How to Build Strong, Powerful Glutes and Increase Your Explosive Strength, Speed, and Athleticism. If Great Glutes are Your Goal, then You've Come to the Right Place. Master's Degree and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Bret Contreras is Here to Show You the Best Exercises, Techniques, and Methods to Improve Your Physique and Boost Your Performance. Let the Glute Guy Elevate You to a New Level.
Unless you’ve been in a cave over the past couple of decades, you’ve surely heard at some point about the importance of the gluteus medius in functional performance. To read a summary of the current gluteus medius research, please see Chris Beardsley’s excellent report HERE. Each of the gluteal muscles have functional subdivisions, and the gluteus medius has three distinct regions: anterior, middle, posterior.
Glutes: Minimus, Medius, Maximus
It is commonly thought that although the primary role of the gluteus medius is hip abduction (raising leg out to the side or stabilizing the hip during gait), the anterior (ventral) fibers of the gluteus medius assist in hip internal rotation whereas the posterior (dorsal) fibers of the gluteus medius assist in hip external rotation. This has been confirmed in studies measuring moment arms, and it’s explained in the end of the video below.
Interestingly, studies such as THIS brand new one have shown that the posterior fibers of the gluteus medius activate more highly with the hip in internal rotation compared to external rotation. I never gave this much thought until last Saturday when my friend Erin (HERE is her Instagram) visited me at my Glute Lab and trained her glutes (she’s competing tomorrow in bikini in Vegas at the NPC USA Nationals). If you recall, I interviewed Erin HERE where she presented my readers with a bunch of novel and effective band glute exercises. A few days ago I posted a band glute circuit Erin did on Instagram HERE and it received a lot of attention.
When she showed me the exercise below, I didn’t think much of it at first. Just seemed like another nifty hip external rotation exercise to me. However, I started thinking about it, and I quickly realized that this was hip internal rotation, pivoting around the feet. And it’s hip internal rotation in a fairly neutral hip position in terms of hip flexion/extension (it’s close to anatomical position in 0 degrees of hip flexion…considering the way she’s slightly anteriorly tilting her pelvis, I’d guess that she’s at 15 degrees of hip flexion below).
This caused me to be skeptical of this exercise as a glute builder. I know that Erin pays better attention to what areas of the glutes are being worked than pretty much any client I’ve ever trained, but this wasn’t in full agreement with the research.
I palpated Erin’s glutes and verified that it indeed heavily activated the upper glutes, and it seemed to me that the entire glute medius was firing, especially the posterior fibers. Wondering if maybe Erin is just unique in the way she fires her glutes, I tested 3 other clients two days later (and also on myself) and confirmed that their upper glutes fire very well during this band hip internal rotation exercise as well. I haven’t tested the gluteal EMG activity yet, but it’s pretty safe to say based on palpation that this exercise is a good glute exercise to include in your band circuit arsenal. I like to include various hip extension, hip abduction, and hip external rotation exercises, and now there’s this hip internal rotation exercise.
See upper x’s – these mark the upper posterior, middle, and anterior origins used in THIS study.
Please give this unique exercise a try and pay attention (I palpated my own glutes) to what region you’re working – let me know if you think it’s the posterior fibers of the gluteus medius in addition to the entire glute medius, or the upper gluteus maximus.
Make sure to not perform this on a super tall bench as you want the hips to just be slightly flexed. I haven’t tried it out yet in neutral (lying flat on the ground), but Erin tried the exercise in greater hip flexion from an elevated bench and didn’t feel it working nearly as well. This is interesting considering that Delp found that hip internal rotation moment arms of the glute muscles increase in hip flexion…so this doesn’t agree with his findings.
It seems like there’s more to the glutes than previously thought and that we’re still coming up with interesting and efficient ways of activating and strengthening these important muscles.
I’m quite pleased to interview Katie Anne Rutherford today – a dual powerlifter/figure competitor with a highly impressive work ethic and regimen, and an advocate of DUP for powerlifting strength and muscularity. I believe that many of my readers would benefit from adopting a similar approach and attitude as Katie Anne, while obviously tailoring the training and eating to individual weaknesses and preferences. I hope you enjoy our discussion!
1. Hi Katie Anne! Thank you for agreeing to conduct this interview, I know my readers will appreciate it. Let’s get right down to business. You compete in figure and powerlifting. Which do you like most and why?
Thanks so much for the opportunity Bret! I appreciate it! Yes I do compete in both powerlifting and figure – I truly love both! However, I would say my number one love is training. I have been an athlete as long as I can remember so the athletic performance of powerlifting is what gives me the most enjoyment. I would have to say that I like powerlifting slightly more for that reason – it’s just you vs. the weight. Not much subjectivity to the sport. However, I do love the femininity and challenge of figure – it takes a different type of mindset and training. I love the constant strife to improve myself in both sports – either with how much weight I am lifting or sculpting my physique through hard work each day. With that being said, I would not choose one over the other. I love being a duel sport athlete and demonstrating to women that you can still lift heavy and look good on the figure stage!
2. Great answer. Let’s switch gears and talk diet for a minute. You’re an advocate of IIFYM, and you have a freakishly high metabolism. How many calories were you consuming when you first started working with Layne Norton, and how many calories are you currently consuming?
Thanks Bret! When I first started working with Layne, I was actually consuming close to 2700 calories (over 300g of carbohydrates) and maintaining weight! However, I weighed closer to 165lbs then (vs 143lbs now). Over the course of the last year, I lost about 20lbs over about 8 months to step on the figure stage. My macros never had to go below 165g of carbs in my prep – which is relatively rare for female prep standards. Over the course of my reverse diet this year, I reached an intake of 320g of carbs and 80g of fat – close to 2700 calories while doing no cardio and maintaining stage leanness. I started my reverse diet at about 144lbs last November and ended it (in Late May) at the same weight. Right now, I am not quite back up to those food numbers (after having had to diet down for a couple weeks for my two figure shows) – but inching back up. I am currently eating 260g of carbs and 65g fat one week post show.
3. I bet many of my female readers are envious of your bodyweight multiplier of 19 for total calories. But this wan’t all magic – it occurred in tandem with some serious strength gains. You turned your body into a metabolic machine by getting freakishly strong. How strong were you at the big 3 lifts when you first started working with Layne, and how strong are you now?
Thank you! That means a lot to me. When I first started working with Layne (we met at a seminar he held in Columbus, Ohio for the Arnold), my max squat was around 290lbs and my max deadlift was around 300lbs. I am not even sure what my bench was! Probably around 130lbs or so. Currently, my max squat is 347lbs, deadlift is 363lbs, and bench is 175lbs.
4. Amazing. Actually, what’s even more amazing is your training volume. You adhere to a DUP approach to training. How many days per week do you squat, bench, and deadlift?
Yes I do! I actually started my DUP training one year ago. Prior to that, I was following a hypertrophy/power program from April of 2014 until July of 2014, which is when I met Dr. Mike Zordous, who has conducted quite a bit of reseach on DUP. Layne and I decided to focus on powerlifting from that time on and incorporated it into my training. I currently squat 3x per week, bench 4x per week, and deadlift 2x per week. Prior to my last training block, I was doing the three main lifts 3x per week. We changed my program up a bit since my bench tends to be the lift that lags behind my other lifts. I am currently prepping for Raw Nationals in October.
5. Do you just grind through week in and week out, or do you deload regularly? And do you ever have days where you go super light and pull back the reins due to fatigue and exhaustion?
I typically deload about every 5 weeks or so. Generally, there are not many days where I feel completely exhausted and have to go super light – occasionally, if I am not feeling well or I just do not have much energy (which I have experienced a couple times due to figure prep), I may leave out my amrap set (as many reps as possible) and add an extra set. The beauty of DUP is that the volume is looked at from a weekly perspective. As long as I am getting my volume in for the week, I try not to stress about little changes to a day here and there. For example, if I am battling a shoulder injury, let’s say, I might decrease my bench weight and increase the sets and/or reps to equate for the same volume for that session (volume = weight x reps x sets).
6. Do you ever incorporate variety with the big lifts, or is it pure specificity? In other words, do you ever pull conventional (since you pull sumo), or perform front squats, or high bar squats, or close grip bench, or board presses? What about pause squats, pause deads, and extra long pause benches? If not, why?
My lifting is pure specificity – I do not incorporate variations of squats into my program or pull conventional on deadlifts (I pull sumo). I do add in accessory work to focus on my weaknesses – for example, I add in shoulder exercises to help with my bench and back exercises to help with deadlift. However, with DUP, I focus on weekly volume progression. Especially since I am a dual athlete, focusing on too many variations would be overwhelming for my programming. I run a very high volume training schedule – therefore, I have to determine what will give me the most benefit in terms of my powerlifting programming. So as of now, I solely work on the lifts in the same way that I compete (back squat, sumo, and bench with a slight pause). My training is constantly evolving, however, and so who knows how long that will stay constant!
7. I would imagine that you’d attribute most of your body improvements to increases in powerlifting strength. But what other exercises do you typically perform in order to “round out the body” for figure competitions? Please include your favorite accessory lifts for the glutes, hams, lats, delts, and any other favorites.
Yes, I have found that the BEST glute exercise that exist are the squat and deadlift – I can attribute the significant change in my lower half to those exercises alone in the past year. However, I do occasionally add in hamstring work (glute ham raises or leg curls), but no additional quad work. Other accessory work that I really have to focus on are back focused exercises – your back can truly never be big or dense enough for figure! I also add in quite a bit of shoulder work too. Some of my staple exercises I add in are rack chins/pull ups, any type of rows, shoulder presses, lateral raises, calf raises (seated & standing), and standard bicep and tricep work. My accessory work is typically spread out over three days – with a heavy emphasis on back. Figure shows are won from behind 😉
8. Do you do any cardio? If so, how much and what type?
The only cardio I perform is cardio squats and deadlifts! (anything over 8 reps). Haha – no, I do not perform traditional cardio right now, unless I randomly decide that I want to do some interval sprints every once in a while. I warm up on a cardio machine before my lifts for about 10 minutes – if that counts ☺
9. When you compete in figure, do you change the training much? In other words, do you employ higher reps, or add in more accessory lifts, or increase cardio? Or do you keep that all the same and just rely on diet?
When I am getting close to a competition, I do add in a bit more accessory work to increase the volume for my lagging body parts for figure. Generally, my training stays pretty constant throughout the year. Leading up to a powerlifting meet, I typically reduce the amount of accessory work I am doing just to conserve more energy for the main lifts. Ebs and flows, but generally stays constant! Luckily, I have not had to do much of any cardio since last fall – so the only tweaks that Layne and I make to get a bit leaner are through my diet (macros).
10. Do you bulk and cut throughout the year or just stay close to a given bodyweight? By the way, what is your current bodyweight and bodyfat percentage?
Since my show last fall, I have maintained my weight at around 141-146lbs. I tend to fluctuate in weight quite a bit simply due to my high sodium and water intake. To give some perspective, I ended my reverse diet this year at 145lbs and stepped on stage at about 140lbs. I will hope to reverse diet, put on some mass, and maintain around 148lbs this fall/winter. Right now, I weigh 143lbs. I had my body fat measured in the spring when I weighed 145lbs – it was 8 percent – I would estimate I am probably slightly under that right now coming off my show.
11. Let’s revisit nutrition again. What are your current macros, and what does a typical day look like in terms of eating?
My current macros (after coming off my competition season, where I competed at NPC Junior Nationals and NPC Team Universe) are 260 carbs, 65 fat, and 150 protein. My coach and I are reverse dieting and will continue to do so until I determine when I want to compete in figure again. Since I follow a flexible diet, a typical day truly varies! I eat a lot of eggs – so usually I start my day with 2-3 eggs with toast and cream cheese. Pre workout, I focus on getting at least 25 percent of my daily carbs and post workout is the same as well. I like to save quite a bit of my fats for night when I have more eggs or peanut butter (one of my favorites).
12. What are some of your favorite foods that you make sure to include in your diet each week?
As I mentioned, I love eggs! So I usually have 3-5 whole eggs per day. I also love whole grains and potatoes – so Ezekiel bread and sweet/regular potatoes are staples in my diet. I can never turn down ice cream – so that is something I also love to treat myself to at night typically. However, I also eat lots of fruits and veggies – roasted asparagus and strawberries being two of my favorites. Peanut butter, honey, and rice cakes are also foods that I enjoy. No foods are off limits for me, my taste buds are always changing, so I change up my meals pretty frequently!
13. Great choices, and very well put! Just goes to show you the value of added muscle mass in combination with high frequency/high volume training. What advice can you give to beginners out there who are seeking to change their physiques through strength training?
My number one piece of advice is that results will come with hard work and consistency. There truly are no shortcuts when it comes to getting results. Focus on establishing both a training and nutrition plan that are sustainable for the long term – and a workout program that emphasizes heavy lifting and progression. I see too many beginners focusing on quick fix diets and training programs that are not maintainable for the long term. Also, find a program you enjoy! The journey of health and fitness should be something that complements your life and happiness – not detracts from it.
14. Do you believe that figure and powerlifting complement each other, or could you see better results if you just focused on one or the other?
I do believe there are aspects to both types of training that complement each other. The heavy lifting of power lifting has developed my physique into something I honestly never could have achieved without it! Focusing on my weaknesses with bodybuilding accessory work has also given me more strength for power lifting. With that being said, I am sure if I solely focused on powerlifting and did not maintain the leanness that I do for figure, of course my absolute strength would increase. However, as I mentioned before, I would not give up one for the other. I truly enjoy the challenge of being a duel sport athlete. I will say that I do not think I would have the legs that I do without powerlifting – even if I focused solely on bodybuilding.
15. Thank you very much for your time Katie Anne, last question. Where can my readers follow you? I believe you’re on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube right?
Cryotherapy (cold therapy) has been around for ages. Athletes and celebrities alike love it, including Floyd Mayweather (see the video below of Floyd using it), Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo, Justin Gatlin, the Dallas Mavericks, the Dallas Cowboys, Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Jessica Alba, Mandy Moore, Minka Kelly, and more (according to HERE, HERE, and HERE). I’ve used cold tubs in the past, and like many things in the world, it made intuitive sense to me that it would help me recover. I never really knew how it would help and through which mechanisms it helped, but I just “felt” it working, and I didn’t really question tradition.
The problem with relying on “feeling” is that it could just be temporary and fleeting, it could be due to the Placebo Effect, or it could actually diminish results without us knowing. This is why research is so important; conducting RCT’s allows us to examine short term physiological mechanisms inherent to a particular intervention along with long term changes in performance measures that are associated with a particular intervention.
Many athletes and coaches like to jump into a cold tub immediately following a workout. Hell, cold tubs are common in high end training athletic training facilities around the world. Past research in postexercise cold water immersion is unimpressive. Some studies show minor potential, for example postexercise cold water immersion may improve postexercise lipid peroxidation (HERE), but for the taking a long hard look at the evidence on postesexercise cold water immersion doesn’t justify it’s inclusion in most sports recovery programs – it doesn’t appear to outperform a Placebo (HERE), it doesn’t improve sleep architecture (HERE), a major review paper didn’t approve of it for treating muscle soreness (HERE), and another review paper concluded that it benefited endurance athletes in terms of recovery, but not strength/power athletes (HERE).
A recently accepted article in The Journal of Physiology summarized two eye-opening studies that warrant further attention in the Strength & Conditioning field (HERE). I’m going to copy and paste the abstract, key points, and some author quotes below.
Post-exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signalling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training
We investigated functional, morphological and molecular adaptations to strength training exercise and cold water immersion (CWI) through two separate studies. In one study, 21 physically active men strength trained for 12 weeks (2 d⋅wk–1), with either 10 min of CWI or active recovery (ACT) after each training session. Strength and muscle mass increased more in the ACT group than in the CWI group (P<0.05). Isokinetic work (19%), type II muscle fibre cross-sectional area (17%) and the number of myonuclei per fibre (26%) increased in the ACT group (all P<0.05) but not the CWI group. In another study, nine active men performed a bout of single-leg strength exercises on separate days, followed by CWI or ACT. Muscle biopsies were collected before and 2, 24 and 48 h after exercise. The number of satellite cells expressing neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) (10−30%) and paired box protein (Pax7)(20−50%) increased 24–48 h after exercise with ACT. The number of NCAM+ satellitecells increased 48 h after exercise with CWI. NCAM+– and Pax7+-positivesatellite cell numbers were greater after ACT than after CWI (P<0.05). Phosphorylation of p70S6 kinaseThr421/Ser424 increased after exercise in both conditions but was greater after ACT (P<0.05). These data suggest that CWI attenuates the acute changes in satellite cell numbers and activity of kinases that regulate muscle hypertrophy, which may translate to smaller long-term training gains in muscle strength and hypertrophy. The use of CWI as a regular post-exercise recovery strategy should be reconsidered.
KEY POINTS SUMMARY
Cold water immersion is a popular strategy to recovery from exercise. However, whether regular cold water immersion influences muscle adaptations to strength training is not well understood.
We compared the effects of cold water immersion and active recovery on changes in muscle mass and strength after 12 weeks of strength training. We also examined the effects of these two treatments on hypertrophy signalling pathways and satellite cell activity in skeletal muscle after acute strength exercise.
Cold water immersion attenuated long term gains in muscle mass and strength. It also blunted the activation of key proteins and satellite cells in skeletal muscle up to 2 days after strength exercise.
Individuals who use strength training to improve athletic performance, recover from injury or maintain their health should therefore reconsider whether to use cold water immersion as an adjuvant to their training.
“The key findings were that cold water immersion (1) substantially attenuated long-term gains in muscle mass and strength, and (2) delayed and/or suppressed the activity of satellite cells and kinases in the mTOR pathway during recovery from strength exercise. We propose that regular deficits in acute hypertrophy signalling in muscle after cold water immersion accumulated over time, which in turn resulted in smaller improvements in strength and hypertrophy. The present findings contribute to an emerging theme that cold water immersion and other strategies (e.g., antioxidant supplements, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) that are intended to mitigate and improve resilience to physiological stress associated with exercise may actually be counterproductive to muscle adaptation (Peake et al., 2015).
This investigation offers the strongest evidence to date that using cold water immersion on a regular basis may interfere with training adaptations. No previous study has investigated the effect of cold water immersion on muscle hypertrophy after strength training.”
As you can see, this evidence is extremely damning. It seems like we all got guru’d. Jumping into a cold tub after a hard workout hampered our gains by slowing down the normal rate of progress in terms of satellite cell and mTOR pathway activation, strength acquisition, and muscle fiber hypertrophy. If you’ve heavily relied on cold tubs following your strength training workouts, you could have been more jacked. Hopefully professional sports teams, coaches, and trainers will be open-minded to ditching this common practice, as it’s used abundantly in the preparation of athletes in the NFL, NBA, and UFC.
Many individuals have a very difficult time keeping their cores in check when they perform push ups. They tend to sag in the hips and overarch their low backs. If I had to guess, I’d say 33% of men and 66% of women exhibit this problem when they perform push ups.
The dead-stop reset push up has you starting from the bottom position. First, you posteriorly tilt the pelvis with a giant glute squeeze and lock down the core. Next, you perform the push up while trying your best to maintain this core positioning throughout the concentric and eccentric portion of the set. Then, you pause at the bottom and reset.
These are much harder than standard push ups for most people but they will teach individuals to control their lumbopelvic hip complexes (LPHC) and keep them static while performing dynamic push ups.
Left: Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT) – this is undesirable in a push-up. Right: Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT) – this is the position you want in a push up (neutral is fine too)
Below is a video of Camille performing 3 reps. Notice that her form still isn’t perfect – you still see some hinging at the mid-back. These are very challenging for her; she can normally perform 10 bodyweight push ups but she typically anteriorly tilts her pelvis and hyperextends her lumbar spine. With the dead-stop reset push-up, she can only perform 3 reps but her form is markedly better. My guess is that in 6 weeks of employing these twice per week, she’ll be doing push ups like a boss while keeping her LPHC solid.
The dead-stop reset push-up serves as an excellent teaching tool for proper push up performance, I hope you give it a try!
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