Let’s face it, the booty is BIG news. JLo’s rear inspired a movement where Bootylicious became an anthem, Miley Cyrus twerks til it hurts, and Kim Kardashian aims to break the internet with her assets. You only have to look to our celebrity culture to see there seems to be no end to the world’s obsessions with the booty.
However, in the world of bodybuilding, the “glutes” have always been of paramount importance; the key to perfect form and figure for both men and women. Nothing accurately describes the feeling of disappointment after scanning a body with perfectly sculpted quads and hammies sadly paired with underdeveloped glutes.
Why should training your glutes be your priority?
(1) Sheer size. The glutes are the largest and the most powerful muscle of the 639 named muscles in the human engine, making it difficult to believe training it hard is not essential. If you can’t showcase the biggest muscle to its full potential then what chance do the smaller muscles have, especially those that you typically spend hours carving? For glutes, training has to be frequent, rigorous, and consistent for maximum results. Personally, I train glutes nearly EVERYDAY, and most of my female clients will train them at least 3-4 times a week, in order to achieve that curvy and fashionable physique. Men on the other hand should aim to train them hard 1-2 times a week, which would be included in their legs days.
(2) It will optimize lower body strength and training. Having a seriously strong ass means you can maximize the strength of your entire lower body. Conversely, having weak glutes will negatively impact many exercises associated with training lower extremities and inhibits your ability to gain lower body mass. I always train my clients with a deeper understanding of how muscles work together - there is no start and stop to the human body; each muscle link together like a chain - one weak link in the chain will affect more than just that one targeted area. Lower back training for example is important as this will help lift the gltues and also assist posture for the fuller looking high sitting glute. Equally the core needs to be strong to prevent lordosis in the lumbar spine which many experience as a result thus suffering problems with the hip flexors or spinal compression.
(3) The Shelf Effect - Body building is in large part about symmetry, and the glutes act as a “shelf” (or baseline) from which the eye assesses the relative proportions of the upper and lower body. For example in bikini fitness the judges look for nice square shoulders, a small nipped in waist with athletic legs and high sitting glutes. When the glutes are underdeveloped it can give the illusion of the waist being larger than it actually is - and that idyllic hourglass athletic physique appears more like an ironing board.
(4) If you’re a woman, making glute training a priority results in a more hourglass shape and delivers a tremendous feeling of power and confidence. Competitors with strong glutes have a better chance of placing higher not just because they look better - they STRUT better. In my experience, it is usually the ‘cardio bunnies’ or girls who over train their lower bodies to come in lean that really miss out on the “booty opportunity”. I have worked with many girls who have been running fanatics who simply don't have any glute activation - and thus have no booty at all. When this is the case, I immediately get into “glute activation” mode and work through the various phases of my activation process with them, a process I personally go through religiously to keep that area in shape. This includes stretching the hip flexors and performing certain exercises isometrically with NO weight to ensure the glutes are working correctly and helps avoids injuries and impingements to the hip flexors. When the glutes are not working at full strength, one will typically also have weak hip flexors so proper attention to both areas is necessary for proper training and to prevent injury.
(5) If you’re a man, making glute training a priority effectively rounds out the male physique, which tends to be “top heavy”. Glutes typically get overlooked by men because they naturally feel stronger in their upper bodies than their lower bodies and prefer training upper body for more immediate results. For this reason alone, strong glutes and lower body on the male physique is a true illustration of power and training skill. Impressionable glutes undoubtedly give a male competitor that “WOW factor”. At the risk of sounding cheeky, psychologists and trainers alike have hypothesised that powerful glutes in men are synonymous with “thrusting power” -- which explains why women prefer a strong male rear end. You only have to look as far as Flex Lewis for a perfect example of what strong glutes will do for the overall physique; try telling this man glutes aren't that important! It’s noteworthy to mention that as weight training generally boosts testosterone levels, training this large muscle will result in a greater hormonal response thus assisting whole body gains!
Ok - so you get that glutes are important. Now what?
Some people believe they are born with a certain “ass shape” and that their overall shape can only be improved within certain boundaries. I am here to tell you - after years of training and experience - this just simply isn’t true: my programs have literally whipped asses into shape, turning “pancake” bums into ones that more resemble unripened apricots. Moreover, I’ve seen first-hand the massive improvements to lower body strength that result from proper glute training. It all comes down to the right guidance, training, and consistency. My philosophy on sculpting the booty is simple: ‘go hard or go home’ or, for those preferring a little more technical terminology: heavy resistance training coupled with good and targeted technique. Ideally, this regime will consist of 3-6 sets per exercise, and will definitely include hip thrusts (my favourite ‘get glutes’ exercise) performed at the very beginning of the workout. Hip thrusts using a free weight barbell are much more beneficial than a smith machine or the adaptive use of the leg curl machine.
Nina’s Secret #1: Let’s Whip Your Ass into Shape
Research suggests women can tolerate more volume, a higher training frequency and shorter rest intervals than men. Both rest intervals and volume tend to auto regulate well, but some women can tolerate a drastically higher level of volume than men. It is not uncommon in advanced female clients to train priority muscle groups with 8 sets a day and make very rapid progress. That’s 56 sets a week, a volume that would destroy any male. This is one of the reasons therefore heavy hip thrusts are implemented into my own and my females clients training plans frequently in a week. The correct technique for hip thrusts is important and often I will also train these from deficit in order to hit full range and activation for a fuller looking glute.
This program will help get you on your way to the glutes you want and deserve. It’s a great first step for a powerful perfect booty.
Barbell hip thrust 4 x 8
Aiming for the glutes to touch the floor with a powerful upward thrust locking out at the top to maximise contraction
Reverse hyperextensions 3 x 12
These performed with a full downward phase and when lifting the upwards - squeezing the glutes.
Bulgarian split squat from deficit 3 x 12
This should be felt in the tie in between the glutes and hamstrings therefore the deeper the better.
Unilateral hip thrust from deficit 3 x 10
This is great for isolating the glutes but also due to stabilising this will recruit more glute activation.
Hip abduction 3 x 10
Focusing on the glute med, this is what forms the shape of the glutes