Training

Glute Exercises That Will Force Your Bum To Activate And Grow

February 13th 2020

Do glute activation exercises help people build muscle?

Why do glute exercises get a bad rap?

No matter what gender you are, everyone appreciates a great booty.

This is not just an opinion, but it is also scientific as, from an evolutionary perspective, big glutes signal fertility and strength.

From a practical perspective, the glutes are a fundamental muscle group that is very important for all sports that require the use of the lower body.

This is because of how many actions the glutes perform, as well as how much force the glutes have the potential to generate.

So, if you are trying to increase your athletic performance in activities such as sprinting, swimming, wrestling, and more, you will see better performance with stronger glutes.

Today, we will be discussing the best exercises you can do to increase the size of your glutes.

And before we go over the different exercises, it’s important to first understand the anatomy and function of the glutes.

When people talk about the glutes, they are actually 3 different muscles.

You have glute max which makes up the most superficial part of the glutes and is the one that most people refer to when they talk about the glutes.

The glute max performs hip extension and internal rotation (So imagine kicking your leg out behind you and rotating your toe inward).

You have glute medius which is the middle layer of the glute and its primary function is abduction of the hip or kicking your leg out to the side.

This is an important muscle for single-leg stability, and for development of the outer portion of your glutes

You also have the gluteus minimus which is the deepest layer and has an important role in stabilizing and controlling the lower body.

All in all, the glutes are an important muscle group for those who want to increase their athletic ability and overall aesthetics.

The glutes have a variety of functions that they need to be put through in order for them to be effectively trained.

With that being said, we will go over the best compound movements in order to force your glutes to grow.

Do Glute Activation Exercises Build Muscle?

Yes, glute exercises build muscle if there is enough resistance for your body to overcome. Doing light exercises that do not invoke change will do very little for your body. This is one reason why these compound exercises are the best for building mass:

 

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Hip Thrusts

 

Squat

This is a low bar squat, which works exceptionally well when you want to build more glutes.

The squat is one of the best lower body exercises you can perform in the gym that targets most of the lower body musculature.

It works your quads, hamstrings, glutes.

The squat can be performed simply by using your own body weight, or with a dumbbell or barbell for progressive overload.

The squat will help with overall glute development; however, it does not specifically target the glutes. 

If you wish to perform squats to target the glutes, you might want to consider performing the squat with a wide stance, or with a resistance band around your thighs.

This increases the demand for your glutes, causing them to grow even more. However, you will be limited to the amount of weight you can lift.

Deadlift

The deadlift is another popular exercise that targets the lower body as effectively as the squat.

The deadlift can be performed with dumbbells or a barbell.

The conventional deadlift primarily targets your lower back, so if you want to focus on glute development, you might want to try a wider stance deadlift, also known as a sumo deadlift.

To perform the sumo deadlift, you want take a stance wider than shoulder-width, with the toes pointed out. You want to step to the bar with about 2 inches in between your shin and the bar.

Once you are in your stance, lower your arms until you can grab hold of the bar.

At this point, flatten your lower back, and push your knees forward until your shins are touching the bar.

Push through the floor with your feet in order to pull the slack out of the bar and pull the bar up with as much force as you can.

When you are in the topmost position of the deadlift, squeeze your glutes to maximize development.

The sumo deadlift is a great exercise that targets the glutes and the quads and is great for developing overall size and strength.

Barbell Hip Thrust

The barbell hip thrust is one of the most popular exercises for the glutes.

They are popularized by Bret Contreras, also known as “the glute guy”, who made his career out of helping clients achieve glute development.

In order to perform the barbell hip thrust, lean your back against a bench with the weight of the barbell loaded on your hips.

You want your heels to be close to your butt so that your knees are bent.

To perform a rep, dig your heels into the ground and push your butt and lower back up as high as you can go making your back like a bridge.

At the top, squeeze your glutes in order to stimulate more glute activity, and slowly lower the weight down.

The hip thrust is one of the best compound exercises you can perform to target your glutes in the gym.

They can also be overloaded with heavier weight in order to allow progressive overload

Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is another variation of the deadlift that targets both the glutes and hamstrings.

It is performed with your knees slightly straighter, and hips slightly higher than in the regular deadlift.

To perform a Romanian deadlift, you will hold the barbell (or dumbbell) in front of you, and slowly lower the weight down, keeping your lower back straight.

However, instead of lowering the weight all the way to the ground, you will stop short when the weight reaches slightly below your knee cap.

Once you reach that point, lift the weight back up, push your hips, and squeeze with your glutes in order to lock out the weight.

This exercise can be performed with either heavy dumbbells or a barbell.

Hip Abduction band/machine

As we mentioned earlier, one of the actions of the glutes is to extend your leg out to your side.

This movement is called abduction, and it can be strengthened by a hip abductor machine or using a resistance band.

If your gym has the machine, simply sit in the machine with your legs against the pads and push your legs outward.

If your gym does not have this machine, wrap a resistance band around your thighs and do the same motion.

You should feel the burn on the outer portion of your glutes.

What about all the other glute exercises online? Do they work?

If you are a frequent user of Instagram of Youtube, you might have seen hundreds of variations of glute exercises such as glute kickbacks using the cable, resistance bands, etc.

These are all attempts of people trying to find the “secret” for glute mass.

However, there is no secret.

In fact, most of these exercises are not effective for targeting the glutes because they lack one principle of training.

That is, progressive overload.

You must be put your glutes under more and more weight in order for them to grow.

Sure, you might feel the burn on the yellow resistance band right now and are working your way to the harder one, but it’s a lot more simple to track progression by adding more weight to the barbell or going up on the dumbbell.

In addition, the exercises that I suggested are all multi-joint exercises that target more than just your glute, but also your posterior chain.

Imagine how strange it would look if you had large glutes but small hamstrings and quads.

You want to keep balance and symmetry in your muscles both for aesthetics and for athletic purposes.

There are no secrets or “best” exercises for building glutes.

Like any other muscle group, the glutes respond best when being put under the stress of compound movements that involve multiple joints.

This targets all of the glutes and puts the glutes under stress in all different types of positions. 

Another common question asked is, what is the difference between using heavy weights vs lightweights in your routine, and which is the best to stimulate growth?

Lifting heavy or light to increase glute size?

As with everything in fitness, there is no black and white. The answer is somewhere in between the middle.

If you are training for glute hypertrophy (or size) as the main focus, you want to perform these exercises at a weight that you can do between 8-15 reps in but is still difficult for you.

This will be about ~70% of your 1 rep max.

The key is that the weight must feel difficult for you to perform, and you must feel that you are nearing failure by the time you are done.

The following is a 3-day sample split that you can adjust and add to your routine.

Monday

  • Regular back squat 5 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Hamstring curl machine 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Wednesday

  • Romanian Deadlift 4 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Wide stance back squat 3 sets of 8-12 reps 

Friday

  • Sumo deadlift 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Hip Abduction machine 3 sets of 8-12 reps

No pain, no gain for your glutes

Should you glutes feel like they are on fire?

Sometimes.

You need to work hard if you want to build your glutes.

Performing compound movements like the squat, deadlift and barbell hip thrusts can help you get to your goals faster.

And even if your glutes are not dramatically bigger, you will be a lot stronger.

This is still a win in my book, nobody wishes they were weaker.

And being strong is never a weakness.

So, train hard, lift heavy, and start firing up those glutes!

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