Powering the Butt: Glute Exercises for your Whole Body
We live in a society built on the power of the butt. Aside from their attractiveness, all the physical labor that we do is predicated on the major muscle group in our butt, the gluteal muscles (“the glutes”), extending, rotating, and stabilizing our hips. Many issues that people have with the rest of their legs and their lower backs can be attributed to their poor posteriors, so it’s important to work on building and strengthening all parts of this muscle group.
Deadlifts are a great exercise, especially for the gluteus maximus, the largest of the gluteal muscles; the main power generated in the deadlift comes from the gluteus maximus. Deadlifts strengthen the multiple muscle groups and are an incredibly functional exercise, as we often find ourselves picking objects up off the floor in a manner similar to a standard deadlift. The gluteus maximus muscle also is responsible for most of the shapeliness of the buttocks, in case you needed any more reason to convince yourself that you should be doing deadlifts!
The deadlift can also be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettle bells. It’s important to concentrate on form and not try to overload yourself. For the standard barbell deadlift, you are going to approach the barbell with your feet hip-width apart. Starting the motion at your hips (like you are going to sit down in a chair), bend down and grab the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and your arms straight. Your legs will also be bent to almost a full squat. The barbell will start at your shins. Make sure that your back stays straight and that your shoulders are pulled back. Your chest will begin to rise and the barbell will rise with it. You will want to shift your weight onto your heels, engaging your hamstring muscles.
Once you have lifted the bar up to around your hip level and are standing upright, you have completed one repetition and are ready to bring the weight back down to the ground. You are going to want to follow the same guidelines for lowering the weight as you did for lifting it, just in the reverse order. The main thing to remember when performing the deadlift is to keep your back straight and not try to lift the weight with your arms, but with your legs; the deadlift is a simple movement of bending down and picking up a heavy weight.
Romanian deadlifts are a variation of the deadlift that put even more focus on the glutes. Instead of starting with a weight on the floor and picking it up off the ground with our knees bent, you start a Romanian deadlift already holding the weight, in a very similar position to the finished standing position in a regular deadlift. You typically use a barbell for this, but dumbbells and kettle bells work just fine. From a standing position with knees about shoulder-width apart and knees just slightly bent, slowly lower the weight, hinging at the hip, until your degree of flexibility won’t allow you to lower the weight anymore without letting your back and shoulders round; use your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back to then bring you back to a standing position.
Hip thrusts have become more and more popular for focusing on the glutes. Find a weight bench and a weight (a barbell with a foam barbell pad is great for this) with which you feel comfortable. Place your upper back against the bench and rest the weight on your upper thigh area, securing it with your hands. Make sure your soles of your shoes are on the ground with knees bent.
Once you’re in position, extend and straighten your hips, which will have the effect of bringing your buttocks and the weight up off the ground; slowly return your buttocks to the ground to complete the exercise. You should feel your glutes and hamstrings doing the work here!
If you’re wary of using a weight or don’t have a weight bench with which to do hip thrusts, a single-leg glute bridge is another great exercise you can use. Lie down on the ground and bend your knees so that the soles of your shoes are firmly on the floor. Extend one of your legs out straight and keep it raised so that your thighs are still parallel. Like the hip thrust, your next movement will be extending and straightening the hips, though one leg will be doing the work of bringing your hips off the ground. The uneven nature of the single-leg glute bridge requires the stabilizing muscles in your hips and abdomen to work extra hard, making it a great core exercise.
While the previous exercises mostly on the gluteus maximus, the single-leg glute bridge and the banded side-lying clamshell are great for working our other glutes. To do the banded side-lying clamshell, grab a resistance band and lie down on your side; bend your knees to about a 45-degree angle and wrap the resistance band around them.
In a slow, controlled motion, rotate at the hip to bring your top knee up toward the ceiling, then slowly bring your knee back to the starting position. Assuming you haven’t done these before, you should really feel this exercise in your hip and buttock area. Incorporate these exercises into your workout regularly and you will soon begin to feel the power of your butt!