You’ve got more than 640 muscles in your body, and the largest muscle gets the least amount of exercise for most people.
Your glutes deserve better.
Think about this. The average person spends 60 percent of their waking hours sitting. That’s an average of 9 hours a day spent at a desk job, sitting in traffic, or camped in front of the TV.
Even if you fit in a workout at least a couple days a week, there’s a good chance you’re sitting too much.
And too much sitting can wreak havoc on your glutes, impede the neuromuscular connection needed for proper glute activation, and even lead to atrophy.
If you’re serious about building a better, stronger body, developing your glutes should be on your to-do list. Your glute muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus) are the prime mover that help you walk, run, jump, lift, stand and bend at the hip.
And if you want to build a better backside, learning to train your glutes (the strongest muscle in your body), can help transform your physique and have a big impact on your performance.
Which glute exercises work best?
When the American Council on Exercise asked fitness professionals what exercises they recommend to train the glutes, many recommended traditional barbell squats.
Even though that’s sound advice based on years of collective experience, researchers wanted to take a more scientific approach to find out which exercises target the glutes better than others.
So they recruited a group of healthy people to perform a series of weight-bearing glute exercises. And during each training session, participants were connected to electromyographic sensors to measure levels of glute activation.
And you know what, the trainers were right. The most effective glute exercises included:
- Traditional Squats
- Single-leg Squats
- Vertical Leg Press
- Quadruple Hip Extensions
- Horizontal Leg Press
- Four-way Hip Extensions
The trouble with weak glutes
Maybe you train your glutes once a week and call it good.
One good leg day might not be enough to activate your glutes, build muscle and strength, and increase the neuromuscular connection in this major muscle.
If you’re not training your glutes enough combined with all the hours you spend sitting? You might literally have a pain in the butt.
If your glutes are weak, you’re a lot more likely to develop poor posture. And that can have a trickle down effect on the rest of your body that can strain your lower back, alter your gait, and lead to muscle imbalances and potential injuries.
Nobody wants that.
But most people do want a backside that looks good in jeans, and the strength and muscle coordination to handle squats, deadlifts, lunges, mobility exercises, playing sports, and being able to handle normal activities of daily living.
How to train your glutes
So what should you do to train your glutes? There’s more than one exercise that targets this major muscle. And it’s always a good idea to keep your workouts fresh, and change things up every 4 to 6 weeks to avoid hitting a plateau.
If you’re looking for glute exercises other than the squats and lunges, check this out.
One recent study that looked at the effectiveness of 18 different bodyweight exercises that target the glutes found five that produced the maximal voluntary muscle contractions in the glutes:
- Front Plank with Hip Extension
- Gluteal Squeeze
- Side Plank Abduction with Dominant Leg on Top
- Side Plank Abduction with Dominant Leg on Bottom
- Single Leg Squat
But if you want my opinion on training your glutes after helping more than 25,000 people shred fat, build muscle and transform their bodies, here are the six moves I recommend:
1. Gluteal Squeeze.
If you spend a lot of time sitting, you don’t need to go to the gym to perform this exercise. This is an exercise you can pretty much do anywhere, from standing in line to lying in bed.
Squeeze your glutes tightly. Hold the contraction for a couple second. Release, and repeat.
You’re activating your glutes by doing this and improving the neuromuscular connection to help this major muscle do its job. This is also a great warm-up technique to use when you do train your glutes.
Walking Dumbbell Lunges
Pick a set of dumbbells you can perform 6 to 12 reps of walking dumbbell lunges with.
Start in a standing position, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms at your sides. Step forward with one foot. Keeping your back straight, lower your body by bending at the knee and hip. The forward knee should be in line with the toes. When the rear leg almost touches the floor, push up and return to the starting position.
If you’re not strong enough to perform this exercise with dumbbells, make it a bodyweight exercise without weights.
3. Hip Thrusts
Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, palms down. Push your hips upward, and squeeze your glutes at the top of the contraction for a couple seconds. Return to the starting position, and repeat. As you get stronger, you can progress this exercise to Weighted Hip Thrusts.
4. Barbell Squats
This classic compound movement can really target your glutes if you go deep enough. But in order to do it, you’ll probably need to lower the weight on the squat rack. Pick a weight you can complete 6 to 12 deep squats with.
Start in a standing position, feet pointed forward shoulder-width apart, with the barbell across your shoulders, behind your neck. Keeping your back straight, squat down and lower your body to just below the height of a chair. Then push up and drive the weight back up to the starting position.
5.Stiff-Leg Barbell Deadlift
Here’s another timeless compound movement that will help build glute strength, muscle, and endurance. Load a barbell with weight you can complete 6 to 12 stiff-leg deadlifts with. Keeping your legs straight, bend at the hips and grip the bar. Keep your back straight, drive up through the legs, and lift the weight until you’re in standing position. Lower the weight to the ground and repeat.
Barbell Split Squats
Start with a weight you can perform 6 to 12 reps of barbell split squats with. Get in starting position by standing in front of a bench with the barbell across your shoulders, behind your neck. Step forward. Place your back foot on the bench. Keeping your back straight, lower your body by bending at the knee and hip. The forward knee should be in line with the toes. When the forward knee reaches about a 90 degree angle, push up and return to the starting position.
Glute training works well as part of a legs day workout. Hit your glutes once or twice a week in the gym, and you’ll be on your way to getting stronger and building a better backside.
Looking for a training program to build muscle and develop your glutes? Check my customized nutrition and workout plans for fat loss, building muscle, and body transformation.
- Matthews, C.E., et al. (2008). Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors in the United States, 2003-2004. American Journal of Epidemiology. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18303006
- Anders, M. (2006). Glutes to the max: Exclusive ACE research gets to the bottom of the most effective glutes exercises. American Council on Exercise. From: https://www.acefitness.org/getfit/GlutesStudy2006.pdf
- Boren, K., et al. (2011). Electromyographic analysis of gluteus medius and gluteus maximus during rehabilitation exercises. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3201064/