While training the glutes has become a popular focus recently thanks to Instagram and 🍑-goals, many people have a hard time growing their rear muscles.
Understanding the anatomy can help. Your glutes are actually made of of three different muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. But by implementing the right variety of glute exercises into your workout, you should see results.
“To grow the glutes, you’ll want to ensure that you’re training them with at least one exercise from each of the following four categories: thrust/bridge exercise; squat/lunge exercise; hinge/pull exercise; abduction movement,” says Jeremy Ethier, kinesiologist, fitness trainer, and founder of Built with Science.
Using research and advice from Bret Contreras, PhD, C.S.C.S., a.k.a. the Glute Guy, who initially popularized the hip thrust, here’s what you should be doing to really grow your glutes.
Exercise 1: Thrust/Bridge
This builds the upper and lower glutes. Contreras prefers the hip thrust with a pause at the top. To really grow the glutes, he advises a horizontal torso at lockout, neutral or posterior tilted hips and squeeze glutes hard, and vertical shins at top. The main thing is avoid overextending and excessive anterior pelvic tilt. He suggests 4 sets of 8 reps, with a 3 second pause).
An alternative is the single leg hip thrust, with your back resting on a bench, couch, or any elevated platform.
Exercise 2: Squat/Lunge
This will hit the lower glutes and quads. Contreras recommends the walking dumbbell lunge as one of the best glutes exercises. You should take a stride length such that your shin angle at the bottom of movement is just slightly forward so that the front of your knee lines up with the front of your shoes. And you’re going to lean your torso a little bit, but not too much (around a 20 degree torso lean). Also focus on pushing through the heel and avoid letting the hips shoot up. He suggests 3 sets of 20 reps (10 steps each leg).
A great alternative would be the deficit reverse lunge, where you elevate your front foot onto any elevated platform.
Exercise 3: Hinge/Pull
This move hits the lower glutes and hamstrings. Contreras recommends the 45-degree hyperextension. There are two ways to do this exercise. One is with neutral feet, neutral spine. That’s going to work the hamstrings, glutes, and erectors really well. If you’re trying to bias the glutes however, you’ll want to round over at the spine fully. This shuts down the erectors (lower back), which makes it now a pure glutes/hamstring movement. Turning out the feet to 45 degrees also creates higher glutes activation. He suggests 3 sets of 15 reps.
And as an alternative, something like reverse hyperextensions done on a bench or even a countertop would be suitable.
Exercise 4: Abduction Movement
This will hit the upper glues, a.k.a. the Glute Medius. Contreras recommends the bodyweight side lying hip raise. To do this, start in a side plank position on your elbow with your hips and knees on the ground. Then you push through the grounded knee, push as tall as you can and aim to achieve maximal hip separation. When you’re at the top, drive the hips forward and at the bottom sink the hips back. He suggests 3 sets of 12 reps.
For an alternative, he suggests the seated banded hip abductions. Here you wrap a mini-band around your knees, and perform reps of pushing your knees out by using your upper glutes. Perform 10 to 15 reps with your back straight up, 10 to 15 reps with your back bent over, and then another 10 to 15 reps with a lean back.
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