever we get up from a chair, or walk up stairs we mainly use the muscles in our thighs (quads), therefore they’re much more likely to be stronger than the muscles on the back half of our bodies.
✓ This is something we’ve got the power to change, by training our posterior chain (especially glutes), more so than our quads.
There’s so many exercises I could have recommended in this list; the ones I’ve picked for you here are less common but have been proven to be really effective for both sculpting and strengthening!
Exercise 1: Hip Thrust
This has got to be my favourite glute exercise. It might look and feel a little odd to do at first, but believe me, from experience with my clients and myself, it’s well worth it! The burn you’ll get from doing it properly, is probably going to be like no burn you’ve ever felt before!
I’ll talk you through how to do the barbell hip thrust, but there’s so many other variations of it to try, including bodyweight, single-leg and band.
I’d always advise getting used to this with your bodyweight first, before using a bar across your hips.
You may have to improvise with the set up if using a barbell, as you’ll need support behind the bench or step, to avoid it tipping over (bodyweight/band variations tend to be okay). There is a specific piece of equipment called The Hip Thruster for this, but they’re not very common in gyms at the moment.
a) Place/roll a bar across your hips – you might want to use a foam pad around the bar for comfort, and position your upper back on top of a bench or step.
b) Move your feet out so when flat, your shin is approximately vertical. If you feel the hamstrings working in the top position (image B), bring your feet slightly closer to the bench. On the other hand, if your weight pushes through the balls of your feet rather than your heels, move your feet slightly further away.
In terms of foot width, start around shoulder-width and adjust from there. Again, due to people being different, some people will feel it better with a wider stance, and some with a narrower one. You may also want to try comparing how it feels with your toes pointing forwards, or out at 45 degrees.
c) From here, tense your abs and squeeze your glutes. Now push as hard as you can through your heels and lift the bar up with your hips until your body is in line with the top of the bench and your shin is vertical. Make sure you squeeze your glutes as hard as you can at the top, rather than using your lower back and over-arching.
d) Do the reverse to lower the bar back to the ground under control.
Sets: 4 – Reps: 8-12
Exercise 2: High Step/Reverse Lunge Combo
While single-leg exercises aren’t solely focused on your glutes, they can be very useful for development and strength.
a) Place one heel on a step/bench and lean forward at a 45 degree angle (this forward lean increases glute activation, in comparison to standing upright).
I’ve use the high step/reverse lunge combo as an example, but the same applies to other single-leg variations such as lunges (forward/reverse/walking) and the Bulgarian (or rear foot elevated) split squat.
b) Push through the heel of your front leg until you’re standing on the step. Make sure allof the work is being done by your front leg, and that you’re not using your back leg to help.
c) Lower yourself back to the ground under control, using the front leg as a brake against gravity.
Sets: 3 – Reps: 8-12 (per leg)
Exercise 3: Hip Extension
This one is very similar to a back extension, with a slight twist – instead of targeting the lower back, here we’re just targeting your glutes.
In the example I’m using a Swiss Ball, but if you have access to a back extension machine you can use that instead.
Sets: 3 – Reps: 12-15
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