4 of the Best Glute Exercises To Build Strength

If you want to increase your lifts in compound movements like the squat and deadlift than you should be focusing on strengthening and building muscle in your glutes.

By Tory Gray November 23, 2016
Posted in  Training

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Working your booty isn’t just for women.  Sure, we may look sexier performing these movements or have far more Instagram followers, but men should get in on the action, too.  Men tend to focus on strengthening their legs, but strengthening those tree trunks of yours also means that you’re recruiting some help from your derrière.

If you want to increase your lifts in compound movements like the squat and deadlift than you should be focusing on strengthening and building muscle in your glutes.  Not only will your performance improve, you’ll be a better athlete, period.  

There are a number of multi-joint exercises that implement the hip extension, but some isolate and engage your rear better than others.  We’ve generated a list of the four best exercises that will help you get stronger and look pretty good back there, too.  These movements will maximize hip involvement thereby recruiting the muscles that make up the one and only, gluteus maximus.

Low Bar Back Squat:

The name should be a dead giveaway as to how this movement should be done.  Place the bar further down on your shoulders, resting it on your rear delts (not your traps), and lift your elbows to create a nice shelf.  Your feet can also be slightly wider than your normal squat stance.  The bar and foot position will allow you to lower your hips and hinge more, which will put your torso in a more inclined position and will change your center of mass slightly. The low bar back squat is better suited to build strength and doesn’t translate as well to the Olympic lifts as the high bar back squat or front squat does.  You’ll immediately be able to use more weight with greater glute/hip action and less lower-quad activation. 

If you want a bit of a challenge try this:  3x low bar back squats every minute for 10 minutes for a total of 30 reps.  Pick a moderately heavy weight that you can use for all 10 sets that will be challenging, but a weight you won’t fail.

Sumo deadlift:

The biggest difference between the sumo deadlift and the conventional deadlift is your set-up position.  Your feet should be set very wide (close to the loaded plates) and at an angle, and your grip will be slightly more narrow (shoulder width) and inside of the legs.  Like any other deadlift, take a deep breath, lower your hips, grip the bar (neutral, switch, or hook grip), keep your head/neck/spine in a neutral position.  As you initiate the movement, think about driving through the floor (i.e. spreading the floor apart with your feet), weight over your ankles and heels, and extend through the hips and knees. The sumo deadlift will take tension off of the low back and specifically target your hamstrings and glutes.  Booty pro tip: emphasize squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement.  

For a real booty burner try doing waves of 3-2-1. For example, if my 1 rep max deadlift is 445 I want to aim to hit that for 1 rep on Wave 3.  Wave 1 should be conservative, Wave 2 a bit more challenging, and Wave 3 should get you to your 1RM.  If you’re successful and don’t fail any reps, try a 4th wave, which should get you to a new PR.  

Wave 1 – 3x 400lbs, 2x 415lbs, 1x 425lbs;
Wave 2 – 3x 415lbs, 2x 425lbs, 1x 435lbs;
Wave 3 – 3x 425lbs, 2x 435lbs, 1x 445lbs (1RM);
Wave 4 – 3x 435lbs, 2x 445lbs, 1x 455lbs.

Glute-Ham Raise (GHR):

This exercise has a really great carryover with posterior chain exercises like the deadlift and squat.  The best way to do GHR’s is using a Glute-Ham Developer machine like this. If you don’t have one available there are several modifications that work too.  To set up, place your feet against the foot plates and in between the two rollers.  Your lower thigh (just above your knee) should make contact with the pad and your knees should be falling through the open space.  If too much of your knees are on the pads, this will put a lot of unwanted stress on the front and back of your knees.  Start from the bottom of the movement.  Your torso should be parallel with the ground and your back should be in a neutral tight position.  Push your feet into the toe plates and use your hamstrings and glutes to flex your knees. Once your torso is upright, slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.

I like to do 3-4 sets of 20 unweighted, but if you want a bit of a challenge you can bear hug a bumper plate to increase the difficulty.  You can also do these with a band as well.  Attach a band  as low as possible to the center column of the machine.  Place the band around the back of your neck. You should notice that tension increases as you are pulling yourself back up and when you are parallel with the ground there should be very little tension.

Barbell Hip Thrusts (a.k.a Glute Bridge):

This is my absolute favorite glute exercise and one of the most awkward.  If you get stares, just embrace them.  To perform the barbell hip thrust you’ll need a loaded barbell, a box or bench, and a pad to place between your hips and the barbell. To set up, sit on the ground and place your upper back against a bench. Place the pad on your hips and roll the barbell so it sits across your hips and on the pad. Then bend your knees and bring your feet in. Your feet should remain flat on the floor.  Now squeeze your glutes and raise your hips up.  Think about executing a big contraction and really work on getting your tip to full extension, squeezing hard.  Then return to the starting position and repeat.

If you’ve never done this before, try doing 3 sets of 20 unweighted first before moving onto the barbell and start light.  You can always increase the weight later.  Otherwise, try 4 sets of 10-12 reps.

A few things to keep in mind…

  1. Depth – Ever heard the term “ass to grass?”  Do that.  The goal when doing any squat or lunge variation is to get the crease of your hips below parallel or below the height of your knees.  Don’t cheat yourself because you didn’t use your full range of motion.
  2. Wider Stance – more glute activation than your conventional hip-width stance. Try placing your feet 2-4 inches wider than your normal stance.
  3. Slow and controlled – Make it burn. Squeeze your glutes for a second longer than you think you should and practice virtuosity (performing the common uncommonly well).

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