Okay, no fooling around anymore, girls and guys. What really targets the glutes? Squats? Fire hydrants? Yoga Booty Ballet? No. No. And no! If you want to build nice glutes — guaranteed — do movements that target the glutes maximally.
The Misunderstanding of Squats for Building Glutes
Squats are an excellent exercise for overall lower body strength. However, the movement does not target the glutes directly. I don’t care how many people swear by squats as a glute builder (especially deep squats), the exercise targets the legs primarily. Here’s a new motto to live by: don’t do an indirect movement to obtain a direct result. In other words, don’t emphasize squats to develop your glutes, as it’s primarily a leg-builder.
Traditional Glute Movements – Your Mommy’s Glute Routine
This is the age of the strong, fit, tight female physique. Antiquated, semi-targeted exercises just don’t cut it. Fire hydrants, kickbacks, and other traditional glute exercises fall into this category. These exercises are only minimally effective for building the glutes because the primary focus is not on your glutes. Granted, the glutes get some stimulation. But these exercises are better suited for improved hip mobility than muscle stimulation. And therein lies the problem: to build glutes, muscle growth must be stimulated. The indirect muscle stimulation the glutes receive from these movements is why they don’t produce positive results for everyone; glute-specific exercises are the solution.
Yoga booty ballet
Hmm, can you say fitness trend? This fitness concept takes calisthenics and stretches and claims to build your glutes. The glutes may be stimulated, but not enough for maximal growth. Another problem, specifically for yoga practitioners, is that the concept of progressive overload is virtually nonexistent. Progressive overload is when some form of resistance (usually in the form of weights) is added to an exercise on a consistent, often weekly, basis in order to force maximum muscle growth. Yoga routines don’t incorporate progressive overload, therefore achieving noticeable growth and maximal growth of your glutes can vary unsteadily from person to person.
Let’s get to the REAL glute workout, shall we?
The Warm Up
You can change up your warm up. The point is to get the muscles warm and pliable so they’ll be ready for exercise and less prone to injury. I like to do exercise-specific warm-ups, so on glute day, I do one of the following:
Step climber for 5 minutes at a moderate intensity.
Bosu ball squat and stability routine for 5 minutes at a moderate intensity. Example below.
Plyo squat and lunges, 3 sets of 15 each exercise, with a minute of rest in between for a total of 5 minutes.
Warning: Don’t overdo the warm up. Save your energy for the real workout. After a five minute warm-up, you should have a slight mist of sweat, but you should not be dripping sweat or breathing heavy.
Exercise 1: Weighted Glute Bridge
Do the worst first. As a general rule, it is smart to start a workout with the hardest, most energy-sucking exercise. This is because your energy level is at its highest at the beginning of a workout, and since the hardest exercise typically yields the greatest results, so it’s important that it’s done to the best of your ability. Double-leg glute bridges are easier than the single-leg version. See both below.
4 – 5 Sets in a pyramid scheme
Set 1: 15 reps with a warm-up weight
Set 2: 12 reps with moderate weight
Set 3: 8 reps with heavy weight
Set 4: 6 reps adding more weight
Set 5: 12 – 15 reps lower weight
Professional strength coach Mike Boyle once said, “real athletes have glutes.” Football players develop their glutes to strengthen and protect their lower backs from high-impact, body-to-body collisions. Glute bridges are in their strength program(s).
Don’t forget progressive overload. Challenge yourself to add more weight every week, beating the previous week. You don’t have to add a lot of weight. 5 lbs, even 2 lbs counts.
Exercise 2: Reverse Hyperextensions
You worked the glutes in one direction through intense contractions with the weighted bridge. Now, let’s stretch the muscle a bit and still target the glutes directly, via reverse hyperextensions. Exercise order is important. Emphasizing the need to stretch during the workout because there’s more hard work ahead in this routine. You don’t want to cramp up by focusing too much on contraction.
There are many ways reverse hyperextensions can be done. Variety is the key to fitness success. Choose one method and change it every 4 weeks to keep the body stimulated. I use a back hyperextension machine because that’s what my gym has. But you can use a stability ball, bosu ball, a bench, even a custom reverse hyperextension machine (they exists).
4 – 5 Sets 15 reps each, holding at the top of the movement for 2 seconds.
Exercise 3: Single-Leg Hip Thrusts
There are many ways this exercise can be done. Choose what works for you and change it up.
4 – 5 Sets adding weight for sets 2-3 and again sets 4-5
Set 1: 10 reps with a warm-up weight
Set 2: 10 reps with moderate weight
Set 3: 10 reps with heavy weight
Set 4: to failure adding more weight
Set 5: to failure reps lower weight
Exercise 4: Standing Leg Abduction
3 Sets – can maintain the same weight for all sets or add weight each set. This is not a muscle-builder exercise, it’s for overall development and shape, thus the set scheme does not include progressive overload.
Set 1: 12-15 reps with a warm-up weight
Set 2: 12-15 reps with moderate weight
Set 3: 12-15 reps with heavy weight
Exercise 5: Plie or Goblet Squat
3 Sets – can maintain the same weight for all sets or add weight each set. This exercise is for overall development and shape, progressive overload is not included below.
Set 1: 15-25 reps with a warm-up weight
Set 2: 15-25 reps with moderate weight
Set 3: 15-25 reps with heavy weight
Do the above routine once a week. For best results, have a Glute Day instead of squeezing this routine into Leg Day or another routine. To complete your Glute Day, incorporate calf exercises and finish up with a cardio cooldown of about 15 minutes. You’ll have a complete and effective workout, results guaranteed. The average amount of time it takes to start seeing results is 3 weeks. From then on, how big you want your glutes to be is up to you. The trick is in targeted exercises and progressive overload.
MEET SYLVIA PETRO — THE BROKE, FIT SINGLE MOM: As an athlete of over 15 years, and a broke single mom for most of that time, I created this site to aid not only broke single parents to a life of fitness, but anyone who believes the road to fitness requires a lot of cash or time. In reality, the road to fitness is paved with knowledge and firm principles; informing readers about mastering both of those building blocks is my goal.