Did you know, your glutes are the largest muscles in the body! You may not care about them but I’m going to tell you why you should.
By glutes we mean the butt of course and even if you’ve never thought about them, your glutes do a lot for you every day. Glutes are not just there for aesthetic reasons, they help to stabilize your pelvis, knees and ankles during activities like walking and running so having strong glutes will help you avoid injuries and increase performance. If you have issues with your knees, it could be that you have weak glutes. If you’re a runner or you enjoy cycling and you want to increase your performance, you should focus on strengthening your glutes! Sitting all day if you have a desk job also makes the glutes less active and can lead to back pain and other issues. And there is no shame in focusing on aesthetics. If you’re unhappy with your glutes you can get a perkier and stronger butt through the right exercises! Keep reading to find what those exercises are!
What muscles make up our glutes?
To understand what the best exercises for glutes are, we need to look at the anatomy of our glutes!
- Gluteus Maximus – This is the largest of the glute muscles and it is responsible for hip extension, external rotation and adduction.
- Gluteus Medius – It sits on the back side of the hips and its responsible for abduction and internal rotation of the leg. It also helps to stabilize the pelvis whilst standing or walking.
- Gluteus Minimus – is located on the hip bones below the gluteus medius and works with the gluteus medius to produce movements of the hips.
For an effective glute workout, we need to target all of these movement patterns with different exercises.
Exercises that target the Gluteus Maximus;
The hip thrust is now a very popular exercise and for good reason. It’s probably my favourite when it comes to glutes
- You will need a box of about knee height.
- Start by positioning your mid back onto the box and your feet at least hip width apart in front of you.
- Driving through the heels (but keeping your toes down) squeeze your bum and move your hips up so that there is an imaginary straight line through your shoulders, hips and knees. This requires ‘scooping your pelvis under’ so that you’re squeezing your glutes and not overextending your back at the top of the movement.
- At the top of the movement, squeeze the glutes as hard as you can and then slowly bring your hips back down, hover above the floor and then back up for your desired amount of reps.
- You can add resistance by adding a dumbbell, barbell or sandbag on your hips and hold with your hands to keep it in place.
Top tip: keep your chin tucked to your chest through the whole movement. This will help prevent you overextending your spine at the top thus keeping it safe.
- High Box Step Ups
This movement is highly underrated and not one you often see. It works the glutes through hip extension. Although you might feel it working your quads as well so make sure you follow the steps below to make sure you are targeting the glutes.
- Start in front of your box. Ideally it will be high enough to allow a 90-degree angle at the knee (as you can see in the picture) but this might be too high to start with so pick a height you can do.
- Start with one foot on the ground and your other foot fully on the box. Keeping your spine straight, lean forward from the hips to increase the stretch of the glute and then drive through the foot that is on the box to come up (right picture) and then come down by slowly pushing your hips back and landing on the floor in our first position again. Repeat for desired amount of reps.
- This is a hard exercise, if you find it easy, you’re probably doing it wrong. Make sure you are pushing through the foot that is on the box not the foot on the floor.
- This exercise is meant to be performed slowly, so take your time. Once you get better at it, then you can add weight by holding dumbbells in both or one hand or use a sandbag on your back.
Probably the hardest out of the exercises so take your time getting familiar with it. The RDL (short for romanian deadlift) targets the glutes through hip extension. As we bend at the hips coming down, we stretch the glutes and on the way up the glutes contract so we can stand up straight.
- Start with your feet hip width apart, toes facing forward. Stand up straight with your shoulders back holding your weights in front of you.
- Bending from the hips and keeping your back straight, send your hips back and lean forward keeping the weights close to your body. Once the weights go below your knees or you can’t go any lower without bending your back then come back up to standing.
- The focus here is getting the stretch in the glutes not just bending forward and coming up straight. Make sure you are bending at the hips and not with your back.
- Always keep a soft bend at the knees and your feet flat on the floor.
Exercises to target the Glute medius and minimus
- Side lying leg extension
- Start by lying on your side, elbow stacked underneath your shoulder and your bottom leg is slightly bent.
- The leg on top is the one that we want to work. Turn your toes of the top leg facing towards the floor and heel will be facing the ceiling. From this position drive your leg up towards the ceiling and then slowly control it down. You should feel this in the side of your glutes.
- It’s not about getting your leg as high as possible but fully contracting the glute medius and minimus. Only allow your leg to come up as high to a position where you are keeping your toes facing down. As soon as you turn your toes up and go as high as you can, you won’t be targeting the glute muscle we want as effectively.
- Cable kickbacks
- To start, position the cable on the lowest setting.
- Then use the right cable attachment and put it around or just above your ankle.
- From here position yourself in front of the cable, one foot will be on the floor, knee slightly bent about a foot away from the machine. The other foot hovering ready to drive back.
- Grab onto the cable machine with your hands and bend forward slightly at the hips. From this position you are ready to kickback your leg, and as you do turn your toes out slightly at the top of the movement. This way we are targeting both the glute max and medius. Think about initiating the movement from your heel this will help target the glutes more.
3.Seated hip Abduction
- Start in a seated position with a resistance band around your mid thighs.
- Place your feet hip width apart in front of you.
- Perform the movement by pushing your heels into the ground and then drive your knees out before slowly resisting the tension from the band and bring your knees in together. And then repeat.
These aren’t the only exercises but just a few that you can try or add to your workouts. Try them out and let us know your favourite!
Do I need weight to work my glutes?
Absolutely. If your goal is to strengthen or grow your glutes you will need to progressively work them harder if you want to see progress. That means either more reps or more weight or making the exercises harder over time.
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body. So, in order to strengthen it or grow it don’t be afraid to use weights. The glutes respond well to different rep ranges and weights, here’s a quick guide:
- For your hip extension exercises don’t be afraid to add weight!
- Best rep range for strength and growth: 6-20 reps
- Weight: moderate to heavy
- Hip abduction works our smaller glute muscles and they respond better to higher reps with moderate weights
- Best rep range :12-20+
- Weight: light to moderate
Check out our Instagram reel for a video demonstration of these exercises!
Cheers to strong glutes!