Your Behind….. De-Fined: My Best Glute Exercises

Let me start by saying I have been putting this post off for a looooooong time. Something about it just didn’t feel right to write about. After all, I technically did not build my butt… I actually come from a long line of short (~5′ tall) big butted, pasta-loving, salted meat-eating, (which I’m sure helps) Italian women. From a young age, family members have patted my butt or made comments about how my dresses or dance recital costumes didn’t quiiiiite fit the same as other girls. But with that said, it doesn’t mean I haven’t put a butt-load (pun intended) of effort into molding, shaping, and lifting my booty into the one I have today. In this post I have curated my best glute exercises! So! Let’s get down to it! In the words of Kayne West:

“Ladies if you follow these instructions exactly
You might be able to pull you a rapper, a NBA player
Man, at least a dude with a car
So first of all we gonna work on the stomach
Nobody wants a little tight assssss”

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A major part of your butt’s appearance is actually dictated by the amount of fat that covers your glutes. (Which is why I started off with my preface that I actually am rocking most of *literally* what my mama gave me.) Much of the female back-side is made up of adipose tissue – i.e. fat. When you break it down, the actual muscles of the female glute are shaped just like men’s. (Juuuuuust in a different in orientation because our pelvis’ are slightly wider.)

When you break it down. There are three main muscles that comprise your butt:

  • The Gluteus Maximus: The largest of the gluteal group. The function of the gluteus maximus is primarily upper leg extension, such as moving the upper leg backward (as in rising from a squat position).
  • The Gluteus Medius: The pork chop-shaped muscle that sits near the outside of your pelvis.
  • & The Gluteus Minimus: The smallest of the glute muscles which lies directly under the gluteus medius.

The gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus perform similar functions, depending on the position of the knee and hip joints. When the knee is extended – they each abduct the thigh (out to the side away from the opposite leg). When the hips are flexed – they internally rotate the thigh. And when the hips are extended – they externally rotate the thigh.

In general, the gluteus maximus is a combination of fast-twitch muscle fibers and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch fibers are rapid-firing fibers that are used for bursts of speed or power. While, slow-twitch fibers are the workhorses during aerobic activities. In comparison, the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus consist primarily of slow-twitch muscle fibers. This means that your glutes can benefit from both strength training with high load and low reps (like heavy squats) to work the fast-twitch muscles, and with endurance exercises (like running and stair climbing) and strength training with low load and high reps to work slow-twitch muscles.

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Walking Lunges

The lunge is a great movement for developing the thighs and strengthening the hips. The muscles used in the lunge are the same as those utilized in the squat, except the lunge provides greater range of motion. This allows for more substantial glute and hamstring development. Lunges target two primary muscles groups:

  • Your hip extensors – which comprise the gluteal muscles (glutes) and hamstrings
  • Your knee extensors – which are the four muscles collectively known as the quadriceps

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The walking lunge is basically an advanced version of the static lunge. First, you step forward with the working leg and drop down into the lunge position. Then, you push through the heel of your front foot, and propel yourself back into a standing position with your feet next to each other. The forward lunge is more challenging than the static lunge because instead of just straightening your knees, you have to power your body back into a standing position all in one continuous, smooth motion as you propel yourself forward.

Kettlebell or Goblet Squats

I like goblet & kettlebell squats because the amount of weight used allows me to go really deep in the hole, pump out high volume reps, or even just pulse to really feel the burn. These types of squats help in toning and strengthening:

  • Your legs
  • Your thighs
  • Your hips
  • Your quads
  • Your lats
  • Your flexors
  • Your calves
  • Your hamstrings
  • Your glute muscles
  • AND  Your core

To complete a goblet/kettlebell squat, first stand holding a the weight close to your chest. (This will be your starting position.) Then squat down between your legs until your hamstrings are on your calves. Keep your chest and head up and your back straight (This is you bottom position.) Finally, pause and use your elbows to push your knees out and return to the starting position.

Barbell Hip Thrust

What’s so great about (and why I love hip thrusts) is that they are very simple. They are also great for progressive overload – which is a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency, or time. Hip thrusts are great because they are a glute exercise designed to improve your: strength, speed, and power (all by teaching you optimal hip extension). They activate your upper and lower glutes to a greater degree than any other exercise and are known for developing a deep burn in the gluteal muscles. Hip thrusts work:

  • Your hamstrings
  • Your glutes
  • Your quads
  • Your lower back
  • Your rectus abdominus
  • Your calves
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(Side Note: This was taken over 2 years ago when Barbell Thrusted 2 plates for the first time – JUST LOOK AT THAT FACE!!!)

First begin by sitting on the ground with a bench directly behind you. Have a loaded barbell over your legs. Roll the bar so that it is directly above your hips and lean back against the bench so that your shoulder blades are near the top of it. (I like to place a bar pad and/or towel under the barbell in order to create some cushion on my hips/pelvis from the weight.) Begin the movement by driving through your feet and extending your hips upward through the bar. Your weight should be supported by your shoulders and your feet. Extend as far as possible and squeeze your glutes at the top, then reverse the motion to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Stiff Legged Deadlift

Deadlifts work the entire backside of your body. Do them right, and they’ll help you build a stronger, more sculpted butt. The primary targets of the stiff-legged dumbbell deadlift are your hamstrings. The hamstrings comprise a group of muscles that run along the back of your thigh. I know what you’re thinking – “But Luisa, I thought we were talking about glutes here??” You’re right, we are – but with strong hamstrings comes strong, LIFTED, PERKY glutes. BUT, like I said earlier, the dumbbell stiff legged deadlifts don’t just work those two muscles, they actually work all of these muscles:

  • Your hamstrings
  • Your gluteus maximus
  • Your back muscles
  • Your abdominal muscles

In order to complete these, grasp a couple of dumbbells holding them by your side at arm’s length. Then, stand with your torso straight, your legs spaced shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. While keeping your knees stationary, lower the dumbbells to over the top of your feet by bending at the waist (hip hinging) while keeping your back straight until you feel a stretch throughout your hamstrings. Then bring your torso up straight again by extending your hips and waist until you are back standing straight.

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