While squats, deadlifts, and lunges do the booty good they don’t fully maximize glute activation mainly because these are compound movements. Squats for example focus in working the entire lower body which includes quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. So in order to really step up those glute gains you really need to focus on performing glute exercises that ISOLATE and FULLY ENGAGE your glutes along with compound movements.
Performing a combination of compound and isolation is key if you want to build your glutes, this is especially true if you are quad dominant.
About the Glutes
The glutes are composed of three gluteal muscles:
- Gluteus maximus (biggest)
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus (smallest)
These 3 muscles work together to abduct, extend, and rotate the hips. So they are incredibly important! Especially when most of us have desk jobs that require us to be sitting all day. This leads to weak and underworked glutes.
While some of the benefits of strengthening and sculpting the booty include filling in your favorite pair of jeans, there are so much more benefits to strong glutes.
Some benefits of strong glutes include:
- Alleviate Back Pain: The glutes stabilize the pelvis and movement in the hip joint. So Having Strong glutes reliefs a burden that would otherwise be put on your lower back.
- Beat Hip & Knee Pain: Having strong glutes prevents the pelvis from swaying from side-to-side. This helps prevent added pressure on your knees and ankles.
- Enhance Athletic Performance: Strong glutes improves agility, side-to-side movements, speed, and explosive power.
Glute Building Key Components
- Activate your glutes: The main purpose of glute activations is to “wake-up your glutes” so that they actually do their job and perform during all exercises and prevents your quads from taking over, this is especially important if you are quad dominant. If you have never performed glute activation before make sure to check out my glute activation post were I go deep into details.
- Muscle to mind connection: This is where the mind meets the body communicating to help cause a contraction. Instead of just pushing the weight it’s important to really focus and think about the muscle working. The more you think about the muscles working the more fibers you will recruit thus the better results you will get.
- Use bands for extra resistance: I love using resistance bands because they add tension instead of just gravity pulling down. These are the bands I use for during my glute workouts.
- Confuse your glutes: Muscle confusion is essential to prevent plateaus, confuse your muscles by adding more weight, switching up the number of sets or reps you do, or changing up the order of your exercises.
- Progressive Overload: To continue improving and seeing growth it’s important to implement progressive overload. Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed on the body. In other words, you need to continually challenge your body as you progress and as your lifts become easier to perform to prevent plateaus. You can do this by steadily increasing the weight or reps.
Top Exercises to Build that Booty
Okay now let’s look into the fun stuff – the TOP and BEST Exercises to BUILD the glutes!
As previously mentioned, if your primary goal is to build your glutes you will need to perform both compound and isolation exercises while also implementing a PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD.
Like I mentioned before squats, deadlifts, and lunges alone will NOT maximize your glute growth primarily because these are compound movements. Compound movements will work your whole lower body instead of just one specific body part.
However, there are some compound movements that focus and activate the glutes MORE than others.
Side Note: Always perform your compound movements BEFORE your isolation exercises. Doing isolation workouts first will lead to a weaker compound lift.
Exercise 1: Hip Thrust — Compound
The number one compound movement for glutes are HIP THRUST these are one of the best exercises for glute growth. According to some research by Bret Contreras, hip thrust activates 100% maximum voluntary contraction compared to squats which only activate 50%-70% maximum.
Therefore, hip thrust do a good job in activating and hitting the glutes at a greater extent than your traditional squat. The main muscles worked in this exercise are the glutes and hamstrings.
Side Note: Play around with foot placement to determine where you feel your glutes activating the most. For example, I feel my glutes more at a wider stance vs a narrow stance (shoulder width)
- Start with your shoulder blades against a bench, and your arms spread across
- Take a big breath in and out and brace your core.
- Squeeze your glutes, lift up your hips, and hold a second or two and repeat
Exercise 2: Bulgarian Split Squat — Compound
Another beneficial compound movement to include in your glute routine is the Bulgarian split squat. Being that this exercise is hip-dominant it heavily works the glutes and hamstrings. In addition, the Bulgarian split squat is also a unilateral exercise which can help balance any asymmetries that are likely to develop from squats or any other bilateral exercises.
Side Note: Foot placement is very important a longer step length will make this exercise more hip-dominant while a shorter step length will make this exercise more knee dominant which will work your quads more rather than your glutes and hamstrings. See below for reference.
- Position yourself in a forward lunge position with torso upright, core braced and hips square to your body
- Place your back foot elevated on the bench.
- Place your leading leg half a meter or so in front of the bench –Keep in mind, that the closer you stand to the bench the more emphasis on the quads. Stand further away to focus on the glutes and hamstrings.
- Lower until your front thigh is almost horizontal, keeping your knee in line with your foot.
In order to maximize glute muscle growth in addition to your compound movements, you will also need to perform some isolation exercises to really focus and fully engage your glutes.
Exercise 3: Quadruped Hip Extension – Isolation
The quadruped hip extension builds strength through the legs with an emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings. Add a band for extra tension and/or a dumbbell for a challenge. This can also be done with a smith machine, it is easier to overload using the smith machine.
- Position hands directly under the shoulder and knees under the hips
- Lift one leg at a time keeping trunk and pelvis still and relaxed
- Kneeling on your hands and knees and begin with your back in a neutral position
Exercise 4: Glute Bridge – Isolation
The glute bridge is not only super effective but it is also easy to perform and can be done with no equipment. The key to this exercise is to control the movement and really focus on using the glutes to power up the whole movement.
Side Note: Like hip thrust, foot placement can also vary from person to person. For example, I feel my glutes fully activated when my feet are placed at a wider stance. So play around with foot placement and see what works for you to fully activate your glutes.
- Lie flat on the floor on your back with the hands by your side and your knees bent. Your feet placed at shoulder width
- Pushing with your heels, lift your hips off the floor while keeping your back straight.
- Slowly go back to the starting position as you breathe in and repeat
Build a Booty Sample Workout
Compound: Hip thrust: 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps
Compound: Bulgarian Split Squat: 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
Isolation: Quadruped Hip Extension: 3 sets of 15-20 reps
Isolation: Glute Bridge: 3 sets of 15-20 reps