Let’s face it; we are all guilty of checking ourselves out in the mirror and zeroing in on what we consider flaws. Though I try not to, I do it all the time. When I was younger I hated my belly. I wasn’t overweight but it had no tone and my fingers would sink into it, sort of like the Pillsbury Dough Boy®. When I was a teenager, I’m quite sure it stuck out further than my chest. Now, as an adult, my new fixation is my rear end. At the peak of my training, dare I say, I had a rather nice pair of buns. They were proportional and perky, but nowadays they seem a little sad, like gravity is setting in. What happened? I was dedicated to my nutrition and training program, so why the sudden changes? Well, after some research into the anatomy of my glutes, I now know the answer, neglect, pure and simple. I’ve been doing exercises that incorporate my glutes but never really super specific for my glutes alone. Since I’ve learned this, my goal has been to feel soreness nowhere else except my glutes and I’m happy to say, I’ve had success.
First and foremost we should understand why it is beneficial to train the glutes. Sure, tight buns look good but toned glutes also provide more stability for preventing injury, as well as enhance posture. Also, for those involved in sports, strong glutes can increase power and athleticism. Look at a sprinter or a hockey player’s bum…nothing sad looking there, right? These athletes know that much of their power comes from both their core and their posterior, so they have learned to maximize the muscle activation. If we really want to enhance the appearance and performance of our own glutes, we need to learn to activate all of the muscle fibers, from top to bottom as well.
Ask most any trainer what exercises are best for glutes and we commonly hear squats, lunges and deadlifts. Those exercises are definitely beneficial and incorporate glutes but because of the up and down motion most of the activation to the glutes during a squat happens at the low position and for the deadlift, about the mid-range position. As a result, squats really hit a lot of the quads and deadlifts and good mornings target the erector spinea. So what hits the upper glute where I so desperately need the oomph back? The answer, front to back movements like hip thrusts (bridges) and pendulum quadruped hip extensions (butt blaster machine). These movements provide the most glute activation at the top or peak of the movement, really contracting the upper glute. With knees bent for these exercises, there is less hamstring involvement; therefore the glutes do more work. A few exercises that hit both the upper and lower glute include leap frog jumps, walking lunges and sprints.
Now, a leg day rarely passes that I do not incorporate some sort of lunges or squats, so I have that covered. Because the movement stretches the glute so that the maximum force is at the bottom of the movement, shortening the hamstrings, my lower glute is really forced to do all the work. Even as I sit here and write this, if I squeeze my glutes, I am noticeably stronger in the lower portion. Therefore, I really need to focus on the mid-range position of my deadlifts and the top contraction of my hip thrusts. All of these exercises can be performed with lighter weights or no weight if you are concerned about building a bigger bum, but for me, some added mass would be welcome. To add some size to my glutes, I will need to perform the exercises with significant enough weight to keep tension throughout the entire movement. Because glutes are predominantly slow twitch muscle fibers they respond better to higher repetitions. So, aim for at least 3 or 4 sets of 15 – 20 repetitions.
To recap, do not abandon the traditional squats and deadlifts because they definitely build the fanny. However, to really maximize your glute training, be sure to incorporate front to back movements like hip thrusts, the butt blaster machine and cable kickbacks. Also, consider using the abductor machine or using strength bands for side-stepping, to increase strength and control and enhance definition.
A nice pair of buns really says a lot about the intensity of your training. I have been to many competitions where the girls looked fantastic from the front but the quarter turn to the back really tells the story. Personally, I would rank my buns at a generous 5 in their current state. The 5 is because I just had a baby and the progesterone and estrogen have really wreaked havoc on my derriere; not to mention the fact that I’ve lost a considerable amount of muscle. My goal before 2014 will be to get that number up to an 8. It’s ambitious, but hey, if you don’t aim high, you’ll end up low, right?
Try the following exercises to really target specific areas of the glutes:
Lower glutes & quads: squats, split squats, lunges, step-ups
Glutes & erector spinea: deadlifts and good mornings
Upper glutes: hip thrusts, butt blaster machine, glute bridge, cable kickbacks
Glutes & hamstrings: weighted back extensions and glute ham raises
Outer glutes: abductor machine and side steps with bands
About the Author
Jamie Eason Middleton is one of the most recognized faces in the fitness industry. She holds several fitness titles, most notably Hardbody Entertainment’s World’s Fittest Model, and has been featured as a writer and a model in hundreds of magazine layouts. Jamie has a bachelor’s degree in communication, is the official female spokesperson for Bodybuilding.com and the creator of the popular fitness program, the 12-week LiveFit Trainer.
Jamie, joined Team Labrada in September 2013 and shares her extensive experience with tens of thousands of women in the bi-weekly Labrada Newsletter. Check out her own line of supplements at Labrada, which can be found here: www.labrada.com/jamieeason