Step into pretty much any gym in the country and you will see both men and women performing Instagram inspired glutes routines, quite often not really knowing what they are doing or why they are doing it.
Some of these exercises are legit and serve a purpose and others just need to be binned once and for all.
Are you mindlessly copying routines from those who you admire aesthetically and not making any progress?!
If so, it’s time to try and get a better understanding of some basic training principals and how you could make some changes to your current routines to start seeing improvements.
A lot of people train their glutes with the aim of building/toning/shaping their backsides.
If this is you then great, you are going to want to read on and understand what’s required to build this size rather than striving to achieve a burn which normally dissapears 3 minutes after your selfie in the changing rooms…
It’s also important to point out that a stronger set of glutes will most likely help with any lower back pain you may be experiencing as they are a key part of what is known as the posterior chain.
In addition to this strong glutes are a key component when trying to build some impressive numbers for lifts like squats and deadlifts.
So as you can see, glute training isn’t just reserved for girls or for those who want to grow a bigger bum….having stronger glutes will help nearly all of us whatever our goals are!
THE GLUTE MUSCLES
It isn’t quite as simple as ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ and the two muscles we will discuss in relation to your training today are your ‘Glute Maximus’ and ‘Glute Medius’ which you can see pictured here.
GLUTE MAXIMUS– The Gluteus maximus acts to both extend and externally rotate the hip joint (as well as a couple of other functions).
The glute maximus is THE biggest muscle in the whole body.
A lot of the exercises that the glute maximus are heavily involved in are called ‘compound lifts’ which also work a lot of other big muscle groups in the body.
You will certainly want to focus on developing a good mixture of strength and endurance in these exercises and place them at the start of your programme when you feel fresh and ready to work at a higher intensity.
Example exercises include:
- Hip thrusts
- Lunges/ high step ups
- Hyper extensions
- Quaduped kickbacks
The Gluteus medius is responsible for hip abduction and internal rotation of the hip. The glute medius is also called into action for stabilising the hip during walking, running and single leg exercises.
A lot of the exercises which target this particular area of the glutes look like they belong in an 80’s aerobics class.
That being said they can still hold a legitimate place within your programme if you have aspiring glute goals.
A lot of them work well as ‘activation’ warm up exercises or as ‘finishers’ to give you the burn that so many of you want to feel when training glutes. For this reason I would recommend using a medium to high rep range on most of these exercises.
Example exercises include:
- Band side walks
- Lying band hip abductions
- Clamshell opens/ static holds
- Cursty lunges
- Reverse step ups
- Lateral lunges
With the above info at your disposal you may also understand the appropriate time and place for using bands and hip circles in your glute training to reduce the time you spend in the gym and maximise the effectiveness of the exercises you select.
If you want to build great glutes (or any other muscle group for that matter) then you need to understand progressive overload.
Progressive overload is achieved by increasing any of the following:
Volume How much work you do (The number of sets x reps x weight).
Frequency How often you do it.
Intensity How hard/heavy the work you do is.
There is a time and a place for increasing each one of these variables but you can’t expect to get stronger, whilst training more often with more reps and sets. It doesn’t work like that and you need to be smart when choosing which variable you will be focussing on depending on what the end goal of the current training block is.
HOW OFTEN YOU SHOULD TRAIN GLUTES
A matched numbers of sets and reps spread over several days has been proven to be more effective than a single session beasting when trying to build muscle.
Obliterating your glutes or any other muscle group in a single session might feel hardcore but in reality once fatigue kicks in your performance will drop and what you are able to achieve will be negatively affected. Train smart and spread your workload over your entire weeks planned sessions.
WHAT REP RANGES TO USE
Everyone will find that they respond slightly different to certain rep ranges. The glute muscles are predominantly made up of ‘slow twitch muscle fibres’ which means that they are likely to respond best to medium/ higher reps. To maximise glute development we are still going to want some heavier weights for fewer reps but generally speaking most of our glute training is going to take place in the 6-20 rep range.
Ultimately there is no magic rep range it will all come down to you being consistent and making progress using the variables in our progressive overload diagram above.
Perfect form is going to be really important when training glutes as it is with any other muscle group.
All too often you will see gym goers loading up for some barbell hip thrusts with a weight they can’t control and sloppy form…a back injury waiting to happen!
Building strength with immaculate form over time is going to lead to some fantastic results. Whilst the evidence behind whether going deeper on squats sees more activity in the glutes is inconclusive my personal advice would be to still focus on a full range of motion with the heaviest weight you can manage whilst focussing on your mind-muscle connection (see below).
Leading on from the previous point, before you go too heavy, make sure you can feel it in the right places. Experiment with different foot positions, the use of bands and different angles and find what you feel works best for you. Once you have this all figured out then overtime apply the principals of progressive overload (see above). Remember the glutes roles and functions- everything comes from the hips so ensure you are really considering this when you are squatting, deadlifting, hip thrusting etc.
REST AND NUTRITION
Hitting the glutes every day whilst consuming inadequate calories or giving yourself insufficient rest time between sessions will lead to you hitting a plateau and feeling frustrated at your lack of progress.
Building muscle is a gradual process of exposure (work) and recovery (rest) for the best results- be patient and train smarter not always harder.
So which exercises are best?
There are dozens of great exercises that are going to work well in any programme for someone looking to build some glutes. My personal advice would be to include a squat variation, a lunge variation and a hip thrust variation as a must and then throw anything else you enjoy doing in addition on top of this if you have the time/desire to do so.
MY TOP 3 GLUTES EXERCISES
A great all round strength and size builder. Don’t jump in with barbell squats if you aren’t ready yet. Earn your stripes with exercises like the goblet squat whilst improving strength, technique and mobility before you progress onto barbell variations.
2. REAR FOOT ELEVATED SQUATS BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUATS)
These are a killer on the legs in general and a great way to ensure both sides get equal work. Go slow and imagine you are stretching the glutes on the way down and squeezing them hard driving up from the hips into the lockout position. Top tip- A slight forwards lean with the torso throughout these will leave your glutes in pieces the next day!
3. HIP BRIDGES WITH RESISTANCE BANDS
You can perform these with a barbell, a dumbbell or my personal favourite that i was shown recently… a resistance band looped over the hips and a hip circle over the knees for a high rep finisher that will seriously burn!
So how might this all look in a programme I hear you ask?
This is a very simple 3 day full body programme with an emphasis on glute stimulating exercises.
If you don’t know where to begin then this is a going to be a good starting point.
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