No matter our age, one of the most sought after most prestigious body part is a great butt. We've all heard the saying shows are won from the back. Yes, great backs are a must, but your glutes can make or break your entire package.
Anatomy and Biomechanics of the Glutes
First off, let's talk about the anatomy of the gluteal muscles (aka “the glutes”). This muscle group consists of the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius. Each of these three muscles play different, yet integrative functions in stabilizing and mobilizing your lower body.
The glutes are ostensibly the most explosive and powerful group of muscles in the human body. (They are also apparently the only muscle group that many females care about). Witty societal observations aside, the glutes are crucial for proper hip/spine/leg function.
Biomechanically, healthy/strong gluteal muscles are necessary for:
- Hip extension (imagine swinging your leg backwards while standing upright)
- Hip abduction (imagine spreading your thighs open while sitting)
- Hip external rotation and internal rotation (i.e. twisting your waist inward and outward)
- Raising the body from a forwardly displaced position (e.g. when deadlifting)
- Lifting the body out of a squatting position
- Stabilizing the lumbar/sacral spinal regions Femoral, patellar and tibial alignment
- Aligning the major bones/joint of legs (femur, patella, tibia)
- Maintaining level pelvis position when walking and sitting
…As you can see, your glutes do a heck of a lot! Maybe all these bikini competitors and Insta-famous females are onto something with frequent glute workouts? Given this, let’s dive into the most effective booty building movements you should be doing (regardless of your gender).
Deadlifts are the ultimate test of shear strength from head to toe. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and if your glutes aren’t thoroughly developed you won’t be able to deadlift much. Remember, your glutes are responsible for raising your body from a forward leaning position, which is precisely what deadlifting requires.
Most gym-goers assume the deadlift is a “low-back” exercise, which isn’t quite the case. In fact, deadlifts activate pretty much every major muscle in your body (which is why it’s typically the strongest single movement for most people).
That being said, for focusing on gluteal development, your best bet is to try sumo deadlifts and stiff-legged deadlifts (and really emphasizing the tension in your butt during the concentric portion of the movement). Remember to brace your spine by breathing properly throughout the movement and stay within your limits; last thing you want is to herniate a spinal disk by trying to lift too heavy of a load. (A weightlifting belt can help as well.)
Make no mistake, squats are an excellent mass builder for your booty, along with being a total leg developing exercise. The main drawback to squats is that they’re not always a viable option, particularly for people who lack mobility or have significant muscular imbalances. If you don’t have the mobility to squat to at least parallel depth (preferably below parallel), then you won’t engage your gluteal muscles nearly as much.
As the saying goes, “Ass to grass or it doesn’t count!” If your squat depth only is above parallel, you’re doing nearly nothing for your glutes (and not much for your ego, either). Your best bet is to lower the weight on the bar and get your butt down as low as possible (without compromising the tilt of your pelvis). If you must, start with an unloaded olympic bar (or no bar at all) until you can do at least 12 reps, then increase the weight.
Hip thrusts allow you to learn the motor patterns for proper hip extension, making this the alleged “king” of booty building exercises. If you’re not feeling the glute activation from squats or deadlifts, chances are you should start with hip thrusts.
But how do you execute this movement? Find a flat bench, a barbell and a barbell pad or folded towel. Start with an unloaded olympic barbell and wrap the towel/pad around it; you may need a spotter to help you move the bar into the starting position until you hit the 135-lb mark (at which point, you can simply roll the bar into position).
You are going to sit on the ground with your mid/upper back against the bench. (Legs out in front of you.) With the barbell on your lap, just below your crotch, plant your feet under knees and drive your elbows into the bench behind you. Now lift butt off ground. Use your hands to support the bar. As soon as you are steady thrust your hips upward until they are parallel with the ground, driving through your heels while squeezing/contracting your gluteal muscles throughout the movement. Keep your chin neutral; not up, not down, just straight ahead. Lower the bar slowly to the beginning position, mindful to not hyperextend your back. Repeat as necessary.
And last but not least, let’s move onto the absolute most effective booty exercise: the hip abductor machine...Psyche! (Sorry, but you’re much better off doing the three aforementioned exercises.)
Go Build That Booty!
Incorporate any (preferably all) of these glute exercises into your training and you’re sure to notice exceptional growth. Don’t be afraid to go heavy and hard on these lifts, either; your glutes are a very strong group of muscles when you train them properly and intensely.