A recent Men’s Fitness poll of women found that their favorite trainable part of a man’s body (i.e., not the eyes or smile) is his ass. So why are you trying to fit in another chest-and-arms day? Training the glutes isn’t just a way to make yourself more attractive to the ladies, it’s also the key to lifting heavier, preventing injuries, and improving performance at any sports you play.
We talked to the ultimate resource to bring you the definitive guide to glute training.
The Missing Piece (of Tail)
Your glutes work on most lower-body exercises, particularly squat and deadlift variations, but Bret Contreras, Ph.D., a strength coach and researcher (bretcontreras.com), says the conventional lifts weren’t enough to get his butt in gear. “In high school I had no glutes to speak of,” he says. “My legs went right into my back.”
Once he discovered how to train glutes more directly, however, his lifts all improved and he was finally able to fill out the seat of his pants. “There’s different regions of the glutes,” says Contreras. “Different actions and ranges of motion that need to be strengthened. You have to have variety.”
Nowadays he’s such an authority he’s known in the fitness industry as “the Glute Guy.”
Beyond helping your body look better and lift heavier, strong glutes are essential for athletic performance.
“Sprinting, jumping, cutting from side to side, swimming, and striking all use the glutes,” says Contreras.
And if you suffer from lower-back, hip, or knee pain, working the glutes can help fix that, too. “If you have stronger glutes, you’ll use them,” says Contreras. Then you won’t have to rely on weaker muscles, like the spinal erectors or hamstrings. That, in turn, leads to better form on your lifts.
Bringing Up the Rear
There are four glute-training categories, says Contreras: squatting movements (on one or both legs), hip hinging (including any deadlift variation), lateral or rotary movements (such as walking sideways with a band around the ankles), and hip thrusting (extending your hips with your upper back supported, such as a wrestler’s bridge). Contreras’ favorite is the thrust (see “Glute Gun” on page 4), a move he’s done more to popularize than anyone. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics compared the hip thrust to the classic back squat, concluding that the thrust activated the entire glute region—and part of the hamstrings—better than performing squats did.
Contreras recommends performing one squat exercise one to three times per week for three to four sets of 3–12 reps. Hip hinge/deadlifts can be done one to two times for the same sets and reps.
Lateral glute work should be done for high reps to finish off your leg workouts—two to three sets of 20–30 reps. “Do hip thrusts twice a week,” he says, “one day for lower reps, like 5, and one day for high reps, like 20.”
Another benefit of glute training is that, for the most part, the quads and hamstrings come along for the ride.
“You could just throw in some leg extensions and leg curls in addition to the four glute categories and that’s all you have to do [for complete leg development],” says Contreras.
The barbell hip thrust is the most popular glute exercise, and thought to have major carryover to squat and deadlift strength. Here’s how to do it. Sit on the floor and roll a loaded barbell into your lap. You may want to use a bar pad or squat sponge for greater comfort. Bend your knees 90 degrees and plant your feet on the floor, turning your toes out about 30 degrees. Rest your upper back on a bench. Brace your abs and drive your heels into the floor to raise your hips until they’re in line with your torso.