Once thought of as “foo foo” training only done in aerobics classes, more and more trainees are adding glute exercises to their workouts. Done by both men and women, glute exercises not only help you build a better looking bum, but can also develop more athletic strength through the hips and legs. Below are three exercises as well as alternatives and some glute training tips to add to your regimen.
A Note on Programming and Variety
Though there really aren’t any published studies on this yet, initial research and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that the glutes respond very well to both frequency and variety. This means that while adding glute exercises to leg day (or even having a separate glute workout) would work well, you could also simply just do a glute movement or two nearly every day. This could either be done by adding an exercise to the end of your workout or doing one separately at home.
As mentioned, the glutes also -respond very well to variety, so don’t be afraid to switch things up. That doesn’t just mean always be doing a different movement, either. Changing up how you perform an exercise works well, too. This could mean switching from external resistance to bodyweight, from using a barbell to using a band, or even a slightly different variation of the exercise itself.
The Hip Thrust
Considered by many to be the best of all glute exercises, the hip thrust is one of the more popular movements you see being done. Here’s how to perform a hip thrust:
- Lie cross ways across a free standing bench with your shoulder blades on the bench (you can lie your arms out flat on the bench for stability if need be)
- Your feet should be flat on the floor, far out enough from the bench that when your glutes are contracted and body horizontal, your knees form a 90-degree angle
- Inhale as you lower your butt to the floor (though it may not touch the floor, depending on how tall you are)
- Exhale and bring your body to horizontal, driving with the hips and contracting hard with the glutes, holding for a second
You can do the hip thrust unweighted for 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps or with an added resistance, dropping the reps down to 8-12. External resistance could come in form of a barbell lied across the waist or a band anchored to the floor over the waist.
An alternative to the hip thrust could be the glute bridge. It’s performed pretty much the same way, except you start by lying flat on the floor instead of with your shoulders on a bench. Have your feet a few inches out from your butt, and drive your hips to the ceiling, keeping your knees together and shoulders still on the floor. The “top” position will have you bridged up and glutes contracted. You can either apply the same sets/reps above, or hold the contracted position once for up to a minute.
The Goblet Squat
Some of the best glute exercises are actually leg or posterior chain movements that when tweaked slightly, can really hit the glutes hard. The goblet squat is a perfect example. Not only will you get a good thigh workout, but you can really open up the hips, improve flexibility, and most importantly, contract the glutes hard at the top. 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps works well. Here’s how to perform a goblet squat:
- Get a moderate weight dumbbell or kettlebell and set it in front of you
- Spread your feet to just outside shoulder-width and rotate them slightly outward such that your toes are pointing toward “11:00” and “1:00”
- Grab your dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it in front of you at your shoulders (however you choose to hold it is up to you – just be comfortable)
- Keeping your torso upright, inhale and lower to the fully squatted position, holding this position for a second
- Squat back to standing as you exhale, ensuring that your knees stay pointed in the same direction as your toes throughout the movement (i.e. – don’t let your knees sway inward or outward)
- At the top, drive the hips as far forward as you can, squeezing the glutes hard, holding for a second
A great alternative, albeit much more cumbersome, would be the belt squat. Stand with each foot on an equally high box or bench. Have a dip belt with added weight draped around your waist for resistance. Perform the squats with the same movement pattern above such that the weight hanging from your waist is lowered between the two boxes/benches you’re standing on. Sets and reps can stay the same.
The Kettlebell Deadlift
Probably the easiest deadlift variation to learn, the kettlebell deadlift is a great overall posterior chain exercise. Keep strict mental focus on the glutes and “hinging” at the hips so as to not just make this a lower back movement. 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps works well until you know you have form down pat. After that, you can do 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps. Here’s how to perform a kettlebell deadlift:
- Start with your feet in the same position as the goblet squat, only with a kettlebell between them
- Keeping your lower legs straight, bend at the knees, and “hinge” at the hips to drive them back; keep the back straight, chest arched, and arms simply hanging down; inhale and lower until such a point you can grab the kettlebell
- Concentrate on squeezing the glutes and driving forward with the hips – contracting the glutes as you exhale is what should straighten your body back to the standing position (not pulling with the lower back)
- At the top, drive the hips forward as far as you can for the best contraction, not unlike what you tried to do with the goblet squat; hold the contracted position for a second
If you don’t have kettlebells handy, you could swap in sumo deadlifts, instead. Perform them pretty much the same way, only instead of using a kettlebell placed between your feet, have a barbell on the floor directly in front of your shins. To keep the lower back safe, if you’re not strong enough to load a 45lbs plate on each side, then either use bumper plates to elevate the bar or place it on blocks. Use the same sets and reps.
If you’ve been wanting to add glute exercises to your regimen, give these a try. You’ll radically start to enhance your glute development, and will even likely improve athletic performance in other areas due to increased glute activation. Start off with the hip thrust, goblet squat, and kettlebell deadlift as is, but after a few weeks, feel free to start switching things up as noted above for even better results.