Glute training, or “booty-building” as it’s affectionately known in the fitness world these days, is all the latest craze, and its popularity is not without merit. Developing the glutes, upper hamstrings, and all of the powerful hip extensor muscles of the backside will not only give you a firm and toned posterior, it will help in injury prevention and create the stability and muscle tone needed to improve posture.
Booty-building has also received a huge pat on the back and validation from the physical therapy community. Glute activation is one of the most significant themes in developing better posture and alignment in the hips and pelvis. Orthopedic pain and many dysfunctional movement patterns can stem directly from our inability to activate the glutes in basic exercises and daily activities. This is compounded with the typical postures we find ourselves forced into in the modern workplace and during activities like driving which leave the glutes weak and flaccid. This also leaves the function of our hips weak and unstable, and since the hips are the center of all athletic functional movement, reclaiming that function should be a primary goal of any exercise program.
We live in a much more enlightened age of exercise than we once did. In a world where strong is the new skinny, people have embraced a well-developed backside. Perhaps the popularity of booty-building lies in a simple observation. The fastest, strongest, and most athletic people on the planet tend to have well developed backsides! Just take a look at major sporting events like the Olympics: sprinting, gymnastics, field and court sports have little in common except that the best in those sports clearly are using their backsides to perform!
If you want to simultaneously develop an athletic-looking backside as well as create a stable and balanced posture, these four booty-building movements should be a regular part of your program.
The hip bridge is probably the single most effective glute exercise out there.
1. Start by laying your upper back and shoulders perpendicular across a bench
2. Walk your feet out away from the bench until your ankles are directly under your knees and your shins are vertical
3. Start with your hips up in a bridge position to ensure proper muscle engagement
4. Make sure your abs and ribcage are braced down and your butt is squeezed hard!
5. To begin the movement, slowly lower your hips and torso together in one line until your butt points approximately toward the ground (or until stable depth is achieved)
6. Drive your hips back up powerfully to the starting bridge position and squeeze for 2 seconds
7. Complete three sets of 10-15 repetitions
For an added challenge, place a weight (barbell, dumbbell etc.) at your hips while performing all sets and reps.
Deficit Reverse Lunge
The classic reverse lunge is a stand-out in the myriad of leg and glute strengtheners, but the addition of the deficit puts this already great movement into overdrive!
1. Stack plates or identify a small block approximately 3-5 inches high
2. Stand on the elevated surface with both feet
3. Breathe in and brace your abdominals
4. Step backwards with one leg and soften your knees until the back knee lightly “kisses” the floor
5. As soon as floor contact is achieved, bring both legs back together on top of the elevated surface
6. Complete three sets of 10-15 repetitions per leg
For an added challenge, hold weights in your hands (dumbbell, kettlebell) while performing all sets and reps.
Single Leg Deadlift
The single leg deadlift simultaneously develops amazing hamstring and glute power while imparting incredible balance and coordination. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more all-in-one exercise!
1. Place a light bar or dumbbells in each hand
2. Balance on one single leg
3. While keeping your hips and shoulders square to the ground, hinge at your hips, reaching one leg backward until a gentle stretch is felt in the back of the balancing leg
4. Return slowly back to standing position with both legs together for balance
5. Complete three sets of 8-12 repetitions per leg before adding heavier hand weights
This unique looking movement places great stress on the glutes while at the same time creating flexible hips and ankles for the ultimate in flexibility and strength!
1. Identify a step box that places the thigh at greater than parallel when one foot is on top
2. Standing to the side of the box, step your outside leg in front onto box. Press up to bring your inside leg to standing position on top of box.
3. Once you’re on top of the box, slowly step the same leading leg behind the other leg off the box. Bring your trailing leg back to standing position on the floor.
4. Repeat this process back across box in the other direction.
5. Complete three sets of 20-30 total box cross-overs
For an added challenge, place a light weight in your hands at chest level.
These exercises are fantastic as workouts in and of themselves but can also be easily added on to the back end of a classic leg training day in the gym. For more intensity, try doing the above exercises in a circuit style. The compound effect of circuit-style glute training will increase the impact of all of the movements individually. But watch out for extreme DOMS (delayed-onset-muscle-soreness!) and build to the task over multiple workouts.