Strong glutes are important for more than just aesthetic reasons. Robust glutes help to counteract tight hip flexors, a common problem if you sit too much. When your hip flexors are forced into a sitting position for long periods, they shorten. To compensate, your glutes and hamstrings lengthen. The result is a muscle imbalance that leads to injury or lower back pain. Plus, the shape of our glutes changes with age. The effects of gravity actually cause the glutes to flatten in appearance. Combine that with the effects of sitting and you may notice a substantial change in how your glutes look in a pair of jeans. Don’t worry! You can change that.
Many of the lower body exercises you do probably emphasize your quads more than your glutes and hamstrings and that worsens the imbalance even more. That’s why it’s important to do focused exercises that target the glutes, including hip thrusts, glute bridges, etc. But you can also tweak the exercises that you currently do to target your glutes even more. Let’s look at ways to tweak the exercise you already do to target your glutes more.
Target Your Glutes With Squats
Squats are more quad intensive than they are glute focused. But, with a few minor changes, you can turn the movement into a glute burner. First, change your stance. Most people use a narrow stance with their feet placed about hip-width apart. Instead, widen your feet until they’re around shoulder-width apart and turn your toes slightly outward. This shifts the focus more toward the glutes. When you descend into the squat, keep the weight in your heels rather than your toes. Also, make sure your knees track over your toes throughout the movement.
How about squat depth? It appears that relative hamstring and glute activation actually decrease as you go deeper into a squat while quadriceps activation increases. However, it is not clear whether absolute glute activation increases as you go deeper. One squat variation you should definitely add to your routine is a single-leg squat. This movement really activates the glute on the side you’re working. Plus, it adds a balance challenge, and that gives your core more of a workout.
Target Your Glutes With Lunges
Lunges have an advantage of working the gluteus medius more than a squat does. You want this smaller muscle that makes up the glutes to be strong since it helps stabilize the hips during all the activities you do, including weight training. It also abducts and internally and externally rotates your hips. However, the gluteus medius doesn’t add as much to the shape of your buttocks as the gluteus maximus does. In an upright position, lunges hit your quads harder than your glutes and hamstrings, but you can shift the focus a bit by leaning forward a bit when you lunge. Also, placing your back foot on an elevated platform when you lunge to activates the glutes more. This is similar to a Bulgarian split squat, but it’s a difficult move. Start with a low platform and master the mechanics of the movement. This isn’t a good move for beginners, as it requires leg strength and flexibility to do correctly.
Target Your Glutes With Deadlifts
Deadlifts are a classic compound exercise that works many muscle groups simultaneously. It activates the glutes but isn’t the best exercise for this large group of muscles in your backside. Of the two common types of deadlifts most people do, conventional and sumo deadlifts, they’re both about equal in terms of glute activation. However, you can hit your glutes harder by including single-leg deadlifts in your routine. EMG studies show that this exercise hits the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius hard. According to Brett Contreras, The Glute Guy, the American deadlift is a better choice than the Romanian deadlift for activating your glutes.
Target Your Glutes With Hip Thrusts
Hip thrusts are an exercise that definitely belongs in your glute routine. To pump up the glute activation, even more, elevate one foot on a bench and thrust. Then, switch sides. Why are hip thrusts so effective? EMG studies show that this simple movement places maximal tension on the glute muscles, more so than the static glute bridge, although it too is an effective glute builder. When thrusting, focus on thrusting through the full range-of-motion of the exercise, but be sure not to hyperextend! Once the movement becomes easy, place a barbell across the front of your hips to add more resistance. Then, increase the weight of the barbell over time. Glutes need progressive overload to grow too.
Target Your Glutes With Everyday Activities
Show your glutes a little love when doing other activities. When you’re standing in line or washing dishes at the sink, squeeze your glutes together isometrically and hold for as long as you can. Repeat a few times. Also, take frequent breaks from sitting. Prolonged sitting can weaken the glutes and create postural problems as well.
Finally, make sure you’re activating your glutes when you do other compound exercises, like squats and deadlifts. To do this, you must master the hip hinge movement. Otherwise, the focus will be too much on your quads. When you squat, lean your torso forward slightly and push your shoulders back. You should be driving your hips back when you do the movement. It takes attention to form and practice to get it right. Also, focus on your glutes when you do exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts. Take advantage of the mind-muscle connection and use it to your advantage.
The Bottom Line
You’ll get the best glute-boosting results if you work your glutes in multiple planes with a variety of different exercises. Squats, deadlifts, and lunges are multipurpose compound exercises that also hit your glutes, but you’ll get more of a glute boost if you also include exercises that more specifically target your glutes, like hip thrusts. Don’t depend on front and back squats alone to define your bottom line.
· TheGluteGuy.com. “Best Squat Depth For Glute Activation”
· Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy “Gluteal Muscle Activation During Common Therapeutic Exercises”
· MikeReinold.com. “The Best Exercises for the Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius”
· The Glute Guy. “Growing Glutes Without Growing The Legs”
· ACE Fitness. “Glutes to the Max: Exclusive ACE Research Gets to the Bottom of the Most Effective Glutes Exercises”
Related Articles By Cathe: