Glute training seems to have gained some increased prominence over the last couple of years, progressing from the attitude of “squats have me covered” to recognizing the benefits of targeting the glutes with direct isolation work as well.
There are various reasons why this could be. The recent increase in the number of females taking up weight training could be a major factor, as could the rise of the ‘belfie’ on Instagram. Whatever the reasons, there are a few more toned butts around this year than there was last year, and that can only be a good thing!
Here we’ll take a look at the basic anatomy, and cover some of the best mass building exercises for glutes, including the big compound lifts and the isolation exercises which will help tighten, tone and grow these muscles.
Basic Anatomy of the Glutes
The area contains 3 main muscles – the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. The largest of the three is the gluteus maximus, which is responsible for the extension of the upper leg.
The gluteus medius and minimus perform largely similar functions, which are dependent on the positioning of the hip and knees. When your knee is extended, they work to push your leg outwards. When your hips are flexed, they help rotate the thigh inwards. And, when running they help to stabilize your legs.
To fully develop the glutes we need to target each of the muscles effectively, using a variety of angles and motions. This will allow us to develop strength and size across the glutes, which will help with lifts like the squat, sports and running, and filling out those new jeans!
Eat, Sleep, Train
We’ve covered this already in our mass building series (if you haven’t seen them already check out our guides to adding mass to the back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, legs and calves), but if you’re looking to add size, you need to get your nutrition and your rest right as well as your training.
In terms of eating, look to eat at a slight caloric surplus – 200-300 over maintenance is ideal for a slow, controlled increase. Use My Fitness Pal or a similar service to keep track of our food intake and track our weight regularly.
Aim to get plenty of protein too. We usually recommend 0.8g of protein per pound of body weight, but feel free to up that to 1g per lb to play it safe.
Finally, make sure you’re sleeping well. Few things derail a diet and training programme quite like a poor night’s sleep, so aim to optimise this part of your life and you’ll really see the benefits. We always recommend ‘Sleep Smarter’, as it covers just about every way you can improve your sleep and your nighttime routine.
Creating Your Glute Workout for Mass
Below we’ve listed what we feel are the best exercises for glute development out there, including compound exercises like the squat and some great isolation movements. The barbell squat should be at the core of your leg training, glute training, weight training in general and your life in general, so try to include it!
Pick out 3-4 exercises and aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
- Lift the barbell from the rack, placing it across your shoulders and upper back
- Your feet should be a little wider than shoulder-width, with the knees and toes slightly outward
- Keeping our core tight, slowly lower yourself by bending at the hips and knees as is sitting down
- Go as low as you can without losing control of your balance of shifting your weight towards your toes
- Pause very briefly at the bottom of the movement before pushing back up to the starting position
- Lie flat on you back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent
- Lift your butt and your hips from the floor, keeping your glutes and your core tight
- Pause briefly at the top of the movement before lowing yourself back to the floor
Body Leg Lifts
- Balance against a pole or a tall bench while keeping your core tight
- Raise one leg off the ground and behind you, while the other leg holds your weight
- Slowly lower your leg before raising it back up again, focusing on flexing the glutes
- Repeat for your other leg once you’ve completed the target reps
One-Legged Cable Kickback
- Attach an ankle cuff to a low pulley on the cable tower machine
- Set up by facing the weight with a tight core and a slight bend in your knees
- Kick your ankle back in a controlled arc, lifting it as high as you can
- Return to the starting position and repeat for the target reps
- Repeat for the other leg
One Leg Squat with Barbell
- Set up with a box or a bench around 12-18 inches behind you – a higher box will make it more difficult
- Lift a barbell off the rack, placing it across the back and shoulders
- Rest one foot on the bench and place the other on the floor 2-3 feet in front
- Keep your core tight and lower yourself slowly by bending the front knee and the hip as you would when squatting
- Go as low as you can while maintaining your balance
- Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement before pushing yourself back up to the starting position
- Repeat for your target reps, then repeat for the other leg
- Set up with either a dumbbell in each hand or a barbell across your back and shoulders
- Your feet should be around 8 inches apart with your toes pointing forwards
- Take a step forward while keeping your upper body straight and your core tight
- Lower your back knee towards the ground in a controlled manner while keeping your front knee at 90 degrees
- Lower yourself until your knee almost touches the ground then push yourself back up
- Repeat the movement for the other side
Rear Lunges with Barbell
- Set up the rack with a barbell around chest height
- Take the bar onto your shoulders and upper back, with your hands just outside shoulder width
- Your feet should be roughly 8 inches apart and your toes pointing forward
- Take a step back with your right leg in a controlled manner
- Keeping your upper body straight and your core tight, lower yourself until the right knee almost touches the ground
- Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement before pushing yourself back up
- Repeat the movement for the other leg