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How Bodybuilders Train the Glutes

By August 9, 2011October 20th, 2016Glute Training, Glutes

Bodybuilders are masters of their craft. Many of them have excellent mobility and motor control. Best of all, many of them refrain from going too heavy and use loads that allow them to control the weight and feel the targeted muscles working to their full extent.

Here is a video of Brandon Curry hitting his hammies and glutes. Notice a few things:

1. During seated and single-leg leg curls he’s really stressing the contracted position to maximize the pump.

2. During weighted 45 degree hypers he really stresses the stretch position to maximize the stretch.

3. During sumo deadlifts he keeps the knees slightly bent and moves mostly at the hips to maximize the tension on the glutes.

4. He uses two benches with the hip thrusts so he can get a stretch in the hammies down low and really squeeze the glutes up top.

5. He performs straight leg deadlifts with the t-bar row and lets the weight drift out in front while keeping the back arched to get a big stretch and load in the hammies.

While maximum strength is very important for hypertrophy, going a bit lighter and feeling the muscle do the work can help out considerably via several different mechanisms including cellular swelling.

Though I can hip thrust 405 x 10 reps, sometimes I’ll do a set of 30 reps with 135 or a set of 20 reps with 225. I’ve actually done 315 for 20 reps once which burned so bad I could hardly walk, and once I did 100 non-stop bodyweight reps and I was sore for 5 days. I’m always amazed at how pumped my glutes get from going lighter for higher reps.

Usually bodybuilders aren’t so concerned with progressive overload and quantity; they’re more concerned with quality. Listen to Kai Greene discuss this in the second video linked below – he states that, “You’re contracting muscles against resistance.”

Obviously bodybuilders are not always the best examples as they consume boatloads of performance-enhancing substances, but I believe that the best approach to muscular hypertrophy is to blend together maximum strength and progressive overload with pump-style higher rep targeted training.

If you’ve seen Big Ronnie Coleman’s videos you know that he was strong as an ox. Here he is deadifting 800 for 2 reps. LIGHT WEIGHT!

Watch Kai Greene train his glutes here and here.

1. See how light he goes and see how he keeps the knees out and focuses on moving the hips forward during the Jefferson squats?

2. Notice the high rep ranges with the seated abduction work and pendulum donkey kicks?

3. Watch him squeeze his glutes at lockout in the stiff leg deadlifts (similar to the American deadlifts I posted on Youtube a few months ago).

Once you’ve focused on glute training for a few years like I have, you can easily tell when someone is or isn’t using their glutes, and bodybuilders who specifically train their glutes develop amazing gluteal activation. This is why Brandon Curry can do bodyweight hip thrusts and Kai Greene can do 95 lb Jefferson squats and 135 lb American deadlifts and have great glute development. As you can see in the pic below, it’s worked for Kai.

Get strong, but sometimes go lighter and get a nice pump and really feel the muscles working. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.


  • mike heidinger says:

    His form sucked on the t bar deadlifts there wad no lock out in the hips at the top. I have noticed a lot of those guys seem like they always stop short on a lot of their lifts .

    • Bret says:

      Disagree Mike. He’s not doing them for powerlifting purposes – he’s doing them for bodybuilding purposes. Try to emulate the form he’s doing and see if you feel it working. Remember he’s trying to feel the stress in the hammies.

      • mike heidinger says:

        Ok i was not thinking about it like that. That’s your fault lol. You have made me hyper aware of full range of motion.I have just really noticed a lot of guys that never go through a full range thats all.

        • Brian says:

          You’ll notice Klokov never does a full deadlift. It’s not part of his competition so he only trains the part of the lift that’s necessary for his lifts — snatch and cleans.

    • mike heidinger says:

      Actually let me just say that i was being a close minded asshole by looking at his form and making assumptions with out knowing his goals. I needed that to humble me a bit sometimes we think we know it all. I started to think well some times i go deep on body weight squats and just pulse to hit upper quads a bit more , so why is that any different than what he was doing . It’s not. My LESSON … be open to all goals

    • michael spillers says:

      I hate “form police”. When you’ve been working out long enough form becomes more natural, as to where YOU know the range of motion and contraction needed for YOURSELF. If people stuck to strict form, we wouldn’t know how to work our bodies the way we do.

  • Jason Nunn says:

    Nice write up Brett. That video of Ronnie Coleman never gets old. LIGHT WEIGHT BABY!

  • Smitty says:

    Perfect statement “I believe that the best approach to muscular hypertrophy is to blend together maximum strength and progressive overload with pump-style higher rep targeted training.”

  • frey says:

    nice bret! I always respect how you’re willing to look to any resource to see what works… academic journals, bodybuilders, fighters, powerlifters.

  • Daniel says:

    Great blog, Brett.

    The talk from the bodybuilder was insightful, what he is saying really applies to a lot of people who train for aesthetic reasons, but it is easy to get caught up in the hype of training to increase performance which actually has very little value to the avarage Jane and Joe.

    • Bret says:

      I’d love to see some stats on this, but I bet that 80% of clients just want to look their best and don’t care about how much they can lift or how high they can jump. It’s hard for me to imagine because I want it all, but we work for the clients and it’s our job to program according to their goals.

      • Daniel says:

        I think that most people are more interested in health and bodycomposition and that athletic performance is just a byproduct for most. This is fitness. Fitness training can get its inspiration from any sport, but ultimately is about how it affects your own physique and wellbeing. I think that mind-body connection bodybuilders talk about can be an important part of fitness training.

  • Matias says:

    I see it happening with female bodybuilders too. Size and shape is sacrificed for more visual fibers in the glutes. I like the article, but not the results. What if the the desired results are closer to a sprinter’s glutes? Is the idea still the same? If so, then why the different appearance?

  • alex says:

    Sometimes little things means a lot… in every squatting movement, hip thrusting movement and kettlebell swing movement too, i’m experimenting with incorporating the Louie Simmons concept to push with the outside of the foot trying to spread the floor apart and not only on the eccentric but also in the concetric portion of the rep. Common opinion says that this technique works only with wide and ultrawide foot stances but i’ve found this simply to be not true. Actually, it is very possible to train yourself to use this cue with hip-wide and slightly wider than hip wide foot stances with good feedback. I can feel both glutes medium and gluteus maximus activating 100% more intensely. With this powelifting technique i’ve found also that it’s easier to go deeper in the squat because activating more efficiently the abductor-extrarotator hip muiscle groups (the 3 glutes muscles)the adductors seems to automatically relax and creating more space allowing the torso to “dive” deeper between the legs on the eccentric part of the movement. Doing so, you have thus achieved two goals at once: 1) more continuos tension of the glutes during the entire rep via nervous system activation (keeping on spreading the floor apart through the entire movement)- 2)more mechanical glute activation, in fact spreading the floor allows to keep the coxofemoral articulation more extrarotated making easierr to go deeper in the squat thus activating moore deeply all the glutes muscles.
    If all this ultimately will make your buttocks rounder it will be dictated by your genetics, but unfortunately in this field of miracles unfortunately did not make it …

  • Moez says:

    Like another bodybuilding coach put it: “stress is not what’s on the bar. Stress is what the muscle is under.” I have been keeping a few of my clients on high rep low weight system and they have shown great muscular progress. All started thinking more about Eric Heiden. The dude could do 200lbs for 300 reps. That’s insane. His legs where huge. It had to work!

    Thanks! Great info on your posts!

  • Matt says:

    Great article Bret! Lee Haney’s quote “Stimulate, don’t annihilate” flashed through my mind while reading this post.

  • Ben says:

    Good stuff Bret. I agree with you that hypertrophy is best achieved with a combo of progressive resistance and higher rep work. However, I do think that it’s important to build up a certain base level of strength first.

  • I feel an approach similar to 5/3/1 is a great way to get big and strong – just like Bret said. Hit the big lift hard, then finish with the pump.

    Powerbuilding anyone?

  • Dan Daly, CSCS says:

    Good read Bret. Picking apart Kai Greene a little, he looks like he may have added a little size, but is also much leaner in the other photo.

    Nick, I like the 5/3/1 approach as well, for most clients, followed by assistance work of whatever their specific training goals may be, Hypertrophy, conditioning etc.

  • Good info Bret. I agree that hypertrophy is best achieved with a combo of progressive resistance and higher rep work as another commenter stated too. Progressive overload is soooo key.

    I do disagree on the trying to feel everything aspect though. I understand that 1,000s of bodybuilders have trained that way for a long time; but if we think about when we feel our best– it is when we have LESS sensation and not more.

    A great lift is one that you make and feel basically nothing at the end. If you want to try to target a specific muscle, then change the mechanics of the lift.

    rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

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