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Build a Strong Butt

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Build-a-Strong-Butt-Workout

Sprint faster. Jump higher. Prevent injury. Avoid back pain. With a strong set of glutes behind you, you can do it all.

Great glutes are about more than looking good in your favorite pair of jeans. Whether you want to celebrate a zaftig rear or coax a flat one out of hiding, training your gluteus maximus can have a significant impact on athletic performance — and overall fitness.

“Strong glutes are especially important if you play explosive sports or lift heavy weights,” says Bret Contreras, CSCS, a strength-and-conditioning specialist known in fitness circles as “The Glute Guy.”

“They’ll help you sprint faster, jump higher, and twist more explosively,” raves Contreras, “and they’ll also help prevent injury.”

Glute training isn’t just for athletes, though. Regular Joes, Janes, and fitness enthusiasts of all levels will benefit from training this central muscle set.

Strong glutes encourage hip movement over spinal movement, protecting the back as we perform tasks like doing deadlifts in the gym, picking up a box, or twisting to reach for something in the backseat.

These everyday movements have the potential to cause muscle or ligament strain, leaving behind a pain that can go away in a few days or linger and develop into more acute symptoms.

These everyday movements have the potential to cause muscle or ligament strain, leaving behind a pain that can go away in a few days or linger and develop into more acute symptoms.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans spend a staggering $50 billion each year on lower-back pain. It’s the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work.

Some folks might say: I do squats — isn’t that enough? The answer: Not quite. According to Contreras, who designed this workout, variety is essential — different movements target the glutes in dramatically different ways.

“A well-rounded routine will include movements from different categories,” says Contreras. “For example, hip thrusts, glute bridges, kettlebell swings, and cable pull-throughs are similar. Squats, Bulgarian split squats, step-ups, and lunges supply one type of challenge. Deadlifts, good mornings, and back extensions supply another.

“I like to include at least one movement from each category per workout — or at least include each of them throughout the week. And I vary the rep ranges to get a good mix of low-rep, medium-rep, and high-rep work during the session.”

To activate the glutes, practice building what Contreras calls the “mind–muscle connection” by focusing on the work your glutes are doing in every workout.

Not sure if you’re activating the right muscles? Stand up and plant your hands on your cheeks as you squeeze your glutes tight. You should feel your gluteal muscles flexing, a condition you’ll aim to re-create at the top of each lift.

The Stronger Butt Workout

This butt-centric training program combines a variety of movements that target the glutes and hips plus muscles throughout the legs and trunk.

  • Make sure your weights are appropriate for the rep range. If the movement is assigned eight to 10 reps and you can easily bang out 15, your weight is too light. If you can hit only five or six reps before you need a break, your weight is too heavy. Rest as needed between sets.
  • Focus on form and remember to keep your mind on your glutes. At the top of every movement, squeeze ’em together, as if you were pinching a quarter between your cheeks.
  • Perform one session of each of the following workouts weekly for a three-day program. You can also incorporate the suggested exercises into your existing training plan.

Day 1

Barbell Hip Thrust

Barbell Hip Thrust

  • Sit on the floor and position your upper back against a flat bench.
  • Roll a loaded barbell up your legs to the crease of your hips, and bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. (Place a rolled-up yoga mat between your hips and the bar, if needed for comfort.)
  • Hold the bar in place and press your hips into the air until they are fully extended. Your back should rest on the bench.
  • Lower your hips and barbell back down, keeping your upper back pressed against the bench throughout the movement.
  • Do three sets of eight to 12 reps.

Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold a kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest.
  • Push your butt backward and bend your knees to squat down as far as you comfortably can. Keep your torso upright, with your shoulder blades tucked back and away from your ears, your eyes on the horizon, and your knees in line with your toes (so that your elbows track inside the knees at the bottom of the movement).
  • Reverse the movement to return to standing.
  • Do three sets of eight to 10 reps.

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell (or two dumbbells) in front of you, with arms straight.
  • Hinge at the hips, with knees soft, to push your butt back and lower the bar to the end of your range of motion — the point at which you feel tension in the hamstrings without rounding your back. The bar should graze the front of your legs throughout the movement.
  • Fully extend your hips and knees to stand.
  • Do three sets of six to eight reps.

Day 2

Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand in front of a low box or bench, with feet staggered and one foot resting on top of the box.
  • Keeping an upright torso, sit back and lower your back knee toward the floor.
  • Press through your front heel to stand up.
  • Do three sets of eight to 10 reps, completing all your reps on the weaker leg before switching sides.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with one foot slightly behind you, toes on the floor.
  • Hinge forward at the hips, lifting the back leg up behind you while lowering the dumbbells just below your standing knee.
  • Extend the hips to return to standing.
  • Do three sets of eight to 10 reps, completing all your reps on the weaker leg before switching sides.

Banded Clamshells

Banded Clamshells

  • Loop a TheraBand around your legs, just below the knees, and lie down on your side so your knees are bent and your head is resting on your bent arm.
  • Keeping your feet together, lift your top knee as high as you can without straining.
  • Lower the top knee gently to touch the bottom knee.
  • Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps on each side.

Day 3

Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold a kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest.
  • Push your butt backward and bend your knees to squat down as far as you comfortably can. Keep your torso upright, shoulders tucked, eyes on the horizon, and knees in line with your toes.
  • Reverse the movement to return to standing.
  • Do three sets of eight to 10 reps.

Back Extension

Back Extension

  • Using a back-extension apparatus at your gym, stand with your feet on the platform and the fronts of your thighs resting on the pads.
  • Hinge forward at the hips and lower your torso.
  • Stretch the hamstrings and squeeze the glutes to lift your torso back up, aligning your knees, hips, and shoulders.
  • Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps.

Glute Bridge

Glute Bridge

  • Sit on the floor and roll a loaded barbell up your legs to the crease of your hips.
  • Lie back on the floor and bend your knees so your feet are flat and close to your glutes.
  • Hold the bar in place and press your hips into the air until they are fully extended.
  • Lower your hips and barbell back down.
  • Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps. This movement can also be done unweighted.
WEB EXTRA!

The Glute Warm-Up

Many of us are strapped to a desk for a large part of our day, resulting in shortened hip flexors and weak, “sleepy” glutes. Try this warm-up, designed by “The Glute Guy” Bret Contreras, CSCS, to mobilize the hips and wake up the muscles, readying them for action and reinforcing gluteal adaptation.

Perform the warm-up two times through before beginning the workout. Each movement is body weight only. Focus on executing each movement with precision and control, standing tall at the top of every movement, locking out the hips, and giving the cheeks a little squeeze.

Body-Weight (Air) Squats

  • Position your feet slightly wider than hip width and your toes turned slightly outward.
  • Keep the chest up and make sure the spine stays neutral throughout the movement.
  • Reach your arms out in front of you as you sit back and down, keeping the knees tracking over the toes on the descent.
  • Push the heels, and keep the knees out on the way up, drive the hips forward, and stand tall.
  • Repeat for 10 repetitions.

Alternating Forward Lunges (or if more advanced, Walking Lunges)

  • Begin standing with your shoulders relaxed and stacked over your hips with your belly drawn in. Focus your gaze on a point six feet in front of you on the floor to help keep your balance.
  • Step forward with one foot and drop your back knee toward the floor.
  • Drive out of the hole, bringing your front foot back to the start position, pausing to regain your balance if needed before switching legs.
  • Alternate legs, and perform 10 repetitions per side.

Lateral Band Walks

  • Position a TheraBand or small Superband just below the knees.
  • Place your hands on your hips, stand tall, and take small steps to the side, planting the trailing foot firmly so that it doesn’t slam into the leading foot. Keep the shoulders, hips, and knees stacked, and resist leaning to the side. Think of pushing the body away from the ground rather than reaching with your leading leg.
  • Repeat for 10 repetitions in each direction.

Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Begin in a half-kneeling position with one foot behind you. Position the knee on the floor so it is directly beneath the hip, and stack the front knee directly over the front foot.
  • Draw the belly in, tuck the tailbone under the body, and squeeze the glute of kneeling leg. Grab the foot on the rear leg and pull it toward the glutes.
  • Hold for 30 seconds per side and breathe, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Keep your chest up tall and resist the urge to lean forward.

Jennifer Blake is a Minneapolis-based strength coach and personal trainer.

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