The Glute Squad

By September 1, 2012 Glute Training

I wanted to update my readers about something I’ve been enjoying for the past few months. At the end of May, I started training a group of bikini competitors who came to me for one purpose – to get their booties looking as nice as possible. They call themselves “The Glute Squad,” and they do 60 minutes of “gluting” twice per week. I love these ladies!

How I’ve Been Training Them

It’s nice to know a bunch of different glute exercises. Hell, I even wrote a glute eBook three years ago showing hundreds of variations of glute exercises. But it’s imperative to get really strong at the best ones.

In a perfect world, I’d have a warehouse gym with all of my favorite toys – my giant power rack/platform, all the different barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, my Skorcher, back extension/ghd, 45 degree hyper, reverse hyper, lever squat, box squat box, high step up attachment, etc. But I don’t have this dream-gym at the moment, so I train the girls out of my condo, and we make the most of what we have. We do hip thrusts and kettlebell deadlifts in the living room (I place the bench up against my tv stand!), and we do lever squats, back extensions, and band seated abductions in the bedroom.

Each workout starts with heavy hip thrusts in the 5-15 rep range. After hip thrusts, we’ll usually do kettlebell deadlifts (2 high reps sets with the 106 pounder), then lever squats (2 sets of medium to high reps), back extensions (single leg or weighted for high reps), and band seated hip abductions (2 sets for high reps). I’ve only concerned myself with building their hip thrust strength and number of 106 lb kb deadlift repetitions, and I have them rest a good deal in between sets so they’re at full strength and can set PR’s (and so I can watch all of their sets and make sure their form looks good).

Again, I don’t feel that this is the absolute best way to train the glutes, but we’re laying an excellent foundation. They were all activating their glutes very well when they first came to me. The exception was during back extensions. It took me a long time to get some of the girls using their glutes properly during back extensions, but they’re all finally doing it right. I need to film a video and show how I teach this now as I’ve recently figured out a more efficient way to teach it.


I do have a power rack on my balcony, and ideally I’d be having them perform barbell squats and deadlift variations regularly (along with db walking lunges, high step ups, pendulum quadruped hip extensions, reverse hypers, and other amazing glute exercises).

However, since I train a large group out of my condo, I just focus on a handful of exercises. Squats and deadlifts are coaching-intensive so up until now I’ve gone the easy-route, sticking to simpler variations. I’d need a rubber floor to feel comfortable prescribing the barbell deadlift, and I’d need to not be training so many girls at once to feel more comfortable prescribing the barbell squat.

I’d like to mention that the lever squat is much easier to teach than the barbell variation; it allows them to sit back more, the load is stabilized in the frontal plane, and it elicits almost identical muscle activation when compared to the barbell squat. So I don’t feel that I’m short-changing the girls much.

I’ve become a bit of a specialist with the kettlebell deadlift, due to the fact that I’ve been prescribing it to every client for the past 6 months (and I have really heavy kettlebells).

It’s akin to a sumo hex bar deadlift in that the load can travel in between the knees so it’s almost a squat/deadlift hybrid. I prefer the barbell deadlift as it forces more hamstring recruitment compared to the kettlebell (or hex bar) version, but I don’t want weights clanking around in my condo (or worse, someone dropping the bar on the tile), so I stick with the kettlebell deadlift (and lever squat) for the time being. I prefer for my clients to perform the kettlebell deadlift in a hamstring-dominant fashion (with high hips and the load out in front), but some of the girls perform the movement like a “squat-lift.” Here’s Molly doing it the way I prefer.

Though we generally stick to the same formula each session, every workout is indeed unique; sometimes I have them perform 3 sets of something rather than 2 sets. Sometimes I’ll have them bust out a single leg exercise such as a reverse lunge or Bulgarian split squat. Occasionally I’ve prescribed hamstring dominant movements like the Russian Leg Curl. Often I have them burn-out with an ultra-high rep set of hip thrusts or glute bridges (50-100 reps).

I may end up leasing some warehouse space soon so I can access all of my equipment (right now most of my equipment is in my sister’s garage) and train the girls optimally. But despite training out of my condo, the results so far have been excellent. When the girls first started out, I had them using 105 lbs for hip thrusts (see video below – this vid was taken on June 1st). Many of them could only deadlift the 106 pound kb for 3 reps or so.

Now they’re all using at least 195 lbs for 8 reps on the hip thrust and they’re each deadlifting the 106 pound kb for at least 20 reps. Sammie is using 245 pounds on the hip thrust – she recently got 10 reps (see vid below). If I had rubber flooring I’d have her go heavier – I know she could get 275 for at least 5 reps right now. As you can see in the vid, I have them use the easy-bar and I just drop it onto their hips. On the last rep of every single set of hip thrusts that the girls do, I have them do a 10 second isohold at the top range. Sometimes they droop and I make them fire the glutes hard and stay at full hip extension.

Kelli has the record right now on the 106lb kettlebell deadlift with 55 reps, and Sammie is second with 42 reps. I bet these two girls could deadlift the 203 pound kettlebell right now, but the handle is really thick so grip strength might be an issue. Eventually I’d like to have the girls doing swings with the 106 pounder, but this will take time.

Eventually all the girls will be busting out 225 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps on hip thrusts and 50 deadlifts with the 106 pound kettlebell. It just takes patience. We bump things up gradually each session and I make sure they set PR’s consistently. Hopefully I get some warehouse space soon and up their training to the next level, but in the meantime, we’ll keep plugging away.

The Girls

As I mentioned before, I love these girls. They’re a ton of fun and they work very hard.

Alicia is part of the original glute squad and has trained consistently for 3 months. She’s the best motivator in the group and loves to cheer everyone on. Little by little she’s getting very strong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda trained with me the first two months but hasn’t been back this month. I need to get her back as she’s a pleasure to train – always smiling! She can easily get her pro card, she just needs to show up conditioned and keep strengthening her glutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne just started training with me this month and her strength has sky-rocketed! In six sessions her kb deadlift with the 106 pounder has gone from 3 to 30 reps, and her ten-rep hip thrust has gone from 105 to 195 pounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chelsey is inspiring! I was so proud of her for taking second place at her first show. She works so hard and is ultra-consistent. She has great genetics for bikini competition; the curvature of her side torso is spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kate is a newcomer and just started this month. Once she packs on some mass and gains considerable strength she’ll be in a great position to compete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelli has trained with me for 3 months and her glutes have come a long way. In fact, when I met her a few years back, she didn’t have much glute to speak of. Now she’s got a round (and incredibly strong) booty. But this didn’t happen overnight – she’s been busting her butt (literally) for 3 years. She’s like the energizer bunny – she can deadlift the 106-lb KB for 55 reps (I think she get 65 if she really wanted to). She’s also the best damn posing coach in Arizona and is a critical piece of these girls’ success on stage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly is an original member and has been training for 3 months. She actually has the roundest booty I’ve ever seen. Though she was practically born with great glutes, she just recently started upping her hip thrust and put 1.5″ on her glutes in one week! This was from two sessions of heavy hip thrusts. She was accustomed to using 105-125 pounds, and I had her use 155-175 pounds one session and 175-195 the next session and her glutes responded right away. Must be nice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sammie is an original member and is an absolute machine. She’s incredibly strong. In just 3 months she’s built her hip thrust up to 245 pounds (she could be using 275 if I wasn’t worried about the tiled floors) and her 106-lb kettlebell deadlift up to 42 reps!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there you have it. This is the glute squad.

Honorable Mentions

Katie has only trained with me once recently (I trained her consistently a couple years back). But I’m posting this photo to illustrate a point. She was recently able to really bring up her glutes in just 2 weeks. I spoke to her before her latest competition and told her to focus on building her hip thrust. She was using 135 pounds for 3 sets of 6 reps and in six sessions increased the weight to 185 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps, and her glutes looked better than I’ve ever seen them.

I just started training my niece Gaby again. A couple of years ago I had her hip thrusting 185 for 5 reps when she was 13 years old! I wanted to post the vid below simply to show that there’s no reason why high schoolers shouldn’t be using heavy weight on the hip thrust as long as you progress them gradually.

Gotta love the music right (it was my sister’s CD)? In Gaby’s first session back (last week) she was able to hip thrust 155 x 8 reps. I’m excited to see how strong I can get her. She’s an amazing volleyball player and I’m excited to see if I can help build her vertical jump with squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, back extensions, and swings.

Mi Hermano

One last thing I wanted to mention. My twin brother Joel and his wife come train here often. He’s going to kill me for telling this story, but I think it’s hilarious. He’s never really focused on building leg strength, but I recently convinced him to go heavier on lever squats, start deadlifting the 203 pound kettlebell for high reps, and to start going hard on back extensions. I also coerced him into giving the hip thrust a try (I thought of them six years ago!). He did 105 pounds for around 15 reps and his glutes were burning like crazy! He said, “Holy crap, those are amazing!” I don’t know why he doesn’t listen to me more often – if there’s one thing I know it’s glutes! I guess you’re never a prophet in your own land.

51 Comments

  • Raptor says:

    “She was using 135 pounds for 3 sets of 6 reps and in six sessions increased the weight to 185 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps, and her glutes looked better than I’ve ever seen them.”

    I’m getting the sense that you see her glutes often?

    AAAAAAAAnyway

    Nicely done. I don’t know anybody besides me and the people I train that actually do barbell hip thrusts. Sometimes I see women do bodyweight glute bridges but that’s it.

    • Bret says:

      It takes time for exercises to spread in popularity. The bench press took a decade to become accepted in many circles. Over time more and more folks will be performing them.

      • Drew says:

        Amen! We’ll look up one day and realize that Bret Contreras has added a staple to the weight training world, up there amongst the classic barbell lifts. Seriously…think about how crazy that is Bret. Congratulations. You’re one of the best minds in the industry!

  • Denis says:

    You clapping them cheeks son?

  • Alexandra says:

    Very cool Bret, “glute squad” I love it! All the girls look great and their strength gains in such a short period is impressive. I’m curious about the lever squat and how you have them perform this. Is the below what you’re referring to? If so, how do you do this at home without a machine and how do you have them do it with weights or is it just bodyweight?

    http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/LVSquatPL.html

  • snowbaby says:

    Thanks Bret, this is exactly what I needed. I was starting to feel a little self-conscious due to the weird looks I was getting in the gym while performing hip thrusts. I still have yet to see ANYONE perform them in any gym. But I see the results in the mirror, and I am encouraged. I look forward to your encouraging emails as well!

    • Bret says:

      Don’t ever feel self-conscious. Some gyms have folks who do them and some don’t, but you train for yourself. When I do them at a gym people are intrigued because they also watch me deadlift 500+ pounds. Do what works best and feel good about it!

      • Drew says:

        Very true! The football players at my school give me weird looks, but then they realize that I’m lifting a lot more than them in my other lifts (not to mention my hamstrings aren’t in disrepair like a lot of theirs are). Maybe they should learn how to use their glutes! Keep up the awesome work Bret.

  • Dawn says:

    Love your site and all the great glute exercises you share Bret, thanks!! Can you explain the band seated abductions a little more? I’m also interested how you perform the lever squat too, thanks!

  • Maria says:

    Bret, thanks for sharing this inspiring article. I’m so enjoying reading your glute e-book & learning the different variations of hitting/firing the glutes up. I’m definitely feeling small strength gains in my glutes & a happier lower back. I too would like to see a video on the 2 exercises the previous writer inquired about. thanks again!

  • william mcniff says:

    Living the dream!

  • Good article and a breath of fresh air in a world where “fitness” for women often consists of endless bodyweight glute bridges, fire hydrants and lunges with bad form.

  • Damon says:

    Bret, you must really hate your profession (haha). Great stuff man, your content is always on point. I just want to thank you for the knowledge I’ve gained from reading your work, keep doing your thing man!

  • Vlad says:

    I was wondering if you could write an article at some point about small group fitness training. I think it`s awesome that you train them out of your appartment with so little equipment available. I hope your landlord won`t get to see those pictures with the massive KB on the balcony tiles 🙂 can you think of any good resources about small PT studio setups? Thanks. Looks like you are living the dream

    • Bret says:

      I keep the kb’s inside now. I don’t know of any good resources. But I will tell you that equipment such as kettlebells, the equalizer, suspension systems, JC bands, push-up handles, an airex pad, valslides, dumbbells, vests, etc. are invaluable for this type of setting.

  • You have a very tough job there my friend. I feel your pain having to work bikini competitors. Tough life ya got now! Lol Great post and thanks for the breakdown of exercises. I especially like how you used ingenuity for designing a program based on your surroundings.

  • Amit Sardal says:

    Hello! I’m just wondering- the glutes are the heavily involved in squats, lunges, step ups, deadlifts, good mornings- any reason to further add hip thrusts if I’m already doing all of the mentioned?

    • Bret says:

      Amit, yes they are. I will come out with a future article that sheds more light on this question. You should definitely be doing hip thrusts and back extensions even if you’re doing the 5 you listed. They work different portions of hip ROM and have varying hypertrophy signaling.

  • Karen says:

    Hi Bret this information is so powerful for us woman who get so stuck in the same glute exercises and are at aplato.what do you suggest on how many times a week should we focus on our glutes?Can you over do it?I see you will be coming to Windsor soon is this your 4 year doing this ,is this correct?Would like to have a glute girl group out here.

  • Cher says:

    I learnt about barbell glute thrusts and they’re awesome! They’ve really helped me to build an actual butt and I think it’s funny when guys in the gym give me the “WTH are you doing” look but they spend 2 hours doing barbell curls (not kidding). Unfortunately I over-arched my back doing them at 70kg one time and injured my lower back. I’m looking forward to gradually adding on weight and eventually hitting 100kg!

    • Bret says:

      Preaching to the choir Cher! Build up the discipline to keep the spine neutral and push up with the glutes…it’s imperative for long-term success.

  • Miriam says:

    Cool post, Brett! For those of us who can’t train with you, how’s your book coming? Any idea on when it will be available? (Please, before Christmas, pretty please?)

  • Tom says:

    Very impressive results bret 🙂

    It’s a shame that all these girls are gonna develop hip and lower back problems because of the hip thrust (poliquin joke)

    Do you think Sammie is over-arching a little ? It looks like her chest is raising a little too much. I could be wrong though

    • Bret says:

      Haha! I know, right?

      Yes, Sammie does arch, but she never feels it in her back. I do not feel that she’s incurring any damages to her lumbar spine (specifically the posterior elements). This is something I’d like to discuss in the future in a Youtube vid. Great question! – BC

  • PJN says:

    Just to be extra cautious, you might want to make sure your balcony is able to handle the full load of you & a heavy set.

    I’m a civil engineering student, and we often learn about all kind of dreadful underengineering, and balconies are one of the things that get a few shortcuts in design and during building.

    • Bret says:

      Thanks for lookin’ out for me PJN. I don’t know how to word this in engineering/architectural terms, but the balcony is part of the primary building structure. It doesn’t jut out; it’s incorporated into the building. So I’m pretty sure it’s incredibly strong. At any rate, during a heavy set of rack pulls I’d only use around 500 lbs at slow speeds, so this is like having 3 big people out there (me plus two 250 pounders). Therefore, I’m not worried. But I very much appreciate your concern. No need to go plummeting through the floors or sliding off the balcony!

  • Ulyana says:

    Great work, Bret! It’s very motivating for me to read such posts from you!!

    I would like to hear more information about back extensions and 45° Hypers, just some more detailed instructions on how to do them properly, using more glutes and not lower back. During this exercises I usually feel more work in the hamstrings, than in the glutes, is this correct? I watched your video on youtube with Karli, where you explain the 45° Hypers, but haven’t found one on back extensions…Also, what is actually the difference between both exercises? And what about people with an APT performing them, is this a good idea?

    Thank you very much for your website!

    • Bret says:

      Ulyana, the Karli vid applies to the back extension; same thing goes. But I differ with the way I teach it now in that I set them up in the top position (helping them up top) and have them attempt a PPT (and to “drive their glutes into the pad”), then I tell them that this is how I want them to end each rep. I’ve found that it works very well, but it takes practice. It’s easier to demonstrate then to write about, so I need to make a video!

  • Dawn says:

    Hey Bret, I have an achilles injury and I’m on the injured reserve for a month, was wondering if you could direct me to a particular article on your site here that would have the best glute exercises I could do while I wait to get back to standard lower body weight training. The hip thrusts and bridges put too much pressure on my heel and weighted would be out of the question. I saw the vid for the seated band abductions and those I could do, can you recommend any others or again, direct me to something here on your site? Thanks! PS.. can’t wait for your latest book to come out, I should be healed by then and reaDy to roll!

  • Kellie says:

    This is great. I am tired of watching videos from supplement companies of competitor glute workouts that really don’t train the glutes at all. These ladies train far more efficiently and see greater results because of these glute-specific exercises. Ah, someday these ladies should be on supplement websites to show ’em how it’s really done. 🙂

  • Denise T says:

    Can you tell me where I can purchase the extra thick pad like the ones the girls are using? I’ve got bruises on my hip bones from the thinner one I’ve found. Oh, I’m in Phx. Thanks Brett.

  • johnalbertomma says:

    Family and close ones are always the last to take our advice. It’s normal, my bro! Thnx for all the great articles and vids. Your the best in the biz

  • Kelly says:

    What is the blue pad used to cushion the bar, and where can I buy one?
    Thanks!

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