When you think about all the aspects of strength and fitness, the one thing we can all agree on is that we need strong glutes. If you want to lift heavy weight or run for distance, you need strong glutes. If you want to look good naked, you also need strong glutes. There is no way around it.
When I was writing our new eBook about concurrent training “Do What You Want”, I realized that the one common theme was glute development. Glutes are imperative for any athletic activity. If your hips aren’t extending, what are you really doing?
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So why are the glute important? Well let’s take a quick look at them first:
- Glute Maximus- origin (gluteal surface of ilium, lumbar fascia, and sacrum) and insertion (gluteal tuberosity of the femur, and iliotibial tract)
- Glute Medius- origin (gluteal surface of ilium, under gluteus maximus) and Insertion (greater trochanter of the femur)
- Glute Minimus- Origin (gluteal surface of ilium, under gluteus medius) and Insertion (greater trochanter of the femur)
What do the glutes do?
- Hip Extension
- Internal and External Rotation of the Thigh
Pretty much the glutes are responsible for anything powerful. The glute maximus is the major hip extender. That means pulling, squatting, running, jumping, throwing, and punching, just to name a few, rely on the butt. My man Dr. Bret Contreras has enlightened all of us about the glutes over the last decade. Most of his followers are concerned about the aesthetics of the glutes, but Bret understands the function of the glutes as well.
If you have ever met a great sprinter, weightlifter, powerlifter, or CrossFitter, you no doubt encountered someone with a massive booty. Now you know why. However, there is something else that makes the glutes important, and this trait is my personal favorite. I am talking about hip health. If you have ever experienced hip pain, you should listen up. If you are a strength athlete, you should listen up.
To understand why glutes help prevent and/or alleviate hip pain, you must first understand the relationship between the hamstrings and the glutes. I’ve already explained the origin and attachments of the glutes, so now let’s talk about the hamstrings. Let’s look:
- Semitendinosus and semimembranosus originate at the ischial tuberosity and both attach at the tibia
- Biceps femoris originates at the tuberosity of the Ischium and the femur and attaches at the head of the fibula
All three muscles are responsible for knee flexion, and all but the biceps femoris are responsible for hip extension. If the glutes aren’t recruited properly, the hamstrings will take over on hip extension resulting in Femoral Anterior Glide Syndrome. Here’s the problem. When there is any dysfunction in the hip joint, the body will shut down glute activity. This begins a problem that can escalate quickly. Trust me, I am one of those people.
So many things can cause hip dysfunction like sitting, or in my case a simple groin/hip injury in high school that was left undiagnosed and untreated. Now I battle anterior hip pain on a daily basis, and my hip function decreases with every passing year. I am now on a path to hip replacement much like a lot of my strength athlete brethren. This is why I am writing this article.
Glutes are imperative for hip health and function. Powerful glutes are healthy glutes, so let’s look at some of our favorite exercises. Check them out:
Westside Barbell Athletic Training Platform
I get absolutely nothing from Westside for mentioning this product. Not one dime! This is totally unsolicited, but this machine is an absolute must in any and all gyms. Personally, this machine has helped me avoid hip surgery. It has also helped produce some major glute gains and power production for my athletes. This machine by its very nature turns every movement into a glute exercise. The belt prevents hip extension without the glute firing the push the hips through. The belt also aids in spinal decompression and traction, which makes it the perfect machine for barbell veterans like me.
There are about 70 movements that we have used the ATP for. Here are some that are the most popular:
- Simple Belt Squats
- Glute Marches
- Kettlebell RDLs
- Barbell RDLs
- Kettlebell Deadlifts for time
- Barbell Deadlifts
- Barbell Clean Pulls
- Barbell Snatch Pulls
- Barbell High Pulls
- Kettlebell High Pulls for time
- Kettlebell Hip Hinge
This is just a small list, but you get the point. Not only are we performing glute work, but the ATP makes it sport specific glute work. Now we can avoid hip pain and strengthen the glutes in a functional way all at the same time.
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Contreras Hip Thrusts
Barbell hip thrusts are an amazing choice for glute development. I’ve also found that the hip thrust is a pretty good substitution for the Westside ATP for alleviating hip pain especially when you don’t have an ATP to use. For some reason, a few powerlifters don’t like the hip thrust, and that’s ok. You don’t have to use them. However, Bret Contreras has some compelling research demonstrating the effectiveness of the hip thrust. Personally, I will go with science, and I will let everyone else keep following their “gut feeling”.
We use the hip thrust with several variations. Here are a few:
- Lying on the floor with a barbell
- Torso elevated with a barbell
- Either variation with a strap around the knees for further glute activity. Remember glutes perform hip abduction as well.
- We use bands and/or chains for accommodating resistance
- Unilateral hip thrust to avoid muscular imbalances
Mark Bell’s Hip Circle Walks
this is our go to warm up for glute activity. The Hip Circle is great because you can use it for hip extension, hip abduction, and hip external rotation. This is a great way of activating all three of the glutes. If you want to light up your glutes, I suggest combining hip circle walks with one of the previous exercises. We like to use a sideways teeter-totter walk, and a duck walk as well.
Other Glute Building Exercises
These three movements are our favorite ways to strengthen the glutes, but they are not the only way to build cheek-popping glutes. Here are a few other ways that we build J Lo glutes:
- Butt Blaster- once again thanks to Bret Contreras we use the Westside Barbell Reverse Hyper as a butt blaster. Louie might kill us, but we will die with massive butts.
- Lunges- lunges will always strengthen glutes and thighs together.
- Reverse Hypers
- Glute Ham Raises
We perform at least two days of major glute work with 1 to 3 other days of some glute activity. Obviously, we are weightlifters, so we are required to perform hip extension on a daily basis by the nature of our sport. If you are into building glutes simply for aesthetics, I recommend following Bret Contreras. This guy has done more for building strong glutes than any other exercise scientist before him.
No matter what strength sport or athletic endeavor that you might pursue, I recommend making glute development a huge part of your training. I want to end with this. I tell all of my seminar attendees this statement. “I am not afraid of a man with big arms, but I watch out for the man/woman with big glutes.” Fact!
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