Favorite Glute Exercises from the Most Masculine Men

By November 11, 2011 Glute Training

Last week I posted a very popular article called Favorite Glute Exercises from the Fittest Females. The article drew a lot of attention, which I’m sure had nothing to do with the pictures and was solely due to the solid content. As an avid lifter and reader, I always enjoy seeing the favorite exercises of people who train consistently and have achieved respectable levels of strength or shape – and I especially like to see favorite exercises of the most respected trainers and coaches.

Several of us men wanted to speak up and inform the newbies out there that training the glutes is not just for women. We’re tired of seeing all of the huge upper bodies out there paired with skinny chicken legs and flat butts. We’ve had enough of the endless sets of bench press, lat pulldowns and curls complimented with the token 2 sets of leg extensions and leg curls. If you’re that guy who says, “I don’t need to train my legs; they get worked when I run on the treadmill,” we’re calling you out. A real man trains his legs just as hard as his upper body and isn’t afraid to admit that he desires strong glutes.

I emailed 13 of my male colleagues and asked them to tell me their three favorite glute exercises. All of these guys are either strength coaches, personal trainers, or fitness writers, and these guys are some of the smartest folks in the world when it comes to exercise selection. Here’s what they had to say.

Ben Bruno

  1. Rear foot elevated split squats (Bulgarian split squats) from a deficit
  2. Single leg deadlifts
  3. Single leg squats

Chad Waterbury

  1. Hip thrusts
  2. Romanian deadlifts
  3. Low cable mule kicks

Jason Ferruggia

  1. Deadlifts
  2. Pistols
  3. Kettlebell swings

Joe Dowdell

  1. Hip thrusts (with either a barbell or sandbag)
  2. Low cable pull-throughs (Westside style)
  3. Single leg glute bridges (adjust the intensity by elevating shoulders onto a bench and then by elevating shoulders and feet onto a bench)

Joe Kenn

  1. Any full sumo or modified sumo deadlift variation
  2. Kettlebell swings
  3. Single leg hip lifts

Jim “Smitty” Smith

  1. Sumo stance Romanian deadlifts
  2. Duck walk low sled drags – drag a sled while walking
  3. Hip thrusts with hip abduction and external rotation (HAER)

John Broz

  1. Squats
  2. Snatches 
  3. Clean and jerks

Kelly Baggett

  1. Reverse hypers
  2. Rear foot elevated split squats
  3. Single leg bent legged deadlifts (King deadlifts)

Mark Young

  1. Single leg Romanian deadlifts
  2. Hip thrusts
  3. Pistols

Mike Mahler

  1. Glute-ham raises
  2. Barbell romanian deadlifts
  3. One-legged kettlebell deadlifts

Mike Robertson

  1. Back squats
  2. Kettlebell swings
  3. Pull-throughs

Nick Tumminello

  1. Sprints or hill runs
  2. Single leg /single arm cable Romanian deadlifts
  3. Monster walks

Tony Gentilcore

  1. Barbell hip thrusters – upper back on bench instead of the floor
  2. Conventional deadlifts
  3. Slideboard reverse lunges

Descriptive Analysis

Out of the 39 exercises from the 13 men’s lists, 22 were bilateral while 17 were unilateral. As far as directions of resistance, 20 exercises were axially loaded while 19 were anteroposteriorly loaded, with zero exercises in the lateral or rotary directions. There were 7 squat patterns (squats, lunges, pistols, Bulgarian split squats, etc.), 18 deadlifting patterns (deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, Olympic pulls, pull throughs, kettlbell swings, etc.), and 7 bridging patterns (hip thrusts, single leg hip lifts, glute bridges, etc.).

Observations

Based on the guys’ lists, bilateral lifts slightly outperform unilateral lifts. This makes sense; masculine men tend to gravitate toward heavy lifting, and two legs allow for larger loads than one leg at a time. But the single leg lifts didn’t fall far behind, which just goes to show you how effective they are if they appear so frequently. The deadlift pattern reigns far supreme for glute building. Though I was a bit generous by throwing pull-throughs and swings into the deadlift category as they’re sort of crosses between deadlifts and bridges, even without the generosity they still beat out squatting and bridging patterns, which tied for second place in terms of favorite glute movement patterns. It was nice to see the reverse hyper make the list as none of the women chose that movement. Interestngly none of the men listed a high step up, back extension, or barbell glute bridge exercise. Though I’m sure most of these guys like to program in an occasional x-band walk or rotary cable exercise, there are just too many great hip extension exercises to place a hip abduction or hip external rotation movement at the top of the list. Many of the men replied saying something like, “Ask me next week and I’d have three different ones for you,” or, “This was hard, I wish I could have listed my top ten.”

Conclusions

As you can see there are a plethora of great glute exercises. You can bust out like Broz and stick to heavy bilateral squats and Olympic lifting, or you can kick it like Bruno and do all single leg movements. You can use barbells, dumbbells, kettlbells, bands, or just your own bodyweight. If you want a mullet like Young or a pink shirt like Gentilcore, you’ll have to train the glutes extra hard to be able to pull it off with such style!

Whatever you do, just make sure you train the glutes. If you got no glutes, you got no game!

* Some of Smitty’s exercises are a bit unconventional so I asked him for a description:

Duck Walk Low Sled Drags
I picked up this sled dragging variation from Louie Simmons years ago.  Setup with a sumo stance facing away from the sled with the tow rope between your legs.  Reach between your legs and grab the tow rope, think of the starting point for a cable pull through.  Begin striding forward in an alternating fashion, clawing with your heels. Ensure the torso is locked in neutral and parallel to the ground. The benefit of this exercise is two-fold; you are performing a dynamic hip mobility movement and a combo knee flexion / hip extension pattern.  The result is pain after about 20 strides.  Keep the weight moderate to ensure proper leg drive and quality of movement.

Hip Thrust (HAER)
The glutes are responsible for not only hip extension, but hip abduction and external rotation (HAER) as well – so we need to train them in this plane of motion.  Setup for a convention hip thrust movement with your shoulders on the bench and your feet parallel to each other.  Now, take the bottoms of your feet and put them together moving your knees outward.  Perform the hip thrust and notice the different ‘feel’ of the movement.  In my opinion, the contraction is much more intense.  This exercise can be overloaded with bands, Olympic plates or a sandbag.

35 Comments

  • Bianca says:

    Hi Bret, thanks for another excellent blogpost. I was wondering if you have ever measured the glutes’ activation during the kettlebell swings in one of your interesting electromyographic experiments.

    Bianca

    • Bret says:

      Hi Bianca, I have not but a brand new study published ahead of print shows very high levels of activation with only a 12kg kettlebell. I wonder what would show if heavier bells were used. Levels were around 80% of MVC, which is higher than most exercises.

      • Samantha says:

        My hubby trains mainly with kbs, heavy one, and his butt is just A-M-A-Z-I-N-G
        He is one of the main guy in Kb so he trains mostly the classical lifts and his butt is well developed all around from every angle.
        Can’t wait to see the study with a level of a tivation of glutes ( even if 12 kgs is really a low weight for swing ) Thanks Bret !

  • Kellie says:

    Excellent list from a group of amazing guys. I will use this as a reference. However I’m a little disappointed with the photo selection. I’d like to see more of the results from these methods, guys. 😉 Okay, I know not even the Glute Guy would go there.

    • Bret says:

      Haha! I should have asked all of the guys for their sexiest backside shots. I bet Tony has a few to show off!

      • Kim says:

        I’m with Kellie. I mean how do we know these work without photographic evidence? 😉 Another enjoyable and educational read, Bret.

        And speaking of nice male glutes, my ex was a former track and field athlete (javelin, shot put and hurdles), and had the nicest butt I’ve ever seen. I’m curious now as to what types of glutes work he did!

        • Bret says:

          I’m sure he did a variety of glute work…squats, Oly lifts, lunges, back extensions in the gym, sprints, plyos, sled work on the field. All the events use the glutes heavily as well.

  • Ted says:

    Deep Back Squats
    SL RDLs
    Hip Thrusts

    If you were to ask me which exercise worked for me the most is the back squats by going below parallel. It took awhile tho.

    • Bret says:

      I’d like to do another experiment showing glute activation with different alterations in squat form…one manner can work them well while another manner can take them out of the movement.

      • Ted says:

        I agree, in my case for years doing partial squats my quads did most of the work and just recently after focusing on activation and mobility, not to mention the mind-muscle connection, I was able to go ATG. Coming up out of the hole is all glutes! Or at least the way I do it; I’ve been noticing my glutes are always sore and rarely my quads or hamstrings.

  • Blaine says:

    lol solid unbias selection from John Broz there!!

  • Great article Bret! I would also add in single leg abducted deadlifts and single leg hip bridge with lateral swing to the mix.

    • Bret says:

      Thanks Dean. What schmuck thought up the sl abducted dl? 🙂 Btw your kettlebell version is superior except that kb’s don’t allow for heavy enough loads. I had a very fit client doing sl hip thrusts with lateral swings and she really liked them. Didn’t know you did these too.

  • I’m surprised conventional deadlifts weren’t mentioned more. Any thoughts on that?

    It was really mean to use a picture of Jane Fonda for Mark. HAHAHA!!!

    • Bret says:

      Steven – some may have interpreted this question to mean “favorite accessory glute exercises” and some might be thinking “everyone is going to write down “squats, deads” and inadvertently trying to be unique. For example, I would want to choose 3 hip extension movements as well but I’d also be wanting to add in a band hip rotation as I feel that training the hip external rotation component is very important. Most probably feel that deads are the best total body movement.

  • Simon says:

    interesting that kettlebells did so well

    • Bret says:

      I’ve been doing more swings over the past few months and I love them – especially if you’ve been doing hip thrusts as they really feel like an explosive standing hip thrust to me.

      • Simon says:

        yeah i was scepitcal of kettleball given low weight but will give ago (I just mainly am focussing on upper glutes for butterfly butt look, as the mid/lower naturally recruit anyway).

        U reckon power movements like kettleball swings are suited for glutes – commonly quite developed on athletes who would do little weights and are otherwise not that big(eg fair few tennis players with great glutes, eg Rafael Nadal)

  • Matt says:

    Good stuff, just curious why is Ferrugia’s name marked out?

  • Dean Leach says:

    Not enough guys are working the lower body, DA GLUTES. I’m always seeing guys, especially younger guys, who have what I call, gone ass. Their pants are sagging because they don’t have an ass to hold em’ up. It’s REALLY SAD.

    My favs are,
    Forward lunges
    Straight leg deadlifts
    Glute-ham raises
    Hex bar deadlifts
    And my #1 is Bret’s hip bar raises or if you have an elite gym that may have the Supercat, made by Powernetics. Angle plate squat jumps or squats on this beast will build some mighty glutes.

  • David says:

    Hey Bret! Great topic
    My top 3: Deep squats, Deadlifts off platform & Kb swings.

  • Mark Young says:

    Bwahahaha. Got me. Great post!

  • Rachel Guy says:

    Awesome post! Brownie points for all you guys for having “dude-factor!” ps i think i have fallen head over heels for Mark Young.. ha – great pic! 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    I agree with Kellie and Kim above, I refuse to believe in the efficacy of the recommended exercises until provided with the relevant photographic evidence.

    What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander – pics or gtfo! 😉

  • Simon says:

    The funny thing is brett both Duck Walk Low Sled Drags & Hip Thrust (HAER) are exercises i’ve already used and had thought about it. hip thrust years ago

    Dad said he use to do weighted glute bridges (not hip thrusts) for judo training – he just thought of them as a way to push people off of him. He never thought of it as muscle specific training so never bothered elevating his shoulders like u do.

    I’d love to BTW to show u my variant of the GHR – gotta film it eventually. Having a band below and metres in front of u IMO works far better than right below u…resistance increases at better rate…give it a try.

    U can strap a band to a pulley cable station so u know exactly how much weight ur moving at end too! I’ve stopped doing this exercise and my hammies have shrunk so i know i gotta get back into it

  • david says:

    Kelly Baggett has a nice list. I always loved the reverse hyper and bridge/thrust as hyperextension exercises to compliment my main hip extension exercise.

  • Bryan Francis says:

    Hey bret! Awesome article! My top 3 are 1 arm 1 leg single leg rdl,back elevated barbell glute bridge, and kb swings. Btw is there a video of the Duck Walk Low Sled Drags? I found a couple but don’t really look like what is being described. Thanks!

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