How’s your bottom line? Would you like to have glutes that are firmer and rounder? Training your glute muscles so that they hypertrophy is the best way to reach your goal. In response to training, your glutes will also become stronger. Strong glutes help you generate more power when you walk, climb stairs, run, or play sports. You probably already do some form of training that impacts your glutes – but are you getting the full benefits from your glute workout?
The glute muscles are important for more than just aesthetic reasons. Your glutes are made up of three muscles – the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. These muscles are responsible for abducting, extending, and rotating your hips. If they’re not strong, your hip flexors gain dominance and become tight and rigid, especially if you sit much of the day. The tighter your hip flexors are, the more unbalanced your musculature is. Dominant hip flexors create a tight anterior chain and a weak posterior chain. Such an imbalance increases your risk of injury. It also creates an unhealthy posture and alignment.
The consequences of weak glutes are far-reaching. For example, they increase the risk of back pain and knee pain. That’s because the entire posterior chain is connected and when one aspect, the glutes is weak, it impacts the function of the rest of the chain. Developing strong glutes are one of the surest ways to lower your risk of lower back pain.
Are you getting the most out of your glute training? If not, here are some tips to help you maximize the results you get when you train the all-important glute muscles.
Glute Training: Widen Your Stance
Squats are an exercise most of us do, not just for glute development, but to work the lower body. Squats are mainly a quad exercise, but they also work the hamstrings and glutes. However, you’ll get more glute benefits if you shift the emphasis away from the quads and toward the posterior chain, particularly the glutes. To do this, widen your stance when you squat.
How do we know this? Researchers from the Scottish Institute of Sport analyzed a variety of studies looking at glute activation. They found that glute activation was greatest with a wider stance. Of course, you should use a challenging resistance, once you have the form down to a “T.” Be sure to go down to at least parallel to maximally activate your glutes. Some research shows that going deeper targets the glutes better than stopping at parallel. So, if you can do it using good form, lower your body below parallel and descend into a deep squat.
Glute Training: Do a Diversity of Glute-Focused Exercises
Squats are one exercise that works the glutes, but it isn’t the only one and it isn’t even the best exercise. In fact, based on EMG studies, lunges target the glutes more than squats. These, of course, are compound exercises, movements that work more than one muscle group simultaneously, but you should also include isolation exercises that target your glutes for maximum benefits. Two isolation exercises that effectively target the glutes is glute bridges and step-ups. Once you’ve mastered the glute bridge, try single-legged glute bridges.
One of the most powerful exercises for targeting your glutes is hip thrusts. Once you’ve mastered the basic hip thrust movement, hold a barbell across your lap as you do them to force your glutes to work harder. These exercises are especially desirable if you’re trying to increase the size of your glutes without boosting the size of your legs since they isolate the glutes more. With squats and deadlifts, you also activate the quads, and this will increase the size of your thighs. If that’s not what you want, include more isolation exercises that target the glutes without hitting the quads.
Glute Training: Keep Your Weight in Your Heels
The problem with compound exercises, like squats, deadlifts, and lunges, is these exercises also target the quadriceps, the muscles in the front of the thigh. This takes some of the emphasis away from the glutes. You can shift the emphasis back to the glutes by keeping your weight over your heels when you do these exercises. If you have tight hip flexors from sitting too much, there’s a tendency for your weight to shift forward onto the balls of your feet when you squat. You want to avoid that by shifting your weight back onto your heels.
Glute Training: Keep Your Glutes Engaged
You’ll get better results if you keep the tension in your buttocks when you perform an exercise. To do this, squeeze your glutes together when you do squats and deadlifts. Holding tension on your glutes gives them a greater stimulus for growth. Before descending into a squat, squeeze your buttocks together. As you start to rise from the depths of a squat, push your hips forward as you squeeze your glutes again. Get in the habit of doing this each time you squat until it becomes second nature. The extra tension that comes from squeezing will enhance glute growth.
Glute Training: Pause at the Bottom
One small change in how you squat can have an impact on your bottom line. When you squat, pause at the bottom of the movement and hold the position for two seconds. When you don’t pause, there’s a tendency to use momentum and bounce off the bottom. This reduces the tension on the glutes and the work they have to do. Any time you eliminate momentum, you force the muscle to work harder. The best way to avoid using momentum is to include a pause at the bottom.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, these glute training tips will help you jumpstart the growth of your bottom line and strengthen these important muscles. Be consistent with your training and the results will come over time.
Journal Strength and Conditioning Research. 26: 1169-1178, 2012.
American Council on Fitness. “ACE Lists Best Butt Exercises – Exclusive ACE Research Announces Most Effective Gluteus Maximus Training” February 2006.
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