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Who thinks CrossFit needs a Glute WoD?

Crossfit is undeniably one of the biggest trends in the fitness industry at the moment. In just a few short years, it has acquired a large influence over the way that coaches carry out strength and conditioning.

One of the central tenets of CrossFit is that their approach is the best way of achieving elite-level results. But very few CrossFit WoDs (workouts of the day) include specific gluteus maximus exercises, like hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, pull-throughs or horizontal back extensions. While they do tend to perform sled pushes and American-style kettlebell swings, it’s just not the same, not by a long-shot. When I started integrating specific glute work into my training, my clients immediately saw huge results in terms of glute development, strength, and power.

This means that following the standard CrossFit template will not lead to optimal improvements in the ability to generate force and power horizontally. We need to be able to generate force and power horizontally when sprinting or when pushing opponents out of the way during sport. It also means that CrossFit leaves large glute strength and muscle mass increases on the table. Glute strength and muscle mass are very helpful when moving in vertical, lateral, and torsional directions in addition to horizontal directions. Finally, there’s a psychological edge that is achieved when glute development is at an all-time high, which I think would be warmly welcomed by CrossFitters worldwide.

glutes

To help put this right, I’ve written a CrossFit-style Glute WoD and my colleagues over have written one too. Scott from Metal Rhino kindly agreed to film them (that’s him in both videos, suffering mightily). Here they are:

Bret’s Glute WoD

RKC plank
Barbell glute bridge – 100kg males / 60 kgs females
Sumo walks – mini-band
3 rounds of 20 seconds / 20 reps / 20 reps for time

Hip Thruster Glute WoD

Hip thrust – 100kg males / 60kg females
Heavy RKC-style kettlebell swing – 32kg males / 20kg females
3 supersets without rest – 21 / 15 / 9 reps for time

Please give these Glute WoD’s a try and let me know what you think.

Hip Thruster barbell band

The Hip Thruster is the best way to do the hip thrust – stable and versatile!

39 Comments

  • Scott says:

    Have you ever been on the facebook page Crossfit confessions? Please go look at the number of women giving praise to crossfit for thier butt development. You have some great ideas but not everyone needs isolation of muscle to get development out of it. Most of the time compound movements are plenty.

    • Bret says:

      No Scott, I have not. But I’ve lifted at several CrossFit gyms and their glute development was far inferior to what I’m able to achieve with my clients, especially the women. And I’ve gotten plenty of clients who came to me after they did CrossFit and saw big gains in glute growth once they started implementing my system. I’m interested in optimal, not sufficient, and it really wouldn’t take that much extra work to boost adaptations and take performance to the next level IMO.

      • Hana says:

        Hi,

        I just wanted to offer an observation: while the increase in size is nice with crossfit, the overall shape isnt. My spouse and I were talking about how all the women at our crossfit class have “big” behinds, but they tend to be a bit boxy and square. I think Brett’s tips help ’round out” the deriere and a better shape overall…but I guess that’s subject to one’s individual’s preferences…

      • Yolanda says:

        Fuck yes!! As a bodybuilder turned CrossFitter only 3mo ago I feel like my glutes have gone a little flat..I do powerbuilding and ACC work.GH raises and sled pushes and pulls and some split squats..Had done a bit of hip thrusts in the beginning but none as of late and I was just commenting I miss my mini band side walks! THANK YOU! Doing these come next week BOOYAH! ❤️

    • Logan Patterson says:

      As a former Crossfitter, there is no doubt you can’t reach optimal levels of general strength without specific glute work like what Bret is doing, much less optimal levels of glute strength and development. Your work has helped me immensely Mr. Contreras.

    • You are mistaken Scott. As Bret has shown in his EMG reaerch, the glutes are not fully worked when squatting and deadlifting – hip hyprextension movements will build areas of the glutes that squats and deads wont. On saying that, i think crossfit needs a lot more than a glute WOD to make itself better for athletes involved in strength and speed based disciplines.

  • Suraiyah says:

    I LOVE the idea of using this as a finisher routine with my clients. Even beginners can do it by subbing standard plank for the RKC, and bridges with lower or no weight. I’d like to give this a try myself!

  • Penny says:

    I love crossfit and it has improved my physique dramatically. But! It is fun to work the glutes. I love sore butt cheeks the next day from heavy lunges and hip thrusters. Men like big chests. Girls like big strong bums

  • I did mention this in the videos, but I would like reiterate that the two workouts I did were way tougher than expected. The glute activation I got was insane. The Hip Thrusts and KB Swings was so tough and I felt my form struggling on the final set of swings as my glutes were just not able to give me what I needed.

    My glutes and hamstrings were sore for a good few days after. Whilst that is not the goal of any training program, it certainly focusses the mind on the muscles being primarily used, thus confirming the reason why you are performing the workout.

    Sometimes simplicity is underrated and these two workouts are very simple for anyone in a gym to do (hip thruster is ideal but a solid bench can be used) and yet their results are excellent.

    I hope you enjoyed the videos and I look forward to hearing and maybe even seeing how others get on.

    Cheers
    Scott

  • Corey says:

    Oddly been doing my own Glute WOD, at the end of my workouts, namely based upon what was the major lower body movement for that day. Todays Glute WOD was SL Hip Thrust/ Horizontal Hip Extensions/ Banded SL extensions, 20 on each, 4 rounds through, glutes have mad burn

  • Derrick Blanton says:

    What a great idea, Bret and Scott!

    I am SO going to try the UK WOD. (I’m a little queasy and nervous just thinking about it, ha ha!). Cross “glutes” and “interval training” off the scratch list…

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      And btw, Scott, that Metal Rhino gym is the most awesome minimalist corner of a gym ever!

      Plus you could push the Hip Thruster back to the power rack and bench, which would require you to bench from a hip thrust position. (Hey, they always say make the bench press a full body lift, amirite??!:))

      Alright, 4:16…time to beat…UK WOD challenge…(vomits)

      • Thanks Derrick. It’s my little 500sqft of training heaven. There’s a monkey bar rig running along the left wall just out of view in the videos. I also have a tyre, some plyoboxes and a battling rope, plus a few other items. And getting outside to use prowlers and sleds is easy to. It works well for me & my clients 🙂

  • Kimmy says:

    I agree Bret. I do think there are a few people who get glute development from crossfit. But I am not one of those people. I have made many strength gains in crossfit and I love crossfit. I’m in my late thirties and in the best shape of my life, everyday getting stronger. But my glute and hamstrings are not nearly as developed as my quads. And yes I can squat and squat and squat and never have sore glutes. Quarter mile of walking lunges, no problem, glutes never hurt. Barbell steps ups-only felt in quads. The one crossfit move that will give me a glute burn is high rep weighted pistols, but too much of them and my knees hurt. I started with strong curves and I can feel a major glute burn when I do weighted glute bridges and weighted hip thrust. I will forever keep these moves in my routine.

  • Shasta Grape says:

    I’m sure people would incorporate glute specifc exercises if they knew how to program them. How do we coporate the hip thrust without creating a hip imbalance? I’m sure it’s possible to shorten the glutes into a pelvic tilt with too much emphasis on the glutes.

  • We like to add Hip Thrusts at least once a week. Difficult to add to a WOD because of class size but great for our strength program.

    Today’s workout at my gym

    A1. Front Squat 8×3
    A2. High Box Jump 8×3 rest 90 secs

    B1. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat 4×5
    B2. Hip Thrust 4×5

    C. 5 Rounds for time
    10 Burpees
    15 Double KB Snatches 45/25
    50m Farmers Walk 70/45

  • So…

    What you are saying is that a program that prides itself on it’s total lack of specificity, and aversion to single joint/isolation type exercises, doesn’t have enough isolation/single joint exercises.

    Next, someone will right a mind-blowing article about how personal training is better for meeting your personal goals than doing a group fitness class!

    • Bret says:

      Hi Jason,

      I apologize for my ignorance. I’ve trained at various CrossFit gyms, met some amazing CrossFit coaches, and read various CrossFit materials, but obviously I won’t know as much as someone who lives and breathes it every day.

      At any rate, I have some assumptions about CrossFit that I’ll mention below. If I’m in error, please correct me.

      I was under the impression that CrossFit prided itself on well-roundedness (no pun intended) and creating as much functional fitness as possible within the confines of their boxes, as alluded to in these three articles (http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_56-07_Understanding.pdf, http://www.crossfit.com/cf-download/Foundations.pdf, http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ-trial.pdf).

      I was also under the impression that certain core isolation movements were advisable, such as back extensions, glute ham sit up, hollow rock, and l-sit, as mentioned here (http://www.crossfit.com/journal/library/09_03_3_Ab_Exercises.pdf, http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/exercise.html).

      Finally, I was under the impression that CrossFit (especially Greg Glassman) was open-minded to potential improvements to the CrossFit model (see here from 11:05-11:49 at this link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M06zypumBnk) I’ll transcribe Glasssman’s words below:

      “Now, these tests I pick here, guess what? I’m not gonna pick ‘em. I’ll let someone else pick ‘em. Someone wants to compete their program against what we’re doing? Fine, and by the way, I have no fear of finding that there’s a better approach to doing things than the CrossFit method. Cause guess what? We have developed our charter, so that any advancement in performance that can use measurable, observable, repeatable data, and give me increased work capacity, we’re gonna adopt it. My commitment is to human performance, not my method, you understand? Our method is open-charter enough that if it comes down the pipe, we’re going to see it, and we’re waiting for it, we’re looking for it. Cause all I want to do is advance human performance.”

      If I’m correct in my assumptions, then I stand behind my article. I believe I’ve stumbled upon a better way. I’ve read rebuttals to my argument, such as “CrossFit is about movement, not muscles.” Now, I wonder how in the world a hypertrophied gluteus maximus could fail to improve performance. Nevertheless, one must consider joint angles at ground contact during sports. For example, one can see in this recent NFL combine video that the athlete is nearly upright after 5 strides (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaEgrAB0QXM). These hip joint angles at ground contact don’t adequately match up with the joint angles associated with peak hip extension moments in the squat, deadlift, lunge, or Olympic lifts. So you can think of these targeted glute exercises as directional-specific movements, not muscles, if that helps you sleep better at night. It really doesn’t matter; what matters is the adaptations an exercise elicits.

      A larger glute muscle (or greater end-range hip extension strength) will increase torque production about the hips via several ways, including greater muscle force, greater leverage on the hip, and a more perpendicular angle of attack on the thigh, which combine to improve horizontal force and power development and hence, speed.

      But a larger glute won’t just improve horizontal force. It’ll improve everything that the glute does. It’ll allow for easier stabilization of the pelvis, better transfer of forces from the upper to lower limbs across the SI joint, better vertical force and power, better rotational force and power, and better lateral force and power. A larger glute (or stronger glute at functional angles in life and sports if you want to think of movements) will transfer to most athletic functions, however, it’ll also decrease the risk of injury to the low back, knees, and anterior hips.

      Therefore, I believe that CrossFit would greatly benefit from substituting in some targeted glute work. It has been said that, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” We need research to support my theories, but as it stands, there are currently thousands of lifters implementing my methods and seeing amazing results. Some of the glute transformations on my testimonials page are jaw-dropping. I strongly feel that if CrossFit implemented Glute WoD’s, then their performance would improve.

      At a powerlifting meet a couple of weeks ago, which was staged in Prescott in a huge CrossFit facility, I noticed 5 glute ham developers parked side by side. I couldn’t help but think to myself that they should also have 5 hip thrusters parked side by side in order to maximize the performance of their members.

      Regards, Bret

  • Jon says:

    Are these meant to just be a finisher? Or an entire workout? I have never done cross-fit, so that is the reason for my ignorance.

    Then a second question, are the strength gains just as good with something like this with the no rest periods verses heavier weights with the bridges with long rest periods? Or is this more of an endurance focus verses a pure strength focus?

    Thanks.

    • Jon, I know your question is aimed at Bret, but I feel I need to reply:

      It was probably my fault for saying the word “finisher” in the video. Apologies for any confusion caused.

      I am not a CrossFit coach nor a CrossFit trainee/athlete. For myself and my PT clients I personally would use these workouts at the end of an hour’s training session. But from a CrossFit point of view they can stand-alone as WoDs. Whilst not long to perform, neither are some of the WoDs that the top CrossFit athletes perform. Rich Froning (the current number 1 male CrossFitter) completes the FRAN WoD in 2mins 13secs.

      In terms of strength gains then able to use heavier weights with longer rest periods (I didn’t try to take any rest but had to towards the end) is going to yield better strength gains. But strength endurance is useful to which is what the two videos will target more.

      Whilst training smart is very important, sometimes it’s worth just getting stuff done. Give it a try and let Bret and us know how you get on.

      One last point: I trained two male clients tonight and used the FRAN rep & set template (21, 15, 9 with two exercises) with band-resisted hip thrusts and Romanian Deadlifts. It worked well… they were not walking properly at the end lol

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      Jon, you just put your finger on the adaptation quandary that randomized “programming” entails. Simply, WODs are more tests than programming. To get good at WOD’s you would find a few bang for your buck moves, and program them accordingly. For example, a diesel good form DL is going to translate well to a LOT of different moves that will come up in CF.

      You have to repeat a movement pattern in a fairly frequent and systematic way to force adaptations, whether strength, or hypertrophy, strength endurance. Now granted this can be achieved through “exercise overlap” where different movements challenge similar variables, but even that requires a pretty consistent frequency of exposure.

      Perhaps the one adaptive variable that crosses over all WOD’s is conditioning, itself an ambiguous term. Suffice it to say, on virtually all WODs, your heart and lungs will be challenged, and will adapt accordingly due to the frequent, consistent stimuli.

      To me, the UK Wod in particular does work as a standalone glute session. To get good at this WOD, I would program heavy ass HT’s, and hill sprints with incomplete recovery. Just off the top of my head.

      The glutes are a strange beast, both postural and explosive, and all points in between. But for pure strength, yeah, catch your breath, put another plate on the bar…go again.

      Interested in BC’s thoughts on this as well.

  • Jennifer says:

    As a consistant crossfitter for the past 6 or 7 years, now in my mid thirties, I am for sure, without a doubt in the best shape thus far (like Kimmy said). But….with all the dead lifts, squats, OLY stuff….the changes in my body sort of came to a halt (changes at first were big…going from a runner to lifting weights was huge!) a few years into it all. It could be my body type (I am muscular, hourglass…medium build) that also halted change. I began strong curves last summer….and then started Get Glutes programing, and let me say some more noticeable changes started to happen – in how I feel and how I look. I have not been doing crossfit as frequently anymore (honestly, being really sore for many days and feeling like I am going to hurl after are not as appealing to me, nor do I feel is necessary), but when I do….my strength and endurance have not lessened (bring on the wall balls!)….if anything, I am stronger. Cheers to doing both! Both have equally changed my well being for the better. Thanks for the WODs! I am excited to try them.

  • Pete Koch says:

    Brett,
    I like your blog and as an expert in the field of marketing admire your consistent marketing/sales acumen.

    Since your article addresses CrossFit specifically – in regards to your quote “I’m interested in optimal, not sufficient, and it really wouldn’t take that much extra work to boost adaptations and take performance to the next level IMO.” I ask you – do CrossFit games Champions Rich Froning and Samantha Briggs need better glutes (presumedly via the hip thruster equipment you sell (aesthetically or functionally)?

    I don’t think so. I’m interested in your rational.

    Thank you in advance for your response and best regards.

    Pete

    • Bret says:

      Hi Pete, thank you for the kind words and respectful tone – if everyone was this way my life would be even more enjoyable.

      I think that there’s a continuum of potential gains based on the level of athlete. The athletes at the high end of the spectrum in any sport (Crossfit, sprinting, NFL, etc.) don’t have much room to gain from any strength training exercise. Focusing on hip thrusts for a few months could potentially help them grow their glutes an additional 5-10%, which could transfer over to hip extension/rotation/abduction performance via greater torque production, but this would depend on the task and it wouldn’t be very impressive. However, it should be noted that many times, 1-2% makes the difference between winning and losing at this level of competition.

      But this is hypothetical. In the real world, I could give Rich a hip thruster and he might email me two months later saying that he loves the unit and that his hips feel better, or low back, or knees, or that he feels more powerful with various tasks. Or he might realize in a couple months that it didn’t help him at all and that he’s better off focusing on specificity and Crossfit games tasks. It probably depends on the individual. But again, these folks are near the limit of human potential and don’t have as much room for improvement.

      The vast majority of CrossFitters would love and benefit from a few glute WoD’s per week in my opinion, since these movements balance out all of the axial stuff that CrossFit is already doing. One of the hats I wear is that of a salesman, and I am definitely looking to make more money off of my invention over time, but I also have a good moral compass and integrity, and I wouldn’t feel right pushing crap or blowing smoke up people’s rear-ends. In the future, I plan on conducting research on hip thrusts and reporting exactly how they affect performance. Until then, we only have theories and anecdotes to go by. Again, great question and thank you for being respectful. Regards, Bret

  • Pete Koch says:

    Brett,
    Thank you for your complete and thoughtful response. You have once again demonstrated precisely why I am a fan of Brett Contreras, and will continue to be. As a CrossFit box owner and coach I can envision a future where CrossFit athletes utilize your unique and innovative equipment to optimize their appearance and performance. I wish you continued success and prosperity. You deserve it.
    Best Regards,
    Pete

  • Rene Forestier says:

    Hi Brett,

    I wouldn’t say that “CrossFit needs to do more specific glute work”. A better statement may me “more CrossFit trainers should utilize more specific glute work”…there is just so much variation in CrossFit and CrossFit trainers.

    While I think that hip thrusts are valuable to some, I don’t think they are suitable for a WOD…but they sure are good accessory work…yes, some CrossFitters do accessory work. Hip thrusters in a metcon are sort of like adding bicep curls or dumbbell flies to kb swings or thrusters. Not that there is no value to curls and the like, its just that they don’t fit CrossFit’s defn of functional movements.

  • Derrick Blanton says:

    UK glute wod: Yup…pretty much as excruciating as I thought it was going to be.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MKYa8rJY9k

    5:35. You win this round, Scott Brady! (shakes fists at the sky) 🙂

  • Nice one Derrick. Good on you for having a go and making a video. It’s certainly a glute, hamstring & posterior chain wrecker!

  • Alex says:

    I just started at a Crossfit box for a change in scenery (I’ve done Strong Curves and loved it)… and I actually googled “crossfit glute development” because all the crossfitters I see might have great legs.. but not so much goin’ on when it comes to glutes. So… I’ve been doing hip thrusts on days I don’t do Crossfit to maintain my gains….. but this is even better!! Thank you!

  • James says:

    Not sure if you are still interested in doing a follow up article on this mate but I hope you do. A lot of guys despite what they would have you believe otherwise would love to have a glute specific training regime for crossfit but also for their regular gym workouts. Its one of the most sorely neglected parts of the anatomy for a lot of blokes who seem to only want upper body looking big and ripped abs while the lower half looks like a stick figure.

  • sthomas says:

    Thank you so much for this! Some of us need extra help in the glute department! Crossfit is amazing but I think I need the extra volume to see some change!

  • Bárbara says:

    Hi bret! I have a question. I already do crossfit and a strength training program, I read in one of your articles that heavy complex compound movements ( like squats , deadlifts, etc) take 2-3 days to recover from, and training then more often than that would have a counterproductive effect. My question is, is crossfit okay to do between squat days and deadlift days? or should I take it easy on crossfit too if I want to gain muscle? I’d really appreciate your response. Thanks for this article!

  • […] Glute work for crossfitters—Since crossfit athletes already have a huge load of workouts on their plate, Contreras recommends incorporating specifically these few exercises for glute development: Glute bridges, hip thrusts, frog jumps, and back extensions. He even a wrote an article called Who Thinks CrossFit Needs A Glute WoD? […]

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