By. Garrett Guzman
What is the holy grail of all exercises for achieving a great butt? While the squat (with all its variations) may reign supreme on my list for the best exercise to achieve a great back side, I believe there are other exercises that should not be overlooked. In fact, in addition to actual exercise selection, form, tempo, repetition scheme, and mind-muscle connection are also four overlooked components in every glute development program. Let’s discuss each of these elements a bit further.
First things first, let’s discuss actual exercise selection. Above I mentioned squats being the king of all exercises. Well, if squats are the king, then lunges, step ups, single leg squats/split squats are the queens. These single leg exercises are key in developing not only the glutes, but also the quadriceps (and hamstrings to a lesser extent). We will discuss how to target the glutes (vs. the quadriceps) most during these exercises shortly. Following closely behind, the hip thrust/glute bridge variations, especially with a barbell, are incredibly effective at specifically targeting the glutes and enhancing mind-muscle connection. Next up, I would add in hip abduction work (moving the leg externally), such as band lateral steps and cable single leg hip abduction, both of which I prefer over the seated machine hip abduction. And, to round off the list (pun intended), I would add in the various types of single leg glute kickbacks, whether banded or cable, whether kneeling or standing.
Second things second, I discussed how important form, tempo, repetition scheme, and mind-muscle connection are to improving the glutes. Form is perhaps the most critical component. With squats, single leg squats (or lunges/step ups), and hip thrusts/glute bridges, you must SIT BACK and DRIVE THROUGH THE HEELS. The closer one’s shin angle is to vertical at the bottom of each movement, the more the glutes will be engaged (opposite if you are wishing to engage the quadriceps further). While wider stance squats have been shown to engage the glutes more (per EMG research), I would argue that you should ultimately squat in your most comfortable width and focus on sitting back and pushing through the heels. As far as tempo, controlling the eccentric (downward portion) is critical to glute development, as the eccentric portion is closely tied to the hypertrophy (or growth) of the muscle. In addition, static pauses at the bottom of the squat or single leg squat, and static pauses at the top of the hip thrust/glute bridge, will increase the tension in the range where the glutes are most “turned on.” With regards to rep scheme, I would traditionally be in favor of a hypertrophy range between 6-12 repetitions. However, this can be dropped lower and higher, based on various progression protocols. What I do strongly recommend is stepping out of your “comfort zone” from time to time, by incorporating various intensity protocols, such as drop sets (but especially ones that dramatically increase the overall repetitions, aka the volume, performed within the workout). And finally, the mind-muscle connection is the money-maker when it comes to making significant strides in one’s glutes. If you are squatting, single leg squatting, or hip thrusting, you must intensely focus on the glutes being the prime driver and bring the hips through at the top while strongly squeezing your glutes. To give you a Refined Fitness visual, we make the reference to being able to “crack the walnut” with each glute contraction. That’s how strongly you must squeeze your glutes at the top of each movement. And similarly, when it comes to hip abduction and glute kickback exercises, you must control each exercise and focus on the individual glute, especially at the “top” of the movement.
While there is a plethora of ways to grow your booty, take some of these exercises and teaching points with you during your next glute workout. You will quickly see how effective they can be when consistently utilized.