Sure, you can build stronger glutes with movements like back squats, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings can be powerful glute mass-building exercises, a dedicated, and often more isolated approach to glute training. For competitive lifters, strong glutes are involved in nearly every compound lift — whether it be to stabilize the body, drive the weight up, or lockout a barbell.
In this article, we will discuss some of the best exercises for glute mass-building and provide you with two sample mass-building glute workout programs to help you develop athletic and aesthetic glutes.
- The Benefits of Glute Training
- How Often You Should Train Glutes
- The Best Exercises for Gaining Mass in the Glutes
- Who Should Train Glutes?
- Sample 2-Day Glute Workout Mass Program
- Sample 4-Day Glute Workout Mass Program
- Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the key benefits one can expect when training the glutes and how it can relate to enhancements in general fitness and sports performance.
Increasing Overall Strength and Explosiveness
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body and is primarily responsible for hip extension. This joint action is key for nearly every strength, power, fitness exercise. Strong glutes can increase squatting, deadlifting, and overall athletic potential.
Increasing Knee and Hip Stability
The gluteus medius and minimus — two muscles that make up your glutes — are key for stabilizing the knee in both closed and open chain movements, such as squatting, running, jumping, and walking. Basically, if you’re doing pretty much anything involving moving your body, your glutes are likely a primary player.
Improves Athletic Capacity
The glutes play a large role in human locomotion like running, sprinting, and jumping, while also increasing your ability to produce powerful hip extension. As athletes, there is a clear benefit to training the glutes to improve your sports performance, decrease injury risks, and aid in your ability to push harder in the gym.
Determining what training frequency and volumes necessary for increasing glute strength and hypertrophy, can be tricky, as every lifter will respond to training differently. That said, general guidelines can be put in place to make sure that the metabolic stress placed upon the glutes are high enough while also allowing for adequate muscle recovery.
Generally speaking, larger muscle groups will take longer recovery times, as the overall volume and loading that is done to elicit a muscle strain and fatigue is higher. The glutes, while not a giant muscle group as compared to the back and legs, are large enough to handle high amounts of load.
It is for this reason that we may choose to train glutes only a few times per week if you are to train in higher volumes (eight to 15 total sets per session). If you are looking to train glutes more frequently (let’s say four times per week) you could get away doing four to eight sets per training session, often without placing excessive stress on the glutes.
Below, we include two different glute workouts for mass. The first is a two-day per week program with two to three days in between each session. Sessions include both compound movements and isolation movements, both in higher volumes. The second workout plan is a four-day routine that has significantly fewer overall sets and volume per session than the two-day program, however, equates to roughly the same amount of total weekly sets and volume.
Below are 15 of the best glute exercises that can be used to increase glute size and strength, with each exercise categorized into one of three groups.
- The first are compound exercises that place high amounts of eccentric strain on the glutes, often causing high amounts of fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness.
- The second group incorporates high amounts of concentric-focused muscular contractions and should be done with the focus on voluntary maximal muscle contractions at the top of each exercise.
- Lastly, glute endurance exercises (which can be done before and after sessions) can be used to prime the compound lifts in a warm-up or done to “finish” the glute muscles off in higher rep/time under tension-based sets.
Glute Mass-Building Exercises (Eccentric Emphasis)
Below are five compound glute exercises that place high eccentric stress on the glute muscles, increasing muscular strength, and hypertrophy.
Back squats are one of the most effective exercises for adding lower body muscle mass, to the quadriceps and glutes. They’re not an isolation move, but can stimulate a great amount of muscle mass and can be a good foundation for glute building.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The glutes are highly active in the Bulgarian split squat, both in the eccentric phase for hip stability and control, but also at deeper ranges of hip flexion. Additionally, wider splits can also increase hamstring and glute engagement.
Lunges of all kinds can be done to increase unilateral glute development, strength, and increase hip/knee stability. Lunges like crossover lunges, reverse lunges, and walking lunges all place high demands specifically on the glutes.
Romanian deadlifts are a glute and hamstring dominant exercise that can be used as a basis for posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and back) evopment. This can also be done unilaterally, for added muscle activation and development.
Glute Mass-Building Exercises (Concentric Emphasis)
Below are four exercises with a high emphasis on peak contractions at the end of the concentric — or lifting — phase, which can increase glute activation and overall development.
Hip thrusts are great for eliciting peak muscle contractions that can result in high amounts of metabolic stress to the muscle. Furthermore, this exercise is a highly isolated approach to glute training, and can often be done with moderate to high amounts of loading or further muscle damage.
Cable Pull Through
Like the hip thrust, the cable pull through allows a lifter to maximally contract the glutes at the top of each rep, while also having increased time under tension as the cables constantly apply load the the glutes and hamstrings.
Quadruped Banded Hip Extension (or with Machine)
The quadruped banded hip extension has been shown to be an effective exercise at eliciting high amounts of glute activation, and can be done with minimal loading using bands, manual resistance, or certain exercise machines.
The glute bridge can be done unilaterally or bilaterally and is a great way to add increased range of motion and peak contraction exercises to the workout. This exercise can also help to address any muscle imbalances or hip instability that may also be limiting overall glute development and health.
Glute Endurance Exercises
Below are five exercises with a high emphasis on peak contractions at the end of the concentric phases, which can increase glute activation and endurance.
Banded Clam Shell
These can be done with mini-bands or without loading, and are done to target the smaller glute muscles responsible for hip abduction and stability. Additionally, this can be done in higher volumes to increase glute endurance and finish a glute training session.
Banded “Pump” Squat
Banded pump squats increase time under tension of the glutes, and can be done by squatting below parallel and coming up only a few inches past parallel. This limited range of motion, done in high volumes (repetitions), non-stop, can increase the metabolic damage and fatigue on the glutes and increase muscle hypertrophy, especially at the end of a workout.
Banded Sumo Walk
Banded sumo walks, like the mini-band lateral/monster walks can increase glute activation and muscular endurance. By assuming a wider, sumo stance, you can further isolate and attack the glutes.
Straight-Leg Monster Walk
Straight leg monster walks target the gluteus medius, a smaller aspect of the glute that can be often overlooked. By performing monster walks with locked knees, you do not allow the quadriceps to assist in the movement which can challenge glute development and engagement.
Side-Lying Banded Leg Raise
Side lying banded leg raises/lifts are great ways to end a glute workout because they require little amounts of loading and can attack the glute in a time under tension basis. Additionally, they increase the glute’s ability to move the legs into abduction, furthering hip function and mobility.
The glutes are the biggest muscle in the body, and assist in nearly every strength movement, competitive lift, and locomotion patterning (running, walking, jumping, etc). Strong glutes also help to protect the knees, hips, and lower back, making them critical for athletic performance, functional fitness, and everyday health and fitness.
Below we will discuss what types of individuals can benefit from training the glutes, and why.
Strength and Power Athletes
Strength and power athletes use glute training presses to increase overall strength, add quality muscle mass to the glutes, and improve performance in movements like squats, deadlifts, and sport specific lifts.
- Powerlifters: All three lifts use the glutes in some capacity for hip extension performance or stability (or both). Increasing glute strength can also help to protect the lower back during deadlifts and squats which can ultimately keep an athlete training and decrease injury risks.
- Strongmen and Strongwomen: Similar to powerlifters, strong glutes can assist in nearly every lift and event in strongman sports. Increasing glute strength and development can also increase performance and safety in loaded carries, sled drags, and more.
- Weightlifters: Olympic weightlifters can use glute direct training to increase positional strength, enhance overall strength, and improve back health similarly to powerlifting and strongman athletes. Training in the full range of motion during squats, split squats, RDLs, and good mornings are a great place to start.
Functional Fitness Athletes
Functional fitness athletes can benefit from increasing glute strength and activation much like strength and power athletes, however they can also use the newfound performance increase to fuel jumping, running, biking, and other forms of fitness and movement. Strong glutes can increase running speeds, jump performance, and injury resisslent (lower back, knees, and hip).
Stronger glutes don’t just equate to bigger lifts in the gym (however this is definitely a benefit for the general population). Strong and developed glutes can improve performance in everyday activities like walking, hiking, running, and stairs. Additionally, strong glutes help to increase knee stability and lower back health, which are two common issues plaguing everyday folks. Lastly, strong glutes can improve posture and decrease lower back issues stemming from poor posture, gait, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Below is a two-day glute workout program to build glute muscles and strength. Note that this program emphasizes compound lifts with a higher eccentric component and more concentric/contraction based exercises in the same session, often in higher volumes. Due to the higher volumes, muscle soreness may be higher, so taking one to two rest days in between sessions is key.
- Quadruped Banded Hip Extension: 3 sets of 10 reps per leg
- Back Squat (below parallel): 4 sets of 8-12 reps
- Romanian Deadlift: 4 sets of 8-12 reps
- Single-Leg Elevated Glute Bridge: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Banded Sumo Walk: 3 sets of 10 reps per leg
- Bulgarian Split Squat: 4 sets of 8-12 reps per leg
- Barbell Hip Thrust: 4 sets of 12-15 reps
- Side-Lying Banded Leg Raise: 3 sets of 15-20 reps per leg
Below is a four-day glute workout program to build mass and strength. Note that this program emphasizes many of the same compound lifts as the above program, however daily training volume is significantly lower, allowing the muscles to recover quicker between sessions and therefore allowing high training frequencies and arguably more quality work sets.
- Quadruped Banded Hip Extension: 2 sets of 10 reps per leg
- Back Squat (below parallel): 4 sets of 8-12 reps
- Single Leg Elevated Glute Bridge: 2 sets of 10-12 reps
- Barbell Hip Thrust: 4 sets of 12-15 reps
- Side-Lying Banded Leg Raise: 4 sets of 12-15 reps per leg
- Front Squat: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
- Banded Clam Shell: 4 sets of 15 reps per leg
- Bulgarian Split Squat: 4 sets of 8-10 reps per leg
- Cable Pull Through: 3 sets of 8-10 reps (heavy)
- Banded “Pump” Squat: 3 sets of 45-60 seconds (aim for 30+ repetitions)
Can you train glutes without weights?
Yes, you can train glutes with bodyweight movements like split squats, hip thrusts, glute bridges, clam shells, and more. Most of the exercises above can be done with or without weights, however loading is key at some point to increase muscle hypertrophy. Like any muscle, over time you need to progressively increase the external loading place on the muscle fibers to continue to have the same training effects.
What are the best glute exercises if you have lower back issues?
Training the glutes while having lower back issues is often an issue during the rehabilitation process. First and foremost, be sure to consult your physician prior to beginning a training program. Glute exercises that do not require the spinal loading are often good options to start with using controlled tempos and minimal loading. You should also use the glute activation and endurance exercise from above to maximize recruitment and set a strong foundation to build upon as you progress out of the post-injury phase.
How heavy can you train the glutes directly?
While you do not need to train glutes directly with heavy loading, you can certainly train them with weight better with some exercises. Movements like hip thrusts and RDLs lend themselves to really maximize glute strength and loading, whereas exercises like mini-band walks and clam shells do not. The goal for glute hypertrophy, however, is to make sure you are increasing muscle damage and stress on the glutes. So if you are using a load that does not allow you to really get a good contraction and soreness specific to the glutes, odds are the load is too heavy and you are more concerned with moving the weight any way you can than growing the muscle as effectively as you can.
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