These days, you can’t escape the booty! The fitness industry is all about the butt, and how to make it bigger and better.
And I’m not opposed! Strengthening of the glutes (including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus) is incredibly important. Most people don’t know that your glutes are actually a component of your core, and that your core must be strong for optimal performance in and out of the gym. Plus, a strong core often means better posture, healthier aging, and a pain-free life!
Our butt, no matter how essential, does not get enough attention in our day-to-day lives. Most people (including about 90% of my new clients!) lack any conception of A) where their glute muscles are, and B) how to engage them, so as to grow and strengthen them.
Glute strength does not come naturally to the general North American population; we sit a lot and we might walk or run a bit, but we rarely squat or lunge (and even more rarely with proper form!). When done correctly, these movements require the engagement of our glute muscles—but we often compensate with the muscles in our legs. These muscles are important too, but they aren’t a part of our core, and overcompensation with our hamstrings or quads can lead to inactive glutes, a weak core, and poor posture. Read on for some great glute exercises.
Maybe you’re thinking: “Yes, I want to strengthen my butt, I’ll do some squats!”. Well, I love your enthusiasm, but cool your jets for a second. Squats are excellent, and I wholly approve of them, but if you’re not doing them with the correct activation and form, then you’re achieving absolutely diddly-squat (get it?) for your glutes. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone ask, “Am I supposed to feel it in my butt?” while doing a squat, I could retire and live on an island in the Caribbean (okay, I could maybe go on a week-long vacation).
So, how do we bring our glutes into the picture, and build the beautiful backside of our dreams? There are a few tips and glute exercises to ensure you are getting the most out of your glutes.
- Trust your posterior chain
What’s my posterior chain? You might be wondering. Let me tell you! Your posterior chain is the interconnection of muscles that run along your backside (hence, the ‘posterior’). These muscles include the trapezius, your biceps femoris (part of your hamstrings), your posterior deltoids, your erector spinae muscles (that run alongside your spine), and your gluteus maximus—the muscle group to which we will be directing most of our focus. Basically, you need to trust that your butt has got your back.
Many people, when first performing a proper squat, are nervous about falling over backwards. And with good reason! A squat requires waking up muscles in the posterior chain that for most people have been asleep for a long, long time.
Thankfully, many effective glute exercises exist to help jolt your comatose butt back to life! An elite personal trainer can ensure that you perform your glute activation exercises with proper form and maximum effectiveness.
4 Great Glute Exercises
1) Glute bridge (or butt lift)
This exercise is a staple of core and glute strengthening—and doesn’t require any equipment beyond your own body (and a clean, comfortable floor). Start lying down face-up with your hands by your side and your heels planted firmly on the floor, placed about shoulder-width apart.
Perform the bridge by pushing through your heels, lifting your hips as you exhale; remember to keep your back straight (no hyperextending!). Pause and hold this position for a second, before slowly lowering your hips back to the floor.
2) Single leg glute thrust/hip thrust
This exercise is a progression of the glute bridge and does not require any equipment beyond your own body weight and a bench. To start, lie down on the bench so that the entire width of your shoulders is flat against the surface of the bench (you body should be aligned perpendicular to the bench). Bend one leg and raise it slightly in the air. Perform one rep by pushing up through the other leg, thrusting your hips into the air. To do this exercise properly, remember to push through your heels, not your toes (you can even lift your toes off the ground), and to keep off of your elbows! Also, be careful to not hyperextend through your lower back! Maintain proper core engagement throughout to avoid injury.
If you would like to progress and challenge your core, try this exercise with your foot on a balance trainer!
3) Squat pulses with a stability ball
This is one of my favourite warm-up and activation exercises, and one that I use in my own workouts and in most of my client programs!
To get in position, place the stability ball between the wall and the curve of your lower back. Now, step your feet out so that most of your body weight is resting against the stability ball. Trust that the ball will keep you upright!
You can do a narrow-stance squat, but I usually recommend that my clients bring their feet a little wider than hip-width apart with their toes pointing slightly out. Again, remember to engage your core (I often use the cue: “draw your belly button into your spine”). Keep your shoulders back and chin tucked in.
Now, lower slowly, pushing through your heels (again, you can raise your toes slightly!). Lower until your thighs are parallel with the floor, or slightly lower. Push back up, keeping your weight in your heels, just a couple of inches—don’t come all the way up! You want to maintain the activation in your glutes! And keep your mind on your posture and core engagement!
Repeat this small pulsing motion for 12-20 reps. By the end of it, you should definitely be feeling the burn in your glutes!
- Glute kickbacks/quadruped hip extensions
Start this exercise in ‘tabletop’ position (with your hands and knees on the floor–or bench, if you have good balance!). Your shoulders should be stacked directly above your wrists, and your knees beneath your hips. Raise one leg, keeping your knee bent at a 90 degree angle, engage your core and push your heel up slowly towards the ceiling, contracting your glute throughout. Slowly lower your leg, relaxing your glutes, before pushing up again with the same leg as you exhale.
I guarantee that if done properly, these exercises will get you the activation and booty-strengthening benefits you so desire!
Wishing you all the best on your journey to optimum health!
Written by Theresa Faulder, Master’s in English, Certified Personal Trainer, and Infofit fitness blog writer.
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