Top Glute Exercises to Grow the Perfect Backside
By Kevin Masson MSc, CSCS, CPT, USAW, FMS
Listen nobody ever wrote a song about a flat butt, so today we’re going to lay out our top tips for growing the perfect set of glutes. Many people believe doing endless amounts of squats, deadlifts, or lunges will grow your glutes; however the glutes are not activated to their highest potential, there are many other exercises that will produce a bigger bang for your buck and a serious glute pump! Nick Tumminello, a popular trainer/ author, said it best, “All the squats, deadlifts, and lunges in the world won’t do your backside much good if your glutes don’t activate well, to begin with.” Glutes can be known as “sleeping giants” as they require significant amounts of metabolic energy to activate, therefore the body may try to conserve energy by keeping them dormant and allowing other muscles to take over. Properly warming up and activating the glutes prior to lifting weights can improve glute activation, strength and neural programming for enhancing movement patterns. Additionally, properly stretching the hip flexors before trying to activate the glutes can be beneficial, as tight hip flexors can limit glute activation.
Another thing worth mentioning is, and I get that a lot at the gym.
-“Bro I’m not doing that, that’ s a chick exercise.”
-Ok, “Bro” Glutes play a critical role in any performance activity. So whether you are looking at improving your 40-yard dash or increase your numbers on the squat and deadlift, you better train those glutes.
Let’s do a quick refresher on the anatomy. There are three main muscles that comprise your butt:
- gluteus maximus
- gluteus medius
- gluteus minimus
The gluteus maximus muscle is the largest and strongest of the gluteal muscles. It is the most superficial layer of the dorsal gluteal musculature and therefore forms the surface anatomy of the gluteal region. The gluteus maximus has several origins on the pelvic bones as well as the sacrotuberous ligament and inserts at the gluteal tuberosity of the femur. The inferior gluteal nerve supplies the innervation. The gluteus maximus muscle is the strongest extensor and outward rotator of the hip and is also involved in adduction and abduction as well as stabilization of the hip joint.
The gluteus medius muscle is found in the posterior pelvis, origination at the gluteal ilium to the femur, coursing inferiorly to its insertion at the greater trochanter of the femur. It is located deep to the larger gluteus maximus muscle and overlies the gluteus minimus muscle. The innervation comes from the superior gluteal nerve, a branch of the sacral plexus (L4-S1). The small gluteal muscles are considered as strong abductors and internal rotators of the thigh, at the hip joint. The anteriormost fibers of this muscle assist in flexion and internal/medial rotation of the thigh, while the posterior fibers function in extension and external/lateral rotation. The gluteus medius also plays an essential role in the stabilization of the pelvis.
The gluteus minimus muscle is part of the dorsal gluteal musculature. It belongs to the deeper layer along with the rotator muscles of the hip joints. It extends from the ilium to the greater trochanter of the femur and is innervated by the superior gluteal nerve. The gluteus minimus muscle is an abductor and medial rotator of the hip joint. The small gluteal muscles are the most powerful abductors and internal rotators of the hip joint. A contraction of the ventral fibers results in flexion and inward rotation. The dorsal fibers perform an extension and outward rotation. Altogether they play an essential role in the stabilization of the pelvis.
Mind to Muscle Connection
In 2014 Ph.D. Brett Contreras conducted a study that put subjects hooked to electrodes and measured the EMG activity of each muscle during various exercises. (Results below).
Based on Brett experiment, here are the top three exercises in terms of mean and peak activity for each muscle part:
Mean: Quadruped Hip Circle, Band Standing External Rotation, Barbell Hip Thrust
Peak: Quadruped Hip Circle, Quadruped Band Donkey Kick, Quadruped Hip Extension
Upper Glute Maximus
Mean: Barbell Hip Thrust, Band Skorcher Hip Thrust, Quadruped Hip Circle
Peak: Quadruped Hip Extension, Barbell Hip Thrust, Bird Dog
Mid Glute Maximus
Mean: Band Standing Hip External Rotation, Band Skorcher Hip Thrust, Barbell Hip Thrust
Peak: Band Standing Hip External Rotation, Band Skorcher Hip Thrust, Cable Standing Hip External Rotation
Lower Glute Maximus
Mean: Deadlift, Band Hip Thrust, Band Standing Hip External Rotation
Peak: Single Leg Hip Thrust, Shoulder Elevated Single Leg Hip Thrust, Deadlift
What is also crazy about the results is the difference between focusing on the muscles (internally) versus the environment (externally). Now we all heard bodybuilders for decades saying mind to muscles connection. One of my favorite quote from CT Fletcher while doing bicep curls, he screams at his biceps “ I ORDER YOU TO GROW.” You get the idea his attention is 100% focused on his biceps.
Back to the subject mind to muscle connection is a real thing and in this instance, if you want to focus on bigger glutes, you have to squeeze the life out of them on every single rep.
Top Glutes Exercises
According to Ph.D. Bret “, the glute guy” Contreras, the best six exercises for the glutes for advanced individuals are:
- Barbell Hip Thrust
- Quadruped Hip Extension
- Weighted Reverse Hyper
- Weighted Back Extension
- Standing Band Abduction
- Seated Band Abduction
If you are just starting out to training start first with bodyweight exercises and progress with added weight as you get proficient in the skill.
- Glute bridges (both legs, feet elevated, single leg, shoulder elevated)
- Back extension
- Reverse hypers
- Cable pull through
- Bird Dog
- Stability ball curl or sliding disc leg curls
Glutes Activation Hip Bands and Mini Bands
Hip bands or mini bands are worth mentioning for glute training. They are ideal for activating your glutes and entire lower body, you can use them during a dynamic warm-up or even on its own as a workout.
Another reason why I love them is because it cues athletes to keep their knees out while squatting or deadlifting and also recruits a lot more of your glutes muscle fibers which allows you to lift heavier. I would highly recommend giving them a try, you can find them easily on Amazon or click the link below
Bret Contreras. (2018). I am the Glute Guy and Here are My Secrets! – Bret Contreras. [online] Available at: https://bretcontreras.com/glute-secrets/ [Accessed 19 Sep. 2018].
Bret Contreras. (2009). Advanced techniques in glutei maximi strengthening. Ebook.