An ex-girlfriend of mine told me that I had a tiny butt. She was right, but that’s not what a guy who was just starting to exercise wants to hear. As I began training and learning specific exercises, my strength grew and so did my glutes.
Let’s be honest, nobody wants a tiny butt. Training the butt isn’t anything new, but specialized strength training has been a growing trend in the last several years. Due credit should be given to Bret Contreras, “The Glute Guy“, for making popular the goal of growing buns of steel. Bret’s work has led to some awesome training strategies that are increasingly popular in the physique and performance worlds. They’re lagging in the world of the “general population”, and I think it’s because some people just feel silly using these exercises.
Glute growth is an art form, and it’s important to select and sequence exercises appropriately to reap the most benefits. That being said, you don’t need to plan an entire day around growing your glutes. Often, tweaking your current program is the best place to start.
Let’s talk vectors. BC has popularized training the anteroposterior vector, where forces are traveling through the front of the body towards the backside. Loading this vector is important because tension on hips is the hardest at full extension, which is typically a resting point in other exercises. If there’s one “big” barbell exercise for the glutes, it would be the barbell hip thrust:
The barbell hip thrust is a great exercise, and it’s one that I could use some work on. In a few weeks, I’ll be training it pretty hard. Hip thrusts are great, and their unilateral counterpart, the single leg hip thrust, is just as awesome. I like this variation because there are additional anti-rotation benefits:
It’s important to note that the glutes work in many lower body exercises, and you don’t need to do only hip dominant/glute specific work to see the benefits. Let’s look at an example of a workout that I recently implemented for a 51 year old female. She’s focusing on strength, but wanted to include some additional glute-specific work in her training.
- Trap Bar Deadlift. 3×3
- Plate loaded single leg hip thrust, 4×6 per leg
- 45˚ Back Extension, 4×20
- Goblet Squat, 4×15
Amy addressed her strength work and then moved on to some a series of exercises that were sequenced to target the glutes. Placing the single leg hip thrust first made the back extension harder, and those two exercises added to the difficulty of the Goblet squat. The exercises progress from where the glutes work the hardest, from terminal hip extension to a position of hip flexion (deep squat.)
A group of three similar exercises would be:
- Cable Pull Through
- Romanian Deadlift
- High Box Step Up
If you’re one of those fella’s that likes to stick to predominantly barbell training, maybe you can try a set of something like this. I’ve included some weights in there, to give the idea that you’re using it as a mechanical drop set:
- Barbell Hip Thrust, 315lbs x 6reps
- Sumo Deadlift, 225lbs x 8 reps
- Front Squat, 135lbs x 10 reps
Maybe you’ve finished up some strength work that includes Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats, or Front Squats. Now you’re ready to do more metabolically demanding work, but you’re focusing on your glutes. That’s pretty awesome! Even though you’re standing, the kettlebell swing is a great exercise for developing hip power, as your hips pop at the top. (Actual popping sounds are bad; if that happens, get it checked out by a doctor.) You might perform straight sets of kettlebells, say sets of 20 with rest as necessary, or swing for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. You might also alternate exercises, like this:
- 20 seconds kettlebell swings, 10 seconds off.
- 20 seconds alternating deficit reverse lunge, 10 seconds off.
Each of those protocols creates a different response from the body, and vary in their level of demand. If you’d like to use one of them, start with the time-controlled swings first, as you’ll have the most control.
Growing glutes isn’t rocket science, but it’s not an overnight phenomenon. Training the anteroposterior vector will help you go from pancake pants to developed derrière in no time. (Okay, so it’s time dependent.) Strong glutes can help in aspects of performance such as sprinting, injury prevention for the low back and knee, and mate acquisition. As in, everybody likes well developed glutes. Okay, now go train hard.