The Definitive Guide to Glute Training
updated October 5, 2018
For an area of our bodies that we never see, we spend an awful lot of time thinking about our glutes. For women, it seems they are constantly a work in progress. The three butt muscles are invariably too small, too droopy, too jelly-like or too flat. The vast majority of women are focused on a bigger butt. They want glutes that are round, curvaceous, firm and as sexy as hell.
But it’s not just women who are desirous of good glutes. For men, tight, taught glutes are the perfect complement to sweeping thighs and hamstrings, as well as full, flaring lats.
Developing your glutes isn’t just about looking hot. If your glutes are under developed you are not going to be as fast, powerful and strong as you could. You are also going to be far more prone to lower back problems. Regardless of your sport or discipline, unless and until you develop those gutes, you will never be able to run and jump as efficiently as you could be doing.
For many, though, developing the glutes is a frustratingly difficult thing to do. Women seem to find the beautiful butt to be an elusive quest. Men, too, struggle to develop their glute muscles. In this comprehensive guide we will get to grips with your butt to enable you to maximally develop it. You will then have in our possession all of the information that you’ll ever need to transform your glutes from glib to glorious.
Comprising the biggest muscle in the human body, the gluteus maximus constitutes the main part the butt. The gluteus maximus is responsible for three key actions:
- Spreading the legs
- Extending the legs
- Turning the legs
Of course, the gluteus maximus doesn’t do these things alone. It works in concert with the gluteus medius and minimus to do it’s work.
Located on the outer side of the pelvis, the gluteus medius is the key stabiliser of the hip area. Without it, or with a severely weakened gluteus medius we’d have major difficulty maintaining our balance and stability. Along with the gluteus minimus, it is the most powerful abductor and internal rotator of the hip joint. It is responsible for flexion and inward rotation, as well extension and outward rotation.
Situated underneath the gluteus medius, the gluteus minimus work in concert with the medius as the most powerful abductors and internal rotators of the hip joint. The gluteus minimus performs the same functions as the gluteus maximus.
THE PRICE FOR WEAK GLUTES
The muscles of your butt, then, do a whole lot more than provide a cushion for you body when you sit down. They are, in fact, integral to the health, form and function of your entire body. That is why we need to maintain them. The three glute muscles play a key role in your overall wellness, strength and conditioning. But only if we keep using them. We need to consciously work the glutes by directly targeting them through exercise and movement that involves spreading our legs, twisting and turning. The lifestyle that we lead in the Western world is not conducive to healthy glutes. In fact, it pretty well makes them redundant. We need to re-employ them. If we don’t they will shut down on us, making it that much more difficult to perform the necessary functions of our life.
When our glutes are weak, flabby and out of condition, we place a much heavier demand on the other muscles of the pelvis to pick up the slack. One of the smaller muscles that is put under an inordinate amount of pressure by weak glutes is the erector spinae (lower back). That’s why so many people suffer from chronic lower pain. That pain in the back is due to weak butt muscles. Strengthen the glutes and the back will fix itself!
But it’s not just the lower back that picks up the slack from weak glutes. It’s also the hamstrings. Again, this an area where many people have injury. Pulling a hamstring is a common complaint which can, once again, be lessened by working the glutes more effectively.
In order to function as a healthy, vital, active human being, you need to have strong, tight and toned glute muscles. To get them you need to consider your glutes as another body part, like your deltoids and give them the respect they deserve with targeted movements. The glutes, however, are used to sitting around and doing nothing. In order to maximally stimulate them, you have got to wake them up and force them to pay attention. And that is why you need to start your training with glute activation movements.
WHY CAN'T YOU DEVELOP YOUR GLUTES
If you’re reading this it’s quite likely that your glutes are not growing the way you would like them to. Often people will come with the excuse that they don’t have the genetic potential to build a great butt. They’ll also say that they’ve tried everything but still can’t get their glutes to grow. The truth is that the glutes are just like any other muscle group. Anyone can grow their glutes, firm them and lift them. While it’s true that the basic shape of the glutes is determined by genetics, it is also true that you can shape the glutes somewhat through targeted resistance training.
Here are the top five reasons that your glutes are not growing.
- No Direct Glute Work - You cannot rely on exercises that primarily work other body parts like squats, deadlifts and lunges to develop banging glutes. Cardio on the stepper or treadmill won’t cut it either. You have simply got to directly target the glute muscles. That means you must do movements to target all 3 muscles, the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. Squats and deadlifts will do their bit to shape and build the glutes, but they will never constitute the optimal workout to really hit your glutes. You need to add in movements in which the glutes are the prime mover, such as hip thrusts and X-band walks to start getting your glutes to respond. You also have to work your glutes from every angle.
- Improper Glute Activation - If you don’t warm up your glute muscles, you won’t get maximum activation out of them when performing your glute workout. You need to get all three areas of the glutes - minimus, medius and maximus - firing in order to really benefit from your workout. A muscle that is connected to the glutes is the TFL muscle - this too needs to be firing for the best results. A 10-15 minute dynamic workout will make your workout even more powerful. Doing so will also lessen the chance of injury.
- Too Much Sitting - The sedentary lifestyle that we are living promotes not using our glutes. In fact, most people spend an inordinate amount of time sitting down. For many their work day involves 8 hours of sitting, preceded and followed by an hour sitting in their car and then another two or three hours watching TV. To put it simply, we are sitting on our butts way too much. As a result we are not firing our glutes.
You can’t do much about your job situation, but you can do things to stimulate your glutes. Take the stairs wherever you can. Take a 5-10 minute walk at lunch time. Do hip thrusts to get your glutes firing. Simply stand up and flex your glutes 10-20 times every couple of hours.
- Gluteal Imbalances - Gluteal imbalances can be of three types:
(i) Asymmetrical human nature - often we are born with one gluteal muscle stronger than the other side or less coordinated than the other side.
(ii) Inactivity - If the glutes aren’t being used, they are basic just acting as a sponge. They are not designed to be a sponge. The glute muscles are, in fat, designed to be the steering wheel of your whole lower body. They control everything that happens below the waist. They need to be powerful enough to do that effectively.
(iii) Prior Injury - prior injury can lead to lack of strength. That may mean that you’re not able to fire one of your glute muscles they way they should do. If you do have a prior injury in the glute muscles, you have to find a way to strengthen it and get it back going the way it should do.
- Disuse of Glutes in General - The old saying “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” is as true as ever when it comes to the glutes. If you don’t use the glutes, you will lose the glutes.
ACTIVATING YOUR GLUTES
There are a lot of exercises that you are more than likely already doing that have the potential to be excellent glute strengtheners and shapers. The way most people do them, however, does not properly activate the glutes. Unless and until you can do that you’ll be missing out on the glute activating power of such moves as the deadlift, squat, lunges and even push ups.
When you learn how to activate your glutes before you begin your workout proper, you will be ready to hit your butt like never before.The movements in this section will allow you to apply the mind-muscle connection to your butt. They will also get your glutes firing on all cylinders. You will be training yourself to fully engage them on every movement. Once you do that, you will be ready to perform workouts that will torch your glutes like nothing you’ve done before. While doing these exercises, you should feel a deep burn in the gluteus maximus. This takes training, however. However, the more you do the movements, the better you’ll be able to feel the muscles working and control them.
ACTIVATING THE GLUTEUS MAXIMUS
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body. It tends to extend your hip, taking your hip from out in front of you and pulling your leg back. When you’re running you use the glutes to do the last bit of hip extension. When you’re deadlifting or squatting, you finish the movement with your glutes.
People who can’t fire their gluteus maximus very well will typically not be able to finish squats or deadlifts, compensating by hyper-extending their backs or pushing their knees forward in order to skip using their glutes. This is a good way to pull a muscle!
The gluteus maximus also causes external rotation, where the knee moves to the outside and well as abduction, where the leg is moving away from the body. A common problem when squatting for people with weak gluteus maximus muscles is the their knees tend to cave in together when squatting because the external rotator function isn’t doing the job it should. If that sounds like you, then you need to do some glute activation before your workout.
BODY WEIGHT GLUTEUS MAXIMUS ACTIVATION MOVES
Stand nice and tall with feet shoulder width apart. Squeeze your glutes together for a 5 second contraction. Relax. Repeat for 20 reps. This is simply getting the gluteus maximus used to firing.
Sprinter Glute Activator
Stand a few feet away from a wall facing towards it. Place your outstretched palms on the wall at shoulder level. Make your body nice and straight. Now lift one knee up as high as it will go, while you rise up on your toe on the other leg. Hold that position for 10-20 seconds, keeping the lead knee up as high as possible. Do not bend the bottom knee or round your back. This position is very similar to the position you would be in if you were accelerating into a sprint. Switch to the other side. Do five reps per leg.
Double Legg Glute Bridge
From a supine position with bent legs, push through the heels and raise the hips into the air. On reaching full hip extension, tense the glutes, spinal erectors and hamstrings. You should feel the greatest muscle activation in the glutes. Be sure not to overarch your lower back. The up / down movement should be limited to the hips. Hold for sixty seconds.
Single Leg Glute Bridge – Foam Roller
From a supine position, center one bent leg and raise the hips into the air. Keep the non working leg resting on a foam roller. Without shifting or rotating the core, tense the glutes tightly. Your gluteus maximus should be doing the bulk of the work to lift your lower body into the air. Your lower back should not feel any of the strain. Hold for sixty seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
Side Lying Clam
From a side lying position, flex the hips about 45 degrees, keeping the heels in contact with one another. The gluteus maximus should contract to externally rotate and lift the leg. Do not twist the spine while holding the extended position for sixty seconds.
Start on all fours, then lift the left arm up, while simultaneously, kicking the right leg back. Keep the rear leg parallel to the floor. Keep your spine neutral. Hold for sixty seconds then repeat with the other leg.
These exercises are designed to allow you to isolate and focus your muscular tension on your glutes. If you mainly felt them in your lower back and hamstrings, continue doing them on a daily basis until the focus transfers to your glutes. Over and above glute activation, these movements are great glute workers in themselves. Doing them everyday for a few minutes whenever you get the chance is a great daily habit that will greatly assist you to build a bigger butt.
Banded Pull Through
Afix an exercise band to a stationary object in a low position and grab the other end of the band through your legs as you stand about six feet in front of the object, facing away from it. Lean forward into the movement. Contract hard to squeeze the glutes, keeping your lower back nice and neutral. Your legs should be straight. Perform reps by bend down under the the legs and then returning to the contracted position. Do 10-15 reps of this movement.
In addition to the above moves to activate the glutes, it important to loosen up your hip flexors before you start training. If your hip flexors are too tight, you won’t be able to get full glute contraction because the hip flexors are antagonistic to the glutes - they are the opposing muscle group. In order to activate the hip flexors go into an exaggerated lunge, pushing your rear knee to the ground. Doing so will put your lead hip into full extension. You can also do this movement with a band in order to provide a bit of resistance to the hip flexors. To make this movement harder, and more effective, reach your hard around to grab a hold of your back foot.
The glutes make up a major portion of your lower body chain. You can generate a lot of power with strong glutes that will directly translate onto the athletic field. Whether it is soccer, rugby, football or basketball, powerful glutes will make you a better player.