The First Step to Better Glutes (AKA, a better butt). Hint: It’s NOT Squats. | Day 5

Today I thought I’d cover something important. Something that we all have, and many of us care about dearly: glutes. AKA, fancy trainer term for your butt. You may also hear it referred to as “your posterior.” Call it what you wish, but know that I’ll be calling them “glutes” for this article (there are 3 parts, making them plural). Now that we have that covered, let’s go over why they’re important.

Glutes tend to be an under active group of muscles, meaning that in many exercises, even daily life activities, they don’t always get used properly, or at all. Sitting doesn’t necessarily help the issue. It’s common, for runners especially, to have under active glutes because our legs do so much of the work in propelling our bodies forward. I face this myself, and it’s something I’m working to fix. How? By doing exercises that “fire” the glutes properly, especially before running and performing lower body exercises at the gym.

Why are glutes important? Well, aside from aesthetics, the glutes contain three parts: medius, maximus, and minimus. Each of them play a role in shaping the glutes, and different exercises have their unique place in activating each part (see Breaking Muscle’s article, Butt-ology 101). In short, the maximus extends your leg back, while the medius and minimus serve similar purposes of externally rotating or abducting the thigh (turning your leg out).

Short Recap:

What is the largest muscle in your body? The gluteus maximus!

What’s the first step to growing it? Activating it!

What’s the next step? Progressive, loaded (heavier) training with different exercises at varying angles!

Training women, one of my common client questions is “how can I make my butt bigger/firmer/better?”

If you ask most people the answer to a better butt, they’ll tell you: Squats.

BUT. That is not the answer. There is a better one.

For many people, squats cause greater leg development than glutes, and performed alone, they are often not enough for growing the glutes as much as you’d like. For someone like me who already has under active glutes, regular squats tend to build my thighs even more, making them even more overactive (which is not what I’m shooting for!).

In a series of studies using EMG software (measures activity of muscle groups), hip thrusts and reverse hyperextensions were shown to recruit significantly more muscle fibers and achieve greater gluteal activation than conventional squats.

In his article, Dispelling the Glute Myth, Bret Contreras “AKA, The Glute Guy” states the following:

“Squatting, deadlifting, and lunging, can make the glutes sore but they don’t strengthen the glutes much. They target the quads and erector spinae…

If you study glute activation, you’ll be blown away by the data. Most individual’s glutes contract harder during body weight glute activation exercises than from one-rep max squats and deadlifts.

It’s not that people don’t know how to use their glutes or don’t adhere to proper exercise form. It’s just that the glutes aren’t maximally involved in squatting, lunging, and deadlifting. They’re only maximally contracted from bent-leg hip hyperextension exercises.”

A laundry list of the very best glute exercises (in no specific order):

Barbel glute bridges (start with bodyweight)

Hip Thrust

Reverse Hyperextension (AKA back extensions) – often performed incorrectly! Watch this video first.

American Deadlift

Kneeling squat

Cable kickbacks

Cable pull-throughs

Cable standing abductions

Kettlebell swings

Frog pumps

Single leg elevated bridges

Reverse lunges with slight forward lean

Band work – lateral walks, monster walks

Hip abduction machine with a slight forward lean, if you are so inclined

Sprinting – get out there on the track!

To see how to perform any of these exercises, simply Google or Youtube them and you’ll find plenty of how-to’s!  I also have a workout guide currently in the works.

Recommended reads:

4 Simple Exercises to Get Your Glutes Fired Up – via Breaking Muscle

The Glute Guy – scroll down to the “Glutes” section and find a plethora of articles with detailed pictures and videos, backed by research. This is my go-to source for all things glutes!