By Leisa Meredith
Whether we want to make our butt smaller, firmer or stronger, most of us have to work our butts pretty damm hard – especially us women!
But what most people don’t understand is just doing squats and lunges will target your quads. Further, if you lift heavy weights and don’t do enough cardio your result will be bigger quads which is not what all women want.
Most people who walk in our doors today, are that quad dominant it can take ages (and lots of tricks) just to have them activate their glutes…let alone train them and get them in shape. Especially if they sit down a lot. Plus they tend to have tight hip flexors, which makes glute activation even harder. So doing squats (further increasing the quad dominance) and sit ups (further tightening of the hip flexors) are the last exercises they should be doing.
This is a major imbalance we see a lot of today that people need to understand or they are extremely likely to be injured and their strength gains will be limited.
If you want to build your glutes, you must do glute isolation exercises to directly target them. Especially in your warm up. If you are not activating your glutes properly, you miss out on working the biggest, most powerful muscle group which means you are not as strong or powerful when we lift or run. Plus that butt will not be getting into the shape you are doing all the hard work for!
More importantly, you dramatically increase your chances of injury. The glutes are comprised of the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, a very powerful muscle group of the human body, controlling many of the major movements of the hip.
When we have weak or inactive glutes we risk injuring ourselves because other muscles that support us in performing movements take over and can become over used and they really not meant to take on that much load. (e.g back, knees).
My Favourite Glute Exercises:
Place a loop band just above your knees and lie on your side. Use your arm to prop yourself up and place your other hand on your hip. Bend your knees and place them together with your feet together. Open your top leg by squeezing your glute while keeping your feet together. Hold for a sec or 2 then lower to the start position. Make sure you keep the rest of your body still while performing the exercise. Do 2 sets of 12-15 reps on each side. (Beginners start without the band).
Lay on your back on the floor or a mat with your legs bent and your feet flat on the ground. Make sure you start by activating your glutes and core before you begin by sucking your lower tummy into the floor to flatten your back and thrusting your pelvis forward. Concentrate on using your glutes to raise your hips and don’t hyper extend your lower back. Mix it up by elevating your feet or placing a band around your legs above your knees or a soccer ball between your knees. Do 12-15 reps as part of every warm up.
Put a band around your legs just over your knees so that it’s tight when you’re standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Then slightly squat (Like you are riding a horse) and step to one side using your glute medius (top outer part) to move. Keep the toes pointed forward and don’t let the knees cave in, you want the band to be tight throughout the whole movement. Do 10 steps to the right and 10 steps to the left and do 4-5 sets. If it’s too easy , place the band around your ankles.
Start on your hands and knees with your knees positioned directly under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. While keeping your knee bent and foot flexed bring your leg back by driving your heal up towards the roof. Make sure you keep your core tight by drawing your tummy into your spine and don’t let your back arch. Really squeeze your glute to lift your leg. Keep your arms straight and bring your leg straight back (without it rotating). Hold your leg at the top for a count of 1000 and one and imagine you a putting a foot print on the ceiling. 15 reps each leg and do 3 sets. Progress to adding ankle weights.
Start with a wide stance. Do half a squat and concentrate on squeezing your butt cheeks as you come up. Breathe out at the same time. 20 reps and do three sets. Add a 50m run in between each set.
Lean forward and try to touch the ground. Exhale as you push back. Alternate legs. 20 reps and do three sets. Do some upper body exercises between sets.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Stand in front of a bench. Place your toe/foot on the bench behind you, lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor with a slight lean of 45%, with a straight line from your butt to your head. This then becomes a glute dominate exercise. Place a pad or a bosu under your foot to make it harder. Note: if you are not far enough forward this will target the quads instead. 45 seconds on each leg with a 15 second break in between. 3-4 sets. Add a 50m run in between each set.
When you have mastered your bridges, it’s time to take it up a notch. Lay on a bench supporting your shoulders/upper back. Place your heels on another bench, so you can go up and down with both butt cheeks kissing the ground. Concentrate on using your glutes to raise your hips and don’t hyper extend your lower back. Add weight as you progress. 10-12 reps, 3 sets.
Once you have strengthened your glutes, start adding in quad dominant days like squats and lunges.