It’s not uncommon to see people resort to conventional bodybuilding styles of training. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with training only a specific portion of your body on a given day, but this style of training often overlooks the most important area for sports performance—your glutes.
The glutes are the largest and most powerful muscles in the human body. They are responsible for fundamental movement patterns such as running, jumping, throwing, swinging and striking. If you want to get stronger and faster, glute training should at the top of your priority list. Check out the video above to see strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle’s Pre-Workout Glute Activation.
RELATED: Why Your Glutes Won’t Get Stronger
What Do the Glutes Actually Do?
- Hip extension: Think lockout at top of Deadlift
- Hip abduction: Moves the leg to the side or laterally
- Hip External Rotation: Turns your foot outward
- Prevents valgus collapse (i.e., the knee collapsing inward)
- Prevents the spine from overextending or flexing
How to Work Your Glutes
Some of you may already be performing glute exercises, but I’m willing to bet you are engaging the surrounding muscles rather than your glutes. Did you know that you can Squat and Lunge using more quads and back? And most people resort to using their lower back during Deadlifts. (Learn how glute activation can save your back.)
If you learn how to properly activate your glute muscles during these common exercises, you’ll get stronger and faster. Here are some of my favorite glute activation drills to get you started. Perform eight to 10 reps of single-leg exercises and 12 to 15 reps of all others.
Glute Activation Drills
Side-Lying Hip Abduction
From a side-lying position, raise your leg using your upper glutes. Avoid leaning back or using your back muscles during the movement. Put your hand on your glutes to feel the contraction during each raise.
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Get into a side-lying position and and bend your knees and hips at a 45-degree angle. Keeping your heels in contact, open your legs. Do not twist your body or sway, and maintain a stacked shoulder position.
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Double-Leg Glute Bridge
Lie with your back on the ground. Bend your knees and place your heels on the ground. Push through your heels and raise your hips. You should be able to fully extend your hips with your glutes doing most of the work. If you find your hamstrings or low back taking over, try not to go as high on the bridge.
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Get on all fours with your hands under with your shoulders and knees under your hips. Tighten your abs and extend your opposite arm and leg at the same time. Do not shift or rotate, and keep your spine relatively neutral.
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Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Set up in the Double-Leg Glute Bridge position and raise one leg up into the air. Push through your working leg heel to drive your hips up. You should not feel your low back or hamstrings take over during this exercise.
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After these exercises, ask yourself how you feel? Is your butt on fire? If so, you activated the right muscles. If not, and if you feel it more in your hamstrings or back, repeat the exercises daily until you feel proper activation.
Who Cares About Activation, Just Give Me the Good Stuff!
OK, you mastered activation so you now want to build some serious strength and power. Here are two of the best exercises for working your glutes.
Note: If you do a Weighted Bridge correctly for the first time, your glutes may cramp up. That’s a good thing. Just make sure you don’t push too hard.
Barbell Glute Bridge
This is the next progression from a bodyweight bridge. Add weight to develop stronger glutes using a shorter range of motion. Perform this exercise by pushing your heels into the ground and lifting your hips into the air. Pause for a second at the top to ensure glute activation.
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Barbell Bench Hip Thrust
Considered the king of all glute exercises, the Barbell Bench Hip Thrust is an advanced movement that promotes deep activation. Drive through your heels and use your glutes (not your lower back) to move the weight. Keep your midsection tight. At the top of the movement, your torso should be parallel to the ground. Pause at the top and return to the ground.
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Single-Leg Bench Hip Thrust with Chains
This exercise targets the glutes by working one leg at a time. It increases the range of motion at the hips from start to finish, and promotes glute activation and strength development. Your quads might turn on a little, but you should feel the majority of the exercise in your glutes.
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Glute Ham Raise
A classic exercise among powerlifters and sprinters, this move targets your glutes, hamstrings and calves. Keep your abs tight and avoid hyperextending your lower back. Keep your torso in line with your thighs throughout the movement.
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Putting It Together
- Foam Roll
- Warm up with glute-specific drills
- Glute-dominant exercise: Barbell Hip Thrusts — 2-4×10-15
- Horizontal pull or vertical pull: Single-Arm Dumbell Row — 3×8-12
- Quad- or hip-dominant exercise : Deadlift or Squat — 2-4×10-15
- Horizontal or vertical press: Dumbbell Incline Bench Press — 3×8-12
- Glute accessory exercise: Side-Lying Abduction — 1×8 each side
- Core: RKC Plank — 1×30 sec.
Contreras, Bret & Davis, Kellie. Strong Curves. A Women’s Guide to Building a Better Body. 2013