Training Articles

The 5 best glute exercises

In this article, I look at the best 5 exercises for glutes, how to perform them and what to avoid when training your glutes.

Why Glute Training is Important

Ass-thetics

Sarcastic slow clap for the worst pun ever?! Anyway, vain as it may be, the reason glute training is important for most women, is aesthetics. I’ve trained hundreds of women over the years, almost all of them have asked to do exercises that will improve the aesthetics of their derriere.

This may mean losing fat from the bum, making the bum rounder/firmer/perter or a combination of the above.

It’s not a bad thing by the way, the vast majority of people I train, train for aesthetic reasons. It’s good to understand, that if you want a better butt, you need to know how to train it.

Avoiding injury

We spend a huge portion of our life sat down. We sit at work, on the train, on the sofa when we get home and at the dinner table. It’s likely that most people will be sat down in excess of 12 hours per day, some much longer than this.

Unfortunately, this has many negative effects upon our posture and ultimately can lead to niggling painful injuries.

Sitting for long periods of time can lead to a shortening of the psoas muscle (hip flexor). This is significant as it means that it becomes very hard for us to fully extend the hip and thus squeeze and activate the glutes.

Or to put it another way, because we sit on our butt all day, we lose the ability to use our butt properly!

The inability to use our glutes properly, means that other muscles have to bear the brunt of the workload. Normally it’s the muscles in the lower back that end up being the fall guy.

If you suffer from repeated bouts of lower back problems, then you more than likely need to look at improving the range within your hips and need to strengthen your glutes.

How to Activate Your Glutes

As I alluded to earlier, problem number one is usually tight hip flexors, so before we start trying to activate the glutes, we need to stretch the hips out.

hip stretch

  1. Place one knee on the floor and the foot of the same leg on a raised platform.
  2. The other leg should be out in front of you and your torso needs to be upright.
  3. Squeeze the glute and push your hips forward, stretching out your hip flexor (my left side in this photo).
  4. Hold for 30-60s then change sides and repeat.

Once the hips are stretched out and we can extend properly, we can then begin the activation process.

Glute Activation Exercises

Banded Glute Bridge

Banded Side Lying Clams

Side Band Walks

Monster Walks

My top 5 Glute Exercises

Hip Thrust

  1. Start by resting your mid-upper back against the bench, roughly at shoulder blade level.
  2. Roll the bar over your thighs.
  3. Place feet flat on the floor, hip width apart and fairly close to your bum.
  4. Tuck the chin in, rotate the pelvis back, then push through your heels.
  5. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top of the exercise.
  6. Slowly lower back down ½ the range and repeat.

Glute Bridge (Single Leg, Barbell, Banded)

  1. Roll the bar over your thighs.
  2. Place feet flat on the floor, hip width apart and fairly close to your bum.
  3. Tuck the chin in, rotate the pelvis back, then push through your heels.
  4. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top of the exercise.
  5. Slowly lower back down to the floor and repeat.

Step Up

  1. Place working leg on the step, trailing foot should be no more than a few inches away from the step.
  2. Lean body weight over your front foot.
  3. Push up through the front foot and stand up straight, squeezing your glute at the top.
  4. Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat.

Walking Lunge

  1. Stand up straight with DBs in each hand.
  2. Step forward, land your front foot on the floor and flex your back knee.
  3. Descend until your back knee almost touches the floor.
  4. Drive up, pressing through the heel of your front foot.

Cable Pull Throughs

  1. Bend down and pick the cable up through your legs.
  2. Step forward approximately 1 metre.
  3. Tilt forward from the hips, keeping your chest elevated and spine neutral.
  4. Lower yourself until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, then drive back up by pushing through your heels and driving your hips forward.
  5. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.

Biggest Glute Training Mistakes

Improper Loading

In order for a muscle to grow, you need to progressively overload it. That essentially means you need to gradually lift more and more weight over time.

Imagine you wanted to run a marathon. Progressive overload of the glutes would be akin to running a little bit further each week. Just as you can’t suddenly go from one to twenty-six miles when running, you can’t suddenly go from being weak to deadlifting twice your body weight.

The biggest mistake I see, is that there is little to no overload each week. People use the same weight week in week out. Again, to use our running analogy, it would be like running 3 miles every single week and expecting to be better prepared for the marathon. At some point, you need to start going outside your comfort zone and start running further.

The other load issue I see, is far too many body weight exercises. Again, it’s the same principle. Body weight exercises may be fine to start off with, but sooner or later you need to challenge yourself with more load.

Exercises that are too complicated

Most of the exercises that I use have been used for decades, and will still be used in years to come.

They are popular because they work, not because they are a fad. There is no need to be balancing on Bosu balls or performing anything that would be more at home in a circus.

Too many people try to re-invent the wheel, it’s one thing to be innovative, it’s quite another to be trying crazy stuff and completely bypassing the basics.

Too Much Focus on Squats and Deadlifts

Squats and deadlifts are always spoken about as being the key to a pert bum. Yes, they can help, but they aren’t for everyone.

Squats and Deadlifts are often butchered technique wise which can lead to injury and long lay-offs from the gym. Most people just don’t have the range or flexibility to execute them properly when they begin training. Lastly, many people will find it very hard to “feel” the exercise properly in their glutes.

Whilst both of these exercises can help, they are useless unless you can isolate the glutes properly first.

Trying to use squats and deadlifts to grow your glutes before you can fully isolate them, is like being asked to headline Glastonbury before you’ve learnt how to play the basic chords on a guitar.

It’s a horses for courses scenario, like my client Erica found out. She’d seen loads of Personal Trainers before me, all were given the same remit of helping her grow her glutes. All of them gave her deadlifts and squats straight away. You can read Erica’s story and find out why that was a bad idea.

Not starting with the basics

For some people, simply performing the warm up exercises with bands for 3-4 rounds will be enough of a workout initially.

As a simple rule to follow, if you can’t feel a muscle working then it probably isn’t. So even though the 5 exercises I mentioned are the best, you may need a few weeks or mastering glute activation before you use them.

When performing the warm up drills with either body weight or bands, your butt should be on fire at the end of it.

Arching your back

Below is a video of me performing a glute bridge. The first x4 reps I use correct form, then I perform them incorrectly.

Can you see the difference?

When your back is excessively arched, as in the 2nd half of the video, it’s almost impossible to activate your glutes properly.

No activation = no growth.

At the start of the video you’ll see that I rotate my pelvis back to ensure that I am not excessively rounding my back when I begin the exercise.

Give this a try, I guarantee it will help you activate the glutes much better.

Conclusion

Training your glutes is important, whether it’s for aesthetic or functional reasons, you need to know the correct things to do and the things you should definitely avoid.

If you want your glutes to grow and bum to be perter, then you need to learn how to contract them properly and get stronger.

 



Nikki Clarke

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