Coaches and athletes can integrate glute training within warm-up segments, glute activation series, and hypertrophy/accessory blocks to increase muscular hypertrophy and glute engagement. The benefits of powerful, engaged glutes have a strong correlation with posterior chain strength, power, and overall athletic performance.
While adding additional loading to common glute exercises can surely be beneficial, strength, power and fitness athletes can also master and integrate non-weighted glute exercises (such as the ones below) and expect many of the same exercise benefits.
In this article, we will discuss:
- 6 Ways to Train Glutes Without Weights
- How to Integrate Non-Weighted Glute Training into Workout Programs
- 8 Glute Exercises to Do Without Weights
6 Ways to Train Glutes Without Weights
Below are six (6) ways coaches and athletes can train the glutes (and build muscle and strength) without weights (barbells, dumbbells, machines, kettlebells, etc).
Isometric training is when the muscle itself is contracting and working against tension yet not producing joint flexion or extension. Movements like wall sits, planks, and glute bridge holds all require isometric strength and control. Isometrics can help to increase muscle firing patterns, help a lifter/athlete learn to engage and feel proper muscle activation, and often be used to make beginner and intermediate exercises more challenging.
Tempo training can be done to increase time under tension, enhance muscle coordination and control, and help attack weak areas within the full range of motion. Tempo training can be applied to nearly every exercise below and require no additional loading.
Mini-bands and/or resistance bands can be used to add tension to a movement and also help to increase muscular firing patterns to help maximize glute engagement. Exercises like hip raises and glute bridges can be done while wearing a mini-band to further place demands upon the glutes (in this case the glutes must stay engaged to resist the knee from collapsing inwards).
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High Volume Training
Increased repetitions and total sets can help to take a standard non-weighted glute exercise to the next level. Exercise like lunges, hip raises, and glute bridges all can be done for higher volumes (for example, 300 walking lunges for time); note that some exercises done in higher volumes may also stress the hamstrings and quadriceps just as much as the glutes (such as doing 300 walking lunges for time)
Unilateral variations of the hip raise, glute bride, and lunges allow a lifter to distribute more loading to one glute than the other without needing to increase tension via external loads. Unilateral exercises, which can also be paired with tempos, bands, and isometrics, are a great way to increase muscle hypertrophy, endurance, and address asymmetries.
Manual resistance training can be one way to increase tension and “loading” on movements like clam shells, quadruped hip extension, and lying leg raises without the usage of weights. Manual resistance allows a lifter (and their partner) to work against one another to create increased tension that can be adjusted based on fatigue levels to fully fatigue a muscle and inspire muscle growth.
How to Integrate Non-Weighted Glute Training into Workout Programs
When looking to integrate non-weighted glute exercises within a program, coaches and athletes have a few options as to when and how they can perform them. In the above section we discussed five (5) methods that can be used to increase the difficulty of the below glute exercises without needing additional loading.
Coaches and athletes can integrate non-weighted exercise within training programs similarly to how they would with weighted variations, most commonly during glute activation/warm-up segments or later in workouts done in higher repetition ranges (muscular hypertrophy and endurance).
Due to the lack of loading, many strength, power, and fitness athletes may not be able to fully stress the glutes without loading (as most athletes have very strong glutes), making maximal strength and hypertrophy somewhat limited without any sort of loading (which can however be somewhat combated with time under tension training and higher training volumes).
8 Glute Exercises to Do Without Weights
Below are nine (8) non-weighted glute exercises coaches and athletes can integrate within training programs to develop stronger, more muscular and active glutes without weights (barbells, dumbbells, machines, kettlebells, etc).
Quadruped Hip Extensions
In an earlier article we discussed the effectiveness of quadruped hip extensions at increasing glute muscle activity when compared to other non-weighted (and some weighted) movements. This exercise can easily be performed without loading, and is often done in higher repetition ranges, with isometric holds, and/or against light manual resistance or mini bands for added tension.
Quadruped Hip Circles
Quadruped hip circles can be done in both directions per leg, offering the added bonus of hip mobility training and glute activation. Often, this exercise is found in glute activation/warm up segments and is done in a slow and controlled manner.
Side Lying Leg Lifts (Abduction)
Side lying leg lifts/abductions target the gluteus medius, and are helpful at developing hip stabilization and glute support. In addition, this exercise can be done with no load, against resistance bands (such as using a mini-band), and against manual resistance. Typically, this is done for higher repetitions with controlled contractions.
Banded Clam Shells
Banded clam shells are similar to the side lying leg lift, however the athlete/lifter bends their knees at 90 degrees and places a mini-band around the knees. The band will serve as resistance in which the lifter will work to abduct the hip using the gluteus medius, which is responsible for pelvic stabilization.
Mini-band walks and monster walks are commonly seen in glute activation warm-ups and can also be paired with more traditional strength exercises (squats, deadlifts, etc) to further increase demands upon the glutes. This can be done with straight knees and/or bent legs in an athletic position, moving laterally, in reverse, or forwards.
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Glute Bridges and/or Hip Raises
Glute bridges and hip raises can both be done bilaterally or unilaterally. This exercise can be helpful for increasing strength and muscle endurance of the glutes. In addition to tempo training and isometric holds, the glute bridges and hip raises can be done against band tension to further place demands upon the hip extensions (glutes). Read more about the differences between glute bridges vs hip raises.
Bodyweight Lunges and Split Squat
Bodyweight lunges, or nearly any variation, can be done bilaterally or unilaterally to target the glutes. Lunges such as reverse lunges, bulgarian split squats, and walking lunges are just a few. The glutes work to stabilize the hips and knee during dynamic movements like the lunge, as well as aid in extension of the hip.
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