Great article on how to make sure you are engaging your glutes.—-
Do your thighs get more work than your glutes when you’re doing glute exercises? This information is going to change the way you train your glutes forever!
It’s a common problem that many people run into when they’re trying to build and work the gluteus maximus: the thighs take over the exercises and the glutes get left out in the cold!
One of the major reasons this happens is that some of the most effective glute exercises are also among the most effective thigh-building exercises, e.g. squats, lunges, leg press, etc.
And, quite often, a person who has smaller glutes and whose goal is to build their glutes already has muscle attachments and leverage issues that favor thigh development over glute development. This can set them back right from the start.
If this sounds like you, read on, because the information you get today is going to change the way you approach your gluteus maximus training forever!
Let me put it this way…if your glutes already have a hard time getting involved in exercises, performing more glute exercises won’t solve the problem! You’ve got to properly target your training to make sure the glutes get worked more than the thighs or you simply WILL NOT be able to maximize your glute development.
Today, you’re going to learn a number of training techniques that can help build those large, round firm glutes you’ve been looking for! They will help you to overcome any physical and anatomical limitations your glutes may have.
Please note: there will be a link to photo demonstrations of several of these gluteus maximus exercises, positions and techniques below.
Glute Exercise Techniques:
1. Consciously squeeze your glutes HARD while doing your exercises
Are you sitting in a chair? Clench your gluteus maximus as hard as you can. Feel the squeeze? This is what you need to strive for while doing glute exercises.
When you do a lunge, squeeze the gluteus maximus hard while you’re pushing up. This will help to activate the glute muscle. It’s all about getting your mind into the muscle and forcing it to contract rather than just going through the motions of an exercise. By concentrating on squeezing the glutes hard during your sets (of whatever exercise you’re doing), you’ll be activating the muscle fibers of the glutes and increasing the amount of work they do.
If you don’t believe this technique can work, try this: go for a walk up and down some hills squeezing your glutes hard as you push yourself forward with each step you take. The following day, sitting down will take on a whole new challenge!
2. Push with your heels on glute exercises
The transmission of force and tension from your foot through your leg and glute can be altered by where you put the tension on your foot. If you push with the balls of your feet (the forefoot area), more tension will be placed on the frontal thigh (the quadriceps). If you focus on pushing more with your heels, more tension will go through the back of the thighs and to your gluteus maximus.
By pushing with your heels, you can take FULL advantage of this force/tension relationship. For example, when you’re doing lunges, try to raise the toes of your front foot off the ground. This removes tension from the front and focuses more on the heel. This will, in turn, send more tension to the gluteus maximus, making them work harder.
There are several practical techniques you can use to really force the heel push. For example, on lunges, do them with your heel on the edge of a stair or Step platform. Place ONLY your heel on the surface and do the lunge from there (be careful of your balance on this, however, as your base of support is decreased with this technique).
If you’re doing the leg press, you can focus on the glutes by placing your heels on the top edge of the foot plate (the rest of your feet surface will be off the top and not pushing on anything). When doing squats, simply raise your toes up in your shoes to achieve a similar effect.
3. Visualize “sitting back” when you’re doing your gluteus maximus exercises
This idea is similar to the concept of pushing with your heels above. When you “sit back,” more tension will be sent through the back of the thighs and the glutes. If you lean forward (the opposite of the “sitting back”), you will tend to throw more tension on the quadriceps (the front of the thighs).
We can use both the squat and the lunge as examples of this. When doing the lunge, don’t let your torso angle forward while you’re performing the movement. This will throw more tension on the quads. Visualize yourself “sitting back” into the movement. Your body won’t let you lean back far enough to fall over but this “lean-back” will put more tension on the glutes immediately. This is something you can try at home right now and feel the difference right away.
If, when you’re doing squats, you don’t normally feel the glutes working very strongly, you could very well be leaning too far forward as you squat. This throws more tension onto the quads and lower back. This problem is often caused by a lack of flexibility in the calves. To fix this, stretch the calves for at least 5 minutes before doing any squat exercise. You will soon find you’re able to sit back more and maintain a better body position (more upright torso). This will turn the squat into a great glute building exercise for you!
IMPORTANT! If you do Smith Machine squats, specifically with the feet placed a little forward of the bar while you sit backwards into the bar as you do the movement, beware! This variation of the squat places a TREMENDOUS shearing force on your knees.
Unfortunately, the knee joint simply wasn’t designed to push backwards against resistance in this fashion and long-term use of this squat variation can lead to knee injury (basically, every time you do this exercise, you’re grinding the connective tissue down a little more - not a good situation). Don’t worry, though! Squats themselves, when done properly, are an excellent exercise!
4. Pre-Exhaust Glute Training
Pre-Exhaust Training is one of the single most effective techniques for FORCING reluctant muscles to respond to training.
The idea behind this technique is simple: first, use an exercise that works ONLY the target muscle. Then, immediately follow that with an exercise that works the target muscle AND several other muscles in addition. You essentially exhaust the target muscle first (with an isolation exercise that works only that single muscle) then use an exercise that utilizes other muscles (a compound exercise) to help push that already pre-exhausted target muscle harder.
The two isolation (single-muscle) exercises that I recommend for the glutes are low pulley glute extensions and gluteus maximus push-ups. Low pulley glute extensions are done by attaching an ankle harness to your leg, standing facing the pulley machine and extending your leg straight back behind you. Glute push-ups are done by laying flat on your back with your knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. From this position, push your hips up towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes hard. This exercise can also be done one leg at a time (just cross the non-working leg over the other).
Do as many reps of this exercise as it takes to reach muscular fatigue (it could be 8, 15 or even more, depending on the resistance and your strength). The real muscle-building work gets done on the second glute exercise.
When you’ve completed your set, immediately (and I mean IMMEDIATELY - no rest periods here) move into the compound exercise for the glutes. Compound exercises for the glutes include squats, lunges, leg press, and (my personal favorite glute-builder) the one-legged bench step squat.
Use a fairly heavy resistance for the compound exercise…as I mentioned above, this is where the muscle-building work gets done. Use a resistance that will allow you get about 8 to 12 reps per set. This is the most effective rep range for muscle building.
In my experience, the best pre-exhaust approach is to focus on one leg at a time rather than doing both. It may take a little longer but the glutes get worked more thoroughly and your results will most likely be better. For example, do One- Legged Glute Push-Ups with your left leg then immediately do Bench Step One-Legged Squats on your left leg. Take a rest then do a set for your right leg.
Regularly using the four training techniques I’ve described above can have a HUGE impact on your glute-building progress. It’s all about properly targeting your training to FORCE the glutes to take the lead in the exercise. With these tips, you will build larger, firmer, rounder glutes. Guaranteed!
Unlike muscles like the biceps, the glutes are nearly impossible to isolate from their adjacent muscle groups. When you train your quads or hamstrings, for instance, your glutes are commonly called into the equation. In fact, even without glute-specific training, you may not realize that this area is already fairly strong.
Since gluteal development is first and foremost a byproduct of performing exercises for the quadriceps and hamstrings, training legs consistently and correctly should allow you to sculpt great glutes without ever giving them a second thought. In fact, some of our best exercise choices for glutes are likely already part of your leg workouts. Yet you can adjust exercise performance to maximize gluteal development, as well as add a few real glute burners for more direct isolation work.
Timothy Moore, PhD, CSCS, former strength coach for the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) basketball team and fitness editor at SHAPE magazine, says that the best approach to gluteal training integrates multi- and single-joint exercises. “An isolation-type movement like the standing cable kickback minimizes the involvement of assisting muscles and allows you to focus on the glutes,” he says. “But for gaining mass - particularly if you have limited time in the gym - you need to perform compound exercises like the squat and leg press.”
Why are the glutes taxed by what are ostensibly quadriceps exercises? Straightening your legs from a bent-knee position involves hip extension, the primary function of the glutes. Translated, extension refers to two opposing bodyparts moving apart from each other at a joint. Your torso and upper legs, which meet at the hip joint, move apart as you explode out of the hole on a squat, drive up the carriage of a leg-press machine or push off your lead foot after lunging forward. In softball, hip extension occurs anytime a catcher springs from a crouch position to throw out a base runner. If you still can’t picture it, stand up; you just performed hip extension.
In the resistance-training examples above, the torso remains stationary and the legs do all the work. Hip extension also occurs, however, when your legs stay put but your torso moves in a way that increases the angle between it and the quadriceps. Next time you do a stiff-legged deadlift, good morning or back extension, concentrate on where you feel the movement as you raise your torso back to the start position. Your low back, hamstrings and abs will contract and pull, but your glutes should do the lion’s share of the work.
In addition to such compound movements, several exercises work the glutes in near isolation. The aforementioned cable kickback is one example; lying prone on an elevated bench and raising your straight legs above the plane of your torso is another. You won’t be able to use much weight, but keeping your knees fixed will mitigate the involvement of your quads and hamstrings and force your glutes and low back to perform most of the work.
Glutes also perform leg abduction, the act of raising your leg out to the side. (Picture a hockey goalie side-stepping to block a puck.) To mimic that movement, try the one-legged cable lateral (side) raise movement. Glutes also assist the hamstrings in many actions.
Given that compound leg exercises such as the squat and leg press work the glutes so effectively, can their performance be adjusted to maximize glute recruitment? Theoretically, increasing the range of motion for hip extension should increase the recruitment and stimulation of the gluteal muscle fibers. On some leg-press and hack-squat machines, placing your feet higher on the platform increases hip flexion by bringing your knees closer to your chest on the descent, which should increase hip extension slightly as you press the carriage sled back up. On the leg press, however, you don’t want to come down so far that your pelvis tilts forward, which would place your low back in a vulnerable position. How low is too low? Stop when you start to feel a pull in your low back.
You can maximize gluteal stimulation during the squat by adopting a wide stance (shoulder-width or wider), says David McWhorter, PhD, an assistant professor in the anatomy department at The University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine (Kansas City). “I know empirically that if I spread my legs far apart, there’s more gluteal involvement,” says McWhorter, a former competitive bodybuilder. “From a wide stance, you increase hip extension and decrease knee extension, so the emphasis shifts somewhat from the quads to the glutes.”
We’ll get right to the point: If your backside doesn’t stick out far enough for you to rest your post-workout chocolate milk on it, then you’re missing the boat.
Bigger muscles from stronger lifts mean more attention from the opposite sex.
Regardless of your goals, training to have big, strong, gluteal (read: butt) muscles will have positive implications on every aspect of your life, from injury prevention to social recognition.
Backside Workouts for Injury Prevention
Roughly 80 percent of Americans suffer from lower back pain. A significant number of athletes suffer a hamstring strain at some point during their careers. While there are numerous potential causes of these injuries, typically they have one thing in common: a weak ass. We’ll spare you the complexities of functional anatomy and biomechanics, but basically if a muscle is not strong enough to produce a necessary level of force, the load on the surrounding muscles and joints will be increased. In other words, insufficient strength of the gluteus maximus can lead to an increased demand on the hamstrings or structures of the lower back. Professional trainers and fitness experts can generally tell if someone has or will soon have lower back pain just from looking at them. If there is a smooth merge from their lower back to their hamstrings, something will go wrong eventually.
Backside Workouts for Improved Performance
If you’re part of the 20 percent of Americans who haven’t yet experienced lower back pain and don’t plan to, you may not care about the injury prevention effects of gluteal training. However, the gluteus maximus is potentially your strongest hip extender, meaning it can lead to significant performance improvements in all movements that involve hip extensions. Backside workouts can result in faster sprinting times, higher jumps, sharper cutting, and heavier squatting/deadlifting.
Not only will your squat and deadlift weights improve, but your form should also improve. People with poor glute strength tend to keep their upper body perpendicular to the floor throughout their lifts. As a result, the entire movement is focused on their knees shooting forward. When they run out of ankle range of motion (ROM), they are forced to stop and return to the top, having just completed a quarter squat with horrendous form. These lifters also tend to feel their heels pull up off the floor as they attempt to squat deeper. The key to safe and heavy squatting is to maintain a feet-flat position and to push your hips back as though you were sitting in a chair. A strong gluteus maximus will allow you to control your hips as you sit back and down, then it will rapidly pull you out of this position so you can complete the lift properly.
Benefits of Glute Activation
Similarly, proper use of a strong gluteus maximus is paramount to safe and heavy deadlifting. It’s amazing how many people approach professional trainers with back pain related to improper deadlifting. Invariably, the problem is the same: They don’t shift their hips back, maintain a tight/flat back and they don’t pull with their hips. Instead, they round over and jerk the bar up with their backs. Dr. Stuart McGill’s research on lower back pain has taught us that repeated flexion of the lumbar spine (rounding of the lower back) is the mechanism for a slipped disk. It should come as no surprise that loading this movement would accelerate the journey to discomfort. By activating the gluteus maximus (more on this shortly) before deadlifting and maintaining correct positioning, the body learns to use the right muscles to produce the safest, strongest deadlift movement.
Training for a Bigger, Stronger Behind
Whether you’re a proponent of single- or double-leg training, your programs should have squatting and deadlifting patterns in them. Note: Leg press and leg extension exercises do not apply to a squatting or deadlifting pattern. Assuming you’re including squatting and deadlifting movements already, the faster way to a stronger, more functional gluteus maximus is through glute bridges.
How to do a Glute Bridge
To perform a glute bridge:
— Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground
— Position your feet hip-width apart, with your heels about an inch in front of your knees
— Pull your toes up toward your shins so only your heels are still on the ground
— Brace your abs as if someone was going to drop a brick on your stomach. You can place your hands on your belly to make sure you’re staying “tight” there
— Push through your heels and squeeze your butt cheeks together as hard as possible as you move to the top
— At the top, you should be in a straight line from your knees through your shoulders.
Glute bridge progression:
Glute Bridge Hold (hold at the top)
— Progress from 3 sets of 20 seconds to 3 sets of 60 seconds
Glute Bridge (move through the ROM for reps)
— Progress from 3 sets of 8 to 3 sets of 15
Glute Bridge March (hold at the top and slowly alternate lifting each foot 1 inch off the ground)
— Progress from 3 sets of 20 seconds to 3 sets of 60 seconds
1-Leg Glute Bridge Hold (point one leg straight up toward the ceiling)
— Progress from 3 sets of 15 seconds to 3 sets of 45 seconds for each leg
1-Leg Glute Bridge (point one leg straight up toward the ceiling)
— Progress from 3 sets of 8 to 3 sets of 15 for each leg
We recommend including 1 to 3 sets of one of the glute bridge variations as part of your warm-up on every training day. On days when you’re squatting or deadlifting, pair your sets with the glute bridge exercise. This will help reinforce that your gluteus maximus should be contributing a significant amount of force to the movement, and minimize the risk of this muscle remaining “dormant.” In other words, a squatting day could look something like this:
— Back Squat - 3 x 3, 2 x 6
— Glute Bridge Hold - 3 x 25 seconds
— Reverse Lunge - 4 x 6 (each leg)
— Glute-Ham Raise - 4 x 8
— Dumbbell 1-Legged Stiff-Legged Dead Lift - 3 x 8 (each leg)
— Bar Rollouts - 3 x 10
Beef Up That Backside
Now you have the knowledge, the progression and a sample program to really get your backside in gear. For those of you who are still missing an incentive, we’ll come back to something we alluded to earlier: Chicks dig guys with strong butts. Whether you’re an athlete, a competitive lifter or a recreational gym rat, you should be spending more time training the big muscle on the back side of your body. It may be the key to a healthier, happier life.
This goes for girls too, Strong sexy butts get noticed!