One of the things I've enjoyed the most from getting my RYT-500 status (Registered Yoga Teacher, 500 hours of training) and becoming a Certified Personal Trainer is learning about anatomy. Exercises and yoga poses make so much more sense when you have a little knowledge about anatomy. I'm certainly still no expert, but that's why we in the fitness industry can't stop learning and going to trainings. There's always more to learn, study, and test out.In this post, we'll talk about the importance of having strong glutes, the muscle group itself, and 3 excellent ways to train them. Read on for more...
Why Is it important to have strong glutes?
First of all, if you think training your glutes is all about looking good in a swimsuit, think again. Training your glutes relates to your overall strength and well-being because they connect to so many other muscle groups and contribute to so many movements you make. One common saying is: strong glutes, healthy back.That being said, if you train your glutes regularly in the way I describe below and keep making it challenging, your bum will firm, lift, and grow in size. Think of it as a great side effect to improving strength and functional movement in one of the most important muscles in your body.
But the thing about your glutes is this: you have to train them. If you don't, they will get lazy.
Seriously. It can be a difficult area to train because if not activated enough or correctly, the glutes really will get lazy and stop activating. If you spend much of your day seated, are sedentary, or are even active but don't correctly activate your glutes, they're probably under-performing for you. When the glutes get lazy, they force other muscles to do the work for them, like your lower back, hamstrings, quads, and other muscles in the hip area. And when this happens, muscle imbalances develop. And when muscles imbalances develop, pain and injuries occur.
So training the glutes is important for your overall strength and well-being. However, daily activities like walking, stairs, and yard work isn't going to cut it. The glutes need specific, heavy motions to get stronger.
It's also not enough to simply throw some glute moves in your exercise routine. You need correct— dare I say perfect— form and you need to learn to activate the glutes so that you load them correctly. That can be difficult, because— remember— the glutes are lazy and like to make other muscles work for them.
Bottom line: they won't get stronger unless you make them.
Another reason it benefits the body to work out the glutes is that it's the largest muscle in your body, so working them raises your metabolism, helping your entire body to get leaner. Plus, you'll need to have strong core and pelvic floor activation when exercising the glutes, so you're usually working out much of the body as well.
What are the glutes?
The glutes are your bum, your fanny, your bottom...your butt. The glutes are a group of three muscles. The most famous one, the gluteus maximus, is the largest muscle in the human body. The other two are the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. They're all are an essential part to most movements you make. They connect to not only your legs, but to your core and upper body. They have a lot of important jobs like hip extension, hip abduction, external rotation at the hip, and stabilizing the hips (among others). The glutes are linked to so many movements and muscles in your body, it's no wonder that strong glutes correlate to a healthier and stronger body in general.
3Exercises To train your glutes
Let's get to some moves. The following three exercise are great for building your glutes— both in size and in strength. I do these moves weekly and can hip thrust almost 3 times my bodyweight! I never expected that. If you do them right, and do them often, you will be amazed at how your glutes will grow, lift, and get stronger.When you move with these exercises, stay aware. Keep the core and pelvic floor engaged, and keep checking in mentally to make sure you feel these moves in the glutes. In other words, if you feel the exercises more in areas like the hamstrings or quads, dial it back and do everything bodyweight until your glutes wake up from their lazy state and learn to activate. That may take weeks. That's ok. Just don't skip that step. And above all, don't do anything that hurts. As I mentioned earlier, I've learned a lot about anatomy from trainings I've attended and things I've studied. When you read the moves below, you may wonder why I didn't throw in any squats. Lots of untrained "fitness professionals" that have huge followings on social media like to show off their bum in footage of them doing squats. Squats are great. There's no question that they are a sexier exercise than the hip thrust. However, while squats do include the glutes, for most people the squat is a quad-dominant exercise. Just something to keep in mind as you read and as you observe fitness celebs on social media (their technical knowledge just makes me cringe sometimes). One caveat: I really do love the goblet squat for training the glutes.
There are many, many, variations of the hip thrust that elevate the feet, the shoulders, or both, that are single-legged versions, etc. Here, I'm breaking down a shoulder elevated version that you can choose to do bodyweight, load it with dumbbells, or even a barbell. Basically, the hip thrust is a way to get full range of motion for your hips in hip extension.How To:Elevate your shoulders by placing shoulder blades on a bench, step, or even a couch if you are lacking in the home gym department. Use a foam pad or pillow to pad your shoulder blades.
Place your feet hip width and do a couple practice lifts to make sure your ankles are directly under your knees when you lift up. This protects your joints and also sets you up for proper glute activation.
Thrust and push the hips up with power by squeezing the glutes, even if you're doing the bodyweight version. Lower down and repeat. (See video below for the bodyweight version.)
Keep in mind this is a hip hinge. Treat your spine as if you had a yard stick tied to it— which would prevent you from arching or rounding in your spine. Fire the motion from the glutes, not the back.
Another tip: your gaze. If you're hinging correctly, your gaze follows as well. When you press up, you're looking up. When you lower down, you're looking straight ahead.
Once you're firing away correctly in the glutes and have the hang of the bodyweight version, there are tons of ways to add challenge like adding a hold at the top, a resistance band, adding load by placing dumbbells at each hip, a kettlebell (padded at the pelvis), or a barbell. See the barbell version below.
The Romanian Deadlift
The difference between a conventional deadlift and a Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is that with a RDL, the knees are bent less and the hips are higher, which gets those glutes firing a bit better. You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell.
This is also a hip hinge, so bring back the visual about the yard stick. If you had a yard stick tied to your back, you'd be unable to round or arch in the spine. Treat your spine with love and take good care of it.
Initiate the movement by pressing your hips back. Keep your knees soft or slightly bent. Honor the hip hinge and keep your back flat. Engage your core and all kinds of back muscles to make this happen. Lower down to a place where you can always keep those alignments, somewhere shin level (I like kettlebells or a barbell best for RDLs simply because it's easier for me to know when to stop lowering down. They gently tap the floor and I know it's time to come up.). To come up, fire up those glutes and hamstrings!! You should feel the work there as you come up.
I love this banded version of hip abduction, where we'll work the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
Sit tall with the band above the knees. Engage the core and pelvic floor.
Recline a few degrees and start your reps. Press the legs out on the band for about 20 reps, never letting the band go slack. Then sit up straight and do the same thing for 20 reps. Then, hinge forward slightly and repeat for 20 reps there.
The outside of your glutes should be on fire.
Add these three moves into your exercise routine, working your glutes several times a week. In no time, your glutes will be larger and stronger.Stay tuned for a future post on a glute-based workout.
Love + Light.