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The Glutes Can Take a Beating

By June 26, 2014December 14th, 2016Glutes, Guest Blogs

The Glutes Can Take a Beating
By Chad Waterbury

Bret and I recently had an insightful, hour-long discussion about training more frequently. It’s no surprise that the topic of glute development came up. Bret, as you already know, can pontificate about the glutes more than anyone else.

Sometimes I even hesitate to bring up the subject with him because I know that the next 10 minutes will consist of him outlining the research and experience he’s accumulated, and I won’t get a word in edgewise.

Of course, that’s not a bad thing – unless you have to take a piss. Luckily for me, I was dehydrated that day.

So The Glute Guy and I talked and talked about our experiences with glute training. I honestly wish we would’ve had someone audiotape our exchange, but V. Stiviano wasn’t available. So I’m here to divulge some of what we covered, and discuss how that information can make you add size to any muscle group.


First off, the glutes can take a tremendous beating. If there’s any muscle that will grow from high training frequency, the glutes are it. The problem, however, is the way people typically train them.

Take the glute bridge, for example. As the name implies, it’s intended to strengthen and develop the glutes. However, last fall I spent five months under the tutelage of Chris Powers, Ph.D, at this Movement Performance Institute in Los Angeles. For those of you who haven’t heard of Prof. Powers, he’s a guy who’s done more research on the relationship between glute strength and knee pain than just about anyone in the world.


Glute strength and timing is needed to spare the knees

What has his research shown? With certain individuals, training the glutes in the sagittal plane (e.g., glute bridge, deadlift, etc.) works the hamstrings harder than the glutes. The reasons for this phenomenon are speculative, but it bears discussion.

My position is this: the hamstrings are easy for the nervous system to recruit. Maybe it’s because they’re such a large muscle group? The glutes, on the other hand, take up very little real estate in the brain’s motor cortex. This is why it’s often difficult for people to really feel their glutes firing.

Regardless, the hamstrings are stiff in most people because those people often have a spinal disc problem, or a weak low back, or glutes that aren’t strong enough. Indeed, the nervous system stiffens the hamstrings to protect the low back or take over when the glutes aren’t strong enough.

The real problem is that the nervous system doesn’t do what the body actually needs: make the glutes fire harder to take stress off the low back and hamstrings.

The glutes perform four hip functions: extension, abduction, external rotation and posterior pelvic tilt. Their role as hip extensors are constantly worked with the deadlift, squat, lunge, hip thrust and many other sagittal plane movements. The missing links, according to Prof. Power’s research, are primarily in the frontal and transverse planes: hip abduction and external rotation, respectively.


Barry Sanders’ hips knew abduction/external rotation

So, what does this have to do with building more muscle in your biceps or chest?

The key to building any muscle group, whether we’re talking about adding mass or enhancing the neural input, hinges on training more frequently. Take a pair of twins and have one guy practice the guitar for 30 minutes per day compared to the other twin that practices 10 hours a day. At the end of three months you’ll see a drastic difference in each guy’s ability.

The same is true with training. More frequent training will develop any muscle group faster, if you train that muscle the way it’s designed to work while sparing the joints.

If you strive to build your glutes to J-Lo status, pulling multiple sets of a heavy deadlifts each day will be a lesson in futility. Not only will you wreak havoc on your discs from constant spinal compression, but it’s also likely you’ll build the hamstrings more than the glutes.


J-Lo Booty

So to get your glutes to start growing, the best approach I’ve found is to challenge them with abduction and external rotation for a higher frequency. To avoid excessive neural fatigue, you must spare the joints and spinal discs. That’s why an iso-squeeze works so well – it hits the glutes without beating up your spine and joints.

Here’s one technique I use with clients that works perfectly for High Frequency Training (HFT):

This is just a sample of how I approach more frequent training. You must maximally stimulate a muscle group while sparing the joints. In HFT2, you’ll be doing other glute exercises such as kb swings, hip thrusts, goblet squats, front squats, single leg squats, deadlifts, reverse lunges, Bulgarian split squats, single leg deadlifts, and step ups.

However, the glute iso-squeeze is performed frequently to hit more fibers and add more time under tension without compromising recovery. The techniques for achieving this with every major muscle group are covered in my latest muscle-building system, HFT2.

Click HERE to Access HFT


  • Jess says:

    That hip abduction/external rotation band move actually seems pretty beneficial to some of my patients in physical therapy. I think I’ll give it a try tomorrow, thanks!

  • Melanie says:

    I would love to try this, but where can I get these bands, and what are they called? I didn’t quite catch what it was in the video.

    • David Morales says:

      they are from and search mini-bands

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      Melanie, also Rogue Fitness.

      (You’ll probably want red, blue, and green, ma-aybe black if your hips are super strong. But you can always double up a green and red, etc. And no, I am not employed by Rogue. 🙂

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Bret, I did not know how to send you an email so i hope this will work. I am located in minnesota, well no one here that i know of knows what a BB hip thrust is. I have been following you for about a year. I belong and go to many diffrent gyms, training facilities you name it and no one is doing these with thier clients. To make it better, my own coach i work with for my fitness competitions told me i couldn’t train glutes 2-3 times a week. (This was when i first started working with him) I told him that wasnt an option. He is starting to believe me now after he saw my glute development thanks to you. I go into deep long sometimes argumenative conversations with almost every person who tried to tell me a squat will but up the glutes more than a hip thrust. Anyways I have two points, 1 thank you for everything i love my booty!!! And 2 do you have any interest or help in changing the fitness world of minnesota’s minds? 🙂 Thanks

      • Alisa says:

        I’m in Minnesota and I currently tell anyone who will listen about Bret’s research. And I include it in all my programming for clients (I’m a private personal trainer). I also tend to feel like I’m all alone here. If you are near the cities, Movement Minneapolis is a gym that uses Bret’s concepts – I follow Jen Sinkler though I’ve never been to the gym itself. We can do it!!

        Bret – As someone with a very temperamental back…incorporating hip thrusts 3-4 times per week along with clams and fire hydrants in my warm ups and practicing conscious posterior tilt while standing has done wonders for me pain-wise. I’m 8 months pregnant and having less back pain now than I was 2 months ago which was less than pre-pregnancy (and that’s with still deadlifting and back squatting my bodyweight). Sharing this post with some people on Fitocracy who were just discussing the best glute exercises (surprise, surprise, the top answer was people yelling squats like crazy).

  • Jarod says:

    I’m a physical therapist and I have to say I’m a huge fan of the glute exercise presented in the video. We are aware of the relationship of hip/glute strength and more importantly motor control in the role of knee dysfunction and injury risk. This exercise is a great systematic and efficient way to target the glutes, work on muscle recruitment and isometric strength in a good biomechanical position.

    Great post Bret, I appreciate all the work you do to combine research and training and convey the importance of glute training. I’m a regular reader of your blog and have enjoyed you one on one interviews as well!

  • Brooke Lazor says:

    Hey Bret! SUCH a great read!

    In the video though, I didn’t see any external rotation in the exercise — I’m confused ??

    • Bret says:

      Hi Brooke, thanks. When you force the knees out in a hips-flexed position, it’s probably more of a transverse abduction torque. But if you think of “spinning” the feet into the ground, then you’ll get external rotation torque as well. Don’t think of motion so much as the torques that you’re resisting.

  • Stephletic says:

    being Brazilian I grow up doing ankle weight classes, lots of multi direction single leg standing work with the Ankle weights, mixed with all variations of squats lunges with plates on the hand, quadruped, prone,hip thrusts with plates and side lying. I run ankle weights class here in Australia, on top of what I wrote before I also use small tea towels on the hard floor to add the slide hill hamstring curls on bridge, standing slide side lunges or the basic single leg slide back split squat. I find it works amazing, Im getting good feed back even related to improving back pain and other hip issues.

  • Naveen says:

    Hi Bret !

    From Bahrain , following your guidelines in strengthening my right leg weak gluteus muscles . I have been activating them for 10 mins nearly every day and it is working .
    I tried the above exercise right now and my hips tend to move towards the weaker side . I tried to keep my form , doing it in front of a mirror , very tough and can slightly move the right knee ( weak side ) but will keep doing it , feel it in the gluteus !

    Can I do this exercise every day ?

  • Tandra says:

    That position looks very much like a “Founder” from Foundation Training. I started doing FT for my low back and as a side bonus it resolved my plantar fasciitis. Building strong glutes and low back not only makes a nice shape but makes us functional people again. FT has some great YouTube videos

  • jackbravo says:

    Isn’t that the same as the “keep your knees out” cue during squats? Seems like if you squat, you don’t need this specific exercise?

    • Bret says:

      @jackbravo, with the squat, you’ll get a brief impulse that requires moderate hip external rotation torque, mostly in a deep hips-flexed position. With Chad’s move, you’ll get a sustained maximal hip external rotation torque in a moderate hips-flexed position. Though the heavy squat will create a lot of tension via hip extension torque, the tension created via hip external rotation torque will be higher for the isosqueeze in comparison to the squat, and the isosqueeze will develop appreciable levels of metabolic stress. Therefore, I think you should do both, and I don’t feel that they’re interchangeable. Variety is good for glutes.

  • Chris Nunz says:

    Hi Bret and Chad!

    I tried this exercise a few weeks ago when Chad had posted a similar video of it, and I can say that my hip external rotators have never been so sore, in a good way. I did 2-3 sets because I wanted to make sure I was doing it correctly.

    Bret and Chad, one thing I noted afterwards was that my knees felt twisted. I needed to do some knee distraction and internally rotate my tibias to set them back.

    What could I have done wrong? For the record, I score a 4/5 on the Beighton laxity scale, with my lower back/hips as the 1 negative if that makes a difference.

  • Anna says:

    Hey Bret – just a quick question.

    How often should I be training my glutes in a given week? I am just beginning, but I’d love to see results as fast as possible. I’m sure it varies given one’s level of strength, but what would you suggest?

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