They are often called “The PowerHouse Of The Body”. They are also the bodypart that many trainers say they are asked about the most.
Glutes (the muscles of your bum, basically) are important to different people for different reasons; performance, and aesthetics. Athletes absolutely must have strong glutes in order to successfully perform vital movements like running, jumping, throwing, and kicking. And having a shapely backside is among the most common responses to hear from a recreational trainee when they are asked what they would like to improve about their body.
So whatever your reasons for training them, here are some of our favourite exercises for glutes that look good and perform well!
(Obviously, this article is no substitute for getting instruction from a qualified coach or trainer, and is certainly not exhaustive. If you are curious about some of the movements mentioned below but are not sure how to perform them, get yourself some coaching and that way you can be sure you are working both safely and effectively)
1. Barbell Back Squat
First off: no ifs, no buts, whether you are training for performance or for shape, if you want to see improvements in a bodypart such as your glutes, you need to include loaded movements like the barbell back squat. There is a place for high-rep bodyweight exercises (we’ll cover that below), but if you have been shy about strength training up to now, you need to realise that weights are essential for a strong, healthy, shapely physique.
One of the best of these exercises is the barbell back squat.
It involves placing a loaded barbell on the upper back and squatting down until your hips are a little lower than your knees.
If you are deliberately trying to work your glutes (along with your hamstrings, the muscles on the back of your thighs), it is generally accepted that a somewhat wider stance and a deliberate pushing back of the hips, rather than letting the knees come forward toward the toes, is probably a style of squat that will tax these muscles more.
2. Romanian Deadlift.
Another barbell movement, and along with the back squat, one that will almost certainly need some coaching to get right.
Begin in an upright position with the bar held in front of the thighs. Slowly allow your body to hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back flat and your knees slightly soft, until your torso is almost parallel to the ground and the bar has been lowered to about knee height. You should feel a strong stretch in the hamstrings on the way down, and then you should contract your glutes (squeeze your bum) to return to the upright standing position.
The RDL is also similar to squats in that it should work your hamstrings (and even help strengthen your lower back) in addition to your glutes.
This one can be used in a variety of ways.
You can simply lie on the ground, on your back, and keeping your feet flat drive your hips up in the air as high as possible while squeezing your glutes. This is known as a bridge.
Or else you can gain additional range of motion by positioning your upper back against a bench, as above, so that the hips have to travel a greater distance.
Either variation is suitable for higher rep work that perhaps squats or RDLs, as loading this movement can be tricky ( and possibly a little uncomfortable if you want to go heavy!). I quite like using a short resistance band around the thighs for these movements and going for a high-rep pump.
If weight is used, it is usually in the form of a barbell across the front of the body at the crease of the hips. If you have a barbell pad that wraps around the bar it will provide some cushioning and make the movement a lot more comfortable. Alternatively, there are some machines that have begun to pop up in commerical gyms specifically designed to perform this movement.
4. Bulgarian Split Squat (rear-foot elevated split squat).
My personal favourite exercise for glutes.
Position yourself 3-4 foot lengths forward of a bench that is around knee height. Reach back with one leg and rest that foot on the bench behind you, with the top of the foot facing down on the bench. This is your starting position.
Lower yourself carefully down until the knee of your back leg is almost down to the floor, then return to your starting position.
It sounds complicated but is really just a static lunge with one foot up on a bench behind you. You get a great stretch on your back leg while your front leg works. What more could you ask for?!
Because it is a single leg movement, a little loading goes a long way. Personally I don’t like prescribing a barbell for this movement because balance can be a big issue. Most people would be better off using dumbells or a kettlebell held to the front if they want to load the exercise, but like bridges/hipthrusters this is a movement that is often well suited to staying with just your own bodyweight and using higher reps.
So there are some of our go-to glute-builders. Try them out and see what you think!