Progress in Glute Training: It’s Not Always What You’d Expect (But It’s Still Progress)

Today’s article is an incredible guestblog from Emily. I’m sure there are many others out there who have experienced similar results. You’ve implemented my advice and have gained tremendous glute strength and function, yet your glutes haven’t changed much in shape and size. Here’s Emily’s outlook (you gotta love the detailed graphs too!):   

Progress in Glute Training: It’s Not Always What You’d Expect (But It’s Still Progress)
By Emily

Six months ago I was at a pretty good place with my fitness.  I could do 10 pull-ups.  I could bench press my body weight.  I could run every stair in the Harvard stadium in under 20 minutes.

Harvard Stadium

I made that part up. I never actually timed it, but it was pretty fast.

I had found that sweet spot where my training, nutrition, and lifestyle were so dialed in that maintaining a physique I was proud of felt almost effortless.   Sounds pretty good, right?  Well, it was.  There was only one problem…  I was bored.

I’d been cruising along in maintenance mode for a couple years and had started to develop a compulsive habit of buying neon sneakers as a means of keeping my workouts fresh and interesting.  I needed a challenge.  I had known for a long time that my lower body strength had a lot of room for improvement, but I figured that I was already strong enough to do everything I wanted to do, and didn’t see the point of trying to get any stronger.  At least, that’s how I justified it… the real reason I hadn’t committed to improving my lower body strength was because I was too scared of not being able to fit my quads into my pants.

But then I came across a review of Strong Curves in the blogosphere.  If you happen to be reading this and have never heard of Strong Curves, it’s a book about glute training by Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis. I’d never thought about training my glutes before, and growing myself a booty was appealing to me in the same way that getting a cool new haircut is appealing, but without the risk of ending up with a mullet (that seems to happen to me a lot).  If I’ve learned one thing over the course of my fitness career, it’s that sometimes forward progress requires you to suspend your disbelief and take a leap of faith into something that seems scary.  So… I leaped.

And it didn’t take long for me to become completely obsessed with glutes… any of you who are also obsessed with glutes can attest to the fact that normal people don’t, in fact, want to talk about glutes all the time (weirdoes!).  So I did what any reasonable girl would do and I joined Get Glutes, where there are a bunch of cool chicks that like to lift weights and talk about glutes.  It’s completely normal for things like “…and then I had the best butt pump ever!!!!” (direct quote) to appear in our training logs.   There’s nothing not to like about that.

I just finished my 6th month of training Bret Contreras style (4 months of Strong Curves and 2 months of Get Glutes), and here are the improvements I’ve noticed:

1. I’ve Gotten Stronger

The graph below shows my one rep max hip thrust, deadlift and squat over the past 6 months.  Shamefully, I didn’t start keeping a training log right away, so I had to estimate my starting points (estimated data are indicated by the dotted lines). Since starting the program I’ve added about 135 lbs to my hip thrust, 50 lbs to my dead lift, and 40 lbs to my squat.  I think this is pretty good!  Actually, I have no idea whether or not it’s good, but I’m really happy with it.

Chart

Getting stronger just for the sake of getting stronger is awesome in and of itself because it makes you feel like a total badass.  But the added bonus for me is that I’m a skier.  A stronger skier is a better skier, and I’m going into this ski season significantly stronger than I’ve ever been. I asked my dad if he thought I would instantly start skiing like Bode Miller, and he said no. Not the answer I was hoping for.

2. My Movement Patterns Have Totally Changed

Somewhere around month 4 I went hiking and felt a very strange sensation in my glutes… it was muscle fatigue!  I realize this doesn’t sound strange, but a few years ago I hiked all 67 4,000+ ft mountains in New England and never once felt anything in my glutes.  They were lazy freeloaders!  Here I am with my lazy freeloading glutes on the Knife’s Edge of Katahdin in Maine:

Knife's Edge

Now, I intuitively push through my heel and activate my glutes in everyday activities, and in the gym I can feel my glutes engaging during quad dominant lifts like squats and lunges.  I never could before.  It’s been really cool to see my nervous system rewiring itself.

3. I Overcame my Fear of Heavy Lower Body Lifting

I used to stick with plyos or high rep lifting because I worried that anything that resembled progressive overload would make my legs, well… for lack of a better word…”bulky”. Getting past this mental block has been pretty liberating.  (For the record, I didn’t get “bulky”.  More on that in a bit.)

4. I Proved to Myself that I Don’t Have to do Cardio to Stay Lean

A few years ago I would have had a panic attack if I didn’t go to at least four spin classes a week.  Over the years I whittled my weekly cardio down to just a few short interval sessions, and when I started Strong Curves I cut it down to just two (20 minutes or less).  Now I’m down to one (sometimes.  If I feel like it), and I haven’t gained any body fat.

I was about to say that an added bonus to eliminating cardio is that I spend a lot less time in the gym, but being a fitness junkie I actually LIKE spending time in the gym. Although, now that I spend a lot less time in the gym I find that I really look forward to my workouts, so I guess that’s the added bonus.  Speaking of which, tomorrow is deadlift day.  WHY IS IT NOT TOMORROW YET???!!!

5. I’m Learning a lot of Things I Never Knew I Didn’t Know

About biomechanics, training strategies, form, what works specifically for my body, etc. I love that my form is continuing to improve, even on lifts I’ve been doing for years…there’s more technique involved in lifting weights than I ever imagined.  I find all of this stuff to be fascinating.

Ok, it’s time for a pop quiz.   What would you have expected to be on that list that isn’t?

If you guessed, “I grew enormous glutes”, you would be correct!

Let’s look at the facts:

Below is a graph of my weight and measurements over the past 6 months.  For illustrative purposes, I overlaid these data on top of the 1RM data from the graph I posted above.  Notice that while my strength went up, up, up, my weight and measurements stayed the same.  Going back to item #3 above, my fear of getting bulky, you can see that my legs didn’t get any larger (blue line), and since my weight (red line) stayed the same, I can conclude that I maintained my body fat despite doing very little cardio (I’ve put on at least a little bit of muscle, so if anything my body fat has decreased).

But you can also see, per the green line, that my butt didn’t get any bigger.

ChartII

Now for the photographic evidence:

Here are my before pictures, along with my 2 month, 4 month, and 6 month progress pictures.  Let’s be honest, if I hadn’t labeled them you probably wouldn’t have known which picture was the “before” and which was the “after”.  I look pretty much the same.

Before-AfterBefore-AfterII

So, to what do I attribute my lack of booty growth? Well, it’s certainly not for lack of trying… I did everything in my power to facilitate glute growth including nightly chants of “I must!  I must!  I must increase my butt!” (OK fine, I only did that once).  It’s possible that I’m just at a plateau and as I continue to forge forward my hip measurement will eventually start to tick up, but I don’t really think that’s the case.  My guess is that a combination of my fitness level at my starting point (while my lower body strength wasn’t optimized, I was at a pretty high fitness level overall and therefore had limited potential for growth) and good old-fashioned genetics mean that significant glute growth is just not in the cards for me.

I feel the need to clarify that I’m not disappointed about this. First of all, I HAVE noticed some subtle physical changes that don’t show up in the pictures; my upper glutes are a bit more round, and my legs look better (“Leaner”?  Not really.  “More defined”?  Not quite.  “Shapely”? Sort of, but that word sucks.  I’m just going to stick with “better”).  My training partner has noticed the changes too… it might be because she spends a lot of time scrutinizing my butt when I’m in the lockout portion of a deadlift, but I don’t care, it still counts.  (And don’t worry…I scrutinize her butt too, so it’s fair.)  At my fitness level, physique changes don’t come easily, so I’m happy with these minor changes.

Here you go, I dug up some more photographic evidence for you.  Note the blue arrow… those are my newly rounded glutes.

Deadlift

And second, I came into this program with no expectations… sure, my glutes didn’t grow as much as I thought they would, but I also experienced progress in ways that surprised me.  I would have been pretty happy to accomplish just one of the 5 things on my list above, so I consider my glute experiment to be a grand success.   I look forward to seeing what changes the next six months of glute training will bring.

You know, there’s a lot of talk in the fitness industry about “being the best you you can be”, and my experience with this program has gotten me thinking about what that really means.   A lot of people go into training programs with the intention of accomplishing a specific aesthetic result, like “I want to weight X lbs”, “I want to be X % body fat”, “I want to ‘fix’ a particular ‘flaw’”.  And, while this kind of goal can be useful to help structure your training plan, at the end of the day you can’t really control what your body does… all we can control is the way we train and the way we live our lives, and our body is going to do what it wants to do.  I don’t mean this to be discouraging, in fact, for me this realization was liberating; rather than trying to manipulate my body to be a specific shape or size, I could just focus the things I could control, and stay open-minded to where that might take me.

The thing is, the best you you can be might not end up being exactly what you thought it would… but it also might pleasantly surprise you.

 

62 thoughts on “Progress in Glute Training: It’s Not Always What You’d Expect (But It’s Still Progress)

  1. alex

    I’ve never seen a normal butt transformed in a super butt by any amount of any exercise in 25 years of seriouos lifting. So, this is no exception. easy hopes, big disappointment.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Hi Alex…I’ve had 3 different clients put 3″ on their glutes in one week. Granted this is very rare, but some ladies have some incredible genetics for building glutes. I’ve trained other ladies who followed the same programming and didn’t change much at all over the course of 6 months.

      Reply
  2. Ondřej

    Inspiring article, we all sometimes expect more in terms of physique change and then jump programmes. More often than not, it’s about diet, patience and persistence.
    I need a bit of advice with my programme too. I do HIT twice a week with dumbbells with good results, it’s hard to compare, it’s the first programme I stick with for some time.
    I read Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy. Let’s say that more volume than 9 sets to failure twice a week (full body) would benefit me in terms of hypertrophy. I’d train full body bodyweight 5x/week.(16 sets) BUT, does the fact it would be bodyweight and the progressive overload wouldn’t probably be so “visible” (I’d aim for RPE 8-9 and autoregulate) mean the results would be worse compared to HFT with barbells/dumbbells? And wouldn’t it be better to stay with dumbbell HIT then? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Ondrej, if you had to pick one or the other, I’d stay with db’s. However, you could also do a heavier db day and a higher-rep bodyweight day. Ain’t nuttin’ wrong with that approach.

      Reply
  3. David

    Bret,

    Unrelated to the post, but I do have a question (I am an avid reader of your blog). I know you might find these types of questions annoying, but I don’t know who else to ask about hip thrusts.

    I have a wonky S-I joint that flares up from time to time. Slight twisting of the pelvis causing leg length discrepancy, and inflammation can get quite ugly on the right side. I am working on it (chiro adjustments from time to time, self-manual therapy, etc.), but it’s gotten better.

    Question: Hip thrusts are uncomfortable for me in the lower back/SI region. I start light, but the S-I Joint might be an issue here. But I really want to do them. Should I progress from single leg hip thrusts to minimize the S-I joint issue, or should I just go light with bi-lateral until things clear up in the area? I really like the glute training effect I get with them, but it’s a risk-reward thing.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Hi David, here’s my advice. Stick with single leg and lighter high rep barbell hip thrusts. If things start feeling normal within a month, then gradually add load. If they still don’t feel right, ditch them. The SI joint is tricky and some movements are good for certain people’s SIJ’s and bad for other people’s. Stick with the movements that feel best for your body…maybe you could do pull throughs, or back extensions, etc.

      Reply
  4. Sami

    What if Emily tried eating a bit more? Sort of a “lean bulk” with training focused on glutes. Maybe gaining weight wouldn’t be worth a bigger booty to her, but this article does make me wonder how a few extra calories would affect her results. That said, thanks Emily for sharing your story — your open-minded and positive attitude of exploration shines through. What a great approach to fitness!

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Hi Sami, sure, Emily could probably grow her glutes a bit if she upped her calories. That’s certainly something she could try…if she didn’t like the extra weight she could diet back down. Glad you liked the article!

      Reply
  5. Jake S

    Great blog post! Maybe it’s just the picture but in the rear view picture your shins seem to be slightly more vertical than when you started. Also you look like you lost a little of the anterior tilt in the side views. Nothing dramatic but it looks like you started being pretty well sorted out. Anyways…I would also concur with the feeling of using different patterns while walking/hiking/climbing after emphasizing glute training.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Great eye Jake! She definitely lost some APT/lumbar hyperextension. Of course we’re assuming that she’s not purposely arching in pic number one, but assuming the same intent to arch existed in all pics, then her posture indeed changed. I too can attest to feeling more glute activation when I walk.

      Reply
  6. Danielle

    Great article, it’s nice to see that what I’ve gone through is normal! (Though I tend to buy new tank tops instead of shoes) I love deadlifts, they’re like a push-up bra for buttcheeks! For comparison, personally I didn’t see a change in the shape of my butt until my deadlift was up from 130 lb to 190 lb and I’d gained 10 lb and 2″ around my waist in muscle (up to 115 lb, 26″ waist). Up until that point I was just getting better at doing deadlifts. If you want your legs to get stronger without bulk, focus on your abs :)

    Reply
  7. Naomi

    Emily, very, very cool blog post. I love your side comments. Great insights galore.
    The comments from Sami got me thinking about things besides calories. Are you hitting your protein requirements? At least 50-70g/day. And creatine could help.

    Reply
  8. Mary

    Very insightful, and introspective, post! I like Emily’s approach, and the graphs are so informative. She is clearly very good with data.

    Reply
  9. Barbaro

    Good for you, sweetie, but if I was working that hard, paid all that money and didn’t have a big ol’ booty to show for it, bottom line…

    I. WOULD. BE. PISSED!!!

    And devastated!

    Reply
    1. emilysteezy

      Barbaro,

      I totally get where you’re coming from on this, and 6 months ago I probably would have said the same thing. But the thing is that I was happy with my body before and I’m happy with it now. And in hindsight, items #3 and #4 on the list mean MUCH more to me than increasing the size of my glutes. I don’t really care what my body looks like provided I am happy with it and happy about what I have to do to keep it that way, so to me improvements in the process trump improvements in physique.

      Reply
    2. Stelbel

      What a ridiculous comment Babaro! She deadlifts 208lbs her strength gains are incredible, she must be exhilarated reaching PR’ s( more than a” butt photo” when she already started from a good place.) Brett is being absolutely honest about our expectations based on pre determined genetics and muscle shape (one of the few in the industry) “Pissed” to quote you, is when you have a great butt photo for a show, but it’s all based on deprivation and not strength gains, go back to eating normal, rebound so bad that in a week your butt looks worse than when you started!
      Your comment is superficial, missed her INCREDIBLE achievements and probably put women back 50 years. So your philosophy is despite kicking “butt” in the gym, put down that iron and give up, because your boss doesn’t notice a difference when you wiggle your tush out of his office!!! Shut up Barbaro! You sound like a man from an episode of “Mad Men”!

      Reply
  10. Irene

    I sort of have the same issue…I’ve been religiously hip thrusting & glute bridging since June & I started at 43″ & I’m at 44″ now I’m way stronger & I definitely notice a difference in the shape but I’m really hoping for some more gains. I thought it may be because I’ve been stuck at the same weight for 3months but somehow I recently went down 5lbs so I’m happy about that! I’m limited w/my weights so…any tips? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Trev

      If you’re limited with your weights then you have to make the most of them Irene. Single leg hip thrusts for higher reps and more sets than you’re doing now is one way forward. Banded hip thrusts (as long as you have somewhere to anchor the bands) is another. Christmas is coming though – couldn’t you ask Santa for more weights?

      Reply
      1. Irene

        Haha I guess I could make a little plea to Santa…but thanks, I’ll incorporate more SL hip thrusts & see where that gets me. I have been trying higher reps & more sets w/barbell hip thrust which is what I think helped me go down 5lbs since I haven’t been doing much cardio. I actually don’t have anywhere to anchor bands so maybe I’ll try to rig something up as well.

        Reply
  11. David Madarro

    Seriously, like others mentioned already, I would up the calories!

    She looks great, athletic with nice back width, but she doesn’t look like she gained much size over-all during that 6 month period. It’s difficult to see because her arms and shoulder blades are positioned differently on all 4 pictures.

    The most important thing is that she’s happy and got stronger of course :)

    Reply
    1. emilysteezy

      A few people have touched on the nutrition thing, so I’ll address it here.

      First of all, It’s not like I’m restricting calories. I eat as much as my appetite suggests I should, which I would estimate to be around 2,300 – 2,500 kcals per day, which conventional wisdom would suggest is a lot for a 130 lb woman.

      Second, I’m really not interested in dieting, so I didn’t want to put on any excess weight that I would later need to take off. I take sort of a holistic approach to nutrition in that I don’t like to be too analytical about it, and I would prefer not to calculate or control anything (not because it’s wrong to do that, but because I cannot personally handle it. I get too obsessed. I’ve worked hard to learn to eat intuitively in a way that allows me to stay fairly lean). So all this being the case, I didn’t feel compelled to up my calories any more than my appetite suggested I should.

      So, while it’s probably true that I COULD have gained more weight/glute size by increasing my calories even more, it is just worth it to me. It’s more important to me to have a stress-free, sustainable nutrition plan than it is to grow my glutes.

      Reply
      1. Layla

        I can totally relate to your comment and article. I’m the exact same way with nutrition so tweaking nutrition to force weight gain would probably just lead me down the path towards crazy and bigger glutes aren’t worth that level of crazy lol.

        Reply
      2. Lindsey

        LoVE the way you said this! SO healthy and thought out. Your confidence shines. Excited to follow your journey on GG!

        Reply
  12. Keeley

    Great article Emily! Thanks for sharing your experience. I especially love your conclusion. And your numbered points. Actually the whole thing :-)

    Reply
  13. sarah

    Emily, not only was your story excellent and honest, but you told it so well! I rarely read these stories closely because most people aren’t great storytellers, but this was entertaining. It also rings true for me, as I started with a solid base (18 years of weight lifting). Though I had nagging fears that Strong Curves would make my butt bigger, even though I am happy with its current size, it hasn’t changed much. It looks a bit better to me, but not so much that people who don’t scrutinise my ass on the regular would notice. I appreciated the perspective that you provided on this….success doesn’t always mean ‘fixing’ something, particularly if it isn’t broken.

    Reply
  14. Josh

    Em, I hope this isn’t too creepy coming from a random interwebz guy, but I was looking at your glutes and see noticeable changes. While the peak circumference may not have changed, that peak now sits much higher. Your back is also leaner which indicates a loss in BF which would probably have caused a drop in size if not made up for by glute growth. Regardless, you look great, keep up the good work.

    Reply
    1. emilysteezy

      Josh, you’re exactly right, I have noticed the same thing. While my size didn’t change, the shape is definitely nicer, and I have more glute mass. Like I said, I’m psyched about it!

      Thanks for the compliment!

      Reply
  15. Whitley

    Great post, you have plenty to be proud of!!

    Could the source of your disappointment be your squats? A general rule of thumb is to maintain a 30 – 40 lb spread between your dead lift and squat.

    Two takeaways from your first chart; your DL – Squat spread is 50 lbs, but probably more importantly as it relates to glute growth, your squats #’s plateaued (very slight increases).

    Perhaps your next six months should focus on getting your squat #’s up. Go HEAVY, 3X5 work sets, use sound form, and your glutes will pop.

    Lastly, you have to EAT to grow. You’re on top of your game so you know how to eat right, just up the intake, particularly protein.

    Looking forward to your six-month update post.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Whitley, I don’t agree with this. Much of the disparity between squat and dl comes from anthropometry. Long arms equals better deadlifts. Long femurs equals terrible squats. Etc. Someone with long arms and femurs will typically have a >100 lb differential between their squats and deads. And since hip thrusts activate the glutes to a much greater degree then squats, it makes more sense to focus on those since they create more tension. However, this remains to be shown in the research I will admit. Anyway, thanks for chiming in.

      Reply
      1. Whitley

        Bret, no argument regarding the effects of anthropometry on lifting performance and outcome. But how does it apply here? I can’t tell from the pics Emily provided.

        In hind sight I shouldn’t have referenced the dl – squat spread ‘rule of thumb’ (too subjective), and simply focused on Emily’s squat plateau. Maybe it’s just a temporary sticking point, or maybe it’s something else. Persistence and increased calories should address the former. If it’s the later, maybe a form adjustment or two would help. Whatever ‘it’ is, figure ‘it’ out and the glutes will ‘pop’ as the squat #’s go up.

        I’ve followed your blog for several years and actually wrote my post with your 2011 interview with Rachel Guy in mind

        http://bretcontreras.com/interview-with-rachel-guy/

        It’s a great interview with lots of good info and a few priceless takeaways, like “Anything over 5 reps is cardio”. How would Rachel respond to Emily’s dilemma?

        Reply
        1. emilysteezy

          Whitley, a big part (if not all) of my issue with squats is that I’m a big sissy. I’m scared of them. Every once in a long while I’ll spend the whole day psyching myself up for squats and I’ll manage to go in and have an OK day, but for the most part I just struggle to commit (strangely, I don’t have the same problem with front squats). I’m working really hard to get over this but it’s not easy.

          I’m sure there are some other factors at play as well, but I think my head is holding me back more than anything else. Stupid head.

          Reply
          1. Whitley

            Emily, that’s what I figured. Your first chart says it all. You’re not afraid of heavy weights, you’re using solid #’s on hip-thrusts and dead lifts, but the squat seems to have gotten the better of you.

            You’re in good company; I’ve found most lifters eschew the compound lifts, particularly squats. Why? Most succumb to fears attributed to never having been properly trained on the lifts. They find the thought of a heavy weight across their shoulders totally unnerving.

            So, they either stay clear of the squat rack entirely (good for me – no wait time), or they engage the lift with poor form. Of course by using poor form they never achieve their desired results, end up injured, or both. Either way, they typically abandon the lift altogether. Which is a shame because it’s probably the most important lift in a serious lifters repertoire (please, no cat calls from the peanut gallery regarding which lift is ‘best’, suffice it to say, it’s very important!).

            But not to worry, the quickest way to get your squat #’s up is to overcome your fear of them. And the best way to do that is by working with someone trained to teach the lifts. It’s amazing how a little one-on-one instruction can help push through a sticking point.

            Use care when selecting a lifting instructor, your lifting partner or another gym rat is probably not the best choice. Instead find someone with creds like Bret’s recent guest blogger, Eric Cressey

            http://www.cresseyperformance.com/

            I think he’s from your neck of the woods and he would be an ideal one-on-one instructor.

            You’ve got a solid base and will respond quickly to formal instruction. After that, watch out!

            Again, I look forward to your six-month update. Good luck!!

        2. Derrick Blanton

          “Anything over 5-reps is cardio”???

          Paging Tom Platz….yeah, hey Tom, way to crush the cardio on that 500×23. Pretty much exactly the same adaptive training effect as 45-minutes on the Stairmaster, right?

          (logs off computer and punishes wall with head. Bad wall. You have been a very BAD wall.)

          Great article, Emily. Very interesting, thorough, and insightful. Not to mention, funny! DB

          Reply
  16. Robyn Durham

    Love your writing Emily! Thanks for sharing your experience. It isn’t about paying a ton of money (actually, it’s very little money for an awesome program) and putting in a ton of hard work. This program is a journey. I have learned to love myself/body, I am strong and capable, and the scale or the measuring tape do not dictate my happiness or success. I’m 46 and I’ve always had a flat butt! Had to be very careful when buying jeans that they didn’t flatten my butt out more! Eeeeek! I now have a nicely rounded backside. I look great in jeans, but more than that I feel so good about myself. There are changes to my body that were surprises…..I could actually feel the shape of my glutes, I could feel the individual muscles. And the glute muscle isn’t round! Hahaha Surprise! My husband tells me I have athletic looking legs (I love that compliment). Oh, and the cellulite has reduced by 75%…and that’s not having the best diet!! So much more to say but this isn’t my blog! LOL I’d like to say thanks to the Get Glutes founders and its members for the program and awesome community support!

    Reply
  17. Milen

    Hi, Emily!

    I also like doing hikes but if I fell any fatigue It’d be in my quads, not my glutes. And like most of the people, sitting for hours, I seem not to feel them very active in most exercises. So would you tell us more about the change in the movement pattern ?

    And btw I am guy and probably Strong Curves and Get Gluteus won’t be the best choice to inform myself on this topic … :D

    Reply
    1. emilysteezy

      Actually Milen, I disagree! There is very little in Strong Curves or Get Glutes that is really gender specific (I will let Bret speak to this, but I believe it is only the “accessory” work for physique purposes that a guy might want to switch up). Both of those would be great resources for you.

      As for the change in movement patterns, I think I had a typical case of “glute amnesia” in which my glutes didn’t do much because they didn’t have to. I had learned to just use my quads for everything. As I forced my glutes to get stronger (with glute isolation exercises like hip thrust and glute bridges) it became more efficient to start using my glutes for functional movement. It’s a very cool feeling when you can start to feel this happening!

      Reply
  18. Dixon

    You made me laugh, love it..and congrats on Loving your body and being HAPPY!
    Im having the opposite problem. Glutes are growing, but BF is not dropping. Actually Ive gained about 5lbs. I think maybe Im just one that needs to add in some more Cardio and still trying to dial in diet and protein intake. But I’am getting stronger on All my lifts..and that I LOVE. Just wish I could see it a little more Leanness. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  19. Andrea

    Hi,
    did you ever consider age or overall form as a factor? When you are young an sporty, so maybe you don’t have so much room for fast improvement, since your body is allready in very good shape. When I was young (like 25), I had a perky bum and firm tights without working out at all. But it wan’t stay like this all the time. So you are now building the fundament for the rest of your life.

    I’m 44 and I’m squatting, hipthrusting and deadlifting since July. I had visible results after two weeks (!), and now after 5 month I have kind of a different body. My legs were my weakest part, i started to have cellulitis even on my calves, some fat around my knees and saddlebags. Additionally this summer it felt like my bum was starting to sag and get broad and flat. Right at this moment I found this site and I take so much knowledge and inspiration from it. I started with the glute challange, and allthough I did not finish, since then I have a very regular scedule training my legs und glutes. To learn how to activate and use the power in the glutes was livechanging, I dont have back pain from sitting in the office anymore, I can run faster because I use my glutes, I play better tennis (dont know why?), I swimm faster,…
    And I look much better in thight jeans.

    Yesterday I had to carry around a lot of heavy gardening stuff, big plant pots etc. It was the fist time I could manage this without pain in the back, because now I know how to use my glutes and lifting is a different thing than bevore.

    Training my glutes somehow was leading to a different approach to all other body parts too, as if the glutes were something like a missing link.
    (Sorry my bad english, I’m from austria)

    Reply
    1. emilysteezy

      Andrea, you bring up an excellent point… and I’ve thought the same thing. Maybe I am not making big physique changes in the present (I’m 31) but training my glutes now will help ward off saggy butt in the future! And that is good!

      Congrats on your accomplishments! And, your English is great!

      Reply
  20. Simon

    I think im correct in thinking you can get stronger by two ways, neuralogical adaption, and hypertophy. Where hypertrophy can be split into 2 types. Within a muscle there are esentially a set of tubes, the mucle can grow through making the tubes bigger or adding more tubes. There is a limmit though on how strong you can get by making the tubes bigger, for this reason the tubes stop getting bigger when they reach a certain size. Making more tubes is much harder to do than making them larger, but onoce they are made i believe they stay forever, whereas the tubes get thinnner if you stop training.

    when some people first work out, or try a new training regime I think one of 2 things normally happens, Option 1 is they have poor neuralogical controll and they can grow stronger by simply increasing this, no hypertrophy required. Or if the individual has good neuralogical controll they will grow fairly quickly by making the muscle tubes thicker. Both cases strength gains are made.

    After this initial period when neuralogical controll is good and the muscle tubes are as large as they are goin to get growths and strength gains decrease as the only way to get stronger is to make more tubes.

    Seems to me in the case mentioned above there has been significant strength gains, once the neuralogical adaptions have completed then i would expect a decent growth hypertrophy followed by a more gradual growth. Unitll the neuralogical adaptions are made I think most of the strength gains will come withought hypertrophy. End of the day your body wants to get stronger not bigger when you train.

    Simon

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Simon, keep in mind that she’s been training for quite some time, so the neurological improvements would have happened quickly. That said, when even experienced lifters start hip thrusting, their neural drive seems to improve markedly, indicating that there was untapped potential. But you’re right, there are neural improvements, as well as hypertrophic gains in parallel and in series (in parallel is the predominant hypertrophy associated with resistance training, though in-series hypertrophy can occur for 5 weeks following eccentric or long-length accentuated protocols).

      Reply
  21. Angelina

    I absolutely loved this! You were cracking me up…and when you said how your glutes were hurting when hiking I could relate. I hike all the time and have never felt a burn until I started glute training this year. I also noticed at the gym some girls kicking their legs back on the stairmaster. I asked one girl why she was doing that and she said to get a good glute squeeze. I thought that was kinda funny cause I squeeze the crap out of mine with every step and have no need to kick my leg back to do it. And your strength gains are freakin awesome! Thank you for being real and sharing your story! Loved it :)

    Reply
  22. Heather K

    I must say Emily I hope I don’t sound like a creeper but I def notice good results thus far! Your bum looks higher and tighter and back slimmer, legs more shapely as well! I am by no means a prof, I am 49 and have Strong Curves (awesome!) but currently just do the BW exercises, and will be doing that for some time as I have zero room for barbells at the moment. I have noticed great changes as well (not camera ready!) so I say don’t be discouraged, you are doing great and I believe you will continue to grow! God bless and thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  23. Layla

    Bret,

    For most women you advocate progressive overload and eating at maintenance to avoid gaining fat while growing the glutes, am I correct?

    Is this how you were able to 5 inches to your hips because that’s actually an impressive amount of size gain, in my opinion. I’m only an inch bigger after 1 year of incorporating HT and improving my motor control.

    Thanks for the insightful articles you’ve been posting lately!

    Reply
  24. Jaggers

    This was a great article from Emily! I really enjoyed it. I would also add 6th point – increased max heart rate.

    I started on a glute training programme 6 weeks ago following Bret’s advice. Before that I didn’t do any strength training, just running 30 mins 3x a week. Over the last 6 weeks my max heart rate has increased from 188 (‘normal’ for a 33 year old woman) to 204, with increases every week. The running always feels comfortable so I can’t quite believe the increases I’m seeing.

    Bret, can you shed any light on this? I’ve found a couple of researchers elsewhere that seem to suggest your max heart rate is set by your leg strength but there doesn’t seem to be much info out there… and I’m not clear on what the implications are from this! I’d be really interested in hearing what you think about it.

    Reply
  25. Shannon

    Emily! I love this post. I’ve seen your hard work in the gym for so long, but it’s great to see it all put together in writing. Nice job!

    Reply
  26. Adam

    Bret, first off I would like to thank you for all the work and research you have done. My wife and I have enjoyed learning and implementing many I the great glute exercises you shed light on. If someone’s goal is to gain shape and size ( they don’t care as much about increasing their squat weight ) would you recommend double leg hip thrusts over a single limb foot elevated hip thrust like your scorcher version? What are your thoughts on single limb vs double for glute hypertrophy? Thanks!

    Reply
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  28. Suzanne

    Pre-exhaust your glutes before doing your squats or deadlifts. I normally split my leg workout into two different days. So my glutes are hit twice per week and are sore. Squats and deadlifts aren’t enough for some of us. In fact there is a study (google it because I can’t remember the name at this point) done on how the glutes come into play, when doing the mentioned exercises below, a lot more than when doing the squats and deadlifts. So, in knowing this you can adapt your workouts to focus on recruiting more of the gluteus muscle fibres when planning your next workout.

    Do single leg squats, either on a smith machine or with one foot on a bench behind you. (with enough weight). Next go to the cable machine and do the skateboarder. (there may be something online to view) , can alternate with the cable glute kickback preferably done on the bench. Hip thrusts with weights, then move on to your deadlifts or squats. Do a few sets before moving on to the squats or deadlifts. Guaranteed your glutes will be sore the next day and will grow.

    Reply

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