A smart guy once said “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and glute building work in all of Trish’s programs.”
That smart guy was Benjamin Franklin. Let’s tip our hat to the man; he was way ahead of his time. 😉
Now before we get balls deep into this post, be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the glute training series. Part 3 is where we get into the juicy details and I want you fully prepared. These six exercises are the bedrock of my booty building programs. There are of course, many variations, progressions and regressions of these exercises. However, I selected these in particular to give you a feel for what a beginner, intermediate, advanced and “free for all” type of exercise I prefer to give my clients.
Six essential exercises for bigger, stronger glutes
Banded glute bridge with abduction
Level: Beginner to intermediate
This is a great beginners exercise due to its simplicity. The glute bridge sans band is a staple for every level, and helps hone in hip extension and glute activation. With the band around the knees, trainees are more cognizant of activating the abductors while preventing the knees from caving in. A simple progression from here is to add abductions at the end of the glute bridge to strengthen the muscles around the hip. So you might do 10-15 banded glute bridges and at the end, add in 20-25 abductions that will make your butt scream “Why do you hate me?!”
See video: Glute bridge with abduction
Barbell hip thrust
A common mistake among newbies is to jump straight to this variation before trying unloaded hip thrusts on the bench, which are just as challenging and teach you to thrust with your glutes rather than your low back (another rookie mistake). Research has shown that loaded hip thrusts can turn your buttocks into envious buns of steel. Due to a heavier load, keep the rep scheme on the lower end (5-8) and use a pad under the barbell so you don’t crush your hips or a nerve.
Stability ball hamstring curl
A stronger, bigger backside means training hamstrings too. Many lifters have a hard time activating the hamstrings, no matter how strong they are. The simplicity of this exercise helps us feel our hamstrings more because it’s just you and gravity, baby. I like to switch between using both legs to curl the ball in (a basic version) and a single-leg variation. The single-leg will showcase any weaknesses or imbalances right away. It’s a great exercise to revisit even as an advanced trainee, especially those with “dead” hammies. Aim for a rep range of 12-15 for hypertrophy or 20-25 for muscle
This is another staple exercise for everyone. This simple move strengthens the gluteus medius without stressing the spine, hips, or pelvis. To set up: The spine should be in line with the hip; both hips stacked on top of the other, and the bottom oblique pulled up and away from the floor. In Pilates, keeping an active powerhouse (Pilates term for “core”) is an essential part of the method. There’s never a moment where you’re just resting and chilling out. If you can avoid that in the clamshell, you can create more stability throughout the pelvis while learning to engage the stabilization muscles in your trunk. Aim for 10-20 reps depending on what other exercises you’re doing. Also note, you can do this without the band so it’s a do-anywhere exercise any time of day.
See video: Banded clamshells
Banded single leg RDL
Level: Intermediate to advanced
A single-leg RDL is hard enough for most people to execute, so before throwing in a band, be sure you can do it band-less with proficiency. The band makes this exercise more challenging without having to add more load. It also acts as a feedback cue to keep your booty engaged and prevent the knee from flaring out (which is also a byproduct of turning your hip upwards instead of facing them toward the floor.) Rep range from 6-12 depending on whether or not you’re adding external load.
Reverse frog hyper
Another excellent bodyweight exercise for every level. I prefer to do this on a flat bench as most gyms don’t have a hyper machine. Be sure to press your pubic bone down on the bench and lift your navel up and away from it. As you lift the legs up, maintain a strong connection between the heels and avoid lifting so high that you start feeling your low back. In fact, take your low back out of it! Spine is neutral the whole time, so quit looking up into a mirror and just keep your forehead down. To spice this up, you can also do a straight leg variation (so no more frog) with our without a band around the knees. I like to use this as a cue for trainees that might otherwise not feel their abductors during this exercise and need to up the challenge a bit. Rep scheme can range from the mid to high end.
But Trish, when should I do these?
Use these exercises as accessory movements after your big lifts, and try to focus on 1-2 exercises per muscle. For example, if your workout starts with the squat, which uses more of the gluteus maximus, you might want to follow that with stability ball hamstring curls and clamshells. On a heavy day of deadlifts, your accessory work might include glute bridge with abduction, banded single leg RDLs, or some variation of the hip thrust.
In a full-body workout, I prefer to throw 2-3 exercises that target the glutes without neglecting other movements like pulls, pushes and carries. A workout like this might look like:
A1) Front squat
B1) Barbell Hip Thrust
B2) Face pull
C1) Goblet squat
C2) Swiss ball hamstring curl
C3) Pallof press
A1) Conventional deadlifts
B1) Speed deadlifts
C1) Push press
C2) Banded clamshells
C3) DB row
D1) Farmer’s carry
These sample workouts focus on the two main lifts (squat and deadlift) but it doesn’t mean the upper body gets zero love. Between rows, carries, goblet squats, face pulls, and deadlifts, the back, biceps and abs get plenty of attention in these two days. Typically, I’d also include an upper body day in between to get the rest of the push and pull exercises I want trainees to focus on. So to answer the question “how do I use these exercises?” the answer is “It depends.”
It depends on your experience level, your goals, how many days you can train and for how long. There is no cookie-cutter program out there that will get you instant results. A strong booty takes time to build but with consistency, you can keep making those gains and avoid a lifetime of pancake butt.
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