HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR GLUTES
Glutes are one of those muscle groups that tend to get overlooked unless the goal is a bigger butt to fill out a pair of jeans.
Even then, people tend to only focus on one part of the glutes: the gluteus maximus.
Why bother with growing the glutes outside of the obvious aesthetic reason of bigger butts?
Strong glutes play a pivotal role in enhancing mobility, improving posture, reducing injury risk, and increasing athletic performance.
They also drive certain lower body exercises like the Barbell Squat and the Barbell Romanian Deadlift, which is going to be really helpful for lifters.
Today, I’m going to provide you with the most effective glute workout you’ve ever done. How do I know it’ll be the best?
Because this butt workout focuses on trading ineffective volume and wasted time in the gym for more productive workouts using effective reps.
Let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of the glutes, the science behind effective reps, and the best glute exercises to incorporate into your workout routine.
ANATOMY OF THE GLUTE MUSCLES
As always, before we jump into my favorite glute moves, I want you to know what these powerful muscles are, where they are, and how they function.
This will help you activate the muscle, ensuring a stronger mind-body connection and a more intense contraction during a well-rounded routine.
Here’s the breakdown of the butt muscles and the booty fibers:
One of the largest muscles in the body, the gluteus maximus has attachments that extend from the lower spine and hip bone to the upper thigh bone and a fibrous band on the outside of the leg.
The gluteus maximus is responsible for a few key functions:
It primarily drives hip extension, which involves straightening the hip joint from a bent position. This is crucial for standing, running, and jumping.
It also assists in rotating the leg and foot outwardly, as well as moving the leg towards or away from the center of the body.
What’s more, this muscle is key for maintaining upright posture. This is why a strong gluteus maximus is beneficial for everyone, not just athletes.
When people talk about glute exercises, they are usually referring to the glute max, but there’s another part to this muscle group that’s equally important: the gluteus medius.
The gluteus medius is located on the outer pelvis, extending from the hip bone to the top of the thigh bone.
It’s responsible for assisting in lifting the leg sideways (hip abduction), which is important for balance during activities like walking or running.
It also helps in rotating the hip both inward and outward while preventing the leg from moving excessively inward towards the body’s midline.
Just like its larger counterpart, a strong gluteus medius promotes better posture, efficient movement, and lower injury risk.
Located directly under the gluteus medius, the gluteus minimus stands as the smallest among the three gluteal muscles.
It originates from the outer surface of the ilium (the largest part of the hip bone), and runs to the greater trochanter, which is the large, bony protrusion you can feel on the outside of your hip.
The gluteus minimus plays a key role in hip abduction, medial rotation, and helps stabilize the pelvis during walking and running.
WHAT ARE EFFECTIVE REPS?
Effective reps are the ones that we commonly associate with the end of any given set. So, if you performed a set of 12 to failure, the effective reps would usually be 10 through 12.
Put simply, effective reps are the ones that you have to fight for in order to produce the challenge that’s necessary to change you.
Now, the question is this:
If the reps that take place from the first through the ninth are there just to get you to those effective reps, is there a way to skip the middleman? Can we just jump into the effective reps?
Thankfully, there is a way to get rid of that volume that’s not really serving a purpose for us. Instead, only getting us to the point where we can create a difference.
There are three phases to this process, and it all starts with selecting the right weight.
Choose a weight that will cause you to fail in the 12-rep range on the exercise.
And remember that failure is the point during a set when muscles can no longer produce the necessary force to concentrically lift a given load without compromising proper form.
Once you have your weight, you’ll start with the ignition set.
The goal of this set is just to prime you for the effective rep total that we’re going to accrue.
Perform a set of the chosen exercise, making sure you reach muscular failure around that 12-rep range.
REST PAUSE SET
Now, put the weight down, but don’t go too far away. You’re going to limit your rest here to just 15 seconds.
This is the short rest-pause interval that’s responsible for getting you right back into those more intense repetitions more quickly.
Again, limit this short break to only 15 seconds.
EFFECTIVE REPS SET
And when we reach the end of this fast 15-second break, we get right back into it again and we start to crank out our reps.
This is where the effective reps begin.
Your goal is to hit a total of 20 effective reps on this exercise. I don’t expect you to reach 20 effective reps all at once.
Rather, I want you to chip away at these effective reps by performing as many as you can per set following each rest pause.
It might take you up to five sets, and that’s okay! Your goal remains the same: Perform the ignition set, take a rest pause, and then perform as many effective reps as you can with proper form.
Once your form fails, that’s the end of the set. Take a longer break and then start from the top.
When you hit 20 effective reps, you can move on to the next exercise.
BEST GLUTE WORKOUT
Now that you know where the glute muscles are and the best way to train them, we can dive into glute-specific training.
I’ve handpicked these effective exercises because they target the entire glute maximus, glute medius, and glute minimus.
Here are the best glute exercises for form, function, and for building a strong set of glutes.
BARBELL HIP THRUST
HOW TO DO IT: We start with one of my favorite glute exercises. Sit on the ground with your back against a flat bench and a padded barbell placed over your hips. Ensure your feet are planted flat, hip-width apart, and your hands are gripping the barbell shoulder-width apart. Lift your hips by pushing through your heels, keeping your back on the bench and your weight distributed between your shoulder blades and feet. Aim to align your hips with your body, forming a straight line from knees to shoulders without overextending your lower back. Hold this position briefly to squeeze your glutes before slowly lowering back to the start. Advancers lifters can eventually graduate to the Single Leg Hip Thrust.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: You can think of this exercise like the Glute Bridge on steroids with major gluteus maximus activation. The Barbell Hip Thrust is a great exercise for training because it directly works your glute muscles with a heavy load, making them stronger and more toned. It mirrors movements you do every day, which helps improve your overall strength and balance.
BARBELL ROMANIAN DEADLIFT (RDL)
HOW TO DO IT: The starting position is similar to that of Conventional Deadlifts with bringing your shoulders to knee. Stand tall with a barbell in front of you on the floor. Get into a hip hinge position, bending your knees and driving your hips back with feet flat on the floor. Your body will look like it’s in a 90-degree angle from the side. Grip the bar outside your knees, stand tall, and keep the bar close to your body. Hinge at your hips and slightly bend your knees to lower the bar along your legs until you feel a hamstring stretch, usually at mid-shin. Keep your back straight throughout. Return by driving your hips forward into a standing position and squeezing your glutes. If you’re looking to mix it up, you can try another deadlift variation like the Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift. In general, Deadlifts are tricky so if you can, ask a trainer to check in on your form.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: The Barbell Romanian Deadlift effectively targets the glutes through a hip-hinge movement, one of the primary functions of the gluteus maximus, and by creating significant stretch and a constant tension in the glutes. Its capacity to activate the entire posterior chain and its versatile nature, allowing for weight adjustment and progression, further enhances its effectiveness in glute development.
DUMBBELL SPRINTER LUNGE
HOW TO DO IT: If you do this with proper form, you should look like you’re in the starting blocks of the 100-meter sprint with a pair of dumbbells touching floor. This exercise is similar – but not the same – to Bulgarian Split Squats with that knees-to-shoulders form. You’re taking a similar Split Squat position but the key is to drive your body back up to the top and quickly get the other leg in place so you can perform this in alternating fashion. Take note here: These are NOT Walking Lunges. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand. Step forward into a lunge with your right foot. Both knees should bend to about 90 degrees. Place the dumbbells on the ground, maintaining good form and a straight back. Push off with your right foot to return to standing and repeat on the left side. Maintain good posture and keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: The Dumbbell Sprinter Lunge is a favorite butt exercise because it allows for a full range of motion throughout the glute muscles. As you alternate from leg to leg, you’re activating the glute medius, which tends to get less attention than the larger glute max. You’re also working on your core stability. An alternative for people who are new to this exercise is to perform it with your body weight only before moving to a pair of weights.
CABLE PULL THROUGH
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a strong stance by facing away from a low cable machine with a rope attachment. Straddle the cable, grab the rope between your legs, and take a few steps forward to create muscular tension. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. From this starting position, hinge at your hips, letting the cable pull your hands through your legs, while keeping your back straight and head neutral. Return to standing by driving your hips forward and squeezing your glutes, allowing your arms to follow your hips’ motion. Do not pull the rope with your arms. The movement is happening in your glutes and hamstrings.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: The Cable Pull Through allows us to work on that all-important hip hinge once again and in doing so, it lights up that posterior chain and glutes. The cable machine also helps to maximize the time under tension.
BANDED HIP DROPS
HOW TO DO IT: All I want you to do is simply anchor resistance bands around your hips, hold on to something for support, and allow your hips to drop in the direction that the band is anchored. Do not put the band around thighs – hips only. That just sets you up to perform this right. From here, I want you to drive your hips back in the opposite direction against the resistance of the band. You’re going to focus on one hip at a time. After performing your effective reps, switch sides. Want to adjust the resistance to match your strength level? All you have to do is either step further away or closer to the anchor point.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: Thanks to the abduction of the hip on that down leg, you’re heavily targeting the glute medius.
GLUTE BRIDGE / CURL LADDER
HOW TO DO IT: This is a bonus butt exercise for anyone who wants an extra challenge or if you want to take your glutes to complete muscle failure. Instead of counting the effective reps, you’ll be counting the effective seconds. Your goal is a total of 100 seconds. Lay on your back and put your legs straight out on top of a stability ball. Engage the glutes completely by fully extending through the hips. In other words, make sure your legs and torso are in a completely straight line. Now, perform one Hamstring Curl. Extend it back out and hold for five seconds. You have to be able to keep your hips up while you curl the ball back and extend it back out.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: The Swiss Ball Leg Curl effectively targets the glutes by engaging them during the hip extension phase of the exercise, which is a primary function of these muscles. Additionally, the instability of the Swiss ball increases core and glute activation, enhancing their strength. All in all, this is a fantastic lower body workout!
Guys, glutes are for more than aesthetics.
They play a fundamental role in basic movements like walking or jumping. They also are the literal driving factors in exercises like the Squat.
Adding in these glute exercises will ensure you get a well-rounded glute workout that targets all three sections of the glute muscles.
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- The glutes, consisting of the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, play a key role in mobility, posture, injury prevention, and athletic performance.
- The gluteus maximus is one of the largest muscles, important for hip extension, leg rotation, and maintaining upright posture.
- The gluteus medius assists in lifting the leg sideways, rotating the hip, and preventing excessive inward leg movement, contributing to better posture and lower injury risk.
- The gluteus minimus, the smallest of the three gluteal muscles found in the buttocks, aids in hip abduction, internal rotation, and stabilization of the hip.
- One of the best ways to target the glutes to see real development and results is with effective reps.
- Effective reps are the challenging ones at the end of a set that truly stimulate muscle growth and adaptation. Rather than doing unnecessary reps, the goal is to focus on effective reps by selecting the right weight and following an ‘ignition set – rest pause set – effective reps set’ pattern.
- The process begins with an ignition set, performing no more than 12 reps of an exercise, followed by a short rest pause set of 15 seconds, and then moving right into the effective reps set.
- Aim to reach 20 effective reps per exercise, resting between sets, and starting from the top once form fails.
- Some of the best exercises for your training plan that target the gluteal muscles include the Barbell Hip Thrust, Barbell Romanian Deadlift, Dumbbell Sprinter Lunge, Cable Pull Through, Banded Hip Drops, and Glute Bridge / Curl Ladder.
BEST GLUTE EXERCISES FAQS
The best glute exercises should target all three of the gluteal muscles: the glute maximus, glute medius, and glute minimus.
The best glute exercises to target these muscles include the following:
There are several exercises that help to improve glute strength, but if I had to choose one, I’d go with the Barbell Hip Thrust.
This glute exercise allows you to isolate the glutes while using more weight than other exercises. The top position of the hip thrust allows for a high degree of hip extension, which in turn enables a high level of glute activation. This peak contraction under load can drive muscular adaptation and strength gains.
The best exercises for glutes should focus on activating all three sections of the glute muscles. I’d recommend performing the Barbell Hip Thrust to target the gluteus maximus, the Dumbbell Sprinter Lunge for the gluteus medius, and the Banded Hip Drop for the gluteus minimus.
Squats are a great all-round exercise that work out many parts of your lower body, including your thighs and glutes. But there are other exercises like Barbell Hip Thrusts and Barbell Romanian Deadlifts that are better if you're specifically trying to work on your butt. These exercises focus more on your glute muscles, so they can help you see better results in this area.
Barbell Hip Thrusts are absolutely one of the best glute exercises that you can perform. When done correctly, Hip Thrusts directly target the glute muscles and allow for a full range of motion and strong muscular contraction.
Some of the best exercises for targeting the glutes include the Dumbbell Sprinter Lunge, Barbell Romanian Deadlift, Banded Hip Drop, Glute Bridge / Curl Ladder, Cable Pull Through, and, of course, Barbell Hip Thrust.
It's beneficial to include a variety of these in your workout routine to target the glutes from different angles and activate all the muscle fibers.
The best exercise for glute growth is one that involves heavy weights, high training volume, and effective reps.
I’d recommend focusing on moves for glute hypertrophy like Barbell Hip Thrusts, Barbell Romanian Deadlifts, and Banded Hip Drops. These exercises will help you develop well-rounded glutes that have size, form, and shape.