Category Archives: Glute Training

Which Glute Bridge is Best?: an Amputee Case Study

Today, I’ve got a cool case study for y’all. It comes from guest contributor Travis Pollen – a very astute up-and-comer in the field of strength & conditioning. Travis’s results closely mirror the results that I achieved when I tested myself five years ago with bodyweight bridging variations when collecting data for my glute eBook. However, Travis’s case study is quite unique in that he has a prosthetic limb on his left side, which made for a very interesting analysis. I hope you enjoy the article!

Which Glute Bridge is Best?: an Amputee Case Study
by Travis Pollen

It’s well known that the supine hip extension, commonly referred to as glute bridging, is a phenomenal exercise for strengthening the glutes. But with so many variations to choose from using bodyweight alone – feet and shoulders flat on the ground, feet elevated on a bench, shoulders elevated (AKA hip thrusts), unilateral, bilateral, isometric, and dynamic – I’ve long wondered which is best for building the glutes. Due to the complex interplay of moment arm length, muscle length-tension relationship, range of motion, and stability demands of each version of the exercise, I turned to electromyography (EMG) to help answer my question.

What is EMG, Anyway?

Surface EMG is a measure of the electrical activity of a muscle, as determined by an electrode secured to the skin directly over the belly of the muscle. Generally speaking, the higher the electrical signal, the harder the muscle is working. There are a few caveats to this rule, but for our purposes it’s a decent assumption.

Unprocessed, or raw, EMG signal (pictured below) is expressed in volts, which isn’t a particularly useful metric. To interpret the data, we must first determine the maximum activation that a muscle is capable of producing. This maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) is performed as a brief, all-out exertion (against either a fixed object or manual resistance) in the position that allows for the target muscle’s optimal force production.

1

We then normalize (a fancy way of saying “divide”) all data from subsequent trials by the voltage obtained during the MVIC, which results in percentages of MVIC (% MVIC). According to the scientific literature, exercises with mean muscle activations of 60% MVIC or more are typically considered suitable for strengthening.

Amputee Case Study 

The present case study was performed on yours truly. I figured I’d make for an interesting test subject since I was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency (illustrated below), a rare congenital abnormality that resulted in the absence of my left femur and much of the accompanying musculature. (Fear not, though: my left glute is intact!). Thus, with my two sides alone, which I’ll refer to as “natural” and “prosthetic,” I can provide insights into both typical and altered muscle recruitment patterns.

2

To perform the study, I used a Delsys Bagnoli 2-channel handheld EMG system consisting of two parallel bar surface electrodes (pictured below). After shaving and abrading the skin (special thanks to my girlfriend), I placed one sensor on each glute max parallel to the muscle fibers and halfway between the sacrum and the respective greater trochanters. I affixed the reference (ground) electrode to my ankle.

3

For the MVIC’s, I performed a manually resisted isometric quadruped hip extension (AKA donkey kick) on each side, collecting at a rate of 1000 samples per second. Next, I recorded five-second isometric holds for nine different bridging variations: three feet/shoulder positions (flat, feet-elevated, and shoulder-elevated) together with three leg positions (bilateral, natural side only, and prosthetic side only). Six of them are pictured below.

4

I also recorded 20-second trials of dynamic contractions (i.e. reps) for all the same exercises, utilizing a 2/0/2 tempo (two seconds up, two seconds down). The short trial durations were chosen to minimize the effects of fatigue, which is known to cause an increase in muscle activation. In addition, the order in which the exercises were performed was randomized with the same goal in mind.

Data Processing and Analysis (For the Techies)

As I alluded to earlier, a few things needed to be done to the raw EMG data in order to convert it to a useable format. This part gets a little technical, so be forewarned.

First, the data must be filtered to remove both high- and low-frequency content that isn’t physiologically based. Next, the data must be demeaned, meaning any overall offset from zero must be subtracted from each value. Then comes rectification, in which all the negative values are flipped to positives. A linear envelope is subsequently applied using a moving root-mean-square algorithm over 100-millisecond windows. Finally, the signals are normalized to the MVIC, resulting in the filtered EMG data used for analysis (pictured below).

5

The metrics used for comparison of the various bridges were mean activation (the average activation over the entire trial) and peak activation (the maximum value obtained at any point during a trial). For the dynamic trials, only the middle four reps were included in the analysis.

And The Winner Is…

In general, the shoulder-elevated variations yielded the highest glute activation (in terms of both mean and peak), with flat bridging coming in a close second – especially on the prosthetic side – and feet-elevated bridging bringing up the rear, so to speak. The differences among feet and shoulder positions were greater for unilateral bridges than bilateral ones. The poor showing by the feet-elevated variations could be due to increased assistance from the hamstrings in that position.

On average, unilateral bridging elicited 2.3 times the activation (both mean and peak) of bilateral bridging for matched feet and shoulder positions, likely due to the additional stability demand in conjunction with the increased load. The greatest difference observed was between the unilateral and bilateral shoulder-elevated dynamic trials on the natural side (starred below), where the unilateral version had 3.8 times the activation of the bilateral counterpart. In short, the single leg hip thrust trumps the competition!

6

Across all trials, as percentages of MVIC the prosthetic side far exceeded the natural side. This means that the prosthetic side glute was working much closer to its maximum. Although the left versus right comparison tends to be muddied by precise electrode placement, the observed differences do make sense. My prosthetic side glute is much weaker than my natural one, so even bodyweight alone provides a big challenge. In fact, of all the variations tested, the only two that met the 60% MVIC mean activation threshold for strengthening were the prosthetic side unilateral flat and shoulder-elevated isometric holds (starred below).

7

Interestingly, during all three unilateral dynamic trials on my prosthetic side (starred below), peak activation actually exceeded 100% of MVIC, with prosthetic side unilateral shoulder-elevated dynamic bridging (hip thrusts) coming in with a peak activation of a whopping 135%. Although these may seem like aberrant findings, it is not uncommon for muscles to activate to a greater extent during dynamic trials than during the MVIC.

8

Bottom Line on Bottom Training

Bodyweight glute bridging can provide a significant training stimulus to the glutes, especially for individuals with weaker glutes. To intensify the exercise, bridge with any or all of the following modifications:

1. Shoulders elevated (hip thrusts)

2. One leg at a time (unilateral), with the non-working limb tucked in towards the chest

3. Isometric hold in the extended position, by itself or immediately following a set of dynamic reps

4. Added external resistance in the form of a band, barbell, dumbbell, or chains

What’s Next?

In the future, I plan to expand this study to test more subjects and muscles (especially the hamstrings) as well as more hip extension exercise variations, including feet- and shoulder-elevated hip thrusts, which I hypothesize will elicit even greater activation than the shoulder-elevated version.

About the Author 

Travis Pollen is an NPTI certified personal trainer and American record-holding Paralympic swimmer. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Biomechanics and Movement Science at the University of Delaware. He has been featured on T-Nation.com, Schwarzenegger.com, MensHealth.com, and MOVE-Everywhere.com. He also blogs and posts videos of his “feats of strength” on his website, www.fitnesspollenator.com. Be sure to like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fitnesspollenator.

9

Pre-Party/Backstage Glute Pump

Attention Ladies:

glutesFor many years, men have been using trickery in order to instantly appear more muscular and immediately boost sex-appeal. Our secret weapon is da pump (in Arnold’s voice). Before we hit the beach, or a pool party, or even a night-club in a tight-fitting shirt, you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be cranking out 50 push-ups behind-the-scenes prior to making our grand entrance. Women are no strangers to trickery – many ladies have utilized push-up/padded bras, corsets, and various other means for many years in order to boost your looks and self-confidence at a special event. However, what if you must make an appearance in a bikini? This is where men held the advantage with our pumping strategies – we discovered how to look good when we had to strip down. The most savvy males have certain exercises they use to pump the pecs, tri’s, bi’s, delts, and lats prior to a big event or a photoshoot. Now, most women aren’t concerned about pumping up their upper body muscles; they simply want their glutes to appear full and plumped. Well, the time has finally arrived. Ladies, you too can now utilize the pump for your benefit.

zac efron

Sup ladies?!

WTF is the Pump? 

Before delving into pumping strategies for women, let’s discuss the pump. What exactly is going on physiologically? Here’s what The Hypertrophy Specialist Brad Schoenfeld had to say about the pump in my first interview with him four years ago in THIS T-Nation article:

Basically, the pump is caused by a buildup of fluid within the cell, facilitated by the accumulation of metabolic byproducts, which function as osmolytes. Studies show that intracellular hydration (i.e., cell swelling) can mediate hypertrophy both by increasing protein synthesis and decreasing proteolysis. Thus, there is a physiologic basis by which the pump may augment hypertrophy and it would be imprudent to dismiss this potential role.

Want some elaboration? Here’s Brad and my explanation two years ago from THIS T-Nation article:

The pump is a phenomenon whereby muscles become engorged with blood following resistance training. It’s primarily achieved by performing multiple sets with moderate to high reps.

Here’s the short course: During a moderate rep set, the veins taking blood out of working muscles are compressed by muscular contractions. However, the arteries continue to deliver blood into the muscles, creating an increased amount of intra-muscular blood plasma. This causes plasma to seep out of the capillaries and into the interstitial spaces (the area between muscle cells and blood vessels).

The buildup of fluid in the interstitial spaces along with the osmolytic properties of lactate creates an extra-cellular pressure gradient, which in turn causes a rush of plasma back into the muscle. The net result is that blood pools in your muscles, causing them to swell. Researchers refer to the pump ascell swelling.

This is what Arnold had to say about the subject in the immortal movie, Pumping Iron

Although many consider the pump a temporary condition that’s strictly cosmetic, this belief may be shortsighted. Studies have demonstrated that a hydrated cell stimulates protein synthesis and inhibits proteolysis (protein breakdown).

Understand that muscle hypertrophy is ultimately a function of protein balance – synthesize more muscle proteins than you break down and you’ll pack on size. The fact that cell swelling simultaneously increases synthesis while reducing degradation is a muscle-building home run!

What drives this swelling-induced hypertrophic response? Increased fluid in muscle fibers causes a stretch of the cell membrane, like an overinflated water balloon. The muscle, in turn, perceives this as a threat to its integrity and responds by initiating an anabolic signaling cascade that ultimately serves to reinforce its ultrastructure.

Unfortunately, no direct studies have attempted to investigate whether these anabolic effects are attained from pump-oriented training. Still, the implied evidence gives reason to believe that it very well may have a positive affect on muscle growth.

Usually targeted movements that keep constant tension on the muscle induce the pump. The occlusion and hypoxia created from “chasing the pump” has been shown to lead to a long list of hypertrophy-boosting mechanisms, and one of these includes increased satellite cell activity, which also increases the muscle cell’s ability to continue expanding. 

If you’re still craving more science (assuming you’re an NSCA member), you can download THIS article which is dedicated entirely toward the science behind the pump (Brad and I wrote this last year). And if you want to know Arnold’s full take on da pump, watch this short video clip from Pumping Iron where he likens the euphoric feeling of the pump to cumming (don’t get me wrong, I love the pump, but if given the choice between sex or a quick session of easy bar and concentration curls, I’m going to have to go with sex, but I digress):

Now that you understand the science (and bro-science) behind the pump, and now that you understand how the pump can assist you in your muscle-building endeavors, I’m going to show you how to use the pump to immediately increase your sex appeal. But first, let me lay some groundwork.

How This Article Came to Be

Before I delve into the methods, let me tell you how this article came to be… (and by the way, none of the ladies below know that I’m posting this, so I hope they’re not mad at me). 

Liz Benda

Last year, a figure competitor named Liz Benda who I see each year at The Fitness Summit informed me that when she does hip thrusts, she attains a 2″ glute pump. I thought it was hilarious that she actually measured it. I’m curious to hear if other ladies can achieve an instant 2″ glute pump as well. 

Liz

Liz Benda

Sarah Dunne

A couple of weeks ago, an Irish bikini competitor I work with named Sarah Dunne was telling me about a simple band exercise she discovered that pumped up her glutes quite well. Essentially, she double wraps a band around her ankles and then grabs a hold of the middle of the front side and does American deadlifts (my savvy readers will be able to deduce that this exercise would require combined hip abduction torque, hip extension torque, and pelvic posterior tilt torque). She postulated that this would make for an excellent glute-pump strategy backstage during bikini competitions. 

Sarah

Sarah Dunne

I gave this exercise a try and found it very useful for glute pumping. For many, it might be better than bodyweight hip thrusting, so make sure to carry a band around with you in times when glute pumps will be necessary. Below are two videos of me experimenting with Sarah’s idea – in the first video I do it her way, and in the second video I did it with the bands around my feet. I prefer bands around the feet. At any rate, I like short strokes for these to keep constant tension on the glutes. 

Jaclyn Gough

Two weekends ago, I was in Las Vegas at the 2014 NSCA National Conference hanging out with my friends Alan Aragon, Jeana Aragon, Brad Schoenfeld, Nick Tumminello, and Jaclyn Gough. I hadn’t met Jaclyn before, and she confessed that since she knew she was going to meet me, she busted out a few sets of bodyweight hip thrusts prior to heading out. She wanted her glutes to be plump so I would approve of her conditioning. 

jaclyn

Jaclyn Gough

Deanna Kane

Last Friday, I was working with Deanna Kane, and I told her about this whole glute pump phenomenon, and she confessed to hip thrusting prior to heading out for the night on several different occasions – especially when she wears a tight-fitting dress.

Deanna

Deanna Kane

Achieving da Glute Pump

If all four of these ladies pay attention to their glute pumps, then I’m sure they’re not alone. I suspect that there are thousands of ladies out there, pumping up their glutes prior to parties, nights out, and competitions. It’s time their secrets hit the mainstream. 

How do achieve a glute pump? Well, you’re going to have to figure that out for yourselves. Different methods are going to work better for different individuals. However, I can give you some options. 

In THIS article, I listed Andrew, Joey, Sammie, Diana, and my favorite glute burning/pumping methods. HERE and HERE are two videos that demonstrate some good methods. However, these methods require equipment. 

Many times, you’ll be out and about, and you’ll need to attain a rapid glute pump with little or no equipment.

Just arrived to the beach?

#beachbootyglutepump

#beachbootyglutepump

Just pulled up to your photoshoot?

#prephotoglutepump

#prephotoglutepump

Backstage at a bikini contest?

#backstageglutepump

#backstageglutepump

Pulled up to the party? 

#prepartyglutepump

#prepartyglutepump

Therefore, you’ll need to know how to pump the glutes with just bodyweight or bands (or whatever you have in your vehicle or purse).

One thing that’s very important to understand about pump training is that it’s not about a specific number of sets and reps (and rest periods). Just fiddle around and attain a pump. Many methods can work, but the best method for you probably differs from the best method for me.

Below are some ideas:

1. Bodyweight hip thrusts – maybe 3 sets of 20 reps with 60 seconds rest in between sets, really focusing on the end-range glute squeeze, or 2 sets of 30 reps, or 5 sets of 15 reps with 40 seconds rest. 

2. Band American deadlifts – maybe 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps with 40 sec rest between sets

3. Contract and stretch – squeeze the glutes as hard as possible for 5 seconds, rest for 5 seconds, repeat five times. Then stretch the glutes out for a minute. Then do the contraction sequence again, maybe while standing on one leg. Repeat with the other leg. Then stretch. Do this off and on for around ten minutes. 

4. Get your Jane Fonda on – get down on the floor and do a bunch of floor work. Quadruped hip extensions, quadruped fire hydrants, bird dogs, glute bridges, quadruped hip circles. 5-10 minutes should suffice.

5. Triset of RKC planks, goblet squats, and kb swings – this is handy if you have a kettlebell in your car – do a 10-sec RKC plank, followed by 10 goblet squats, followed by 10-20 kb swings. Rest 60 seconds and repeat for 3 total sets.

6. Tri-set of side lying clam raises, single leg glute bridges, and quadruped hip extensions – pick your right leg first, do 10 side lying clam raises, 10 single glute bridges, then flip around and do 20 quadruped hip extensions. Repeat with left leg. Rest a minute then do the sequence again. 

7. Isometric lunge hold supersetted with single leg hip thrusts – hold the bottom of a lunge position for 30 seconds, trying to really feel the tension in the glute of the front leg. Then bust out 10 single leg hip thrusts with that same leg, pausing for 10 seconds on the last rep. Repeat with the other leg. Rest a minute and repeat the sequence. 

8. Partner-assisted hip thrusts – if you have a partner around, they can stand over you while you do hip thrusts and exert pressure on your hips with their hands (alternatively, they can straddle you). Do 20 reps against resistance, then 20 more reps with just bodyweight. Repeat two times. 

9. Partner-assisted quadruped hip extensions – if you have a partner around, they can push down against the back of your posterior thigh while you perform quadruped hip extensions. You can do 10 reps against resistance then 20 reps with no resistance. Repeat with the other leg, rest a minute, and repeat one more time. 

10. Band seated hip abduction supersetted with band American deadlifts – if you have a band handy, you can bust out a set of 30 rep band seated hip abductions, followed by a set of 20-rep band American deadlifts. Rest a minute and repeat for three total sets. 

I hope that this article has expanded your sexifying repertoire and given you some food for thought. Don’t let me catch you in a photograph, at the beach, or at a party without your glute pump on! #glutepumpfordays glute

Do More than “Just Squat”

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and some meathead on Facebook advising a lifter to “just squat” when he sees a picture or video of a woman performing a glute exercise he isn’t familiar with. I refer to these meatheads as “just squat” bros. Is their advice sound? Should women discontinue all of their other glute exercises and focus solely on the squat? In this article, I’m going to explain why the “just squat” mantra is horrendous advice for those who are trying to maximize glute development.

Squats are great. But does anyone really "just squat"?

Squats are great. But does anyone really “just squat”?

Before I get started, let me quickly address the squat. Does the squat build the glutes? Absolutely. Should you squat, assuming you can do so comfortably without consistently injuring yourself? Of course. Is “just squatting” the optimal way to maximize glute development? Hell no.

In this article, I’m going to ignore the fact that some bodies aren’t well-suited for squatting. I’m going to ignore the fact that muscles contain functional subdivisions which are preferentially activated via different movements, and I won’t focus on the fact that squats don’t fully activate all the motor units – especially in the upper glute region. I’m not going to focus on the fact that there are three primary mechanisms to muscle growth, whereby some exercises are better-suited for stimulating one mechanism over another. Instead, I’m going to highlight a recent research paper, then I’m going to explore the training methods of the athletes, physique competitors, and fitness models with the best gluteal muscle development.

squats versus hip thrusts

Some exercises produce more tension than others, some more metabolic stress than others, and some more damage than others. Some exercises target different subdivisions than other exercises. One exercise alone cannot maximize the hypertrophic response for any muscle.

Is One Exercise Ever Sufficient for Maximizing Muscle Growth?

Sounds very appealing, right? Quit blasting away on multiple exercises and just focus on a single one. Unfortunately, if something sounds to good to be true, it usually is. Though the “just do one exercise per muscle group” mantra has been championed by dozens of pseudoexperts over the past twenty years in strength & conditioning, there was never a good study that examined this question, so they were free to speculate. That is, until now.

Check out THIS paper, which was just recently published ahead of print in the JSCR. This is a well-conducted study, and the researchers had one group “just squat,” while the other group did a volume matched protocol that included squats, deadlifts, leg press, and lunges. Let me reiterate – volume was matched between groups, so they did the same total number of sets and reps. What did they find?

The variety group experienced better hypertrophic gains than the “just squat” group. This study used the quadriceps for analysis, which always elicit peak activation of over 100% of MVIC (maximum voluntary isometric contraction) during the squat. For hamstring and glute development, I surmise that “just squatting” would be much more lackluster in terms of the hypertrophic adaptations elicited compared to a variety group, since the activation relative to MVC is lower than it is for the quadriceps (see HERE for a report on glute activation in a variety of movements). At any rate, these findings imply that those individuals who advise people to just do one exercise for maximizing the hypertrophy of any muscle are muscle group are erroneous.

Screenshot

Finally, we have a study showing that variety is superior for muscle hypertrophy

If maximum quad growth is the goal, do squats and also do exercises such as front squats, leg press, lunges, and leg extensions. If maximum hammie growth is the goal, do squats and also do exercises such as deadlifts, good mornings, back extensions, glute ham raises, Nordic ham curls, kneeling leg curls, lying leg curls, and seated leg curls. If maximum glute growth is the goal, do squats and also do exercises such as hip thrusts, deadlifts, back extensions, lunges, standing cable abduction, and machine seated hip abduction.

Do Real-World Ladies Who Have Transformed Their Glutes “Just Squat”?

I sure don’t know of any. I can tell you that none of my clients or followers who experienced great results just squatted – not Kellie, not Marianne, not Sammie, not Erin, not Nathalia, not Brittany, not Alli, not Casey, not Sasha, not Megan, not Colleen, not Rachel, not Joy, not Sam, not Karli, not Diana, not Angie, not Lizzy, not Katie, not Chelsea, not Anne, not Alicia, not Molly, not Kate, not Kelli, and not any of the numerous other testimonials and before/after pics that you can see ON THIS PAGE.

Now, the squat happens to be the exercise that I perform most in my own training. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been a squatting fiend. However, my personal training methodology isn’t about me – it’s about my clients and their goals. All of my clients do some form of squatting, but squats aren’t usually the centerpiece of the program (keep in mind I train mostly physique clients, not pro athletes or powerlifters). My favorite exercises for female physique clients happen to include the barbell hip thrust, band hip thrust, goblet squat, kettlebell deadlift, back extension, and walking lunge.

Now, you might think this exercise list is absurd if you’re a “just squat” bro. But there’s one glaring problem here – the “just squat” bros never have any evidence of their success in transforming client’s backsides. I take great pride in my testimonials, and I feel that they’re the best in the world for glute transformations.

Guess what? Most of the ladies on my testimonials page credit hip thrusts for the majority of their glute gains, not squats. As a matter of fact, there are a few of them rarely squatted. Blasphemy, you say? The fact of the matter is, there are many great glute exercises out there, and many roads can lead to Rome. As long as you’re hammering a handful of glute exercises , including some that target the flexed-range hip extension ROM, some that target the extended-range hip extension ROM, and at least one that targets hip abduction/external rotation, you’re probably going to experience good results. But you won’t maximize your results by doing just one exercise for glutes. One consistent theme in the numerous testimonials I receive from women is that once they started incorporating more variety, their glute-building rate of progress soared.

P1010195

Do your squats, but make sure to hip thrust too!

I wrote my thoughts on hip thrusts versus squats in a guest post for Eric Cressey, and my verdict is that both should be performed for optimal results. At any rate, variety will always trump a single exercise for hypertrophic gains, and you have plenty of time throughout the week to squat and do other glute exercises. For example, after the client finishes their squats, they can easily throw in a couple of sets of one or more of the following exercises for even better results: American deadlifts, heavy kettlebell swings, band hip thrusts, barbell hip thrusts, cable pull-throughs, single leg hip thrusts, or pendulum quadruped hip extensions. I can’t see how any intelligent human being could argue against this.

Kel

Kellie Davis built her butt with hip thrusts, squats, deadlifts, barbell glute bridges, single leg hip thrusts, back extensions, Bulgarian split squats, reverse hypers, band hip rotations, RKC planks, kettlebell swings…you get the point.

Do Pro Bikini Competitors and Fitness Models “Just Squat” for Glute Development?

No, they don’t. I’ve never heard of one bikini, figure competitor, or fitness model who just squatted – literally never. Every single one of them performs a variety of glute exercises. This is true for Jamie Eason, Vida Guerra, Nathalia Melo, Ashley Kaltwasser, and Michelle Lewin. Each of them employ a variety of gluteal exercises, including squats, RDL’s, hip thrusts, reverse hypers, back extensions, lunges, cable donkey kicks, cable standing hip abduction, and more.

jamie eason glutes

Jamie Eason doesn’t “just squat”

vida guerra glutes

Vida Guerra doesn’t “just squat”

nathalia melo glutes

Nathalia Melo doesn’t “just squat”

ashley kaltwasser glutes

Ashley Kaltwasser doesn’t “just squat”

Michelle Lewin glutes

Michelle Lewin doesn’t “just squat”

You know who else doesn’t “just squat”? The Victoria Secret models. They enjoy their specialized glute workouts consisting of a variety of movements. If the “just squat bros” started training Victoria Secret models, they’d quickly be fired for throwing off their proportions.

Victoria Secret models do dedicated glute workouts with variety

Victoria Secret models do dedicated glute workouts with variety

Do Pro Bodybuilders “Just Squat” for Glute Development? 

No, they don’t. For example, HERE and HERE are videos of Kai Greene training glutes, and HERE is a video of Johnnie Jackson training his posterior chain. You’ll note the Jefferson deadlifts, pendulum quadruped donkey kicks, seated abduction machine, Dimel deadlifts, deadlifts, hip thrusts, back extensions, and glute ham raises.

Kai & Phil don't "just squat"

Kai & Phil don’t “just squat”

Do Elite Powerlifters “Just Squat” for Glute Development?

No, they don’t – and hypertrophy isn’t their primary goal, strength is. Nevertheless, they also deadlift (in concordance with their sport), and the vast majority also perform lower body assistance lifts, such as back extensions, reverse hypers, pull-throughs, Dimel deadlifts, leg presses, and/or swings. HERE and HERE are videos of Pete Rubish doing some accessory glute work for his deadlift. Note the hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, Bulgarian split squats, and heavy back extensions.

Pete Rubish doesn't "just squat"

Pete Rubish doesn’t “just squat”

This tendancy is true for all strength and power athletes. Olympic lifters do squats and front squats, along with clean and snatch variations, and many also do back extensions. Hip thrusts are gaining popularity in the Olympic lifting world, which is difficult considering it’s a sport dictated largely by tradition. Strongmen do squats, along with deadlifts, stone lifts, yoke walks, farmer’s carries, Zercher and good morning movements, sledwork, and more. Some strongmen are adding hip thrusts into their training as well.

Do Brazilian Women “Just Squat” for Glute Development?

The Brazilian women prioritize glute development in their training. If just squatting was the best way to go about building glutes, they’d go down this route. But they don’t just squat – they’ve found that variety expedites results.

HERE is former Ms. Bikini Olympia Nathalia Melo discussing glute training in Brazil. As you’ll see, the squat is just one of the many glute exercises they employ, and they have a very large arsenal of free weight, ankle weight, band, cable, and machine exercises to hit their glutes. In fact, their gyms tend to have separate portions of the gym dedicated to glute training. Below is a video of Nathalia going through a glute workout with me (on this day we also did goblet squats and back extensions):

If you check out Nathalia’s Instagram, or Gracyanne Barbosa’s Instagram, you’ll note a ton of variety for glute training.

Do NFL Players “Just Squat” for Glute Development? 

No, they don’t. In fact, I don’t know of a single pro strength coach who has his athletes just squat. Every high-level strength coach I know employs a variety of hip and leg strengthening exercises. For example, Arizona Cardinals strength coach Buddy Morris, Carolina Panthers strength coach Joe Kenn, and Cincinnati Bengals strength coach Chip Morton all have their guys do a ton of bilateral and unilateral squat, deadlift, hip thrust, reverse hyper, and back extension variations.

Bert Sorin and I hanging out with legendary strength coach Buddy Morris

Hanging out with legendary strength coach Buddy Morris and Sorinex President Bert Sorin – neither of these guys “just squat”

Conclusion

As you can see, the “just squat” bro is advising you to do something that no bikini competitor, no fitness model, no pro bodybuilder, no elite powerlifter, and no pro athlete actually does. He’s advising you to do something that is refuted by the literature, and he’s recommending something that doesn’t make logical sense.

Moreover, the “just squat” bro typically doesn’t train any clients. If he did, he’d quickly expand his arsenal, as I’ve never seen a successful personal trainer who has his clients just squat for lower body development.

If the “just squat” bro feels that you should prioritize the squat and focus on progressive overload, then this could be very good advice depending on the person. But if this were the case, it would be ideal for him to rephrase his statement as, “that looks like a cool exercise – I recommend that you also do your squats and try to put some more weight on the bar or do another rep or two every couple of weeks.” Unfortunately, the “just squat” bro usually isn’t considerate enough to word his statements tactfully.

Something tells me that if the “just squat” bro were told that he’d be given a million dollars if he added two inches of glute mass to his hips in a month, he’d do more than just squat. Something also tells me that if the “just squat” bro spent a few days reading the literature on metabolic stress in relation to muscle hypertrophy, or if he spent some time studying the regimens of those who successfully achieved glute transformations, he’d recommend to do more than just squat. Finally, something tells me that if the “just squat” bro spent a few months attaining mastery of the various glute exercises he shuns, he’d end up liking them, he’d keep them in his programming, and he’d recommend them to others.

Speaking from personal experience, my glute workouts feel much more complete if when I follow squats or deadlifts up with hip thrusts or high rep back extensions. Squats can get my glutes very sore, and deadlifts can make my glutes feel like they’re going to rip off of the femur, but for a complete workout, you also want to achieve a deep burn in the glutes and attain a glute pump (HERE are some ideas on this topic). The latter goal is best achieved through targeted movements that keep more constant tension on the glutes. If you want your glutes to thrive, do more than just squat. In addition, if you want your hammies to thrive, do more than just squat.

1

Definitely squat! And hip thrust. And deadlift. And lunge. And back extension. And lateral band walk. Hammer the glutes from multiple angles for best results.

Sasha’s Glute Transformation Story

Sasha’s Glute Transformation Story
by Sasha Ann

I have been bodybuilding for almost 2 years now and I love it! Although I’ve come a long way in that period of time, it took a lot of hard work, dedication, failures and successes. When I first started training at my local gym, I was only familiar with the “sculpting” and “toning” workouts that were seen in fitness magazines. My diet consisted of processed foods that were advertised as “low-fat” or “healthy” frozen meals. I was working out consistently, doing aimless amounts of cardio and afraid to lift heavy in fear of looking too muscular.

I know many other females who share the same story, and being a trainer I know it all too well. I was not reaching my goals but instead hitting plateaus. I wanted to be shredded while building my glutes, but I couldn’t seem to develop muscle while losing bodyfat at the same time.

With the help of friends, I began prepping for my first NPC show. I wanted to learn about my own body and in turn help others realize their own potential through proper nutrition and exercise.

Sasha

The pictures above are from when I first started prepping up until a month away from my competition. I was doing 5 day splits (shoulders & abs, back & bis, chest & tris, quads and hamstrings on different days). My leg days consisted of squats, leg press, lunges and step ups. I didn’t know anything more than these go-to exercises. I was happy with my results but I knew I could look better. I thought I was doing everything right, but something was definitely missing. After my show, I took some time off to learn more about training. My mother, having been supportive of my bodybuilding lifestyle, introduced me to Bret Contreras’ book Strong Curves.

Through reading his book, I suddenly discovered what I was missing. I was clearly not training my glutes optimally! I started to add hip thrusts, reverse hypers and deadlifts to my workouts, along with dynamic warm-ups (glute bridges, sumo walks and side lying clam raises) before my leg day for glute activation. After I started seeing a change in my shape, I made a plan to start a new split for my second show. Upper body push, glutes, upper body pull, legs, rest and a second glute day. I did this for my entire prep and the results were unimaginable!

Sasha2

Above is the difference between my first show, NPC Charlotte Cup, compared to my second show, IFBB North Americans, after incorporating specialized glute training two times a week. This transformation took 16 weeks! I finally got that hour-glass shape I was hoping for. Not only did I learn a lot aesthetically about the glutes, but biomechanically as well. I was able to focus on what exercises worked the different parts of the glutes and realized that to gain that round shape you would have to incorporate variety.

Sasha3

This is the most recent picture of my transformation. I can’t believe I was able to obtain all of this in a little less than a year! I’m in a much better position come time for next contest prep.  Aside from my results, I have learned so much about training, and that’s what’s most important to me. I am now able to understand proper glute progression so that I am able to teach my clients how to achieve the same results. I’m also a better-rounded athlete. I can run faster, lift heavier and I have great balance. Just goes to show you how important glute training is for your entire body.

Bret has unknowingly helped my fitness career not only through his book but by posting knowledgeable training advice through his blog and videos. I look up to him greatly. Thanks Bret, for everything!

Below is a sample video of my glute training. I did this workout last week. Notice the variety and multiple directions of resistance. I feel that this is key for optimal glute building.

But the story goes on. Here is a more recent progress picture as I started leaning out.

sasha

And here is my latest competition picture. As you can see, the added glute mass is vital so that after dieting down and attaining low levels of body fat, there’s still shape to be seen.

sasha-fit

Author Bio:

Sasha is an NPC bikini competitor, Dymatize Nutrition athlete, ISSA Certified Trainer and online trainer. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook and visit her webpage at www.sashaannefitness.com