Glutes – the cornerstone of health & performance
Direct glute training has become the Instagram-go-to for those looking to increase their number of followers or sell programs. And to be honest, that’s perfectly fine as direct training for the buns has too many benefits outside of just the aesthetics to ignore.
At BP we are huge fans of direct glute training and were one of the early adopters of using the glute bridge and glute hip thrust variation at CrossFit boxes – these variations allow us to let our clients directly train the often neglected glutes where most are weak – training the squat and deadlift is not enough to strengthen the gluteals.
Because of this, we’ve seen lifts sky-rocket. But for most, the real evidence is in how they feel and look – these goals still remain at #1 with just about every client we work.
Here’s our list of movements that can be implemented into your training right away with, for the most part, standard equipment found at any gym.
BP top variations to train the glutes
#10 Barbell RDL with RNT Band
Obviously this list cannot be complete with the good ole barbell RDL. While this a tried a true variation we can certainly insert some variation with movement by using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) with the form of bands pulling forward. The band pulling forward is going to force us to dial in a solid position and engage the anterior core/posterior chain to even greater potential. This can be done with a regular or wide stance.
Perform 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
#9 Banded Glute Bridge
The banded glute bridge is a go-to activation drill that can also be used as a finisher to elicit metabolic stretch. As seen in the video, I’m using an “irradiation effect” by positioning my arms at 45 degrees and squeezing hard. I’m also using my upper-back as a fulcrum to allow for a complete range of motion.
Activation – 3-4 x 10
Metabolic Stress – Accumulate 100 reps
#8 Back Raises
For many the 45 degree back raise is a common movement pattern and put simply it works. This movement has been proven to have high EMG ratings for gluteal activity. For this reason, we’ve included it on our list, but we can change the demand of this movement a number of ways by using additional resistance ie. band tension or an implement on the ground such as a loaded barbell or a kettlebell (shown using an empty Saftey Squat Bar.)
This is another movement that can be done for a high volume of up to 100 total reps. This variation can also be accomplished on a GHD, but take note that the joint angle is different the level of gluteal activity certainly is not the same.
4-5 x 10 with additional resistance
4 x 25 @bodyweight
#7 Sled Pull Powerwalk
The sled is one of the most versatile tools that can accomplish a number of tasks in one single setting. Here we are looking for big, powerful steps where your heel meets the ground FIRST then pushing through your toes.
If you’re forceful on each step the sled should jerk side-to-side. Start off with 6-8 sets of 40-60 yards with as much weight as you can handle on your sled while still being forcefull on ALL sets. This can also be done for bigger sets of up a mile depending on your level of conditioning.
6-10 x 60 yards. Rest 60s.
800m – 1 mile for time
#6 The Box Squat
With this box squat variation, we are going to work at or above parallel allowing us to ensure the movement remains posterior chain dominant. With that said, your shins should be completely vertical. For this variation, once you’re proficient, we are going to build to a 1-3 RM over the course of 6-7 sets.
You can vary this the same way as we varied the good morning ie. using a specialty bar such as a safety squat bar and/or accommodating resistance in the form of band or chain.
A few teaching points, you want to make sure you sit back on the box while keeping your lumbar tight. This allows us to break up the phases of the lift and develop reversal strength.
#5 Dimel Deadlift
The Dimel deadlift is a nice high-rep variation with a short/explosive range of motion that will make your glutes sing like a choir boy. Because the ROM is small the glutes and hamstrings are under constant tension. The one caveat is that these should be done explosively – aggressive hip extension (not hyperextension) at end range.
And because the volume is high per set (typically 30 reps per set) there is a high amount of metabolic stress. This variation was made popular by Matt Dimel to train the lockout of the deadlift.
3 x 30 @30% of 1RM Deadlift
#4 Band Resisted Russian Kettlebell Swings
These will feel similar to the Dimel Deadlift as we program these for higher volume sets – 25+. Added accommodating based resistance to this hip-hinge variation adds an Overspeed eccentric whereby the band actively pulls you through eccentric ROM. Because of this, your technique should be dialed in before attempting.
4 x 25 @AHAP
#3 Reverse Hyper
Another specialty piece that you may not have access to, but if you do consider it a huge win. I often get the question, “what can I place the Reverse Hyper with” and the honest answer is nothing. Of course, there are comparable movements in terms of training the same musculature but the effect of this piece of equipment is unlike any other.
In this case, we are going to work on controlled repetitions where the pendulum does NOT swing out of control. At the top of each repetition, we are going to squeeze our glutes HARD.
For most that are accustomed to using the Reverse Hyper can use 50% of their Back Squat 1RM for 100 total repetitions, but if you’re new to using the RH start with half of that for both loading and volume.
Beginner: 3 x 15
Adv: 4 x 25 @50% of Back Squat
#2 Barbell Glute Bridges
This variation probably doesn’t come as a shock, but many typically opt from variation #1 the glute hip thrust simply because the ROM is greater, BUT I’d urge to consider to keep its baby brother the glute bridge in your programming. Why? Put simply, it’s a regression to the Glute Hip Thrust and actually may suit many people much BETTER than the glute hip thrust based on individual anthropometrics – this is a good example of bio-individuality and opting for the “harder” variation isn’t always the best option.
4-5 x 8-15
#1 Glute Hip Thrust
The Glute Hip Thrust has made quite a name for itself thanks guys like Dr. Bret Contreras. The Glute Hip Thrusts utilizes all four actions of the glutes – hip external rotation, hip abduction, hip extension, and posterior pelvic tilt. There are few caveats when using the variation though to really reap the benefits. The first is, your set-up can make or break the effectiveness and as you can see we’ve elevated the plates in this video to keep constant tension through the entire ROM.
If you’re lucky enough to have a glute thruster bench from Bret then you won’t have to worry about elevating the plates is the height of that bench is 12″ vs. standard 16″ bench. The second thing is don’t sacrifice load for ROM. I often see people missing 10-15% of terminal end ROM just to use heavier loading.
Additionally, this variation could be programmed for heavier work – 3-6RMs, but I’ve personally found this variation to be more effective in the 8-10 rep range, but have gone as high as 20 rep sets so feel free to experiment.
4 x 8-10
*Bonus – Abduction Machine
If you have access to an abduction machine this is a great machine to target glute medius – for the ladies, this is often the area that really adds the “shelf” to their booty. Of course, if you’re training at a box you probably don’t have access to this machine, but performing something like banded abduction walk is a good sub.
Building the glutes = bigger lifts & better-looking buns
You can apply these variations to your training right away and reap the benefits. Additionally, there is a nice balance between heavy, moderate, and light loading as well as low, moderate, and high volume for each respective variation.
Overall, training the glutes directly is will responsible for the large majority of the lean-mass you gain on your backside as well as pushing your squat and deadlift numbers up! For the ladies, if you want Instagram worthy glutes these variations are a must!