Along with chiseled six-pack abs, strutting around with a well-developed, devastatingly strong pair of glutes is something both men and women alike aspire to achieve in our current ass centric society.
If you think that the presence of a big booty is something that is primarily based on genetics, you may be watching too much of the Kardashians. The latest trend in the fitness industry includes the intelligent programming and training emphasis focused around the most important functional unit of musculature in the body.
But even with the recent focus on glute training, why do so many serious lifters fail to build an impressive backside? The problem lies in a lack of diversity in simple loaded strength programming for this muscle group.
The king of all glute focused loaded movements, the hip thrust, provides a very effective way to target the glutes. But this is not a one exercise fits all movement. The sometimes awkward setups can be limiting, especially in busy commercial gyms and for novice lifters who lack the focus for proper setup and execution.
Whether it's the setup or the somewhat scandalous looking exercises, glute training is often ignored.
Here’s how to add some intelligent variety to your glute training in an efficient and effective manner. They're easy to add to any type of focused training program.
1. Quadruped Banded Hip Extension
The Quadruped Banded Hip Extension has the ability to create some of the most intense gluteal contractions and activations of any exercise. Because you setup in the all-fours position and use band resistance instead of external weighted loading, this movement provides all the training stimulus for the glutes with a fraction of the joint and non-contractile tissue stresses.
Coaching Notes: The quadruped setup is pivotal to not only master statically, but to maintain during any dynamic movement you complete out of this developmental position. Lock down your shoulders using torque into external rotation and do the same screw home mechanism at the hips to generate tension through the glutes and core before you even begin the motion.
Once you are set, you will be violently driving one leg back behind you, straightening your knee and moving your hip into extension in a smooth synergy.
If you proved the ability to complete this action without compensation from the upper extremities, core, or weight shift at the hips, progress to a banded variation. Try placing a band around the arch of your moving foot to provide a heavy contraction like no other.
Common Mistakes: Don’t mistake this movement for the old school donkey kick that has been bastardized for decades. This is a high concentration, high effort movement. It not only targets the glutes with a huge training stimulus and amount of internal tension, but also requires the pillar of the shoulders, hips, and abdominals to function and stabilize.
While reaching end range hip extension, it's easy to compensate through the spine and arch your back. This will cause you to lose tension in the glutes and put undue stress on the spine. Stay stable, and again, earn the right to progress from bodyweight to loaded variations.
2. Double Banded Bodyweight Hip Thrust
The double banded bodyweight hip thrust provides the best of the popular hip thrust exercise. Plus it offers the convenience of hitting the glutes and getting them contracting through multiples planes of action. With the use of two bands, it's easy to generate huge amounts of tension that not only activates gluteal muscle fibers, but also fatigues them quickly.
Coaching Notes: The full body setup is one of the biggest keys to success on any hip thrust variation. Place your mid back on the bench, right below the shoulder blades.
Next, ensure that your core stays active and stiffened through this motion. Finally, when placing the feet onto the ground, I start most lifters at their squat stance in terms of both the width apart and also the amount of toeing out. This is slightly wider than hip width with the toes turned out maybe an inch or so.
Once we have that setup, it’s all about getting that accommodating band resistance setup to create the type of training effect we are targeting. The first band will be placed right above the knees, which will cause your knees to drive out during the thrust, activating the glutes working into external rotation of the hip.
The second band will be hooked around your heels and placed over your waist to resist the glutes working into hip extension. Check out the video setup for this, as it gets a little tricky. Master this variation, as it requires no external equipment other than an elevated surface and a few bands. No power rack or power platform required.
Common Mistakes: Like most movements, the ability to create and maintain a strong and stable core is important to not only receive benefit from the movement, but also stay safe and injury-free in the process. This movement requires a stiff core and hip hinge pattern to target the glutes and keep as much tension in the musculature as possible.
If you find yourself with an achy back during or after this movement, it’s safe to say you aren’t executing properly. Concentrate on finding your pelvic neutral, not rotated forward as many people are, and maintaining it throughout the movement. When you get really good, you can accentuate this movement with a slight posterior pelvic tilt, which will target yet another action of the glutes!
3. Glute Emphasized Banded Back Extension
One of my favorite posterior chain builders is the back extension. This adds strength and mass through the glutes, hamstrings, and erector group. This movement looks simple, but with strategic setups and executions, this traditional back builder can transform into an effective way to build your glutes. All while staying highly functional and transferable to other lifts and activities.
Coaching Notes: There’s beginning to be a theme here. You need a specific setup of this movement to place the largest amount of emphasis on the glutes instead of the hamstrings and spinal erectors.
First, make sure that the pad is positioned high enough on the front side of your pelvis that you aren’t going in and out of anterior and posterior pelvic tilt. Some movement is ok, but too much movement will place an emphasis on the hamstrings. Placing the pad an inch or two above the bony prominences of your hips is a good place to start.
Most importantly, use an angled out foot position to externally rotate the hips along with the rest of the leg at approximately 45 degrees. This will emphasize the glutes' secondary action of external rotation and create an easier pathway to generate tension and activation.
Finally, maintaining constant tension throughout the movement is a must to elicit a devastating pump through the glutes. This is done through slow and precise movements both up and down in this exercise, but also through the addition of accommodating band resistance. Simply wrap a band at the base of the extension setup and place it around your neck.
Common Mistakes: Utilizing a full range of motion is something that is increasingly hard to do. Especially when you're experiencing a brutal pump through the glutes, which you will if you properly setup for this back extension variation with the notes above.
It’s human nature to cheat, so be sure you don’t cut your range of motion, especially in the bottom half of the range as this is a pivotal portion of the exercise which stretches the glutes with your hips placed in a flexion moment.
Also, fight the urge to swing and use momentum to take the tension out of your glutes and posterior chain, as this is another cheating mechanism. Be aware and avoid butchering the exercise and getting hurt.
4. Heel Elevated Plate Loaded Single Leg Glute Bridge
This one's for those of you stuck in big box gyms that don’t have specific equipment like the roman chair or access to bands and other resistance training implements. The Heel Elevated Plate Loaded Single Leg Glute Bridge provides a novel glute training stimulus that only requires a bench and a weight plate. If your gym doesn’t have these, invest in a new gym!
Related: The Real Benefits of Stronger Glutes
Coaching Notes: Start lying on your back with your heels resting in the middle of a bench. Note, benches that are sturdy and won’t slip are highly recommended such as a bench press setup. If you don’t have these at your disposal, back up the adjustable utility bench with heavy dumbbells to avoid slippage during your set.
Your back should be relatively flat on the ground and knees bent at 90 degrees and approximately hip width apart. From this central setup, bring one knee to your chest and hold it there by wrapping both hands and arms around it.
Now, it’s time to thrust! Drive your hips up on your single leg with great speed and acceleration, and pause for a split second before controlling down to the starting position.
Once you’ve proven the ability to knock out perfect reps, you can add external resistance with weight plates. Simply place the plate over the knee you are bringing to your chest and hold it tight as you thrust up with the opposite leg. A little loading goes a long way here!
Common Mistakes: One of the most common mistakes I see with this movement is the lack of proper rhythm and activation. It’s not good enough to just go through the motions here and half-ass your ass up in the air. There needs to be an emphasis placed on the violent explosion of your hips up and your top end squeeze to maximize tension and fatigue of the gluteal fibers.
Tap into your mind muscle connection with this movement, and willfully squeeze each and every rep as hard as you can. That kind of execution is how powerful, sexy glutes are built.