Everyone wants great glutes, but truth be told, there is more value in having a strong backside than an attractive one. The good news is that in training for strength and function, you’ll also effectively train for shape and silhouette.
Your glutes power hip extension and are used in all manner of sports and activities. The more powerful your glutes, the better you’ll be at running, jumping, squatting, leaping and lunging. Proper glute training also can help prevent injury. “When the glutes are weak, your hips become misaligned, which can change your gait, lead to pain in your lower back or even cause knee valgus where the knees track inward,” says Hannah Davis, CPT, CSCS, founder of Body by Hannah.
The following 18 moves have been broken into groups of three based on their similarity in hip/gluteal action and muscular activation, and each group contains an A, a B and a C move.
Think of these moves as a sort of preworkout primer: A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that beginning a workout with low-load gluteal activation exercises improved explosive power output in a subsequent workout. “It also creates a noticeable difference in your ability to ‘feel’ the glutes firing,” Davis says.
Perform these moves with little to no weight and focus primarily on form. Use them as part of your accessory work/warm-up before heavy training, or place them at the beginning of a leg workout to get all pistons firing.
These bread-and-butter moves are those that add quality muscle to your rear view, as well as strength and endurance in all manner of sports. Perform them using moderate weight and work in an eight- to 15-rep range for hypertrophy (building), or use heavy weight and work in the five-to eight-rep range for strength and power, Davis advises. Mix them into your regular lower-body rotation, or program them into a metcon or another high-intensity training style such as an AMRAP (as many reps/rounds as possible) or circuit for variety.
These moves are explosive, intense and powerful, and adding them to your training will better enable you to crush any athletic goal imaginable. Perform these exercises with little to no weight, and execute each rep with all-out effort. Limit your sets to between one and three (depending on your ability), and keep your reps between five and 10. And because recovery from a plyometric/explosive workout can take up to 72 hours, perform these C moves no more than once or twice a week.Group A B C 1 Dumbbell Kickstand Deadlift Barbell Deadlift Kettlebell Swing 2 Reverse Lunge Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat Switch Lunge 3 Broomstick Back Squat Barbell Pause Back Squat Dumbbell Jump Squat 4 Alternating Front Lunge Dumbbell Walking Lunge Plyometric Front Lunge 5 Frog Pump Side-Lying Dumbbell Hip Abduction Speedskater 6 Single-Leg Hip Thrust Eccentric Hip Thrust Sprint
Hold a set of light dumbbells in front of your thighs and assume a narrow staggered stance with your back knee slightly bent, heel lifted. Keep your weight in your forward foot as you slowly hinge at your hips and fold forward with your back straight until your torso is roughly parallel with the floor. Pause briefly, then slowly stand up. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.
Tip: This move is not about forcing your range of motion, so don’t reach for the floor with the weights. This can cause your back to round, putting you at risk for injury. Instead, draw your shoulder blades together and lock them in place and only fold forward as far as you comfortably can.
Stand behind a barbell with your feet hip-width apart and your toes underneath the bar. Drop your hips, bend your knees and take an overhand or alternating grip on the bar outside your legs, back straight. Extend your knees and hips to pull the bar upward, keeping it as close to your body as possible as you come to standing. Pause briefly, then reverse the steps to return to the floor.
Stand a foot or so behind a kettlebell with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your glutes back and hinge forward from your hips with a flat back to grasp the handle with both hands. Hike the kettlebell back and in between your legs, keeping your arms straight. As it swings forward, snap your hips open explosively to drive the kettlebell up to eye level. Control the kettlebell as it falls back down, guiding it back through your legs and going right into the next rep.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands on your hips. Take a large step behind you with one leg, bending both knees and lowering straight toward the ground. When your rear knee touches down lightly, push off your back foot and bring your feet back together. Do all reps on one side, then switch.
Tip: Make sure your weight is distributed equally between your feet as you lunge down for optimal activation of the glutes.
Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides, draw your shoulders back and stand with your back to a flat bench. Extend your right leg behind you and place it, laces down, on the bench. Keeping most of your weight on your left leg, bend both knees to lunge down, descending until your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Stand back up to the start. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.
Assume a wide-lunge stance with your left leg forward and your right leg behind. Bend both knees and lunge straight down until your rear knee nearly touches the ground. Then explode up and off the ground, switching legs midair and landing with your right leg forward and your left leg behind. Land, bending your knees to absorb the impact, and go right into the next rep.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your legs turned out slightly from your hips. Hold a broomstick or PVC pipe across your upper back and traps with your hands outside your shoulders, your elbows pointing down and your chest lifted. Kick your hips back, then bend your knees to squat down, descending to parallel or below. Drive through your heels and extend your knees and hips to return to the start.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your legs turned out slightly from your hips and hold a barbell across your upper traps and back, chest lifted. Kick your hips back, then bend your knees to squat down, descending to parallel or below. At your deepest point, pause and hold for a count of three, then quickly extend your hips and knees and return to standing.
Hold a set of light dumbbells at your sides and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Kick your hips back, bend your knees and squat as low as you comfortably can. Then explode upward, extending your knees and hips and jumping as high as you can. Land softly, bending your knees to absorb the impact, and go right into the next rep.
Tip: Using a super-heavy load for this move will strain your joints and connective tissues each time you land, so choose a light weight — just enough to make you breathe a little harder than normal — to protect your person.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands on your hips. Take a large step forward with one leg and bend both knees to lunge toward the ground. When your back knee almost touches down, push off your front foot and return to standing. Continue, alternating legs.
Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take a large step forward with one leg and bend both knees to lunge down. When your back knee touches or almost touches the ground, push off your back foot and bring your legs together to stand. Continue, alternating legs.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take a large step forward with your right leg, then bend both knees to lower into a deep lunge. When your left knee almost touches down, quickly extend your right leg, pushing off with enough force to return to standing, and lift your right knee to hip height. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.
Tip: Do a few reps slowly to begin, and as you get the hang of the movement pattern, make it more and more explosive.
Lie faceup with the soles of your shoes together, your knees bent and open to the sides. Pull your heels as close to your glutes as possible and drive your elbows into the floor. From here, lift your hips to align with your knees and shoulders, then lower slowly to the start.
Lie on your left side with your left elbow underneath your shoulder, knees bent and hips and legs stacked. Hold a dumbbell on your hip with your right hand and lift your hips to align with your knees and head (side plank). From here, press your hips up as high as you can without tipping forward or back, then return to neutral. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.
Tip: Don’t sink into your supporting shoulder. Actively press down through your elbow and lift your rib cage to stay properly aligned and increase the effectiveness of the move.
Assume an athletic “ready” position with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and core braced. Push off your right foot and leap laterally to the left, landing on your left foot and swinging your arms and right leg to the left. Immediately push off the left foot to leap to the right, swinging your arms and left leg to the right. Continue moving side to side.
Rest your upper back and shoulders along the broad side of a flat bench and place your feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Lift your left foot off the floor, knee bent 90 degrees, and keep it elevated as you drive into your right heel and lift your hips to align with your knee. Lower to the start. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.
Lie faceup with your arms along your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor with your heels as close to your glutes as possible. Drive down through your heels and explosively lift your hips to align with your shoulders and knees. Pause briefly, then lower as slowly to the start as possible. Shoot for 10 seconds per rep, if you can!
Tip: Eccentric exercises are crazy good for building muscle, but they also can make you crazy sore! Begin with one set of five to eight reps per workout, adding more sets as you improve.
Find a length of track or a wide-open area and warm up with some dynamic stretches — leg swings, arm circles, Frankenstein walks. Begin with two to three sprints at 50 to 60 percent of your max speed, resting a minute between sprints. Then perform four to eight all-out sprints, resting one to two minutes in between. Cool down with a slow jog for five minutes.