Who doesn't want a sculpted, highly developed posterior? Very few muscle groups in the body are more eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing than the glutes. In fact, a statuesque backside has become so highly sought after that implant surgery has become increasingly popular.
But there's no need to go under the knife; you can carve your glutes with training alone. If you're performing glute exercises with proper form and enough resistance, and are doing so on a consistent basis, you can absolutely strengthen and reshape your backside. While strong and muscular glutes will help you fill out a pair of jeans, they're even more important to how your body functions and performs.
The bottom line, pun intended, is that strong glutes matter.
Unfortunately, most people don't know how to train their glutes in a way that helps them reach their goals. Here's how you might be doing yours a disservice, and how to fix it!
Mistake 1: Trying to Build Glutes While Doing Cardio
On the surface, trying to build your glutes while doing cardio would seem to kill two birds with one stone. And if you look around the gym or Instagram, you'll see many women exaggerating their cardio with glute kick-backs and stepping sideways. I'm not one of them. In fact, I consider this trend a waste of time.
Why? For one, you're forced to perform your cardio at a far lower intensity. You're also usually reinforcing terrible biomechanics, meaning that your glutes are getting none of the benefit.
I recommend keeping cardio and strength training on separate training days, so you can get the most out of both of them. However, if you choose to do cardio and strength training in the same workout, do your strength training first so building and re-shaping muscle is your goal.
Mistake 2: Not Using Enough Resistance
Many women blow through hours each week performing endless numbers of repetitions of ineffective "toning" exercises, never using a resistance significant enough to help them add muscle. If you've become accustomed to doing 30 or more reps just to "feel the burn," then you could definitely benefit from a little extra challenge!
For some, the word "tone" also implies a lower level of body fat. The good news is that the glutes are the biggest muscles in the human body. The bigger and stronger they become, the more fat-burning potential you'll have, and the better you'll be at bona-fide fat-melters like sprinting. Even if you would never consider yourself a "bodybuilder," this is one area where there's a lot to be gained from prioritizing muscle.
Mistake 3: Using too Much Resistance
Yes, you can get too much of a good thing.
When the weight you're using is too heavy, a lot of mechanisms start to work against your results. One issue is that the muscles you're using are under tension for significantly less time. You'll also reduce the range of motion dramatically and other muscle groups will usually kick in to compensate, leading to a breakdown in form.
When it comes to training glutes, I generally don't like to drop below five reps per set. No matter what rep range or weight you choose, select a weight that will allow you to maintain control and form for 100 percent of the set.
Mistake 4: Performing Within a Single rep Range
Just because you're prioritizing muscle doesn't mean you need to be married to the "3 sets of 10" setup. On the contrary, I find that the glutes respond well to an approach that blends rep ranges.
I often use my first set as a warm-up, starting with a lower weight and higher reps. I then do my middle set with a heavy weight and low rep range, and finish up with a lighter weight and increased reps. Here's an example of how I might train barbell hip thrusts:
- Set 1: 12 reps at 155 lbs.
- Set 2: 8 reps at 205 lbs.
- Set 3: 6 reps at 255 lbs.
- Set 4: 8 reps at 205 lbs.
- Set 5: 12 reps at 155 lbs.
No matter what rep range you select, you should be able to maintain proper form for 100 percent of your reps. The last few should feel extremely challenging. If you reach your rep target and feel like you could've done two more, slightly increase the weight you're using. Your main focus should be selecting a challenging weight while still maintaining control through your full range of motion.
Mistake 5: Not Utilizing the Mind-Muscle Connection
When it comes to training any muscle group, going through the motions will not get the job done. This is especially true with the glutes.
To strengthen and develop your glutes to their peak potential, you need to own all phases of each exercise, including the eccentric (lowering), concentric (raising), and the moment of peak contraction or lockout.
You can further increase the time your muscles are under tension by performing slow, controlled eccentrics lasting 3-5 seconds. Likewise, you can pause and hold the top position of each rep of movements like glute bridges and hip thrusts for 3-5 seconds.
Yes, these make the movements harder, and cut down on the number of reps you can perform, but they almost always make them better.
Mistake 6: Thinking Squats and Deadlifts are Enough
Squats and deadlifts are great, but it takes more than just these two exercises to optimize gluteal strength and development. In fact, your glutes already need to be strong to squat and deadlift with good form. If your back always hurts after leg day, weak glutes could be why.
While different squat and deadlift variations hit the glutes with varying degrees of intensity, neither is primarily a glute exercise. Squats of all types hammer the quads first and foremost, and the deadlift family is usually driven by hamstrings before glutes.
Squats and deadlifts are both important, but your glutes need more. And, when you give your glutes what they need to get stronger, you will almost always get better at both squats and deadlifts as a side benefit.
Mistake 7: Not Performing all Movement Patterns
If you want to re-shape your glutes to their fullest potential, you need to perform all the fundamental movement patterns for the lower body. This includes squatting and hinging, with both double- and single-leg variations. Lunges, split squats, and step-ups are also excellent butt builders.
My advice: Use them all! Don't get totally attached to any single variation, because each one is a little different from the others. Once you're comfortable performing the body-weight version, don't be afraid to add resistance. Stick with a variation for at least six weeks before switching to another movement.
Having a well-rounded program for your glute training can be a game changer. Don't be surprised if it improves both your performance in the gym and how you feel and function in your daily life. It doesn't matter if you're an elite athlete or an average person, having a strong posterior will help you live up to whatever physical challenge comes your way.