Follow any fitness trainer on social media and you’ve probably found a glute workout on their feed. While the popularity of working on your bum muscles might stem from a desire to get bigger muscles and curves, it turns out that there are more benefits to glute training than just bigger lower body muscles.
Research shows that glutes are extremely important for activities of daily living, explosive movements, and the stability of many joints in the body. In addition, glutes serve two important functions: stabilisation and mobilisation. They produce force and power for movements, as well as control said movements within the functional range of motion.
“Remember: the glutes are the largest muscle in our bodies. You need to pay them attention,” says Emma Obayuvana, Strong Women ambassador. “If your glutes are weak, that can translate across your whole body.”
What are the best glute exercises?
1. Hip thrusts
“One move that gets really deep into the glutes is a hip thrust, but with your back resting against a bench rather than on the floor. That increases the range of motion, so when you dip down your hips have to travel further, increasing how hard the muscles have to work. You can do them using bodyweight or add a barbell across the hips for extra resistance,” says Obayuvana.
How to do hip thrusts:
- Sit on the floor with your shoulder blades against a bench or step. If you’re adding a dumbbell or a barbell, balance it on your hips.
- Keeping your chin tucked in, push up through your hips to lift your bum off the floor.
- Clench your bum at the top – your shoulders, hips and knees should be in a straight line.
- Lower back down in a slow, controlled movement. That’s one rep.
Do four sets of 12 reps
2. Split squats and curtsy lunges
How to do curtsy lunges:
- Stand with your feet placed underneath your hips and your arms clasped in front of your chest.
- Engage your core, lift your right foot off the floor and take a big step back – towards the outside of your left foot.
- Bend at the knees until your right knee lightly taps the floor behind your left foot.
- Drive through your feet to reverse the movement and return to the start position. That’s one rep.
Do 10 reps on each side
“I’d categorise your glute work into activation and strengthening. To activate the glute maximum, I do bodyweight hip thrusts; for the glute medius clams or abductions are great to stimulate the muscle,” says fitness trainer Caroline Bragg.
How to do a clamshell:
- Lie on your left side with your hips and knees bent at 45 degrees.
- Stack your right leg on top of your left leg, heels together.
- Keeping your feet together and left leg on the floor, raise your right knee as high as you can without your heels coming apart.
- Pause, then return to the starting position. That’s one rep.
4. Sumo squats
“For building strength, I’d go for sumo squats. Using the sumo position, turning the toes out and making your stance wider, you’ll hit your glutes rather than your quads. You can do them bodyweight, but adding load makes it more challenging,” says Bragg.
How to do a sumo squat:
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed out at 45 degrees, torso leaned slightly forward.
- Inhale as you bend your knees and sink your hips down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Exhale and drive through your heels back to starting position. That’s one rep. Make it harder by adding a dumbbell or kettlebell.
Try to do eight to 15 reps
5. Glute bridge
The glute bridge is important because it strengthens the muscles in the posterior chain, explains Obayuvana.
How to do a glute bridge:
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent.
- Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips off of the floor until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Pause at the top, then lower back down to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Aim for three to four sets of 15 to 25 reps.
Why train your glutes?
“As a population, our glutes are quite lazy because we spend so much time sitting on them. If our posterior chain is weak it’s more likely that our anterior, the muscles on the front of the body, will take over,” explains Bragg.
“That means your quads will take all the load and end up extra tight, so you’ll be imbalanced. For some people, it might lead to pelvic instability or even injury.”
Plus, they support your lower back, adds Obayuvana. “So your glutes need to be strong for when you’re lifting, both at the gym or in your everyday life. Strong glutes can also prevent knee injuries, and they’re important for proper pelvic alignment. It’s such a big muscle and it affects so many parts of our body. It’s important to protect them in order to stay free from injuries.”
How often should you train your glutes?
“It’s important to train them a couple of times a week to elicit growth, but if you’re thinking about growing that muscle then make sure each session includes a lot of resistance,” says Obayuvana.
“Keep the weight high and your rep low to work on strength. Remember, it’s such a huge muscle that it needs adequate time to rest and recover from that hard work. So no more than twice a week.”
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Images: Sarah Brick
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).