Long before Kim Kardashian snapped her first selfie, working out to develop shapely glutes has always been a priority for most women. But just because a magazine cover promises to reveal to you the secrets to developing glutes like your favorite celebrity, this does not necessarily mean you can develop a figure exactly like hers. Anyone can, however, make significant changes in their glute development.
There is an increasing amount of research being performed in the field of exercise science about the effects of various glute exercises, but they have their limitations. For example, it is hard to make absolute conclusions about the effectiveness of glute exercises with EMG studies, especially those using surface electrodes, because of the limitations of this type of research.
As for athletic performance, when it comes to glutes, what you see is not necessarily what you get. The glutes are a bit like the calves in that the size of the muscle group does not necessarily reflect its strength. A bodybuilder would want a low muscle attachment so that the bulk of the muscle would be in the center of the calf to give the illusion of greater size, but for athletes a high attachment would provide better leverage for running and jumping. Likewise, it’s possible that athletes who can hoist tremendously heavy deadlifts and have high vertical jumps may not have exceptional gluteal development.
For those interested in aesthetics, specifically women, here are 10 points to consider when designing a workout program to develop exceptional glutes.
1. Losing fat can improve the appearance of your glutes. Just as developing the abdominal muscles will not do you much good if they are covered with a layer of fat, simply reducing body fat can make a tremendous difference in the appearance of the glutes. Just watch any figure competition and you’ll see the one common characteristic of all the competitors with exceptional glute development is that they also have low bodyfat.
2. Steady-state aerobic training can be detrimental to glute development. Steady-state aerobic training can compromise muscle development, and underneath every pleasing curve on a body is a muscle. You can still perform energy system training to help you lose weight, of course, but the most protocols to help the body burn fat for fuel use short- and intermediate energy systems (ATP-CP and glycolytic). In this regard, sprinting is a great way to develop the glutes, but it can be impractical. However, many gyms now have pushing sleds that enable you to precisely overload the exercise. For best results, focus on using a 45-degree angle of the torso in relation to the sled.
3. Glutes should be worked throughout a full range of motion. Partial-range training does have benefits, especially in the area of strength development, but for optimal glute development you should perform exercises throughout a full range of motion. This is especially true with exercises such as back squats, front squats, split squats and step-ups – exercises that are often performed with a limited range of motion in order to use more weight. Also, performing limited-range exercises could create structural imbalances that can adversely affect posture and athletic performance.
4. Glutes respond well to heavy weights. Many trainees don’t get good results from some excellent glute exercises because they don’t use a significant amount of resistance. Examples include back extensions and glute-ham raises. The bottom line: To get great glutes, you need to pump some heavy iron!
5. There is no one ideal training protocol for glute development. For maximal gluteus maximus development, or development of any of the glute muscles, you need to use a variety of training intensities (high reps and low reps) to work all your muscle fibers to their full development. The glutes contain both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, and developing both of these types of fibers requires a variety of training protocols that include low reps/heavy weights and high reps/medium weights.
6. The glutes response best to a variety of exercises. It is a myth that there is one specific, ultimate exercise for the glutes; you have to allow for various factors such as resistance curves and angles of pull. Yes, back extensions with bent legs are great for the glutes, but so are lunges Romanian deadlifts. Also, consider that if you perform pelvic bridges for your glutes you will also be using your hamstrings – there is no such thing as a true isolation exercise for the glutes.
7. Structural imbalances influence glute training. Poor posture mobility restrictions affects your ability to perform many glute-building exercises properly. For example, excessive tightness in the psoas, a muscle involved in flexing the hip, will restrict the range of motion in exercises that strongly affect the glutes. Further, some isolation exercises for the glutes can present a high risk if performance improperly, especially for those who have an excessive anterior pelvic tilt to begin with.
7. Soft tissue work may improve your glute training workouts. Adhesions and scar tissue often develop with training over time. As such, you may need soft-tissue bodywork such as Active Release Techniques® to deal with adhesions and other issues that interfere with range of motion and muscle fiber activation.
9. Glute isolation exercises don’t transfer well to many athletic movements. Just as performing leg extensions, leg curls and back extensions are not as effective as squatting to improve squats, athletes should focus on compound exercises for glute development. One reason is that the resistance curves of some glute isolation movements don’t match the resistance curves of compound movements. As for machine exercises, the fixed, the stable positions inherent in such equipment may reduce the work of the numerous synergistic muscles that work with the glutes in many athlete movements.
10. Cross-training can improve glute development. Many athletes such as figure skaters, sprinters and gymnasts have excellent glute development, so consider how other athletic activities outside the gym might affect your glutes when you want to get out of the gym to train. In the Iron Game, weightlifters and powerlifters often display exceptional glute development from their competitive and assistance exercises.
Glute training is of special interest to women who want to firm their glutes and for athletes who want to train these muscles to improve athletic performance. Follow the advice in this article and then go ahead and take some great selfies!