5 Exercises for Great Glutes
Written By: James Butterfield
Looking to get your glutes in shape? Personal trainer James Butterfield from JBPT has shared his go to exercises.
What are glutes?
In recent times the glutes have overtaken the arms and abs as the most talked about body part amongst regular gym goers and the media alike.
This is owing to the increase in social media posts from various people, including celebrities aspiring for the perfect posterior. And, many more people are now undertaking weight training in pursuit of the perfect physique, as opposed to traditional cardio and HIIT.
The glutes are the biggest and strongest muscles in the body, and to develop them you must train them hard. If you wanted bigger arms, you’d lift heavy, and the same applies for the glutes. If a muscle doesn’t have a reason to grow, it won’t! This means we have to provide a stimulus to promote growth and an increase in strength.
Working on your glutes for aesthetic reasons should not be your only consideration, stronger glutes also promote good posture, alleviate lower back pain, and make simple everyday tasks easier (picking something up for example)
How to work out the glutes
The glutes consist of 3 main muscles, gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, and perform 3 movements. They extend, abduct and externally rotate the leg:
- Extension of the leg would be a glute kickback
- Abduction of the leg is when the leg is lifted out to the side away from the middle of the body, like taking a step to the side
- External rotation is when the leg turns outward, pointing the feet out like a duck.
The best exercises to work the glutes need to cover these three main actions of the muscle.
Five great glute exercises
Let’s now look at five exercises to help develop the glutes, and cover the technique for each.
Squats - the daddy of all exercises! For the benefit if this article, we will discuss barbell squats. Below is how to Squat with proper form, using a barbell:
- Stand with the bar on your upper-back, and your feet shoulder-width apart
- Squat down by pushing your knees to the side while moving hips back
- Break parallel by Squatting down until your hips are lower than your knees
- Squat back up while keeping your knees out and chest up
- Stand with your hips and knees locked at the top
Squats are extremely technical and, done right, are the go-to exercise for anyone wanting to improve their strength and aesthetic appeal. They also burn a ton of calories due to the number of muscles worked and the amount of weight moved.
These differ from traditional deadlifts in that the bar starts off the floor. Also, more focus is placed on the hamstrings and glutes, rather than the quads. See below for a how to guide.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a barbell at thigh level. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your back straight, bend at your waist and sit your hips back to lower the bar.
- Keep the bar close to your shins and lower as far as your flexibility allows.
- Forcefully contract your glutes to extend at your hips and stand up.
Really focus on squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement, and maintaining a flat back rather than arching over. One way to prevent this is to keep your chin up, this pulls up the upper back and helps keep you in a neutral position.
Like the squat, the leg press is a multi-muscle, multi-joint exercise. if you place your feet at a high stance you’ll shift more of the load onto your hamstrings and glutes. This is a very popular variation as there aren’t many other resistance machines that allow you to target your glutes and hamstrings with heavy weight. To do this exercise well is far easier than a BB squat so consider it as an alternative.
- Brace your abdominal muscles and push the platform away with your heels and forefeet. Your heels should remain flat on the footplate. The front of your foot or toes should never be used on their own to move the pad forward.
- While breathing out, extend your legs and keep your head and back flat against the seat. Extend with slow control rather than with an explosive movement.
- Pause at the top of the movement. Do not lock out the knees and ensure that they are not bowing out or in.
- While breathing in, return the footplate to the starting position by gradually bending the knees. Keep the feet and back flat throughout.
If you have never done the leg press, start with three sets of 10. You can advance from there as you build your strength.
Lunges are a popular strength training exercise among people wanting to strengthen, sculpt, and tone their bodies, while also improving performance in sports. This exercise is popular for its ability to strengthen your back, hips, and legs, while improving mobility and stability. There are many variations; to begin with follow the below steps for a traditional bodyweight lunge. You can add weight using dumbbells or a barbell as you become more confident.
- Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Engage your core.
- Take a big step forward with right leg. Start to shift your weight forward so heel hits the floor first.
- Lower your body until right thigh is parallel to the floor and right shin is vertical. It’s not a problem if the knee shifts forward a little as long as it doesn’t go past right toe. If mobility allows, lightly tap left knee to the floor while keeping weight in right heel.
- Press into right heel to drive back up to starting position
- Repeat on the other side.
If your gym has a glute kickback machine, then use it! This machine allows you to perform the exercise weighted, which, as discussed earlier is essential for stimulating the glutes. If, however, you don’t have such a luxury then perform them using only your bodyweight. In this situation slow it down and really focus on squeezing the glute during the movement.
- Kneel on the floor or on an exercise mat with your arms extended in front of you. You should be in a kneeling push-up position with your arms shoulder width apart. This is the starting position.
- Lift your right leg until your hamstrings are in line with your back. Contract your glutes while performing this part of the exercise and hold the contraction at the top for a second.
- Return to the starting position and repeat the process with your left leg.
- Alternate legs until you have completed the number of reps in your set.
- 4 sets of 15 per side would be a good start point, increase the reps as you progress.
To summarise, well rounded, strong glutes don’t come easy, and don’t come without hard work! Follow the advice given, train them heavy, and over time you will develop these muscles greatly for both strength and aesthetics.
For more training advice check out the training section on the SportsShoes Gym Hub.