Practical Glute Training Tips

By August 10, 2013 Glute Training, Glutes

Earlier in the week I posted a scientific-laden article on the glutes. This blog is about marrying the most cutting edge sports science, biomechanical, and physiological knowledge with the most up-to-date, practical, real world methods. So today I’d like to counter the scientific article with a practical-laden article.

I’ve been doing a lot of personal training lately, working with newbies as well as advanced lifters.  I’m glad that the members of the gym that I frequent in Tempe (Revolution Training) are starting to inquire more about glute training and implement more glute bridges, hip thrusts, rounded back extensions, and band seated abductions, which is a great thing indeed.

Working with powerlifters is a blast, but I will tell you that just because someone can squat or deadlift 500 lbs does not mean that they have great glute activation or strong glutes. A couple of 500 lb lifters had to start off with bodyweight hip thrusts as their glutes weren’t strong enough to use loading yet. This isn’t the case with Mike, the lifter I’m featuring below, however. His glutes are already solid as a rock,  but they still have room for improvement.

Today I’ll provide a couple of case studies from which you can take away some valuable points.

Diana

In early July, I mentioned in a random thoughts post that my girlfriend Diana was starting school and had very limited in time. My solution was to have her perform 1 set to failure of back squats, conventional deadlifts, and barbell glute bridges each workout, all with 135 lbs. These workouts were to be performed 5-7 days apart. She started off performing 5 and 6 reps, and in five weeks is already performing 20 reps.

When you do HIT Training (not to be confused with HIIT training) like this, you get really good at pushing yourself with a single set. It’s not the best training methodology out there for strength and hypertrophy, but if you only have twenty minutes to train once per week, you won’t find anything better. I wrote about this style of programming 3 years ago HERE.

Here is Diana’s workout last night:

Sure she skimps on depth on some of the squat reps, and sure she could have better-used the glutes to lockout the deadlifts, but nevertheless this is damn impressive for a 118 pound woman. She’s actually way stronger at hip thrusts than she is at barbell glute bridges, which I’m not satisfied with. So I’m going to keep prescribing her bb glute bridges.

Now that she’s achieved the 20-rep squat and deadlift with greater than bodyweight, I’m actually going to switch up her training. Even though it’s working incredibly well for strength purposes, I can do better for physique purposes. I’ll keep you updated.

Mike

Mike Peltz is a total badass. As a 198 lb raw and natural powerlifter, he can squat 540, bench 386, and deadlift 645 (1571 total). He wants to pull 700 lbs in November, but right now, as you’ll see in the video, he can’t quite lockout 675 as his glutes aren’t yet strong enough in end-range hip extension and posterior pelvic tilt to do so. We’re working on improving his grip strength and glute strength to enable the mammoth 700 lb pull in 3 months. I truly believe that if he sticks to the plan, it will happen.

Mike already has very strong glutes, but they’re underpotentialized since he hasn’t been doing any hip thrusts or rounded back extensions. In just two sessions spanning one week, he can already tell that his glutes are growing, and he’s never felt such an incredible burn and cramping in his glutes before doing these movements.

Mike has relied heavily on his incredible leg strength to blast his way off the floor in the deadlift. But when you’re trying to pull more than 150 lbs over your squat, you need more than just leg strength. And if your legs are locked out up top and your upper back is rounded (as in the case of many powerlifters’ deadlifts), then you better have some strong ass glutes to roll the torso up and push the hips forward. I’ll keep you updated on this too!

I hope you enjoy the case studies!

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41 Comments

  • Jacki says:

    This is awesome! I love how you are maximizing efficiency – my workouts are so quick. I just finished the first month of the bootyful beginnings, going three days a week, and in that four weeks, I already feel a marked improvement in my day to day life; walking up the stairs, standing at my standing desk, and rollerblading. My two hour blade the other night had me moving more quickly and more stabile than I ever have before – my glutes were not tired or sore and I could feel the strength and activation. I’m really looking forward to completing the next two months and seeing the results in random places.

    PS My husband says my booty is “poppin'” and that’s just another happy benefit of your book!

  • Christian says:

    Really liked the last picture. Wow!

    I often feel some anteriomedial knee pain during hip-thurst and glute briges. It may be caused by rectus femoris or sartorius (or something else). Have you or some of your clients had this issue before?

    • Bret says:

      None of my clients have gotten it but I did once, when I was doing hip thrust isoholds for a few weeks straight. My knees started hurting from the intense quad contraction up top so I stopped doing the isoholds, switched to bb glute bridges for a couple of weeks, then went back to regular hip thrusts and haven’t experienced the issue again. This happens because of the compressive forces on the patella I think. Make sure you’re keeping your knees out and dorsiflexing the ankles, and consider putting the feet farther forward away from the hips and possibly elevating the feet too. This will all reduce quad contribution and increase ham contribution. Let me know if this works please!

      • Christian says:

        Thank you!

        I tryed to experiment a little and as you proposed, when my feet is neutral (0 degrees) and plantarfelxed, especially in the top position my knees hurt. As soon as I dorsiflexes the pain disappears. Elevating my feets also helps a lot. I will do my bridges and thrusts with my knees dorsiflexed from now on.

        Thank you:)

  • emilysteezy says:

    What would cause someone to be better at glute bridges compared to hip thrusts? And, what is the benefit of training both?

    • Bret says:

      Diana has strong hips in the flexed position but not as much at end range hip extension. So she flings the bar up with her powerful hips and locks it out during the hip thrust. But the bb glute bridge starts at her weak range so she has to rely on pure end-range hip ext strength to perform it. Both are great for glutes, most are better at one over the other.

  • Lowercase Hustla says:

    Bret, sorry to go off-topic but I don’t see a more general email address on this page. I’ve read lots of your articles, but the following is something I haven’t seen specifically discussed here or anywhere else. It might make for a good post.

    I know glute anatomy and function when it comes to the maximus vs. medius. My specific observation is that the medius seems to be underrated when it comes to its contribution to overall size and shape (talking pure hypertrophy here).

    Exhibit 1: In any anatomy diagram, one comes away with the impression the medius doesn’t really contribute that much.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_pgvsB_zqOAA/TTldciFS5HI/AAAAAAAAAAg/pFvLU_pETOQ/s320/ImageCA664_thumb%255B1%255D.jpg

    Exhibit 2: But when I look at a shredded bodybuilder, male or female, I have the impression of a much greater contribution by the medius to overall mass and shape than what I’d expect from the anatomy picture.

    http://i240.photobucket.com/albums/ff140/DJINN_123/Ronnie_Coleman_07.jpg

    So my specific question is your thoughts on the relative importance of medius vs. maximus when it comes to overall size and shape. I’m not arguing the maximus doesn’t deserve most of the attention. But in a lot of hypertrophy programs, it gets 100% of the attention.

    I’m guessing a major reason for this is simply that it’s extremely uncommon to have low enough bodyfat for shredded glutes. And thus there are very few images floating out there that allow you to clearly see the anatomy. We might see a “high” sculpted butt on a female track star, but even a track star isn’t lean enough to see the separation between maximus and medius. So we don’t realize a lot of that shape is coming from the medius.

    It was the picture of Ronnie Coleman that sent me down this line of thought (no homo).

    • Bret says:

      Lowercase Hustla, great question. That’s the upper glute max (the glute med runs down along the side of it). But this pic allows you to see that the upper glute max and glute med perform similar functions (and that the lower glute max functions uniquely to the upper glute max).

      Here’s something that’s interesting. Abduction exercises don’t necessarily elicit the greatest glute medius activations. My research shows that hip thrusts do. Crazy, right? What’s more, there are 3 subdivisions of the glute med and they function uniquely.

      Rest assured, my programs hammer the glute med anyway as we do tons of hip thrusts, side planks, etc. and lots of lateral band exercises. Again, great question!

  • Kellie says:

    Great job to you both! Love that Mike’s kid was coaching him in the background. That’s so awesome! I can’t wait to see what his glute training will bring him during competition.

  • Artjom says:

    I absolutely love case studies. Waiting for more !

  • alex says:

    I think that the problem of Mike Peltz (not truly near the lockout but when the bar reach two thirds of the movement) is not only that his glutes aren’t yet strong enough in end-range hip extension or grip strength. I think that his problem is mainly technical. If you try to Snatch the barbell from the floor with to much impetus the way he does, it’s mathematical that he has difficulty closing the lift. His deadlift is very explosive, but paradoxically, not very fast. The great Soviet technicians recommend to pull from the ground more slowly (of course we are talking about a slow relative!) and accelerate soon after. In this way, the lift will be more fluid and there will be a depletion of energy and a slowdown brought from the first phase of the lift performed breakout. It’s important to learn that learn that each stage of the prepares the next, and according to this principle, using too much explosive force at the very beginning of the lift compromises the success in the following phases.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig0nnfr7yBs&feature=player_embedded
    here the lifter suddenly and with impetus snatch the barbell from the floor

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uztt_5HvOFI&feature=player_embedded
    here another lifter search a more progressive acceleration
    The difference in effect is clear.

    • Bret says:

      Alex, great post! Mike and I have discussed this. He’s aware that he pulls of the floor too fast and that he could improve his position slightly off the floor.

      On both lifts he said he was trying hard to hang onto the bar and felt his grip slipping, so we aim to bring that up.

      We’re going to bring up upper back strength too – from the vids you posted you can see that the two lifters locked out by pulling the shoulders back.

      But most powerlifters aren’t aware that the glutes can make up for a poor start by finishing off the lift…sure they say that the glutes push the hips forward, but they don’t have enough end-range glute strength to know how much the glutes can compensate for poor starting position. Only one lifter comes to mind with this insane amount of glute strength and that’s Konstantin Konstantinovs. You feel yourself stall out and all of a sudden the glutes kick in to raise the torso to the point where you can pull the shoulders back.

      At any rate, 1) great point about the starting position – I agree, and 2) if we spend 6 weeks on glute strength and find that it doesn’t transfer, we’ll drop it and chalk it up to a lesson learned.

      Thanks for your input!

  • Sarah says:

    Hi Bret

    I read your articles for a long time ago, but I’ve never found a solution for my problem.

    My glutes get bigger than my legs only training with multiarticular exercises, without any analitic exercise for the butt.

    Sometimes I read about this problem that others trainers called “big caboose/small quads syndrome”, but I don’t know how is the best form for training my glutes.

    If you can give me some advices I appreciate it!

    Thank you very much!

    • Bret says:

      Sarah, what’s the problem? The bigger the booty, the better 😉

      Okay so what do you want? More quads? If so, add in leg extensions – 4 sets twice per week. More hammies? If so, add in more leg curls – 4 sets twice per week. This can help a lot!

      I’ll leave you with a quote from Sir Mix Alot: “You can do side bends or sit ups, but please don’t lose that butt!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY84MRnxVzo

  • Emilia says:

    Diana weights only two more pounds than me and I wish I looked like her or had her strenght! Just started SC for beginners, I’m sure I’ll see some progress soon.
    Great post!

  • christian says:

    BC, gluteus medius anterior vs posterior fibers. Former being said to internally rotate and abduct hip, later said to abduct and externally rotate. Thoughts?

    Also you reccomend the seated band hip abduction. Hypertrophy aside is this going to reduce one to differentiate between tfl and GMed to drive motion in those with flexion dominant movement patterns. Ie us this just a closed chain clam shell in terms to emg activity of these two muscle?

  • Chris says:

    Hi Bret — Was the rounded lower back at the start of the lift the reason why Mike was unable to complete the lift? His prep looked good except for the lack of a stable arch in his lumbar area, which I would think “bled” strength away from his glutes. I’m thinking that if he’d had a stable arch in his lower back at the initiation of his lift, his glute strength could have carried him through to completion and success. Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this, Bret. — Chris

    • Bret says:

      Chris, that’s the rub with deadlifting. If he could pull 675 off the ground with an arch, he would. But he can’t. That’s why he rounded.

      Some lifters’ solution is to increase the strength of the legs (or better yet, the increase of the pull off the ground, with an arch).

      Other lifters’ solution is to increase lockout strength with the rounded back position (glute strength).

      Both strategies work, but Mike has much more room left in the tank with improving his glute strength compared to his leg strength (lockout rather than initiation strength). So we’re going with that for now.

      We will see if it works. If not, we’ll try the other strategy!

      Great question.

  • Kyle says:

    “I will tell you that just because someone can squat or deadlift 500 lbs does not mean that they have great glute activation or strong glutes.”

    Please explain how someone accomplishes hip extension without the use of the hip extensors.

    Just tell us about the biomechanics. Draw us a diagram of the muscles involved. Educate us.

    • Bret says:

      I think I’ll do that smart ass. It would actually make for a great post.

      By the way, judging by your response, I decided to click on your link. Just as I suspected, you’re a Mark Rippetoe disciple who is desperately in need of a guru to teach you the ways.

      http://aptphysicaltraining.blogspot.com/p/starting-strength.html

      Why don’t you ask Mark if he’d like to do a podcast with me where we discuss this concept? I’m aware of his position on this topic, so let me know if he’s man enough to discuss on air.

      • Kyle says:

        Yes, it would indeed make for a great post if you could explain how one can accomplish hip extension without the use of hip extensors. I’m sorry it upsets you to have to explain things, I’d thought that was the basis of coaching people but perhaps I was wrong.

        I’m not anyone’s “disciple.” I don’t need a “guru” to teach me the ways, but I’ve chosen to learn from people more experienced than me. Is that wrong? Or is it just that I’ve chosen Mark Rippetoe, Dan John, etc, instead of choosing Bret Contreras?

        • Bret says:

          Kyle, I answered you in a previous post. It doesn’t upset me to explain things…it upsets me to have to explain things twice to rude and arrogant people. And leave Dan John out of this, he doesn’t make black & white statements. You think this way because of Mark. And you should choose science, not expert opinion. By saying that you don’t need a guru, this implies that you’re open to believing differently based on science? Are you?

      • Kyle says:

        Oh, and I’m not Rip’s secretary, or yours. Why don’t YOU ask him to do a podcast with you? Or you could head down to WFAC and do one of his SS interview series. Lots of ways you can do things.

    • Christian says:

      I’ve seen plenty of experienced power lifters “lock out” with back extensors as a way of compensating for weak end range glute strength. As for the definition of “glute strength” it would be a case of relative strength in this instance. I.e. the glutes are relatively weak or self limiting (in comparison to a novice the same lifters absolute strength would undoubtedly be great) Perhaps what Bret is getting at with his training is to improve efficiency in your hip force production, analysing the torque curves during different lifts (as explained in his recently posted research) to ensure when you go to deadlift or run etc you are producing the most force in the most efficient movement pattern. This in itself leads to a far more effective pattern of movement/force production and allows individuals to break through barriers that they were otherwise unaware of. I know it’s helped me alot, not suggesting it’s the be all and end all but it’s a pretty damn efficient and effective way to train.
      Whether someone likes his work or not, he has forced us to attack hip strength and development far more specifically which for myself has given me an extra feather to my cap in terms of diagnosing and treating lower limb pathomechanics.

      I’m not trying to defend BC here because he’s a pretty big lad with alot of knowledge so I assume he’s more than capable of doing that himself. Just jiving in on your question so really not looking for a fight

  • Kim says:

    Don’t think I’ve ever seen a bridge from that video angle. I keep my legs closer together than Diana does. Mine are at their natural hip distance apart, whereas hers are spread out more. Does it make a difference? I also dig in with my heels a bit, whereas she has her whole foot down. Can you elaborate on specific technique?

    • Bret says:

      Kim, it depends. Tinker around with form and see if a wider stance or foot flare activates more glute. If so, stick with it…if not, continue with how you’re doing it. Many feel that the wider stance and foot flare helps them but others don’t. I will post an upcoming blog about how to tinker with these variables depending on the situation.

  • Chris says:

    Hey Brett I love all the work you do And implement them regularly as I train my figure competitors. My newest competitor is having issues with squatting: knees going in, excessive forward lean, and anterior pelvic tilt.

    We then started incorporating corrective exercises as you have mentioned previously as well as glute bridges and barbell hip thrusters and She just recently hit 315 on glute bridges But she is still having excessive anterior pelvic tilt and forward lean on her squats.

    I was almost sure that strengthening the glutes would correct most of that, but it hasn’t. I feel like I’m chasing my own tail now! Any advice?

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      Chris! The scenario that you describe has been on my mind quite a bit lately! Here’s a possible rationale, and a possible Rx:

      I tend to think of the glute max, in segments, much like we think of the trapezius muscle as upper, lower, and mid, dependent on function.

      BC might see this differently, but I’m of the view that the the powerful extension driven lower glutes can become just as much of an APT problem as solution. If the lower abs/superior glute team can’t hold the pelvis stable, then the lower glutes, if very powerful, will blow the femur right past neutral and take the pelvis with it right into APT.

      I believe the Rx here is to develop the superior glute, and lower abs. No one is going to outsmart their CNS, and flatten out their hyperlordosis on a SQ until their CNS senses that there is a stable backup. It is holding that position for a reason. It is trying to protect the spine.

      That stable backup is the superior glute and abdominal force couple switched on and strong.

      A couple of suggestions:

      Drop the load on the HTs, and focus on hold and squeeze PPT, with full torso and pelvic control.

      PPT every bridge, and every HT. PPT before you even raise the hips off the ground. Hold and squeeze the top position, in PPT, or the rep does not count. Your client should feel this in the superior glute.

      Do hollow position static holds every day.

      Do this exercise every day during non-training hours. It can be done repetitively while chilling at the crib:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dImXZXDYHU

      Consider ditching the BSQs for a while, and go to FSQs, or even goblet SQs, or OHSQs, while working on the pelvis. Here’s a possible re-groove technique for the SQ valgus:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXvuuSiEHEM

      These are difficult problems to combat, b/c they can’t be solved in an hour or two at the gym! They need an almost pathological daily focus, to re-groove the nervous system, and strengthen the lagging musculature.

      Hopefully some of these ideas are helpful, if not, disregard, and keep exploring for solutions. I’m anxious to hear BC’s thoughts on this as well. Best of luck! DB

  • Cherie says:

    Hi Bret,

    Great article, love the case studies! I was so excited to come across your website a few months ago and to find information specifically about building glutes (as opposed to just quads and hamstrings).

    Just finished reading Strong Curves and getting ready to start the beginner’s program. I’m a little confused though about the programming, and hope you can clear it up for me, as I am anxious to start the program.

    In Chapter 9 on page 60, you say that training 4 days per week is optimal and give a sample plan, with Workout A being performed twice. However, in all of the Strong Curves workout plans, the only place I see the 4 days per week of training is in weeks 5-8 and 9-12 of the Booty-ful Beginnings Workout. The other workout programs seem to direct you to lift only three days per week, with Workout A only being performed on day 1. Am I missing something?

    Thanks again for teaching us how to get great glutes; after a lifetime of pancake butt, I can’t wait to have an actual booty!

    • Bret says:

      Here’s what I recommend for this…do a 4th day consisting of the following:

      1. Two sets of any single leg exercise (ex: 2 x 10 high step up)
      2. Three sets of hip thrusts (ex: 1 x 12, 1 x 8, 1 x 6 bb hip thrust)
      3. Two sets of a glute accessory exercise (ex: 2 x 20 band seated hip abduction)

      This is an easy workout that will increase your rate of gain. Best of luck!

  • Angelina says:

    Hey Bret!

    Thanks for posting these!

    You mention Diana being stronger at hip thrusts than glute bridges. I am the opposite. I’m going into my second week of using weights and maxed out on the glute bridge at 225# for 20 reps (this was after 3 sets of deads with 135#). But my hip thrust is at 150 for 10 reps. If I load any more weight I cannot get full hip extension. Why is that? I was surprised.

  • Nicole says:

    Hi Bret. I’m ready to start e strong curves program and want to bulk. Is that possible while performing the exercises in a circuit or shold I complete all reps/ sets for each exercise before moving to the next exercise?

  • Troy says:

    Dimmel Deadlifts

  • michele says:

    I probably don’t have to tell you this, but your girlfriend was weaker at bridges than thrusts because of her wicked anterior pelvic tilt. The deeper knee angle in her bridge is putting more stress on her tight hip flexors and rectus femoris, so it’s much harder for her put that weight back up. I wonder if it’s improved since this post?
    I typically don’t take anyone out of a bridge, (and definitely don’t load it) until the gluts activate sufficiently to eliminate the appearance of the anguinal crease at the top of the rep for the entire set.
    As a lady constantly fighting my lordotic curve, it definitely takes one to know one! Great stuff though….I’m still poring through all of your posts. Thanks!

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