When it comes to exercise, all of us at Girls Gone Strong are advocates of the Minimum Effective Dose.
We want to give you the biggest bang for your workout buck, and big movements such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, and all of their glorious variations are always top priority when it comes to lower body training.
But… or should I say, butt…. There may be times when you want to add in a little extra glute work without further taxing your legs.
Targeted glute work is fantastic as part of a warm-up for activation or between sets of upper body exercises if you’d like to get some additional work in. Is this absolutely necessary? No. But you may enjoy it, and it might help improve the strength and appearance of your glutes.
Here are five fantastic ways to hit those glutes.
I’ve included a short video demonstration of each movement to ensure you understand it and use proper form.
Many people sit a lot during the day, which can often lead to some sleepy glutes. If this is you, doing some glute activation work during your warm-up is important. The 1-Leg Band Hip Extensions can be performed as part of your glute activation drills, or done on their own as one of your exercises.
Start by looping a band through itself around the bottom of the squat rack, and step inside of the band with one leg. Step back far enough from the rack to make sure that there is plenty of tension on the band. Hold on to the pole of the squat rack, bending forward slightly.
Bring your leg forward, and then push it back only until your hip is extended, where you’ll pause and focus on the contraction.
Focus on deliberate and controlled movement. Avoid violent swinging. Remember, the goal is to target the glutes. If this bothers your back, you are likely bringing your leg back farther than necessary.
Try starting with two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps on each side, working your way up to three to four sets of 12 to 15 reps on each side.
If you’re doing this correctly, it’s a great tool for glute work. Your back will naturally have some involvement, but you should feel this particular exercise primarily in your glutes. This means being very aware of activating your glutes and using them to initiate the movement, rather than using your lower back.
Bring your upper body up only until it’s in line with your lower body, keeping a neutral spine. Perform this movement with excellent awareness and control, taking your time and moving with intention.
Start with your bodyweight only, and eventually you may consider holding a small weight plate.
Try two sets of four to six bodyweight reps on each side.
The biggest mistakes many people make include coming up too far and hyperextending at the top, or aggressively swinging upwards, in addition to initiating the movement with the lower back instead of the glutes.
Pay close attention to your technique, making sure you keep this in the buns (I can’t stress this enough). If you start to really feel this is in your lower back, or if it’s painful, it’s time to stop.
I know, I know. This move is very “Jane Fonda.” I’ll put that out there right now.
Start by kneeling directly in front of the end of a bench so that the end of the bench is touching the tops of your thighs or the crease of your hips.
Put a towel down over the bench, and lay face-down holding on to the sides lightly. You’ll want to rest your forehead on the bench (hence the towel) to prevent tension in your neck.
Knees are bent, but apart, and feet are touching each other (think Froggie legs).
Keeping the knees bent at a 90-degree angle, flex your feet, fire up your glutes, and push the soles of your shoes up to the ceiling.
Start with bodyweight until you get the movement down. Once you’ve got it, you can hold a very light dumbbell between your feet.
Try starting with two to three sets of eight to 10 reps without weight.
You can get some great glute work from the Leg Press machine using one leg at a time.
Place your foot slightly higher than normal, with your toes slightly turned out.
Press through your heel to focus on your glutes.
Try starting with two to three sets of eight to 10 reps on each side.
Say that fast five times. Phew.
Like anything else, you need to slowly work through the proper steps to build up to the final movement, which is the 1-Leg Back and Foot Elevated Bottoms-Up Hip Thrust.
In this video demonstration, you’ll see:
I say “bottoms-up” because you will bring your butt all the way down to the ground to rest for a brief moment, before engaging the glutes to extend your hips again. The brief pause on the ground makes this movement significantly more challenging.
Try starting with two to three sets of eight to 10 reps on each side. Once you are able to do that with fantastic form, consider moving on to the next variation in your next workout.
Just kidding! I’m giving you one more because I couldn’t choose just five.
This movement is not for the faint of heart. It's one of those exercise that you’ll surely love to hate. If you have healthy knees and can do a variety of lunges pain-free—and you’re up for a challenge—this one is for you.
This movement is performed in the Assisted Squat Machine, using one leg at a time to perform a Skater Lunge, which is essentially a single-leg lunge.
Get a feel for this movement by starting without any weight, before attempting to load weight onto the machine.
Try starting with two to three sets of six to eight reps on each side.
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