Who doesn’t want firm, rounded glutes? You also should want your glutes to be strong to help stabilize your spine and to give you more power when you run or jump. To get the glutes of your dreams, you have to train the three muscles that make up your glutes and you have to train them hard. Muscles don’t grow without stimulation. In fact, glutes tend to become less well-defined with age as the muscles atrophy. So, targeting these muscles becomes even more important as we get older.
How you target these muscles matters. If you have limited training time, it’s vital that you get as much return as you can from the exercises you do. Make sure your glute training minutes are well spent by not making these glute-training mistakes.
Mistake #1: Doing Only Standing Glute Exercises
The big three exercises most people do to work their glutes are squats, deadlifts, and lunges. These compound exercises are effective for working the lower body, including the glutes, but they don’t target the gluteal muscles with as much precision as focused exercises you do lying on a bench or mat. Glute bridges, quadruped hip extensions, and hip thrusts are moves that specifically target the glutes – and, yes, they’re effective. Based on an ACE study looking at muscle activation, quadruped hip extensions outperformed squats in terms of glute activation. Make sure you’re including these exercises that you if you want to maximize your glute training.
Mistake #2: Thinking Squats Are the End-All Glute Exercise
We’ve already mentioned the “big three” – squats, deadlifts, and lunges. Of these most people focus on squats, yet, doing squats isn’t necessarily the most effective way to build stronger, more defined glutes. When you squat, how low do you go? Most of us only squat to parallel. EMG studies show that when you squat to parallel, you mainly activate your quadriceps. In other words, your glutes aren’t getting as much stimulation as you think. By squatting deeper, you target the glutes more. Yet, when you compare squats and lunges, lunges activate the gluteal muscles more, based on EMG studies. If you want to place more emphasis on your glutes when you squat, do one-legged squats to really isolate the muscle.
Deadlifts may also be a more effective glute builder relative to squats, based on EMG data, although they don’t pack as much punch as a good set of hip thrusts.
As mentioned, supine exercises where you’re not standing should also be part of your routine, particularly hip thrusts. Squats might be the “king of exercises” but they alone probably won’t give you the degree of glute development you’re looking for.
Mistake #3: Not Using Enough Resistance
Of course, you don’t want to start out using heavy resistance but you should work up to it. First, get your form right before adding weight, but you’ll limit the growth of your glutes unless you gradually increase the resistance over time. You’re probably already using progressive overload with squats, lunges, and deadlifts, but hip thrusts also become more effective when you make the exercise more challenging. Do this by placing a barbell on your hips when you thrust. Then, increase the weight of the barbell you use over time, as long as you’re using good form. The glute muscles are made up of slow and fast-twitch fibers. To activate those fast-twitch fibers best, you need resistance. So, work your glutes like you do other muscles, using progressive overload to change their shape or size. Don’t fall into the trap of using no weight or light weight and doing endless reps, especially if you’re trying to build size.
Mistake #4: Not Mastering the Hip Hinge
A well-executed hip hinge helps you maximize activation of the posterior chain, including the glutes, when you do hip-dominant exercises, like deadlifts and kettlebell swings. Mastering it takes practice, but you basically have to learn to use your hips as a hinge. Hinging at the hip means bending forward with your spine neutral with only a little knee bend and using your hip joint as a pivot to thrust your body back up. As you stand back up, squeeze your glutes and keep your core tight.
This movement is challenging if you have a weak core or poor hip mobility. So, it’s important to work on these things first to get the hip hinge right. Mastering the hip hinge has other benefits as well. It will lower your risk of injury and help you get greater benefits from lower body exercises, especially deadlifts. It will also give you more power in your lower body when you sprint. In addition, good hip mobility helps undo the effects of sitting too much, as most of us do.
Mistake #5: Not Eating Enough
If you’re trying to convert weak, flat buttocks into strong, rounded ones, you can’t skimp on calories. Eating too little sabotages muscle gains. Doing excessive amounts of cardio does too. So, don’t try to lose fat too aggressively through calorie restriction and hours of cardio. If you do, you’ll find your glute development stalls. Increase the quality of your diet by boosting the protein content and eating whole, unrefined foods.
The Bottom Line
To maximize glute hypertrophy and strength, work your glutes using a variety of approaches. The big three standing exercises, squats, lunges, and dumbbells, activate your glutes to some degree and are also good functional exercises that work multiple muscle groups, but you also need supine exercises such as hip thrusts, glute bridges, and quadruped hip extensions for more targeted work. Finally, if you’re looking for glute growth, make sure you’re not overdoing the cardio and undereating. Nutrition is equally important as training for maximizing the development of any muscle group.
ACE Fitness. “Glutes to the Max: Exclusive ACE Research Gets to the Bottom of the Most Effective Glutes Exercises”