Training glutes has become much more popular in the last few years, especially amongst females. There are a number of reasons for this.
Firstly, having well developed glutes helps to create an hourglass body shape which is currently favoured by certain celebrities.
Another reason is that there has been a significant rise in female bodybuilding, which requires competitors to have well developed and defined glute muscles.
WHAT ARE THE GLUTES?
The glutes, also referred to as the buttocks, are made up of three muscles; gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and the gluteus medius. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body.
They play an incredibly important role in that they enable movement of the hips and thighs and offer stabilisation of the upper body.
WHY TRAIN GLUTES?
Many of us lead fairly sedentary lifestyles, meaning we spend large parts of our day sitting. This could lead to weakened glute muscles and in turn result in a condition known as gluteal amnesia. This is where your glute muscles essentially forget how to activate / contract properly.
It may not sound significant but considering the glutes are a stabilizing muscle group, suffering from gluteal amnesia could result in lower back, hip and knee pain.
So, as well as helping to create a more pleasing physique, training glutes is incredibly important and can offer a number of benefits to both men and women. These include the following:
Improvement of posture
As the glutes are stabilization muscles, building muscle and increasing strength will offer additional support to the spine and pelvis, thus helping to improve posture.
Reduction in lower back pain
The extra support to both the spine and pelvis will help to alleviate any lower back problems.
Strengthen and develop the posterior chain
Many glute exercises are compound movements, meaning they target a number of muscles at once. Especially the posterior chain which, comprise the glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors. A strong posterior chain greatly improves posture, back health and offers great carry over to athletic performance such as running and jumping.
Helping with fat loss
As stated above, the glutes are the largest muscle in the body and by undertaking heavy compound movements to target the buttocks, you’ll also be using a lot of calories and consequently burn body fat.
TRAINING GLUTES AT HOME
If you’re not a member of a gym but keen to incorporate some glute exercises into your home workout, the below options could be ideal and minimum equipment is needed.
The Fire Hydrant Exercise
Ideally, this should be done on an exercise mat with the option to add resistance bands to make the movement more difficult.
- Begin on your hands and knees on the mat. Hands should be shoulder width apart with your knees together.
- Keep your back straight and face down so that your back and head are horizontally aligned.
- Keeping your core muscles tight, slowly raise one leg at a 45 degree angle.
- Keep your knee at 90 degrees throughout the movement and aim to raise your leg until it’s aligned with your hips.
- Slowly return back to the starting position and then repeat with the other leg.
Another one for the exercise mat which can also be made more difficult by adding a resistance band around the thighs. As well as targeting the glutes, this will also work the lower back and core.
- Lie down on your back, keeping your knees bent.
- Place your arms down by your sides and slowly raise your hips up until your body is forming a straight line from your knees down to your head.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement and slowly return to the starting position.
Single Leg Bridge
This is very similar to the glute bridge but a little more challenging. You’ll find you also engage your hamstrings with this movement too.
- As with the glute bridge exercise, lie down on your back with knees bent.
- Extend one leg up towards the ceiling.
- Keeping your arms down by your sides, raise your hips in the same way as with the glute bridge but keep your extended leg straight up throughout the movement.
- Squeeze the glutes at the top of the exercise and return to the start.
For this exercise, you’ll want to use either a chair, sofa or bed to support your upper back. Ideally, the surface will allow you to keep your chest and knees at roughly the same height.
This one isolates the glute muscles and can be made more difficult by placing a weight on your lap, creating resistance as you raise your hips.
- Get into position by resting your shoulders and the very top of your back on a surface as mentioned above.
- Keeping your feet at shoulder width apart, slowly raise your hips until your knees, hips and shoulders all align horizontally.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement then lower back down.
- You could play around with different foot placement to engage more or less of the glute muscles.
Another floor exercise where a mat will be required. As with the other floor exercise, this exercise can be made more challenging by incorporating a resistance band.
- Starting on all fours on the mat, keep your hands under your shoulders with knees around hip width apart.
- Keeping your core engaged, slowly raise one foot behind you and up towards ceiling. Make sure you keep your knee bent throughout the exercise. You only want to be hinging at the hips.
- As with the other exercises, squeeze your glutes at the top before returning back to the start.
- If you want to use a resistance band, place the band around both knees. Hook the end of the band around the foot that you will raise towards the ceiling. As you begin the exercise the band will tighten which will increase the resistance giving your glutes a better workout.
The exercises listed above are just a small number that can be done in the home, meaning that achieving a truly effective glute workout should be no problem.
Other exercises to consider include the following, as with the above these need little or no equipment
- Bulgarian split squat (using a sofa or chair)
- Standing Hip Abduction (use the back of a chair for support)
- Single leg deadlift (use something such as a kettle bell for increased resistance)
- Standing lunge
TRAINING GLUTES IN THE GYM
All of the movements that can be done in the home can of course be undertaken at the gym but if you want to step it up a notch, and depending on what equipment is available at your gym, you could also look to add in the following exercises.
Cable Kick Backs
For this one you’ll need access to either a dual adjustable pulley or cable crossover. This exercise primarily targets all of the glute muscles as well as your hamstrings to a lesser degree.
- Adjust the pulley on the machine to its lowest point, so it will be as close to the floor as possible
- You’ll need to attach either an ankle strap / cuff attachment or a regular handle. You’ll need to be able to tuck your foot into it. Make sure you are facing towards the machine.
- Once attached your angle, select a start weight to add resistance to the movement.
- Slightly stand back from the machine, you should feel the attachment pulling a little.
- Hold on to the machine giving you some support and slowly kick back your leg behind you.
- Squeeze your glutes and then return to the starting position.
The great thing about this exercise is that as your glutes get stronger you can increase the weight making for a more difficult workout.
Hip Thrust machine
Hip thrust machines come in many shapes and sizes, some are floor based and relatively basic whilst others feature straps to lock yourself into position and weight horns which can be loaded up with plates.
The more basic hip thrust machines tend to mean you need to incorporate fitness bands with a barbell resting at the tops of your legs. The larger machines can either be plate loaded or selectorised where the weight isn’t solely resting on the user making them safer.
They also often carry different names such as Booty builder, glute blaster etc. Given the rise in female training, glute machines and hip thrust machines are becoming much more popular in a commercial gymenvironment. If you have access to one in your gym, it’s worth asking a personal trainer how to get the most out of it.
Walking lunges is a variation of the static lunge. They can also be done at home if you have the room, a long hallway should suffice. However, they are easier to undertake in the gym as more space tends to be available.
Whilst these are great to target the glutes, they also offer other benefits. These include an improvement to flexibility and they help with loosening up the hamstrings and hips. Classed as a compound movement, walking lunges target the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.
Here’s how to do this exercise:
- Firstly, find an area long enough to be able to take at least 5 large steps forward.
- Start by standing with you feet hip width apart and hands down by your sides.
- Take a large step forwards and lower yourself until both your legs are bent at the knees to 90 degrees. The thigh of your front foot should be parallel to the floor.
- Push off with your back foot and go straight into another lunge. So, your back foot is now at the front.
- Keep your torso straight at all times and your core engaged.
If you’re new to this exercise, you may find it tricky to balance. This will become easier over time as your core muscles become stronger. To make the exercise slightly simpler, when pushing off with your back foot, instead of going straight into another lunge simply return to a standing position. From there, step forward but this time with the other foot.
Probably the king of compound exercises, the barbell squat primarily targets your glutes, quads and hip flexors. You’ll also find that your lower back, hamstrings and calf muscles get a great workout with squatting.
The most important thing to note with barbell squats is proper technique, this becomes even more important if you’re squatting a heavy load. Also, get yourself a spotter. A helping hand is invaluable if you’re unfortunate enough to fail a lift.
If you’re new to squatting, it’s worth undertaking some body weight squats first to get the hang of the technique and then move to an unloaded barbell. Squatting with just the bar will allow you to get a better feel for squatting with weight, albeit a small amount, and also help you to best position the bar on your upper back. A loaded bar positioned incorrectly could lead to injury.
Here’s how to undertake a proper barbell squat:
- Position the barbell at the correct height in a power rack or squat cage. The correct height will mean that when the bar is resting across your shoulders / upper back, your knees will be very slightly bent. This is so that when you un-rack the bar, you just need to stand up straight to get enough clearance to step back, as opposed to standing on your toes which should be avoided.
- Step under the bar and position it correctly across your upper back and shoulders, make sure it’s not pressing against your neck as this could result in injury.
- Standing up straight, carefully step backwards so you have enough space to squat. If you’re going heavy make sure you have a spotter behind you.
- Standing with your feet hip width apart and toes slightly pointing outwards, slowly begin to squat down.
- Keep your head and chest up at all times and avoid rounding your back. If you are rounding your back this means that your spine is taking the weight which is a big no-no in squatting.
- Sit back into the movement until you reach parallel to the floor.
- To return back to the starting position, power up whilst pushing through your heels. This helps to retain your balance and ensures you maintain a straight position.
HOW LONG BEFORE YOU SEE RESULTS
Growing muscle takes time and consistent effort but, with a regular training programme you can expect to see modest results in around 3 months from when you begin. Usually, it can take anywhere between 6 months and 2 years to achieve your own muscle growing goals! Genetics will also play a part in how easy it is to build and maintain muscle, and some will find it easier than others.