I think it goes without saying that we all would like to own a pair of better looking glutes. It doesn’t matter if you are a guy or a Gail, owning a set of athletic looking glutes will show that you are working out and are taking care of yourself. For the athletic world, the glutes may be the most important muscle to help improve performance. Another huge benefit of having stronger glutes is that it reduces low-back issues. The glutes attached right by the lumbar; sacrum area and can improve the overall stability of the lumbar spine. If you are experiencing any low-back issues, you may just need to get stronger glutes to help the issue.
So, whatever your performance and physique goals are, the glutes deserve just as much attention in your training program as your biceps and chest.
In order to build a muscle to it’s highest level of aesthetics and performance, all of the muscle fibers need to be worked. The glutes have some specific challenges as they are considered a tri-planar muscle. This means that they should be worked in all three planes of motion.
Sagittal plane = hip extension (think forward and backward)
Frontal plane = hip abduction (think side to side)
Transverse plane = hip external rotation (think rotational movements)
When we think of working the glutes, squats, deadlifts and lunges are typically the movements that are used in order to build them. While all three of these movements are fantastic for the glutes, they only work them in the sagittal plane. The cool this is that if you have only been doing these types of movements in your pursuit to better glutes, when you add in some exercises that attack them in the frontal and transverse plane, you set yourself up to hit new muscle fibers, thus increasing size and strength.
To improve the strength and looks of your glutes, I suggest adding this specific workout into your routine twice per week on top of your current workout for 6-weeks. To optimally hit the glutes hard and tap into every muscle fiber, perform this circuit first in your workout, whether it be a lower-body workout before you do your lunges and squats, before or after a run/bike/or other type of workout, or first thing before a full-body routine.
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Side Lying Hip Abduction w/Band (frontal plane)
Place a resistance band of your choice for your current strength levels around your legs just above the knees. I prefer mini-bands that Perform Better sells. Lay down on your side with your hips stacked. Maintain a stiff core and raise your leg as high as possible while keeping a neutral spine. Hold for 3-5 seconds for a maximal contraction and repeat.
Quadruped Fire Hydrant w/Band (Transverse Plane)
Start on all fours with your knees under your hips and wrist, elbow, and shoulder in line with each other. Lift your leg up, back and externally rotated. Make sure you do not move your torso while finding your end range of motion. Hold this for at least 3-5 seconds to find a maximal contraction.
Lateral Band Walks (frontal plane)
Stand up while keeping the band in the same position. Get into an athletic posture and begin to step laterally (to the side) performing small steps. Make sure to keep core engaged and hips square. Focus on quality reps and don’t overdo the range of motion of the step.
Hip Thruster (sagittal plane)
After all of what could be considered “lower-level” exercises to fire up the glutes, it’s time to increase the intensity. This exercise has gained tremendous popularity thanks to Strength Coach Bret Contreras. Bret has shown both in the lab and with his clients that the hip thruster is one of the best exercises to build the glutes, even better than squats, deadlifts and lunges. This movement may seem a little awkward at first if you have never done it. After a few times, you will get the hang of it. Once you find your groove with the form, you will be surprised how much you can load the barbell up with weight to build solid muscle and increase glute strength.
- Start with your shoulder blades against a bench, and arms spread across it for stability. Bend your knees about 90 degrees, and make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
- Take a big breath in, blow your air out fully, and brace your core.
- Squeeze your glutes, lift your hips, and hold a second or two. It’s very important that you don’t hyperextend your lower back at the top.
- Make sure your neck stays neutral as you lift yourself off the floor. Don’t let your head drop back.
- You can load this exercise with a dumbbell or kettlebell by holding it pressing into your stomach and hip area. Chains across your waist also work well. To really load the movement, place a barbell across your waist and load the plates on feeding on your strength level.
Perform in a circuit style fashion by doing all four exercises with minimal rest between them. After you complete all of the exercises, rest 2-minutes and repeat.
Exercise Sets Reps
Side Lying Hip Abduction w/Band 2-5 10ea.
Quadruped Fire Hydrant w/Band 2-5 10ea.
Lateral Band Walks 2-5 20ea.
Hip Thruster 2-5 5-10
Note: For the first week, perform just 2 sets/rounds of the circuit. Each week add 1 set/round until you reach 5 total sets/rounds.
Justin Grinnell is the Owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, Michigan. State of Fitness opened up just four years ago and is already one of the leading training facilities in the Midwest. State of Fitness has over 450 members who train every day under his leadership. In addition to being a facility owner, Justin has his own blog at www.grinnelltraining.com (link below), and has been a featured writer for over 6 years in the magazine Healthy & Fit and is a writer for Muscle & Fitness.