By Amber Dawn Orton
Whether or not your training for a show, dieting for a vacation, or starring at men in tight football pants, most people admire strong, muscular, "hard" glutes. Having nice glutes has been an area of focus for both men and woman but this has been recently amplified by the focus put on this specific area in women's bodybuilding, primarily- bikini competitions. You may have heard the term "glute-hammie-tie-in" once or twice before which is just the new popular way to describe the area where the glutes meet the hamstrings. This can be one of the toughest places for a women to not only build muscle but also to burn fat from, making it a very challenging area to "bring in" to a show, and is often the determining factor between a top athlete and an amateur.
So whats the secret to glute training? Honestly I don't believe their is one "secret" method to developing nice glutes. But I will explain what I have found works for me...
The first thing one must understand when focusing development on any particular part of the body is that everyone bio mechanical make-up is different. Meaning a certain exercise may engage one muscle over another for one individual versus another individual. For example, I rarely get sore in my glute tissues from heavy squats. However, I ALWAYS get sore in my glute tissues from heavy weighted walking lunges. Others may feel heavy weighted walking lunges more in their quad tissue than their glute tissue, but again, this comes down to your bio mechanics and what muscle is easier actively engaged within certain exercises. That being said, start to pay attention to where you actively feel muscle engagement while implementing your next glute focused leg day. Over time you will begin to understand which exercises are best for your specific build.
Now there are some exercises I truthfully believe are the best for building the glutes regardless of who you are, but that does not mean you do not need a combination of these or more exercises to really target all aspects of each of the glute muscles. I do think different angles of weighted kick backs, weighted versions of split squats, weighted lunges, plea style leg presses, weighted step ups, and different versions of deadlifts are very beneficial to developing all angles of the glute tissue. However, for optimal glute development - what you shouldn't forget about is the unweighted movements that should be implemented along with these basic weighted movements. Its actually been proven that most individual's glutes contract harder during body weight glute activation exercises than from one-rep max squats and deadlifts, so I will often times superset my weighted movements with an unweighted movement to force more blood flow into the glute muscle and therefor help with muscle engagement and growth. For example, I may superset heavy weighted smith machine donkey kicks with body-weighted hip thrusters or even body-weighted deep squats. And don't forget, with glute focus you should always sit back as much as possible when you squat and push through your heels.
As I mentioned earlier, most female competitors are focused on the "glute-hammie-tie-in" . It is very important to work the glutes but also the surrounding muscles- the hamstrings, adductors, abductors, and quad muscles. However, depending on your purpose for training you should ask yourself what the desired "look" you are going for is in terms of glute training. In other words, are you training for aesthetics? Strength? Speed? Performance? If you are training purely for aesthetic purposes you may want to place more emphasis on direct glute work along with a little hamstring work and less emphasis on "legs". Anytime you train to develop a surrounding body part of a focus muscle group, you can unintentionally make the focus muscle look smaller in comparison to the muscle tissue surrounding the area. For example, if you train legs to develop bigger quads and hamstrings, this can cause the glute muscles to look smaller relative to your leg muscles. So therefor when implementing any training program you should ask yourself what your primary goal of training is. Everyone has different goals in developing the body and therefor everyone should train specific to his/her personal desires.
As for my personal background, I tend to develop leg muscles fairly easily. My quads develop extremely easily and therefor I rarely ever implement any direct quad work into my lifting routines. I also have developed plenty of hamstrings to not need any more mature muscle development in that area. Again, I want to push the point that I train for the sport I compete in, bikini bodybuilding, and for the look I personally desire to further my career and personal preference. That being said, I do 1-2 glute focused leg days a week with the addition of some light hamstring work.
Below is an example of what a glute focused leg day may look like for me:
Warm Up: 5 min incline walk, 5 min jog
3 x 20 deep bodyweighted squats supersetted with plea style leg press
3 x 15 sumo deadlifts supersetted with weighted bulgarian split squats
3 x 15 smith machine "donkey kicks" supersetted with bodyweighted hip thrusts
3 x 10/leg weighted walking lunges supersetted with single legged leg press
3 x 15 barbell glute bridge supersetted with weighted freebar squats
End with 4 sets of bodyweighted hyperextensions