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How To Get A Better Butt: 5 Rules For Stronger Glutes

Strong, round glutes are the foundation of a great physique and a healthy body. Unfortunately, many of us have weak glutes that just get weaker because we sit all day. Aside from not looking so great, feeble butt muscles can cause a litany of postural problems and pain issues. Even worse, having a weak bum means your primary lifts like the squat and the deadlift aren’t as strong as they could be. If that doesn’t motivate you to put some muscle on your backside, I don’t know what will!

To restore your ailing glutes, you need to make training them a priority. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with constantly tight hips and probably contract flat-ass disease.

Save your butt from these depressing side effects by following these five rules. They’ll help you feel stronger and more mobile. They’ll also help you add some great-looking curves to your rear end.

Hit Them Baby One (Okay, Three) More Times

If your training routine only calls for one glute-specific workout per week, it’s time to ramp things up. Glutes adapt well to frequency— the more often you train them, the quicker they grow in size and strength. Rather than performing a single glute workout once per week, add booty-busting exercises to each workout you do during the week.

Try this: Add loaded hip thrusts, glute bridges, hip abduction exercises, back extensions, or hip extension exercises to your daily workouts.

Single-leg bodyweight glute bridge

Mix Up Your Hip Extension

Hip extension is important for pelvic stability and daily movement. Walking, running, standing, and sitting in with proper posture begins and ends with your butt.

In this age of computers and cubicles, people spend most of their time in hip flexion (seated position). More often than not, long bouts of sitting cause tight quads, a tight psoas muscle, and weak hip extensors—namely the gluteus maximus.

To alleviate these symptoms and put yourself on a path to a perkier posterior, it’s wise to activate your hip extensors regularly. Hip extension occurs when the thighs or pelvis move rearward. The most common—and best—exercises for hip extension are the squat and deadlift. These two lifts belong in your lifting regimen along with assistance exercises to pack on glute mass.

Try this: Use squats and deadlifts as a primary hip extension exercises and add in one or two assistance exercises to each routine. Assistance lifts include, but aren’t limited to: Romanian deadlifts, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, glute bridges, back extension, reverse hyperextension, glute kickback, and donkey kick.

“The most common—and best—exercises for hip extension are the squat and deadlift. These two lifts belong in your lifting regimen along with assistance exercises to pack on glute mass.”

Add a Little Abduction, Too

Your hips articulate in several ways other than the all-important extension. Your hips can also move in flexion, medial and lateral rotation, adduction, and abduction. If you move your hips in circles, you’ll get the idea. Along with hip extension, another important element of strong glutes is hip abduction, or moving the thighs outward from your midline.

Your glute medius is a major abductor of the thigh. Its anterior fibers rotate the hip internally while the posterior fibers rotate the hip externally. A strong glute medius will control any unwanted sideways movement in your pelvis. For example, if your left hip drops when you stand on your right leg, your right glute medius is probably weak. An unlevel pelvis can lead to other issues like IT band syndrome and patellofemoral pain syndrome, neither of which is pleasant.

Try this: To strengthen the glute medius, add 2 sets of 10 reps of standing cable hip abduction and 2 sets of 12 reps of seated band hip abduction twice per week.

Keep Your Booty Active

If you sit on them all day, your glutes will just become weaker and weaker. This weakness can be compounded when other muscles have to take over a lift in order to compensate for them. Avoid a weak booty by doing a series of activation and mobility drills ten minutes a day. Practicing glute activation will help them fire during every exercise.

Try this: Perform 10 reps of each exercise once per day.

  • Single-leg bodyweight glute bridge
  • Fire hydrant
  • Bird dog
  • Standing glute squeeze

Get Tense

“Passive tension is how your hamstring muscles feel at the bottom of a Romanian deadlift.”

Mechanical tension is the bee’s knees when it comes to muscle hypertrophy (growth). Mechanical tension occurs when you passively stretch or actively contract the muscle. Passive tension is how your hamstring muscles feel at the bottom of a Romanian deadlift and active tension is how your biceps feel as you contact in a barbell curl. Both are key players in muscle growth, and both can make a big difference in gluteal development.

When using a full range of motion (ROM), your muscles are placed under a combination of both passive and active tension. For example: At the bottom of a squat, your glutes are in a stretched (passive tension) position; at the top, they’re in a squeezed (active tension) position.

Maintaining this tension through a full range of motion is optimal for gains. To do it, control your reps, keep a steady tempo, and don’t rely on momentum to get through the exercise—oh, and don’t skimp on the ROM.

Try this: To increase mechanical tension, use a tempo for your exercises. Tempo is expressed as a series of 3 or 4 numbers, such as 2-2-2. The first number is the number of seconds in the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement, the second number is the pause, and the third number is the number of seconds in the concentric (lifting) portion of the movement.

You can incorporate an exercise tempo as simple as 2-2 or 3-3. You can also incorporate a pause in the middle, like 3-3-3, or even have a longer eccentric portion like a 4-3 tempo. Remember, though, that adding a tempo doesn’t mean you get to forgo a full range of motion.


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About The Author

Kellie Davis is a freelance writer and blogger turned fitness coach living in Northern California.

Booty-building with trainer Tahlia Seinor

Booty-building with trainer Tahlia Seinor Activate your glutes with this booty-building workout by Tahlia Seinor.Given the glutes’ lack of use during our day-to-day life, Seinor suggests working them every time you are in the gym – either in isolation or as part of your leg training or full body workout of that day.“My girls are also instructed to complete sets of glute bridges every night before bed,” says Seinor. “If you don’t use it, you lose it. But also be sure to listen to your body and never overdo it.”Seinor suggests varying your training to ensure all areas of the glute muscle are hit during exercise.“There is no ideal training protocol for glute development, as they contain both fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibres. Developing both types requires a variety of training intensities, including low reps and heavier weights, and high repetitions with lighter weights,” says Seinor. “The glutes are a major muscle group in the body, so don’t be afraid to set the weight high.”And on the ‘ass-to-grass’ debate, Seinor says to keep squatting low.“Partial-range training has its benefits, but when it comes to gluteal development, you should perform exercises throughout a full range of motion,” she says.“If exercises such as back squats, deadlifts, split squats and step-ups are executed with limited range, it could create structural imbalances that can adversely affect posture and athletic performance.”Her sessions are all individual but her methods strongly follow that of Charles Poliquin

The Road To Two Plates: You Can Squat And Deadlift 225 Pounds!

The barbell is calling your name. You’ve been going to the gym for a quite a while now, and you’re comfortable doing the usual lower body machine exercises. Now you feel like you’re ready for a new challenge, and you’re sure it should involve barbells. But how, and to what end?

You could go a couple of different ways here. You could tinker around on those thin-handled barbells over by the dumbbell racks, doing your best to perform squats, lunges, and Romanian deadlifts in a crowd of people doing curls and presses.

Or you could step into the squat rack or onto the platform, make the commitment to learn how to handle an Olympic bar and plates, and work toward the goal of a nice, round number.

Don’t sell yourself short. Get serious, learn proper form, and make yourself proud in the weight room this year!

Who is Barbell Training For?

Lower-body free-weight training is an entirely different beast compared to lower body machine-based exercise. The leg press, knee extension, and leg curl machines have their place, but if you want to develop lower body strength and power, you’re going to have to squat and deadlift.

These closed-chain kinetic exercises—meaning your feet are in contact with the floor—challenge your legs, core, and hip stabilizer muscles in a totally unique fashion. If physique transformation is your goal, they provide a more powerful full-body stimulus than any machine, in half the time. These exercises also have better transference to athletic qualities such as sprinting and jumping.

Barbell Deadlift

You’ll hear people brag about big numbers, but ignore them for now. No matter what comes afterward, 225 in the squat or deadlift is a respectable milestone for any non-powerlifter, amateur athlete, or weekend warrior.

A 200-plus deadlift is also a tough but realistic goal for most fit women. I’ve known many who’ve already achieved it, and many more who can. The back squat is a more difficult lift for many women to go heavy, but squatting heavier than bodyweight is still a worthy goal to start, and this program can get you there.

Endurance athletes like distance runners, cyclists, and rowers can also benefit from adding heavy squats and deadlifts to their injury-prevention routine. Lifting greater than bodyweight improves neuromuscular efficiency to the fast-twitch type-II muscle fibers; and it has been shown in studies to lead to better performance in endurance sports. Despite the “thin and weak” stereotype, endurance athletes can benefit immensely from more strength—and don’t worry, 225 isn’t a number that you’ll need to get “bulky” to achieve.

So what’s the best approach to reach two plates on each side of the barbell? Well, first and foremost, you need to be able to execute each lift with optimal biomechanics. Once you get the form down, just take that light weight you move around, and make it heavier.

The Essentials of the Squat

A number—be it, 225, 425, or 75—means nothing if it’s done with bad form: knees caved, torso doubled over, and a back that looks like it’s about to break. I’m only interested in helping you own the number, and that means squatting with your hip crease dipping below your knee crease at the bottom of the squat, which is referred to as an “ass-to-grass” squat.

If you can’t squat that deep, well, you’re in the company of many, many gym-goers. But you’re not off the hook! Just place a 10-pound plate under each heel. This will create a slight anterior weight shift and make up for tight ankles. Still, drive your knees out and keep most of your weight from your mid-foot to your heel.

There should be a slight lean in your torso, and your lower and upper back should have good alignment without excessively rounding or arching.

Last, your knees should be held outward, with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart and your heels flat on the floor. Ideally, you would have a barbell on your back in the “high bar” position, resting mainly on your trapezius muscles and the upper ridge of your shoulder blades.

Back Squat

A great tip from the world of powerlifting is to push your knees out as if you were spreading the floor with your feet. This results in greater stability as your hip muscles tighten up to hold your knees outward.

Pull the bar into your traps as if you are trying to break it across your back. This cue will activate your lats, create more torso stability, and prevent you from falling forward.

The Essentials of the Deadlift

The hip hinge is the major movement pattern involved in a conventional deadlift. Essentially, the hips act like a hinge and flex, while your torso leans forward and your shins stay relatively vertical—that’s the difference between a hinge and a squat. No ass-to-grass here; the hip motion is primarily back-and-forth rather than up-and-down.

As with the squat, however, the spine stays aligned and doesn’t round or extend during a deadlift. But you should feel more tension in your hamstrings than a squat, particularly at the bottom of the movement, where the bar is on the ground.

Also, make sure you perform this movement with soft or slightly bent knees. We’re not doing stiff-legged deadlifts here.

To perform a conventional deadlift, step up to the bar with a hip-width stance. Bend your knees and hips, and grab the bar with a double overhand grip to the outside of your shins.

Push your hips back and puff out your chest. Your spine should be straight with your shoulders just in front of the barbell and slightly higher than your hips.

The squat (left) is a quad-dominant exercise. The hip-hinge (right) is the major movement patter of a deadlift, in which the hips act like a hinge and flex, while your torso leans forward and your shins remain vertical.

Brace your abs and engage your lats. As with the squat, you should feel most of your balance and body weight from mid-foot to heel. With your chin slightly tucked in, stand up with the bar, keeping it close to your body.

Finish with a deliberate hip extension and glute squeeze. Don’t lean back excessively; this places unwanted stress to your lumbar spine. Now slide the bar down your thighs as you push your hips backward. Once the bar passes your knees, sit the bar back to the floor. Reset your position and prepare for the next rep.

The Road to 225

The best way to get stronger and better at a lift is to perform it more frequently throughout the week. This plan will focus on getting your high-bar back squat and conventional deadlift to 225 in a straightforward, systematic way, using three full-body workouts per week. Here, I’ll just illustrate the squat and deadlift routine; feel free to add any upper-body lifts as you see appropriate, as long as they don’t detract from the work you do here.

For the first workout, use a weight you can confidently lift for 5 sets of 5 reps, but which still feels somewhat heavy. If you’re successful at completing all reps in each set, add weight in 5-pound increments and attempt to perform all 5 sets of 5 reps the following week.

Keep moving up in this manner until you hit what feels like a limit. Don’t attempt a rep if you suspect you might not make it; just end the set. If you fail and your reps go like this: 5, 5, 4, 3, 3, use the same weight the next week, and attempt all 5 sets of 5 reps again.

Details, Details

Mixed grip or overhand? Sumo or conventional? Straps, belts, or nothing at all? Focus on learning the squat and deadlift movements first. You may find later that a mixed grip or a sumo stance is more comfortable at heavier weights.

For Wednesday’s workout, use a submaximal weight (roughly 60 percent of the weight used on Monday) and perform speed deadlifts. The execution of the deadlift is the same; however, the bar is to be lifted as fast as possible with correct form. For the jump squat, execute the squat as written above, but explode from the bottom position and jump off the ground. Land lightly and prepare for the next rep.

Last, for Friday’s workout, start with a light weight and perform 5 reps. Add a little bit of weight, and after your rest, perform another 5 reps. Keep adding weight over the next 5-6 sets to reach the maximum weight you can perform 5 reps with, which is called your 5-rep max (5RM). In week two, work up to a max set of 3 reps. In week three, work up to a max set of 1 rep.

This program can be performed month after month until you reach 225 or a different goal number in each lift. You’ll notice a deload week in the fourth week to allow your body to recover before the next phase.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

  • Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift
    3 sets of 5 reps (70% of week prior’s weight), 2 min. rest
  • Barbell Squat Barbell Squat Barbell Squat
    3 sets of 5 reps (70% of week prior’s weight), 2 min. rest
  • Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift
    3 sets of 3 reps (70% of week prior’s weight), 2 min. rest
  • Barbell Squat Barbell Squat Barbell Squat
    3 sets of 3 reps (70% of week prior’s weight), 2 min. rest

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Romanian deadlift

One of the most effective workouts for strengthening your glutes and hamstrings is the romanian deadlift. When performed correctly, it involves a hip hinge movement and uses the muscles that are vital in performing other excerises in lifting, jumping and sprinting.

While your glutes and hamstrings are engaged- You’ll find that the muscles in the front (quadriceps) are also being used, as well as the upper back muscles, which is an effective way of strengthening your back muscles and posture (along side other back exercises). 

Technique

  • Hold the bar with an overhand grip approximately shoulder-width (your thumbs should brush the outside of your thighs).
  • Place your feet approximately hip-width apart, with knees soft and your feet straight ahead.
  • Maintaining a flat back position, bend forward at the hips lowering the bar towards the floor.
  • Reverse the position, extend your hips and return to the start position. 
  • Perform 8-10 reps (3-4 sets) 
  • Safety tip: keep your shoulder blades engaged as you lower.

For information about strength and conditioning training, check out The Strength & Conditioning Bible: How to train Like an Athlete by fitness expert and coach Nick Grantham

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