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July 28, 2023
What is the powerhouse of the body and the most popular muscle on Instagram? Ding, ding! If you guessed the glute muscles, you're correct. Just about every lifter wants more muscle mass and strength gains there as they know it will make them look better AND be stronger.
Who doesn't want that?
And if your answer was "everyone," give yourself a pat on the back, because you're now two for two! But wanting to grow your glutes and successfully doing it are two different things. And, if you're relying on sources you see on Instagram and TikTok, it can be even more challenging to find high-quality information to optimize glute training.
That's why I put together this complete guide to explain everything you need to know to successfully build your glute muscles. After you're done with this article, you'll understand the glute anatomy and functions, the best exercises to build your butt, and essential programming tips.
Table of Contents:
If you've been wanting to grow your glutes, this article is for you!
The gluteal muscles are composed of three separate muscles that act together to control the hips and thighs. Together, they can manipulate the hips and the thigh.
Let's take a closer look at each glute muscle.
The gluteus maximus is one large solid piece of muscle and is easily the biggest of the three gluteal muscles. In fact, it's the strongest muscle in the human body!
Even though the gluteus maximus arises from the center of the body, it stretches out under the gluteus medius as it attaches to the femur, making it the outermost gluteal muscle as well.
Check out the Best Gluteus Maximus Exercises!
The glute medius is the second largest of the three glute muscles. It sits on the outermost part of the pelvis BUT only on the pelvis. Compare this to the maximus, which stretches out and down onto the femur.
However, because it does sit on the outermost part of the femur, it's a very important muscle for people to build, especially women, for aesthetics. It plays a large role in building that nice "bump" on the side of the pelvis.
Check out the Best Gluteus Medius Exercises!
With a name like minimus, you could probably guess that it's the smallest of the three muscles. In reality, the gluteus minimus is almost just like a smaller gluteus medius. Its insertions and origins are the same, and it sits directly underneath the gluteus medius.
Check out the Best Gluteus Minimus Exercises!
We're now going to go over some of the basic functions of the glutes. As mentioned above, they ultimately play a role in just about every movement of the hip. They even work with the hip flexors to provide stability.
Let's dig in!
This is the primary role of the glute muscles and is what most people think of when they train the glutes. The glutes' main role is helping to drive the hips forward to extend the hip joint when flexed.
This can also occur when pulling the leg back, such as in running.
Hip abduction occurs when the legs move straight out of the side of the body. This movement isn't seen often in isolation in normal life but may be seen during sporting events such as dribbling a ball and changing direction. Performing kicks are other times this is seen.
Hip abduction also plays a vital role when balancing. If you lift a foot, your hips are going to want to naturally sag. To prevent this from occurring, the medius fires to maintain straight hips. This is important in long-distance runners as weak glutes are often the cause of hip and knee pain.
Again, external rotation doesn't happen a ton in real life, at least under a load. However, if it does, you need strong glutes!
External rotation occurs if your leg is out straight and then turns outward so your toes also point outward.
Now that we know the primary function of the glutes, let's look at what type of exercises work them well. I'll go over some of my favorites below, but understanding the types of exercises will enable you to compile a personalized list of best glutes exercises.
When I say hip extension movements, I want to be very clear about what I mean. The glutes are awesome in that they will help the hips extend in either direction. Hip extension can involve one of two actions OR both of the actions happening together.
Hip extension movements include:
When we do hip extensions, I generally like going heavy as this is a stimulus rarely seen in real-life situations.
You probably know you train your glutes when performing back squats and leg presses, which are pushing exercises.
During these movements, you are performing hip flexion and hip extension. If you think about a squat, your hips are pushed back with a bend at the hips. When you push your body up, your glutes must still extend the hips.
This is why it's basically impossible to truly have a pushing leg day or pulling leg day as you train everything with lower body compound exercises.
Hip abduction exercises will primarily involve isolation exercises and target the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
This can be glute isolation exercises such as clamshells or quadruped hip abduction.
Stabilization can mean anything that requires you to fire your glutes to maintain proper posture. As mentioned above, the glutes play an instrumental role in keeping the hips extended while standing.
For this reason, any exercise you have pulled will require glute activation to stabilize your hips. This is one reason I love carries, especially front carries.
Single-leg exercises fall under the same biomechanics as the stabilization exercises but will target the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. As mentioned above, in real-life application, the primary job of the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus isn't to kick your leg out to the side but rather stabilize the body on one foot.
Every time you take one foot off the ground, your gluteus medius must fire to keep your hips level and prevent sagging. We can take advantage of this movement and balance on one leg for an extended period. Then, to fire all of the muscles, we can perform various movements on that one balancing leg.
This is why exercises like the single-leg Romanian deadlift are so awesome.
Hip hyperextension is the last type of exercise that can be used to hit the glutes. Hyperextension is when you move your hips forward past being extended.
An example of this is when pulling your leg backward as far as it can go. Once it gets past being straight down, it moves into hyperextension.
We will now go over some of my favorite glute exercises. In my professional opinion, all of these are great for building muscle and deserve a spot in your workout split.
If I had to pick just one movement to put in your glute exercise program, it would be the barbell hip thrust. The barbell hip thrust's primary movement is hip extension.
What makes barbell hip thrusts so awesome is that you place the load directly on your hip joint. In other words, no other muscle is acting as a primary mover.
Of course, the hamstrings are involved, and your core has to kick in to provide stability. However, these are smaller secondary muscles. In fact, out of all isolation exercises, this allows the heaviest weight training! If you want powerful glutes, you MUST perform hip thrusts.
And for those of you who don't have a bench, try the glute bridge instead.
Back squats are another must. While these don't isolate the glutes nearly as much as the hip thrust, you can still place a huge load on the back. Pressing up requires hip extension, which is why you often hear cues such as, "Drive your hips forward" and "Squeeze your glutes!"
So where the back squat lacks in isolation, it makes up for in load. The back squat is the second largest barbell lift for most people, meaning you can't really put a much greater load on the glute muscles. Remember, we need a heavy load to get your glutes working!
The leg press is another great option as it allows you to load your glutes a lot. Once you put the barbell down, the leg press is probably your biggest glute lift.
What makes the leg press an even more impressive exercise for glute training is you can alter your foot placement to change muscle activation. To get the most out of your glute training with a leg press, use a foot placement that's high with your feet slightly wider.
When the feet are placed high, the knees bend less, and your quads are used less. This moves a higher percentage of the load onto the glutes.
You can learn more about this in our article that discusses 7 Leg Press Foot Placements.
The deadlift is the absolute heaviest barbell movement there is. It also happens to function predominately as a hip extension movement. When compared with other exercises, there is perhaps nowhere near as much variance in a person's biomechanics as there is with the deadlift.
This is due to the different lengths of a person's torso, legs, and arms. Therefore, this can cause some differences in muscle activation in different people, but regardless of how your body is built, this movement will still work your glutes.
The Romanian deadlift isn't actually a deadlift, as the bar never even touches the floor, let alone starts from it. The RDL is an awesome exercise as it is a type of hip thrust and allows a greater mind-muscle connection.
While you still need to think about this (it doesn't come 100% naturally), most people can focus on their glutes and allow tension to build.
The single-leg deadlift is awesome as it uses both hip extension and one foot's instability. As a result, your glutes will be firing like crazy without using any load!
Then, when you pick up a loaded barbell or pair of dumbbells, you can feel your glutes growing!
Step-ups take advantage of the role of the glutes in hip extension to make it one of the best butt exercises you can do.
Using a higher box will require more work from the glutes, leading to more muscle growth and improving muscular strength. However, you don't want to try so high that you must use your other leg to push off too much.
Alternatively, you can always use the eccentric portion of the exercise and lower yourself down slowly. This will train your glutes while taking away any contribution from the other leg. Use a load if needed but raise the box height first if you're able.
Farmer carries aren't usually listed on glute exercises, but if you want a set of glutes that are strong and functional, farmer carries are where it's at. Above, I went over how walking demands a lot from your glutes to help stabilize the hips and body. Now think about what would happen when you're carrying 1-2X your body weight!
While the farmer's walk has plenty of other amazing benefits, such as working multiple muscle groups, being an awesome glute exercise is just one more reason to start doing it. If you want a big butt, stronger glutes, or just a stronger body, start doing farmer's carries.
Front carries are another carry to work the glute muscles functionally. Carrying the weight in front will cause your torso to lean forward. And that's where your glutes come into play, as engaging your glutes will keep your torso centered.
Performing a dumbbell front carry or sandbag carries will get you the activation you're looking for. The Zercher carry using a barbell is also a great front carry option.
This is one of those "girly" exercises that scare dudes away. However, if I'm being honest, any lady performing these likely has some exceptionally well-developed glutes. Dr. Bret Contreas, the Glute Doctor, also recommends them if that makes you feel better about doing them.
Plus, after you use these for a while, you won't need an excuse or be convinced to try one. These use hyperextension to isolate your glute muscles, and you'll definitely feel it.
Cable hip abduction is a classic exercise to hit the gluteus medius and outside of your hips. They're easy to perform, easy to load, and easy to apply progressive overload.
Plus, they will easily isolate your outer glutes for an awesome exercise and a shapely bum.
Bulgarian split squats suck, but they work well. At the bottom of the movement, they almost look like a step-up motion. Regardless, if you want great glutes, regularly Bulgarian split squats.
In order to stimulate growth and glute growth, there are some practices that you can incorporate into your training for optimization. If you're trying to grow your glutes, don't forget to include these variables.
As the glutes are the strongest muscle in the human body, it makes sense to train them heavily.
And by heavy, I mean use loads that are 85-95% of your 1RM. Heavy loads will improve your muscular strength.
Going heavy is great, but depending on your genetics, your glute muscles might be predominantly slow-twitch dominated. Interestingly, some research has even found that the gluteus maximus comprises 62% slow-twitch muscle fibers!
This makes sense, though, as we consider the glutes' main activity, which is walking. Every time we take a step, we use our glutes. We engage our glutes every time we adjust our hips or pelvis. The glutes being highly resistant to fatigue ensures they can sustain normal activities all day.
That said, this is one of the reasons I love to do ultra-high reps. By ultra-high reps, I mean using a rep scheme of 3X20 or even 2X50, which is in the muscular endurance range. I don't do these often, but they kick my ass (pun intended) every time I do.
I also love using styles of training that test your anaerobic endurance. For example, EMOMs are a great option. These allow you to use heavy loads but in an endurance state by not allowing full recovery in between sets.
Doing some heavy hip thrusts or back squats (with reps 3-5) is brutal (in the best way) for our butts.
I definitely have my favorite exercises that should be present in basically every training session. However, as I went over above, the glutes are responsible for a ton of different movements.
Hip extension, hyperextension, stabilization - there's a lot. Therefore, the ultimate glute training plan is going to have a lot of different movements in it. Again, stick to some of your primary glutes exercises. However, for some of the smaller accessory work, go crazy with your variety.
While you will need to pay attention to your recovery, I would suggest trying to hit the gym 3 times a week to get your glutes growing.
Remember that you are constantly training your glutes daily in normal life. With this in mind, hitting it hard 3 times a week might be optimal if you're focused on glute growth.
To be clear, this doesn't mean squats 3 times a week. However, you could use your big compound exercises twice a week and then stick to 2-3 smaller isolation exercises a 3rd time during the week. Again, monitor how your body responds, but your butt may simply need more butt exercises.
You must apply progressive overload for your glutes to grow. This is the reason why every powerlifter you know has huge glutes.
Keep in mind these athletes have little care about training for aesthetics. However, they all have huge glutes! Why is this? Because they're masters of progressive overload and train in the big compound exercises: squats and deadlifts.
If you want bigger glutes, you need to place a greater load on them. The only way to do this is if you apply progressive overload in a structured fashion.
Your glutes are the most powerful muscles in the human body. They need this strength due to their multiple roles in body movement. In reality, most of the movements you do rely on your glutes in some fashion.
In addition, the glutes help to support proper biomechanics. Not training them will result in a domino effect of recurring problems. Here are the top reasons you need to train your glutes.
Training the glutes should be easy. However, there are some common mistakes a lot of people make.
Even though you may be going to the gym and training hard, you may notice your glutes still aren't growing. Here are the top reasons this may be.
Your body needs fuel to grow. Think about it. A bigger person needs more calories just to support their extra weight. Therefore, how can you expect to build muscle by eating the same amount? You must eat to grow. Try to be a 300-500 caloric surplus to supply the extra energy needed.
Follow our 7 Day Meal Plan For Muscle Gain to get those glutes growing!
You might think that you're going to the gym and training hard. And you might be doing that! However, are you actually putting more weight on your barbell?
You see, you can go to the gym and train hard. Work up a good sweat and even feel some muscle soreness. However, being tired and sore doesn't equate to growth. You must put more weight on the bar to make your muscles grow.
Doing too much work can be a detriment to your muscle growth. To grow, your muscles need to break down from stress and then recover. When they recover, they will rebuild a little bit bigger and stronger.
However, when you train too much, you never give muscle recovery a chance to happen, so they're constantly being broken down. Ease up on your glute training if you're going hard with no results.
Your glutes should be trained at least twice a week. This is the general recommendation for any muscle as it capitalizes on the muscle recovery process. After a workout, it takes 2-3 days for your muscle to totally recover. After this time, your muscles are ready to train again.
By training twice a week, the muscle is in a perpetual cycle of training and recovery. That said, you may find it useful to train the glutes for an extra 3rd weekly session. However, this should be done for a short duration (4-6 week blocks or every other week).
Your glutes are a pulling muscle, so they will be trained either on lower body days or pulling days. When you program your exercises, always start with your major compound lifts. These are movements such as the hip thrust and squat. From here, work your way to your accessory and isolation exercises.
This is impossible to definitively say! In reality, growing your glutes is a non-stop process and will most likely never be completed.
So, don't worry about time frames. Focus on being consistent in the gym and kitchen, and you will see results.
Lingering grow your glutes questions? Here's everything else you need to know!
Protein and carbs! Quality protein foods are going to supply the amino acids required to repair and build your muscles. Carbs will supply the energy and glucose required to fuel and fill your muscles. In addition, studies are beginning to identify a role in which carbs directly influence muscle protein synthesis.
One reason the glutes can be so hard to grow is that they already see a lot of stimuli. Remember that the glutes are always working, meaning you need to train with intensity to create enough stress for growth.
Regardless of what muscle you want to grow, you need to eat the same amount of food, which is 300-500 calories above your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), also known as your baseline. This is enough extra energy to help build your muscles, yet it isn't too much where you're going to gain a lot of fat.
This question is impossible to answer due to the myriad of variables at play. That said, if you have never really focused on training your glutes before, I estimate that at least 4-6 weeks are needed to see results.
If you've asked yourself how to grow glutes, know that glute growth is actually pretty easy. Like most other muscle growth, all it takes is some knowledge of the way the muscle functions and some specificity in your training.
Keep in mind that you have probably already been giving the glutes a lot of activation, but you're just not going hard enough. Therefore, use variety in your glute training, and don't forget to train them often!
Looking for the best exercises to build your glutes? Check out our article on The Best Glute Exercises! Searching for a glute routine you can do anytime, anywhere? Head to The Best Glute Workouts At Home!
Williams, Michael J.1,2; Gibson, Neil V.2; Sorbie, Graeme G.1,4; Ugbolue, Ukadike C.1,5; Brouner, James3; Easton, Chris1. Activation of the Gluteus Maximus During Performance of the Back Squat, Split Squat, and Barbell Hip Thrust and the Relationship With Maximal Sprinting. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 35(1). January 2021. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002651
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