Your butt, properly called gluteus maximus or glutes for short, could very well be THE most important muscle in your body. Yes, it does provide something comfortable to sit on and also stops your pants from falling down but it is so much more than this!
Your glutes are your main hip extensor muscle; they work with your hamstrings to drive your hips backward. This action happens every time you squat, jump, walk, run, or pick something up off the ground. Unfortunately, a lot of people fail to train their glutes effectively or even neglect them all together.
Weak glutes are more than in issue of aesthetics – it can also affect your performance and even increase your risk of lower back injury.
Weak glutes mean that your hamstrings and erector spinae (lower back) muscles have to take up the strain and do what your glutes cannot. This means you will a) not be able to generate as much hip extension force and b) place extra load on what are weaker and more injury prone structures. Weak glues are the lower body equivalent of trying to bench press one-handed!
To build up your glutes, make sure you include some of these great butt-building exercises in your leg workouts or, better still, dedicate one training day per week to your glutes.
1. Hip bridges
The hip bridge is a great preparatory exercise for getting your glutes firing properly. Doing this exercise will wake up your glutes and make any other exercises you are going to do much more effective. Because it is an easy exercise, you can do this one anytime you need to give your glutes a wake-up call – say after a longer period of sitting.
Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Without using your arms, push your hips up until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Contract your glutes HARD and then lower your butt back to the floor. Make this exercise harder by using one leg at a time or holding a weight across your hips.
2. Single leg Romanian deadlifts
As well as extending your hip, your glutes also prevent inward knee rotation – specifically gluteus medius. This exercise provides another hip extension opportunity and also teaches your glutes to control onward movement of your hip.
With your feet together and your hands by your sides, shift your weight over onto one foot. Bend your knee slightly for balance. Hinge forward from your hip and reach down to your toes with both hands. Extend your other leg rearward to provide balance. Stand back up and repeat. Do six to ten reps and then change legs. Make this exercise harder by holding a kettlebell. If you balance sucks, stand next to a wall and use one hand for balance. Make sure you wean yourself off this extra support as soon as you can.
3. Band squats
Squats are a great leg and butt exercise but if your glutes aren’t firing properly, they may be causing you more trouble than you realise. Fire up your glutes by doing your squats with a resistance band around your knees. Use this strategy during your warm up sets before your squat workout or any time you need a glute-livener.
Tie a resistance band just below and around your knees. Step out into your normal squat stance – feet shoulder width apart, toes turned slightly out. Push your knees out against the resistance offered by the band. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor while continuing to push your knees outward. Stand back up and repeat. A couple of sets of 8-12 reps will get the job done.
4. Deficit deadlifts
Deadlifts are a superior butt exercise. Because the weight is in front of you, your entire posterior chain including your glutes has to work extra hard to pull you upright. For glutes, deadlifts are arguably more effective than squats.
Place a 5-10cm platform behind your barbell and stand on it, feet hip-width apart. Squat down and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip. With straight arms, lift your chest, drop your hips, and arch your lower back slightly. Keeping your feet flat, stand up but without letting your hips rise faster than your shoulders. Lower the weight back to the floor by pushing your hips back and then bending your knees.
The increased range of movement in this exercise means you won’t be able to lift as much weight as normal but you will work your glutes far harder. Check your ego and focus more on the action than the weight you are lifting. A couple of sets of six to eight should suffice.
5. Kettlebell swings
The kettlebell swing is a great glute power exercise that helps develop hip extension “snap” which is so important in running and jumping-type activities. Done with lighter weights for higher reps, swings are a good conditioning and fat-burning exercise but done with heavy weights and lower reps, they’re a great butt builder.
Hold your kettlebell in both hands in front of your thighs. Bend your legs slightly and then hinge forward at the hips to lower the weight between your knees; do not round your back. Drive your hips forward and use this momentum to swing the kettlebell forward and up to around head-height. Clench your glutes hard as the weight reaches its zenith. Forcefully swing it back down and repeat.
To maximise glute recruitment, imagine you are jumping forward each time you swing the weight up. Keep your feet flat and drive your heels into the floor to get the most out of this butt building exercise.
Remember, weak and flat glutes are not only let down your physique but could increase your risk of injury and limit your performance. It’s time to start showing them some love!
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