Glutes are in vogue right now; there’s no denying that. Whether it’s the Kardashian effect, an increase in the desire for athletic bodies, or an acceptance and appreciation for other body types, the results are in: people want bigger butts.
As a New York City trainer to everyone from youth athletes to world-famous actors, let me assure you that these days, most of my clients want a big, round booty capped by some glorious glutes.
This is fantastic, because not only does it mean that society is changing in a way that pulls further from the once-common marginalization of the beautiful, curvy figures typically associated with non-white women, it’s also a step towards appreciating the athleticism that big a booty brings.
Because, truly, having a big butt is not just about how you look in a pair of leggings; it’s also about what you can do with it. The glutes are the largest and strongest muscle group in the body and the keystone of the lower body. They generate massive force in any exercise that involves hip extension, which includes the squat, deadlift, and any form of running and jumping.
As the trend is toward building a bigger posterior, glute training programs are not hard to find, nor are lists of the best butt exercises around. And while those are all well and good, it’s not enough to just use the best exercises, or even to use a great program that features all the right moves.
If you want glutes of glory, you’ll need to drill and practice, but here’s the key: it’s not all about the program or the volume.
These are important factors, and if addressed correctly, will allow for maximizing the recruitment of the glutes, and the productivity of the training session.
If you take care of these things, everything else falls into place.
Below, you’ll find my top five tips to make your glute training more effective. These can be implemented immediately, and are equally effective no matter what program you’re currently using.
For building big, strong glutes of glory, you need to check these out.
If you do not maintain an arch in your foot, you will find your glutes fire sub-optimally.
Some will say this problem is “glute amnesia.” I like to refer to it as “lazy feet.” If you don’t maintain an arch when you’re working on otherwise great glute building exercises like deadlifts or squats, you fully activate the glute max.
Your gluteus maximus is the biggest, most powerful butt muscle you’ve got back there, and certainly one you want “turned on” during any exercise.
TIP: In bare feet, find all four corners of the floor with your feet. While maintaining the arch you’ve created, try to pull the floor apart in your squat pattern, emphasizing the base of the big toe.
When you sit or wear heels all day, the hips can end up very rotated in response to the stress. In turn, the hip flexors get very tight and weak. Many of the best butt-building exercises, like squats and deadlifts, require a certain amount of hip flexor strength for you to successfully pull your hips into flexion. So a good deep hip flexor stretch, followed by some kind of challenge is ideal..
TIP: Try a half-kneeling hip flexor stretch and follow it up with a quick hurdle hold exercise.
Another easy way to activate your glutes before training is to include glute bridges as part of your warm-up. Right after the hurdle hold, stay laying on the floor and do a single-leg glute bridge, holding each at the top for 15 seconds. Two reps on each side and you should have your glutes firing.
If you’ve got chronically tight hamstrings, you cannot touch your toes, or your lower back is tight after runs, the posture of your hips could be off.
Half-kneeling positions help correct this issue in the long run, but they also require you to squeeze your glutes in order to stay balanced. You can row, press, chop, and push— all with one knee down.
TIP: Try this half-kneeling lift exercise:
These half-kneeling lifts and chops you can replace in your programming for a few weeks in place of the same ab exercises you’ve been doing for months. This trains your core in a new (and probably more effective way) which will further support your posture and glute activation.
“Good posture” is very relative and very individual. It reflects strengths, weaknesses, fatigue, stress, and confidence level, so the best posture cue is really just to create as much space between your joints as possible.
When you do so, your joints are in the most optimal positions for you to be successful at whatever exercise you’re doing. Within the context of our hips and glute training, we want to make sure our lower back isn’t excessively arched, so our posture should focus on posteriorly tilting the pelvis. This
TIP: While standing with feet hip-width apart, make sure your tailbone is pointing down towards to the floor and grind your heels into the floor as you elongate through the crown of your head. Apply this to all of your resisted movements.
If posture reflects strengths and weaknesses, you can positively affect it by getting your muscles into better balance and, for most people, that means training the posterior line a bit more (calves, hamstrings, glutes, back—all of these muscles are connected along the posterior chain). They usually need a little more attention than their anterior counterparts to keep the body in balance.
TIP: Add more Romanian Deadlifts to target the hamstrings, even if you already have regular concentric deadlifts in your program.
There are actually three glutes muscles. In addition to the glute max, there are two smaller glutes, the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, that reside on the side of our hips just below the pelvis. The glute med lays on top of the glute min, and they perform the same main functions: hip abduction (bringing your leg out to the side), and hip internal rotation (rotating your femur inward). Activating these muscles will support your overall posture in addition to.
A great way to activate these muscles is to do a mini resistance band walk as part of your warm-up. Grab a mini band and take 10-20 steps, while bracing your core, in each direction. Here’s a video with all you need to know about performing band walks in the most effective manner.
The rest of your body has a much bigger influence on your glutes than you might imagine, and you’ll notice that maintaining an arch in your foot allows you to maintain better stability in your lunge, that you resist the compression forces in your back squat by lengthening your spine, and that a few minutes spent on your hip flexors is going to allow you to use your butt on bench day.
You’ll be able to apply these concepts in a number of ways.
You better be prepared to get a whole lot better at all your movements. You want glutes of glory? Well, child, you best listen to your reigning glute goddess to get to the promised land.