Your Optimal Training Frequency for the Glutes Part I: Exercise Type

How often should you train your Glutes?

By: Stijn van Willigen

Click HERE for part II

What you’re getting yourself into:

~5000 words

15-20 minute read time

Key Points

1. Muscle SRA (Stimulus, Recovery and Adaptation) is the primary underlying principle that dictates how often you should train the Glutes to grow them as fast as humanly possible.

2. Muscle protein synthesis increases during Recovery and Adaptation. According to science, muscle protein synthesis stays elevated for up to 4 days (Damas et al., 2016; Miller et al., 2005). How many days exactly depends on multiple factors.

3. Exercise type, one of these factors, influences the time it takes for the Glute SRA process to be completed. Which in turn determines the best time to work them again.

4. Exercises have 4 aspects to them that influence recovery/adaptation time: (1) muscle activity, (2) range of motion, (3) emphasis on eccentrics, and (4) muscle length at peak tension. Based on these aspects, the following Glute exercise types can be identified: Stretchers, Activators, and Pumpers.

5. Glute exercise type dictates how often you should train the glutes, and how to design your training program.

The best training frequency for muscle growth is a controversial topic. Most elite bodybuilders swear by training a muscle only once a week (Hackett et al., 2013). A recent meta-analysis concluded that working a muscle group twice per week was superior for hypertrophy compared to once per week (Schoenfeld et al., 2016). Still, modern progressive lifters argue that training a muscle multiple times per week gives better results. Bret’s client Erin is a perfect example of this. She’s seen amazing results training the Glutes a whopping 6 times per week! How often should you train the glutes for maximum results? The short answer is 2-6 times per week. The long answer requires you to read on, as there are variables you will need to adjust in order to optimize your recovery and ability to train effectively at a given frequency.

On StrengthandConditioningResearch.com, an encyclopedia of science-based information, Chris Beardsley states:

“training with a specific volume-matched frequency might be more effective than another volume-matched frequency because the distribution of the hypertrophic stimuli over the course of a training week are optimal in one case and not in the other.”

Basically, it’s saying that spreading out 15 sets for a muscle over several workouts during the week might grow more muscle than doing all 15 sets in one go. Some well-respected experts in the field hypothesize there’s indeed a maximum growth stimulus a muscle can get per workout (Dankel et al., 2016). Say for example the maximum growth stimulus would happen at 6 sets. Any sets beyond that point could be regarded as ‘wasted sets’.

Going from this logic, with a traditional ‘bodybuilding’ split (frequency of training a muscle 1x per week) a lot of these 15 sets would be wasted. Full body routines typically spread the 15 sets out over several days. This may results in less wasted sets per workout. ‘Wasted’ might not be the best wording for these sets. They could even be labeled as counterproductive, as the extra sets might hamper your recovery from the growth stimulus! More on that later.

image_1_setsperweekdistrIf indeed it’s more optimal to train a muscle multiple times per week, over how many days should these 15 sets be spread? 2? 3? 4? 5? 6 days?

According to science, it depends on multiple factors. In this article, I’m going to primarily talk about one of those factors: Exercise Type. By the end of this article, you will understand how exercise type influences how often you should train the Glutes. I will end by giving some practical advice on how to apply this knowledge to your training.

First, we have to understand the primary underlying concept that dictates the relationship between Exercise Type and training frequency: muscle SRA.

The muscle SRA curve

The S in muscle SRA is for Stimulus. During a training session you break down the muscle, the Stimulus for growth. Because of this, the muscle’s functional size – the part of the muscle that’s still able to contract – decreases. The body will then rebuild the broken down muscle. This is called Recovery, the R in SRA. After the body is done rebuilding, it prevents future breakdown of the muscle from happening. It does this by building the muscle bigger than before. This is called Adaptation, the A in SRA. The muscle is now more resistant to a future Stimulus (a thicker wall needs a bigger sledgehammer to break it down). The following image illustrates this process.

image_2_sra-1However, if this sledgehammer is too big, it can cause trouble in the recovery/adaptation process. I briefly talked about this in the introduction: doing too many sets per workout might not only be a waste of effort, it might even hamper your overall muscle growth (Dankel et al., 2016). The image below shows how too big of a stimulus can potentially deform the SRA curve, removing the adaptation part.

image_3_deformation-sraFinally, the SRA principle doesn’t exclusively apply to muscle. For example, the nervous system and connective tissues (such as muscle tendons), also have SRA curves. However, that’s beyond the scope of this article. Here, I will focus on muscle SRA.

Muscle Protein Synthesis

In scientific terms, the rebuilding (recovery) and ‘building bigger’ (adaptation) of the muscle happens through muscle protein synthesis (article by Trommelen, 2016; Damas et al., 2016). During the course of the muscle SRA curve, muscle protein synthesis is constantly elevated (Brook et al., 2015; Damas et al., 2016; Franchi et al., 2015). When it gets back down to baseline, recovery and adaptation are completed. That is the perfect time to stimulate the muscle again to restart the muscle SRA curve. This is illustrated in the image below.

image_4_sra_and_muscleproteinsynthesisWhen should you train again?

Muscle SRA partly answers this question: when the muscle SRA curve is completed.

Train too frequently, and the muscle will actually decrease in functional size over time, because you constantly stimulate before the muscle has completed recovery and adaptation. Train too infrequently, and you are unable to use the peak of the SRA curve as a new starting point for further muscle growth. You can see both situations in the image below.

image_5_trainingtoofrequentorinfrequentSo, ideally you want to train again as soon as recovery and adaptation of the muscle is completed. This will grow them as fast as possible.

image_6_trainingoptimallyfrequent How long does the Glute SRA curve take to complete?

With a new technique to measure long-term muscle protein synthesis, researchers have shown that muscle protein synthesis can remain elevated for a maximum of 72 to 96 hours (3 to 4 days) (Damas et al., 2016; Miller et al., 2005). As we now know, muscle protein synthesis underlies the rebuilding (recovery) and building bigger (adaptation) of muscles.

Now let’s focus on the muscle group of our interest: the Glutes. It takes a maximum of 72 to 96 hours (3 to 4 days) to complete a muscle SRA curve. That means waiting for 120 to 144 hours (5 to 6 days) between Glute workouts wouldn’t make sense if you want them to grow as fast as possible!

But how long should you wait? 1 day? 2 days? 3.36 days? Well, it depends. According to science, the following factors are important:

  • Type of Glute Exercise
  • Glute Training Experience

Now let’s talk about the first of those factors: Type of Glute Exercise. In a later article, I will cover Glute Training Experience.

Type of Exercise and muscle SRA: 4 aspects

Particularly for the Glutes, you can choose from an impressive collection of exercises: external rotations, hip thrusts, hip abductions, squats, lunges, step-ups, deadlifts, and all of their variations; each of them stimulate the Glutes.

However, some exercises have longer muscle SRA curves than others. Imagine this: You’re doing 4 sets of Band Side Walks on Tuesday, and 4 sets of heavy Bulgarian Split Squats on Friday. Do the Glutes take equal time to Recover and Adapt from these 2 training sessions? Heck no! Muscle recovery and adaptation from the heavy Bulgarian Split Squats takes much longer.

But.. Why? There are 4 well-documented aspects of an exercise that influence the length of the muscle SRA curve.

1. Muscle activity

Muscle activity during an exercise is closely linked to producing muscle tension (Alkner et al., 2000; Miller, 2014). Muscle tension is important in Stimulating a muscle to grow (Schoenfeld, 2010). If you don’t believe me, try growing your Glutes by doing biceps curls (which show close to zero Glute activity).

As we know, a muscle grows by recovering and adapting to a stimulus. Low muscle activation equals low muscle tension, which leads to a small stimulus that has a short recovery time. High muscle activation equals high muscle tension, which leads to a bigger stimulus that has a longer recovery and adaptation time. The following image illustrates a study that’s demonstrated this (Soares et al., 2015). Bret has studied the activity of the biceps during both of these exercises in the past.

image_7_aspect12. Range of motion

When an exercise brings a muscle through a bigger Range of Motion (ROM), the muscle does more work (muscular work = muscle force/tension x excursion/distance). This muscular work is often incorrectly called ‘training volume’ (read my article on calculating training volume to see why).

As we would expect, studies show that the more heavy work (training volume) a muscle performs, the longer recovery takes (Lieber & Fridén, 1993; Nosaka et al., 2002; Nosaka et al., 2003). This indicates that exercises with a bigger ROM take the muscle longer to recover (and adapt) from, probably because there’s more muscle breakdown due to increased heavy muscle work.

image_8_aspect2An example of a Glute exercise with a big ROM would be a Lunge or Bulgarian Split Squat. A Band Side Walk, however, has a small ROM, and takes shorter time to recover and adapt from.

3. Emphasis on eccentrics

Early research shows that heavy eccentrics break down the muscle more than heavy concentric movements (Clarkson et al., 1986; Gibala et al., 1995; Gibala et al., 2000; Nosaka et al., 2002).

As expected, the participants from these studies also took much longer to recover to their old performance levels after the eccentrics. However, they took only 1 day to recover from the concentric movements. The following image illustrates this in terms of muscle SRA.

image_9_aspect3An example of a Glute exercise with an emphasis on eccentrics would be the Full Squat. You really have to control the weight while going down, while tension on the Glutes gets greater and greater. On the other hand, Band Hip Thrusts are only heavy at the top, and increasingly lighter when going to the bottom (because the elastic resistance decreases). It’s clear that Full Squats emphasize the eccentric part of the movement, and Band Hip Thrusts don’t. Because of this, Squats probably take longer to recover and adapt from.

4. Muscle length at peak tension

More recent studies also show that firing muscles hard when they’re lengthened causes more muscle breakdown compared to when they’re shortened. As expected, these exercises also took longer to recover and adapt from (McHugh & Pasiakos, 2004; Nosaka et al., 2005; Soares et al., 2015).

The image below shows two versions of the partial Biceps Curl. If you only do the bottom portion of the exercise (top of image), there is peak tension in the biceps when it’s lengthened. This results in more muscle breakdown, and a longer SRA curve. If you do only do the top portion (bottom of image) there is peak tension when it’s shortened, resulting in less muscle breakdown, and a shorter SRA curve.

image_10_aspect4To further clarify how this works for Glute exercises, consider the Parallel Squat and the Barbell Hip Thrust. For the Squat, peak tension happens at the bottom, when the Glutes are lengthened. For the Barbell Hip Thrust, peak tension happens at the top, when the Glutes are maximally shortened. The image below illustrates this.

image_11_length_peaktensionBack to the Glutes

Now let’s apply these 4 aspects to some Glute exercises…

Full Squats take long to recover from, because they show moderate Glute activity (1), bring the Glutes through a big ROM (2), with an emphasis on the eccentric phase (3) and there’s peak tension when the Glutes are lengthened (4). Combine these, and you have a lot of muscle breakdown, which needs more time to recover (and adapt) from. Hence, the SRA curve takes the longest time to complete (3-4 days). We could categorize the Full Squat as a Stretcher type of exercise.

Barbell Hip Thrusts take less time to recover from, because the ROM is smaller (2), and there’s peak tension when the Glutes are maximally shortened (4). However, the Barbell Hip Thrust shows tremendous Glute activity (1) (Contreras et al., 2015) with a heavy-loaded eccentric phase (if you control the weight down, which a lot of people don’t do) (3). High muscle tension particularly stimulates the ‘building bigger’ (adaptation) part of the SRA curve (Schoenfeld, 2010). As a result, the SRA curve takes moderately long to complete (2-3 days). We could label it as an Activator type of exercise.

Finally, Band Side Walks have a very small ROM (2). The average Glute activity is low (1). They show peak tension when the muscle is shortened (4). Hence, the SRA curve probably takes a short while to complete (1-2 days). We could categorize it as a Pumper type of exercise. That’s because the short range of motion and varying tension on the Glutes (band elastic resistance changes) allow for more reps to be performed, which causes a lot of “metabolic stress” (more on this later).

The categories of exercises, their related aspects, and estimated SRA completion times are summarized below.

image_12_exercise_sralength_newThere are some experts, such as Stuart Phillips, who think that categorization between muscle damage, muscle tension, and metabolic stress (the basis for the categorization below) is overrated. He and others hypothesize that they all come down to one underlying factor: motor unit recruitment (Burd et al., 2012). Still, I stick to Brad Schoenfeld’s notion of damage, tension, and metabolic stress to categorize the Glute exercises below, as there’s a logical framework of scientific evidence supporting it (Schoenfeld, 2010). Also, for every exercise, you can see which part of the Glutes it emphasizes. Don’t take this as a black/white distinction, but more as a grey area where upper and lower Glute activation overlap.

image_13_categories_26novPumpers, metabolic stress and SRA

High-rep sets of pumpers often lead to a muscle pump due to the occlusion of veins via constant tension on the muscles and a serious burning sensation in the muscle due to a build-up of certain metabolites (Schoenfeld & Contreras, 2014). This is also called metabolic stress, one of the 3 proposed drivers of muscle growth, along with muscle tension and muscle breakdown (Schoenfeld, 2013). Sadly, we don’t know much about how long muscle protein synthesis stays elevated after doing metabolically stressful exercise (Schoenfeld, 2010; Schoenfeld, 2013). However, muscle recovery and adaptation from pumpers, which are related to muscle protein synthesis, probably takes between 1 to 2 days. That’s because multiple studies show strength is back to baseline within this time (Loenneke et al., 2013; Thiebaud et al., 2013). Anecdotally we can confirm this. 5 sets of heavy Deadlifts can leave you smashed for multiple days after. This simply isn’t the case with Frog Pumps.

Some further anecdotal evidence…

Remember how I mentioned Bret’s client Erin at the introduction of this article? She’s a great example of someone who perfectly matched exercise type with recovery/adaptation time.

After some time as Bret’s guinea pig in the Glute Lab, Erin discovered that she responded a lot better to pumper-type of exercises, such as the Band Side Walk and the Band Deadlift. During the next couple of months, she was doing pumpers 6 days a week. The results were incredible! In terms of SRA, the following probably happened:

image_14_sra_erinFor Erin, the high workout frequency was just what she needed to take her Glutes to the next level. However, the key point here is that she did pumpers to achieve this. If she had chosen to do stretchers, her muscle size progress might have looked something like this…

image_15_stretch_instead_of_pump_erinSure, her muscle protein synthesis would get elevated all this time (at first). But her Glutes would be shrinking (maybe they wouldn’t shrink but they certainly wouldn’t be growing), because she wouldn’t allow proper time to pass before training them again. As a result of the decrease in Glute size, she would also get weaker and weaker every workout. At some point, she wouldn’t be able to have an overloading workout anymore. No overload, no stimulus, no elevated muscle protein synthesis. Stretchers take more time to recover from than pumpers because they create more strain and damage. Damage and soreness is good up until a point, but it can quickly become counterproductive (Schoenfeld & Contreras, 2013), so you need to keep stretcher volume in check and make sure to include ample pumper volume in your program.

Pro tip: turning Stretchers/Activators into Pumpers

Some of the Stretcher and Activator type exercises can be turned into Pumpers. How? Well, let’s take the Full Squat as an example. The squat loads the Glutes the most at the bottom part.

You can further increase the Glutes’ activity (1) by putting an elastic band around your knees. In order to keep the tension on the Glutes, and to shorten the Range of Motion (2), you want to bounce up and down out of the hole of the squat while only coming half to two-thirds the way up, thereby keeping constant tension on the glutes. For this, you want to use a light weight that you can do a lot of reps with in a rapid fashion for high levels of metabolic stress. Also, using a light weight will ensure the eccentrics are light (3). Taken together, these changes make for a speedy recovery between workouts. The following image illustrates this make-over from a stretcher to a pumper.

image_16_fullsq_to_bandedsqbounce_newApplying this today

By now it is clear that Pumpers can be done very frequently… but including what we know about Stretchers and Activators and their SRA curves, how can we incorporate this into our training?

Example 1: mixed program

If you like to train 4 days a week, you could do some variety of ‘pumpers’ every session, while doing ‘stretchers’ and ‘activators’ only on some of the days, because they need more recovery. You want to include a vertical (squatting, lunging, etc.), horizontal (hip thrust, deadlift, etc.), and lateral/rotary (external rotation, side walk, etc.) exercise on every day. Here is an example:

Monday:
3 x 8-12 Back Squats
3 x 8-12 Romanian Deadlifts
2 x 30 Frog pumps (pumper to finish off)

Tuesday:
3 x 8-12 American Hip Thrusts
2 x 20 Band Seated Hip Abductions
2 x 20 Banded Squat Bounce

Thursday:
3 x 8-12 Front Squats
3 x 8-12 Off-bench Side Lying Hip Abductions
2 x 20 Banded Back Extensions (pumper to finish off)

Friday:
3 x 8-12 Bulgarian Split Squats (more recovery possible because of weekend)
2 x 20 Band Hip Thrusts
2 x 20 Lateral Band Walk

image_17_mixed_programExample 2: holiday program

Are you traveling from place to place, have no access to weights, but want to keep your Glutes looking top notch? This is the ideal time to do Glute Pumpers every single day. Maybe throw in an activator/stretcher if possible. It could look something like this:

Monday:
3 x 20 Frog pumps
3 x 20 Band Side Walks
2 x 30 Banded Squat Bouncers

Tuesday:
3 x 20 Walking Lunges
3 x 20 Feet-elevated Glute Bridge
2 x 30 Side Lying Clams

Wednesday:
(repeat Monday)

And so on…

It would look something like Erin’s 6x/week workout. See below.

image_18_holiday_program Want those Pumpers to have a bigger effect? Do a lot of Stretchers and Activators the weeks before you get on the plane. This way, the body will get very sensitive for the period of Pumpers to come (Ogasawara et al., 2013). This ties in nicely with the next example…

Example 3: alternating high frequency and low frequency periods

Your body is an adaptive system. It gets used to a specific stimulus (such as training frequencies) over time (Ogasawara et al., 2013). That’s why alternating high-frequency periods with low frequency periods is a sensible idea.

For example, for 4 weeks you would train the Glutes 3 times per week. At the end of that period, the muscle protein synthesis after a workout will have dropped to a fraction of the initial amount. That’s the perfect time to start 4 weeks training the Glutes 6 times per week, then go back to a reduced frequency.

The key point here is that your exercise type (Activator, Stretcher, Pumper) SRA time should always match the time between workouts. In this case, pumper exercises are a great choice during the high frequency period. You would emphasize stretchers and activators for the low frequency weeks.

image_19_periodizedprogramIndividual differences

Still, there are some people who just respond better to some type of exercise when it comes to Glute growth. You’ll have to find this out for yourself.

A way you could go about this is doing the alternating periods of high and low frequency. See which of those periods your Glutes respond better to. If they respond better to low frequency with Stretchers and Activators, you want to emphasize those types of exercises. For example, you could alternate 6 weeks of low frequency Stretchers/Activators with 2 week of high frequency Pumpers. This way, you spend most time doing the type of exercise and frequency you respond best to. The 2 weeks of high frequency training will resensitize your Glutes for a new 6-week block of Stretchers/Activators (Ogasawara et al., 2013). Of course, you’ll always be doing activators, stretchers, and pumpers, but the proportion of exercise type changes according to the training frequency.

Furthermore, Bret has observed that some people fire the Glutes a lot more during certain exercises than what you’d expect. For example, some individuals feel their glutes working harder during barbell hip thrusts compared to band hip thrusts and vice versa. Some individuals feel frog pumps a ton in their glutes, while others don’t at all and prefer wide stance dumbbell glute bridges for high reps. Some individuals feel the Romanian deadlift heavily working their glutes while others only feel this exercise in the hamstrings. Most individuals get very sore from walking lunges, but some get even more sore from hip thrusts, which is strange as it seems to defy physiology. It is your job through experimentation to discover what fires up your own Glutes the most, but training is a lifelong journey of learning so be patient and utilize the scientific method.

I left some stones unturned…

I want to close by saying this is not the whole story behind training frequency. Muscles aren’t the only tissues in the body that have an SRA curve. Nerve tissue, glycogen stores, and connective tissue also take time to recover and adapt, and this can’t be ignored. In the next article I’ll pay attention to these other body systems. I will also discuss the other factors in Glute SRA: Glute training experience.

However, now you should know how Glute exercise type impacts how often you should train for the fastest growth possible. What are you waiting for? Get going and bust your butt!

Final disclaimer

I’d like to point out that there are numerous researchers who hold muscle damage in a very high regard (Paulsen et al., 2012). They argue that eccentric-focused muscle-damaging exercises are the best at increasing the amount of muscle nuclei in the muscle fibers. Why is this important? Read on…

You could see these muscle nuclei as factories with muscle-repairing workers. These workers are to remain on stand-by to rebuild and build-bigger the muscle whenever another ‘tornado’ of exercise arrives (Bruusgaard et al., 2010). A single factory can only maintain a certain domain of muscle mass. In order for the muscle to grow even bigger, more factories have to be added. As said, the researchers think exercises that do the most muscle damage are best for this (Paulsen et al., 2012). Overall, you could say that more factories means more workers, which means more long-term capacity for muscle growth.

image_20_muscle-nuclei-explainedBecause of this, I wouldn’t advise the people who respond best to high-frequency training to do Pumpers year-round. That’s like keeping the amount of workers the same, but asking them to build and maintain even more muscle mass, without any time off. The workers will burn out.

Investing in more factories (with more workers) could possibly help this. Make sure there are times in the year where you really go all-out on damaging stretcher exercises. For example, you could focus on multiple heavy (or even eccentric-emphasized) sets of Bulgarian Split Squats, Full Squats, and off-bench Side Lying Hip Abductions for a few weeks at a time. The muscle damage they cause will likely increase the amount of worker factories (muscle nuclei) in the Glutes. In the long run, this possibly increases your Glutes’ capacity to increase their size.

The above reasons could possible explain why a lot of bodybuilding prefer training a muscle only once a week. They might need 50 sets in one session to damage the muscle enough for it to increase the amount of muscle nuclei further, in order to allow for further muscle growth. However, there are three reasons why this practice should be held with great skepticism. First, the recent meta-analysis on training frequency showed a clear hypertrophic advantage with training a muscle group twice per week as opposed to once per week. Second, anecdotally speaking, whenever a bodybuilder is trying to bring up a weak muscle, he or she increases the training frequency for that weak part. And third, metabolic stress exercise has been shown to activate just as much (if not more) satellite cells as damaging exercise (Nielsen et al. 2012), which is followed up by more muscle nuclei.

image_21_metabolic_stress_and_musclenucleiThis plays a strong case for high frequency pumper workouts in comparison to low frequency stretcher workouts for the purpose of increasing muscle nuclei over the long-run. The good news is that you don’t have to choose one over the other; you can easily incorporate all 3 types of exercises into your training by following the advice I’ve included in this article.

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  25. Ogasawara, R., Kobayashi, K., Tsutaki, A., Lee, K., Abe, T., Fujita, S., … Kimball, S. (2013). mTOR signaling response to resistance exercise is altered by chronic resistance training and detraining in skeletal muscle. Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md.: 1985), 114(7), 934–40.
  26. Paulsen, G., Mikkelsen, U. R., Raastad, T., & Peake, J. M. (2012). Leucocytes, cytokines and satellite cells: what role do they play in muscle damage and regeneration following eccentric exercise. Exerc Immunol Rev, 18(1), 42-97.
  27. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(10), 2857-2872.
  28. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Potential mechanisms for a role of metabolic stress in hypertrophic adaptations to resistance training. Sports Medicine, 43(3), 179–194.
  29. Schoenfeld, B. J., & Contreras, B. (2013). Is Postexercise Muscle Soreness a Valid Indicator of Muscular Adaptations?. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 35(5), 16-21.
  30. Schoenfeld, B. J., & Contreras, B. (2014). The muscle pump: potential mechanisms and applications for enhancing hypertrophic adaptations. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 36(3), 21-25.
  31. Schoenfeld, B.J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J.W. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med, 46(11),1689-1697.
  32. Soares, S., Ferreira-Junior, J. B., Pereira, M. C., Cleto, V. A., Castanheira, R. P., Cadore, E. L., … & Bottaro, M. (2015). Dissociated Time Course of Muscle Damage Recovery Between Single-and Multi-Joint Exercises in Highly Resistance-Trained Men. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 29(9), 2594-2599.
  33. Thiebaud, R. S., Yasuda, T., Loenneke, J. P., & Abe, T. (2013). Effects of low-intensity concentric and eccentric exercise combined with blood flow restriction on indices of exercise-induced muscle damage. Interventional Medicine & Applied Science, 5(2), 53–59.

About the Author:

stijn-van-willigen

Stijn van Willigen has a bachelor’s degree in Human Movement Sciences and 8 years of experience in the world of weight training and nutrition. He specializes in science-based fitness for women, and tries to dispell myths on different themes with the science available. Presenting this in the form of engaging text and infographics are the main ways he hopes to accomplish this. A portfolio of his work can be viewed on his Instagram profile @fitfographs (www.instagram.com/fitfographs). You can also find him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/fitfographs/).

168 Comments

  • Amanda Russo says:

    What about training glutes on a 6 day split? (Shoulders, Arms, Legs, Chest/Tris, Back/Bis, and Legs).

    • Hey Amanda,

      My suggestion would be do some activators (hip thrust, high step ups, etc.) and pumpers (lateral walk, band external rotation) on your shoulder day, so your glutes remain relatively fresh for leg day 1.
      On leg day 1 you could focus on some lunges, and at the end of the workout some hip driver/transverse abduction pumpers (such as frog pumps and seated hip abductions)
      On leg day 2 you could focus on some deadlifts, and at the end of your workout some head driver/frontal abduction pumpers (such as squat bouncers and lying band hip abductions)

      This way, you stimulate the glutes about every 2-3 days, without hindering your leg workouts too much.

      For the exercises see the exercise category table.

      Hope it helps!

  • Amanda R. says:

    How does one train glutes if on a 6-day body split training regime?

  • Shalon Gough says:

    If you were to train glutes 3-4 times per week would you still have a day where you’d train the whole leg including hamstrings and quads?

    • I would advise training legs at least 2x a week. On those leg days, include exercises that hit both the legs and the glutes hard, such as Lunges, Barbarian Split Squats, and High Step-Ups. On the 1-2 days you train glutes but not legs, focus 3 activators/pumpers for the glutes per day.

  • Heley B. says:

    Great article, Stijn and Bret! So much great scientific info which will definitely help me more strategically plan out my training sessions. Looking forward to part B!

  • Holly says:

    This is so well-written, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! I look forward to incorporating this information into my next program. Thankyou so much!

  • Matt C says:

    Stijn and Bret,

    Great article! I am wondering how this can applied to other muscles. I imagine bench press would be an example of a stretcher, chest flye might be an activator/pumper. Similarly, for the deltoids, overhead press might be a stretcher, lateral raise a pumper. Have you seen an evidence to support this categorization of other muscles than the glutes? If so, what would a full body program look like for 4 days/week?

    • Thankyou,
      That’s an interesting question, Matt. Because bands are so often used in Glute training, and they go through a great range of motion in head drivers, the Glutes are a great candidate for the Stretcher/Activator/Pumper terminology.

      A dumbbell fly is a great example of a stretcher, especially because of the peak tension at a lengthened muscle position (aspect 4).
      A paused wide-grip Bench Press is a great example of an activator, because you start at a wide-grip dead stop, so a lot of tension (1) has to be generated in the chest muscles to get the bar to start moving.
      A partial banded push-up (only top portion) is a great example of a pumper, because there’s a short range of motion (aspect 2), with peak tension at a shortened muscle length (4).

    • jmc says:

      A pumper for the chest, might be a Cable punch-like motion, essentially an end range of motion Horizontal Adduction at the shoulder. You put the cable at chest height, and you place your body in parallel to the cable, and your arm is chest-high(90 degrees Shoulder Flexion) and bent at the elbow(45 degrees Elbow Flexion). You execute by “punching” from right to left(for your right arm),

  • Dan L says:

    So for lower frequency weeks, there should be more activator/stretcher exercises more times throughout the week, whereas high frequency would be less times throughout the week focused on pumper exercises as the chart follows?

    • For lower frequency weeks, I advise training your Glutes hard and heavy 2-3 times per week, mainly using stretchers and activators (and 1-2 pumpers per workout as the cherry on the cake).

      For higher frequency weeks, train your Glutes hard and heavy 4-7 times per week, mainly using pumpers. Make sure the pumpers come from different exercise categories (see exercise image) every day. For example: Monday:
      – hip driver pumper
      – rotator pumper
      – frontal abduction pumper

      • Laura says:

        Amazing article!! I’m currently going to do 6 days of pumpers after I’ve been doing 3 days of stretchers a week for the last 3 months. Is there any way I can find more pumpers than on the graph? Or is that all of them? Also am I Okay to add one stretcher a week or shall I stick solely to pumpers for 4 weeks then back to stretchers after (for muscle growth) thank u!

        • Hi Laura,
          Thank you! Look around on Bret’s instagram or youtube account. He’s made a bunchload of videos on different exercises. Also, Erin has an awesome video showing a lot of pumpers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMs7MmnZRBg
          Sure it’s okay to do one stretcher a week. However, be smart in choosing that day. Maybe just before your one rest day is a good idea.

          The week before you switch over to 3-4 days of stretcher, I suggest you don’t do any stretchers to prime yourself for their stimulus again.

  • This is a great article! I have re-read it three times! I am new to the site, so this may have been covered somewhere else, but if it take 3-4 days for recovery/adapation, wouldn’t you want to not work the glutes at all during that time? It looks like you recommend doing some pumpers inbetween.

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      Very glad you liked the article. You make an excellent point. However, because stretchers are mostly a ‘damaging’ type of exercise, a metabolic stressor such as a pumper wouldn’t affect this recovery time too much. Of course, it’s not always 3-4 days. It depends on a lot of factors (training status, periodization of your training program, etc.). You should play around with it.

      What you should take away is that Bulgarian Split Squats have a profoundly different effect on your muscles (more damaging and decreases your strength in the short term) than a Band Walk. Therefore, doing Bulgarian Split Squats 2 days in a row wouldn’t be a great idea, because your strength would not be up to par to make the second one a productive workout. However, you could probably still do 3 x 20 reps of seated hip abductions acceptably on that day.

  • Vane says:

    Hey! Awesome article 🙂 Question ..I’ve been hip thrusting 2-3x a week, along with donkey kickbacks on the machine and abductors using the machine as well. Can one build glutes if they only did pumpers 5-6x per week? I ask because I can only keep going heavier on hip thrusts for so long and they are starting to feel uncomfortable. My other question is can one get stronger by adding a rep each week? For example, hip thrusting 185 for 20 reps one week, maybe the following week I make it to 22 reps ..so on and so forth. Instead of setting weight PRs, setting rep PRs …indefinitely or is there a cut off where getting to a 100-reps isn’t going to grow glutes anymore as I’ve always been told to stay in the 6-15 rep range.
    Thank you in advance for your time!

    • Hi Vane,
      Thank you so much. Okay, that sounds great. I would suggest also adding in some Rotators or Abductions to balance them out. Sure you can, but for some this works better than for others. Really pay attention to how your glutes respond to this type of training.

      Instead of adding reps, I would suggest adding SETS over time. More sets means more training volume, which is a great stimulator for growth (up to a point, as the article talks about). With the lower weight, make sure your technique is really on point (really focus on letting the glutes do the work, and lower the bar in a controlled fashion).

  • Kelly says:

    I currently do a 5 day split consisting of 2 leg days which include alot of stretchers and usually pumpers at the end as a burnout. I am thinking of doing 2 heavier leg days with mostly stretchers and then doing some pumpers on my upper body days so I would be working my glutes 4x/week. Do you think this would be too much? Also, If I were to do a stretcher exercise (let’s say squats) how long/ how many days should I let my glutes rest before doing pumper exercises? Thanks!!!

    • Hi Kelly,
      You could indeed experiment with this. Make sure your 2 heavier leg days are at least 2-3 days apart. Really watch your strength on these leg days. If it decreases over time, it might be a little too much, and you need to cut some out (or better: take a (deload) week off, and start with only the leg days again, slowly adding in pumpers).
      Because of the low impact of pumpers, they can theoretically be done the day after. Again, you need to find out for yourself if this works for you. Just make sure yo don’t do stretchers on back-to-back days.

  • John Hohman says:

    Just wondering if this methodology can be used in training other muscle groups?

    • Hi John,
      Definitely something you can experiment with. For your biceps, for example, you could do (Blood Flow Restricted) spider curls, only performing the top portion of the movement, as a pumper. For you triceps, (BFR) triceps pushdowns or DB kickbacks may be an option. For chest, end-ROM cable flyes can work as a pumper. Lateral deltoids? Band Face Pulls could work. Use your imagination. 😉

  • raffaele says:

    very good article. I’ve a question for you wich concernes training frequency.
    you wrote that training before the SRA curve is complete will reduce muscle growth if not causing loss.
    You quote some research to support your statment. But from reading, I understood that the body can add anabolic stimuli. So, the body can get an anabolic stimulus and grow even if the anabolic curve isn’t back to baseline.
    Bryan haycock once wrote: “my comments about training a muscle while sore come from research showing that muscle tissue is designed to recover from microtrauma even while it’s still being traumatized. This is a fundamentally foreign idea to most, if not all, bodybuilders. Heresy! they cry.
    Without going into detail, animal studies of overload-induced muscle growth use models that don’t remove the load for anywhere from one week to eight weeks. Later studies on humans demonstrated that after eccentric-exercise induced muscle damage, a second workout of eccentric reps didn’t hinder the recovery from the first workout”.
    Now, I can’t find the paper where he quotes the researches supporting his statment. But it would be nice if you can give me your opionion about this.

    • Thanks Raffaele,
      That’s a very interesting question. Indeed, microtrauma can be added on top of each other, and, given enough time, be recovered from. However, when a person repeatedly adds microtrauma upon microtrauma, without deloading properly for the long-term recovery to take place, strength levels will start to decline, and ‘overreaching’ symptoms (such as fatigue, low motivation to train) will set in.
      Unless you have a good grasp of periodization and deloading practices, this can become a problem. Hence I agree with your statement of growth being possible without first returning to SRA baseline every time. But the person employing it should have a proper understanding of periodization before employing it.

  • Martina says:

    Hi! First of all i want to give credit for this amazing article. Thanks!

    But I really didn’t know that band hip thrust is just a “pumping” exercise.. that’s why my glutes never dies the day after doing them (but the die while I’m doing them). So hip thrust without band around the knees is more of a active exercise… but I get better contact with the muscles with the band. What’s ur opinion?

    Glad if you could answer!

    • Hi Martine, and thankyou, that means a lot!
      Indeed, a heavy loaded barbell hip thrust is often felt the next day. It causes more muscle damage, which often results in muscle soreness the day(s) after.
      Because a banded hip thrust really lets you squeeze the glutes at the top, it explains why you get better contact with the muscles. Also, because the movement is mostly smaller and you do more reps, this results in this ‘burning feeling’ in the glutes that Pumpers are known for (which indicates metabolic stress).
      Maybe try to do Barbell hip thrusts 2x a week, say on monday and thursday, and do Banded hip thrusts 2x a week on tuesday and saturday. This way there is enough time between the Barbell hip thrusts to recover the damage before hitting them hard again.

  • Shauna says:

    Thanks for all the great info and breaking it down into easily understandable terms.

  • Kate L says:

    Thanks for such an amazing article! I keep rereading it and it’s just so helpful for my understanding of it all. The graphics are superb! I’m keen to increase my frequency of training using the mixed approach suggested. I struggle to feel glute activation during the stretcher type exercises, the addition of bands has helped a lot with this (banded squats), but if I load heavy with stretchers other muscles take over.

    • Thankyou Kate,
      I do recognize what you say about other muscle groups taking over. What you could do with the squats, for example, is pre-exhausting the hamstrings (which can take over the glutes) by doing some leg curls. This way your glutes are more likely to be activated, even at higher loads. Alternatively, you could try statically stretching your hamstrings for 2+ mins before the squats. This often makes them about 5-10% weaker and loosens them up, so they’re less likely to take the load.

      Give these a try and let me know if it worked out for you!

  • Okay okay… I squatted on Tuesday, we worked up to a 5 rep max back squat then did a drop set of 5 reps at 90% of the previous set. Long story short, my legs feel terrible right now. So if I follow this model, by taking full rest day Wednesday, Thursday , by Friday I should be good to go again with backsquats or is it best to do more “pumpers” on that day. Do you recommend doing pumpers on those rest days even after squatting heavy on that Tuesday.

    I know I know, “did you read the article” lol, I did, but I’m just slightly confused. I just want to optimize the performance =D

    • Hi CrossFit St Petersburg,
      In the future, I would suggest taking it easy on activators/stretchers the days after you go all out with close to 100% of your 1RM. Also, don’t take my guidelines of 2-3 days recovery as set in stone. They are guidelines You should be sensitive to how you feel. If you’re recovered, you will know by the latter, and your strength levels. Pumpers could aid the recovery process, but from the looks of it the Tuesday workout was veeery taxing, which would warrant complete rest.
      Hope it helped!

  • Lou says:

    I absolutely love the quality content you’re sharing on this website.
    Thank you so much !
    I had a question going on my mind for a quite long time though; I used to train legs twice a week, with a glute emphasis; and with progressive overload and eating in a surplus; I now upped it to three times a week.
    However I notice my glutes aren’t growing fast at all – and I was wondering if it might be because of the pill. I’m taking the Diane pill. I don’t know if you know anything about it but that would be of great help !

    Thank you again !

    • Hello Lou. Thanks for your kind words.
      I’m actually writing an article on this subject now. For now, I can tell you that taking the pill shouldn’t influence your results too much. However, more research on that still needs to be done. The future article mostly talks about how you should schedule your training when you’re NOT taking the pill.

      What I would suggest is taking a deload week to sensitize yourself to the training stimulus again, and/or changing up your training frequency/exercises and see how that works out for you.

    • Dear Lou,
      To come back to your initial question: you might be interested in this article, in which I thoroughly discuss taking the pill in combination with weight training: http://www.bodylogiq.org/en/a-womans-guide-to-monthly-timing-of-training/

    • Mo says:

      Hey, i feel ya. Let me know how it went…I feel like I am wasting my time in the gym too. I would be glad if you share your experience and tips! Thank you 😉

  • Dr. Maggio says:

    Thanks for the advice, I’ll run this info to a couple of my clients for sure.

  • Shanda says:

    Great Article..SO much information..Thank you!!

  • Kevin says:

    Great article–thank you. Would it be possible to format the exercise graphic of pumpers, stretchers, and activators such that it could be printed out (e.g., a PDF) and used as a stand-alone reference chart? I tried printing it, but some of the material was cut off.

  • Coral says:

    Absolutely LOVED this article. Been stalking Bret’s site for 2/3 weeks now and it’s changed my workout routine heaps already. This was so interesting to read… i even made notes ha!! I’ve been doing about 2 stretcher exercises every other day in my legs/glutes routines and had always thought, surely i don’t need to do, for example, squats every single legs/glutes session. I’m now sitting here revising my whole workout routine to put into practice the things i’ve just read. So interesting and well written so that even people without all the scientific knowledge/background can still understand it. Spot on! Just curious as to how many stretcher exercises you would then recommend in one workout. For example if i did squats, split squats and dead lifts on one day would that be enough/too much? And would you say a workout plan that wasn’t set days eg; sun-thurs gym days fri/sat rest, would be more beneficial to accommodate this sort of training?

    • Hi Coral, your comment made my day. I’m glad it’s making you reconsider your training program.
      Well, I’d say don’t do 3 types of stretcher Head Drivers in one day if you’re going to do them every other day. I think that would be too much in the long run. I’d opt for a hip driver activator, a head driver stretcher, and a rotator/abductor pumper per workout every 2-3 days if you want to program it like that.

      Of course, if you want to split 6 sets of bulgarian split squats into 3 sets of squats and 3 sets of lunges, that’s fine as well (that’s still 6 sets of stretchers in total). Just make sure you pay close attention to how you’re feeling (run down, fatigued, no motivation for gym), and whether your strength levels are dropping over the weeks. If they do, and you’re feeling burnt out, you’re probably doing too much.

  • Felecia Smith says:

    Awesome article! I have a question. So I train 4x a week. My training goes a little like this. Monday- Chest/Shoulders, Tuesday-Legs, Off Wednesday, Thursday-Back/Bi’s and Tri’s and Friday legs. My question is on the days I don’t train legs, for example, on chest abd shoulder day, would I finish with some pumpers on those days??

    Thanks in advance!!

  • Amber says:

    Loved the article Read it a few times already. I am a little confused. You mentioned to another reader to do hip thrust 2x per week M and Th. And then do banded hip thrust on Tues and Saturday. So you can do pumpers after a heavy day? Wouldn’t that be taking away from the recovery?

  • Fabienne says:

    Hi!
    i really loved this article, and although i’m not that fabulous in english, i think i got the most of it.
    one thing is that i’m a little confused by the number of reps with pumpers. it’s always around 20 (like 3 x 20 for example). but my muscle is not “done” after those 3 x 20. it’s totally different like when I do stretchers. so my question, is it okey (or the meaning) that pumpers don’t make a breakdown? or do I have to make so many pumper-exercises till i have that breakdown? and is there a maximum amount of stretcher exercises i can do in one workout (like not more than 3 exercises)?

  • Hi Fabienne,
    Thank you! I’m glad it was understandable.
    Well, I think you should be close to done after those 20 reps. If not, maybe use a thicker resistance band, or you could stretch it to 30 reps. That’s fine.
    What’s more important, I think, is the amount of heavy stretcher sets you do per workout. Doing 9 back-to-back sets of bulgarian split squats (1 stretcher) or 3 sets of front squats, 3 sets of back squats, and 3 sets of deficit curtsy lunges (3 stretchers, but also 9 sets in total) are probably equally taxing.
    Hope that answered your question.

  • Kanika says:

    Hi,

    Great article! I just started with the workout plan that Bret mentioned in his article” How to design an optimal glute training”
    Monday
    barbell hip thrust pyramid 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6, 1 x 15
    goblet squat 3 x 12
    heavy kettlebell deadlift 2 x 15
    45 degree hyper 2 x 20
    band seated hip abduction 2 x 20
    incline press 2 x 10
    lat pulldown 2 x 10
    Tuesday
    band hip thrust 3 x 10
    walking lunge 2 x 50 (total steps, so 25 per leg)
    reverse hyper 3 x 10
    lateral band walk 2 x 20
    push up 2 x AMRAP
    Hammer Strength row 2 x 10
    Thursday
    barbell hip thrust 3 x 6
    Bulgarian split squat 2 x 10
    45 degree hyper 2 x 30
    pendulum quadruped hip extension 2 x 10
    band side lying clam 2 x 20
    dumbbell shoulder press 2 x 10
    one arm row 2 x 10
    Friday
    double band hip thrust 3 x 20 (band around knees and band over the hips)
    Cybex leg press 3 x 10
    American deadlift 2 x 8
    band standing hip abduction 2 x 20
    dumbbell bench press 2 x 10
    inverted row 2 x 10

    I am little confused now should I continue following this or should I start working with the program mentioned in this article. Is the program that I am following now too intense for glute. Am I not giving enought time for recovery?
    Can you please advice me.

    Thanks

    • Hi Kanika,
      Excuse my late response. Those are 4 workout days with multiple stretchers/activators. My best advice would be to see how it goes. Is your strength increasing from week to week? You’re doing it right. Is your strength actually decreasing, and you feel run down early into the program? You may be overdoing it.
      For recovery purposes, make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat enough calories, and try to keep overall stress (job-related, etc.) as low as possible. Those seem to be the most important mediators for recovery.

  • Tina says:

    Do plyometrics and cardio that target the glutes affect any of this? or are we only talking about resistance training?

  • Anni says:

    Hi! I loved this article but it made me question my training a bit.
    I work Monday Wednesday Friday glutes and legs. I do heavy barbell hip thrusts all three days, is one day in between enough to recover? I am slowly getting stronger but I’m not sure if it’s impacting my physical growth. Monday I squat and Friday I deadlift with mostly pumpers Wednesday. Help please! Thank you

    • Hi Anni, thank you! If you’re still progressing in strength, you’re also still growing. From this, I doubt you’re underrecovering. To be sure: stay 1-3 reps shy of failure on your heavy Hip Thrusts.

  • Alaa says:

    This article is extremely informative!
    1) I notice that all band exercise are pumper, aren’t they?
    2) How can I determine if the type of the exercise is (stretcher, pumper, activator) for example Leg press, which type it is?
    3) is there any specific rep range of all the three types?

    waiting for the answer,
    Thank you in advance!

    • Glad you liked it, Alaa.
      1) Yes, you’re right. Because band exercises are hard at the top (peak contraction at short muscle length) they can be done for high reps and cause a lot of metabolic stress, with minimum muscle damage.
      2) Well, look at the 4 aspects. Leg press has a large range of motion with heavy eccentrics (going-down part of movement), but probably low mean activation for the glutes (similar to squats). For these reasons we can assume the Leg Press is a Stretcher for the glutes (but probably an Activator for the Quads).
      3) To accumulate enough metabolic stress to make the pumpers worthwhile, aim for 20-30 reps. To get muscle tension as high as possible, aim for no more than 12 reps in Activators. Stretchers are great for a variety of reps.

      Hope it helps.

  • Frøydis says:

    After reading this article I’m changing up my glute routine! So excited to try something new. But I’m having some problems identifying which exercises is lateral/rotary, except for the obvious exercises such as lateral band walk and hip abduction. Could you give some more examples? Are kickbacks lateral/rotary?

    Best wishes from Norway

  • Hi Froydis, glad the article made you want to revise your glute program.
    Kickbacks are Hip Drivers (as shown in the exercise chart, hi-quality PDF can be downloaded here: http://www.bodylogiq.org/en/exerstats-manual-lower-glutes-instagram-link/ )
    All the best,

  • Louise Martinsen says:

    Thank you so much for this great article!!
    I modified my workout lately and my split from Monday to Friday is :
    Legs + abs, Back + Shoulders + Arms, Glutes + abs, Back + Shoulders, Legs + abs
    I love doing bent knee weighted hip extensions on the smith machine and barbell hip trusts at all my lower body workouts. However, I wonder if my workout isn’t too much.
    My Quads are already well developed and I really want to emphasize on my glutes.
    I would like to get your advice. Please help me 🙂 Thank you very much in advance.

    Here is my lower body workout :
    Monday :
    Bent Knee Weighted hip extension (Smith Machine) 4 x 12
    Barbell Hip Trust 4 x 12
    Leg Press 3 x 12
    Squats 3 x 12
    Romanian Deadlifts 3 x 12
    Leg Curl 3 x 12
    Seated hip abduction machine 3 x 12
    Lying Band Hip abduction 3 x 20

    Wednesday :
    Bent Knee Weighted hip extension (Smith Machine) 4 x 12
    Barbell Hip Trust 4 x 12
    Glutes Press on Assisted chin up machine 3 x 12
    Bodyweight Back extension 3 x 12
    Seated hip abduction machine 3 x 12
    Cable hip abduction 3 x 12
    Squat Bouncer 3 x 20

    Friday :
    Bent Knee Weighted hip extension (Smith Machine) 4 x 12
    Barbell Hip Trust 4 x 12
    Bulgarian Squats 3 x 12
    Single leg deadlifts 3 x 12
    Weighted Back Extension 3 x 12
    Cable hip abduction 3 x 12
    Band Elevated Glute Bridge sup. Hip abduction 3 x 20

    • Hey Louise, thanks for typing out your program.

      I’m counting about 60+ sets for your Glutes per week. That might be overdoing it a little. I’d recommend about 20-35 sets of Glute exercises per week (the more advanced you are, the more weekly sets you need for optimal stimulation). Do take into account that 30 sets of stretchers are a lot more taxing than 30 sets of pumpers.
      However, some people can deal with the training volume you’re now doing, but I would suggest lowering your weekly sets for Glutes to under 30 and see how it goes.

      • Kaja says:

        Does bulgarian squat for example count as glute exercise or quad? I want to focus on volume training and I’m not sure under which category should I count certain exercises if I for example am squeezing glutes in this particular exercise but quads are also doing some work.

  • Great article, well written, and very fun to read and experience visually while doing so. I love the simple categorization of the glute exercise types and there effects. Keep writing and i’ll keep reading.

    Thanks

  • JULIE JACOBSON says:

    Thank you so much for this article!
    It has been extremely helpful for me! I was just wondering if this applied to the other parts of the body and if you had diagrams like the one the categorizes workouts into pumpers/stetchers/activators for other muscle groups?

    • Hi Julie,
      Yes, it definitely does apply to the other body parts. For example, a chest dip could be categorized as a chest stretcher, while banded flyes come closer to being chest pumpers.
      I don’t have diagrams for other muscles, but that might be an idea for a future project/article. Thanks.

  • jocelyne says:

    Thank you so much for this article! It helps a lot and I finally feel that I am able to design my workout routine. Unfortunately, it is still not that simple because starting from Monday Feb 27, I am going to do some training called “body styling” every week for a few months(its obligatory at the University). As far as I know, its more intense aerobic with dumbbells and bands, squats and lunges which I would prefer not to do a lot in my workout routine for the sake of muscular legs. And also I would like to train my glutes 3 times a week with stretchers, activators and pumpers then switch to pumpers 6 times per week like you suggested. But what is a bit problematic here is how to split upper body parts into these three gym workouts when on Monday I got body styling. I like push pull workouts, I would like to train in the gym on Tuesday/Wednesday + Thursday and Saturday with stretchers added on Thursday. How do you see it? I need to mention that I really don’t want my thighs and calves to impact much, I chose this method because I want to know how I respond to low and high frequency workouts. For the next few months I will be focusing more on losing fat(slowly and just a little bit, 2kg) but in the same time I want to keep my glutes in shape and see some progress. What do you suggest?

  • K S says:

    Hi! Great article. I have weak/inhibited glutes, and before I get into full body training, id really like to strengthen my glutes and lateral rotators (muscles ive neglected), heres what ive come up with to do 3x a week. Please give it a look! thanks

    Clamps (2x 15-20) / Side lying abductions
    Lunges (3×8-12)
    Step ups (3×8-12)
    Glute kickbacks (3x 8-12)
    Hip thrusts (3x 5-8)
    RDL (3x 5-8)

    Will this be too much / overload? thanks

    • Hi K S,
      Looks good. Choose either the lunges or the step-ups (same movement pattern). Also choose either the Glute kickbacks or Hip thrusts, or alternate hip thrusts and RDLs per training session. Otherwise you’re looking at over 45 sets for the Glutes per week, which may be overdoing it (especially with all the stretchers you’ve chosen).
      Aim for 15-35 Glute sets per week. Low end for total beginners, high end if you’re fairly experienced and strong in all your Glute exercises.

  • Greg says:

    Great article!
    I have a few questions, hopefully you or Bret can answer them.
    1) Is any variation of the step-up considered an activator or is it only the body weight high step-up?
    2) Do you or Bret have any other quad dominant exercises that are considered pumpers or activators, besides the squat bouncers and step-ups?

    Thank you!

    • Thanks, Greg.
      1) Every variation, because the movement down doesn’t happen in a controlled fashion. If you deliberately emphasize the eccentric, then it can be classified as a stretcher, because of higher levels of muscle damage.
      2) You could try box squats with fairly quick tempo when descending (to reduce emphasis on eccentric part). Other than that I can not think of any right now.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Hi Stijn,

    Thanks for the informative article! Are there any body cues to signal that the SRA curve is completed? For example, if I rested 3-4 days after full squats and still felt soreness, could that mean that I should wait longer until another stretcher exercise? I am interested in learning about any easy physical observations I can make to understand when my body has recovered and adapted.

    Appreciate it!

    • Hi Elizabeth and thank you.
      There is one very big cue: strength. Start your workout with a “benchmark set”. If your strength is the same or has increased compared to your previous workout: you’re recovered, regardless of the soreness. You could make notes on how long you wait and when your strength is recovered over time for the exercises to get a grasp of recovery time for say “3 sets of 8 reps for Front Squats”.

  • Silvia says:

    Great article and i thank you very much for clean My mind about. Glutes wo. Just a question for you: I’ m going ti try the first block of exercise (4times a week) that looks fantastic to me and I would like to know the ricovery time between the series

    • Hello Silvia,
      I suggest you rest 90-120 seconds between sets of the Activators/Stretchers and 60 seconds between exercises of the Pumpers. If you notice that you can do very little repetitions in your second and third set compared to your first set, this indicates you should increase your resting time. 12, 11, 11 reps on the Back Squat is much more effective than 12, 8, 5 reps (if you rest too little).
      Hope that helps.

  • question is: in order to a says:

    Dear Stijin thank you so much for your answer. and I should ask you something also about frequency: I would like to maximise my butt growth also because I had a a loss of weight lately (strict diet,) and my butt seams to be weaked and flatter than ever. So i desperately searched for a guide and I found your wonderful article that opened my mind so i tried to do it immy. Last monday I trained with your “Mixed program” and I liked it very much but since i had strong soreness during the day after I thought it should be better to skip the workout . My ansewr is : in order to promote the butt growth may I train with your program also having the soreness post training? Or in my case what do you suggest to increase the growth of legs but mostly the glutes? Many thanks in advance for your help and your answer that will mean a lot to me. S

    • Silvia says:

      Dear Stijin thank you so much for your answer. and I should ask you something also about frequency: I would like to maximise my butt growth also because I had a a loss of weight lately (strict diet,) and my butt seams to be weaked and flatter than ever. So i desperately searched for a guide and I found your wonderful article that opened my mind so i tried to do it immy. Last monday I trained with your “Mixed program” and I liked it very much but since i had strong soreness during the day after I thought it should be better to skip the workout . My ansewr is : in order to promote the butt growth may I train with your program also having the soreness post training? Or in my case what do you suggest to increase the growth of legs but mostly the glutes? Many thanks in advance for your help and your answer that will mean a lot to me. S
      Reply

      • Hello Silvia,
        Almost every new training program is going to cause soreness. For most people this goes away after the first couple of weeks. If it’s debilitating soreness you’re talking about, then it may be better to skip a day. But if you only experience some discomfort, it’s totally fine.

        Some exercises that emphasize the glutes over the quads/hamstrings:
        Hip thrist (one- or two-legged)
        Glute bridge
        Bent-leg donkey kick / pendulum machine
        Glute extensions (‘frog pose’ back extensions with)
        Romanian deadlifts with bands with squeeze at the top

  • Reka says:

    Hello Stijn,

    it is a really good article, thank you for both of you. I have to read it many times still to get it for sure.
    I have some questions because I am thinking to overplan my routine. If I stick to working out 4times/week and try out the above mentioned routine- M-T-TH-F. Is it a full workout plan or only a glute part of the workout? When are you traing other body parts? What would you advise for a 4 day split?
    Right now I am doing the following: legs+glutes, shoulder+ back, legs+ arms, Spartan training/running/Hiit. Can I train glutes every workout or is it too much?
    Thank you.

  • Dear Reka,
    I would highly advise training your glutes at least 3x a week, and the same for your other body parts. Science has shown again and again that it’s better than doing a split routine (only hitting a muscle only once or twice per week).
    For an example of a full-body plan that hits the glutes 5x per week and other body parts at least 3x per week, please check out my newest article: http://www.bodylogiq.org/en/a-womans-guide-to-monthly-timing-of-training/

  • Cal says:

    Hi Stijn,

    What about Brets Strong Curves workouts? I currently follow this with my workouts. I go to the gym 2-3 times per week and do hip thrusts each time as well as a quad or ham exercise (squats, lunges) and (deadlift, leg extension, hamstrung machine)

    Would continuing with Strong Curves be optimal considering that the program involves hip thrusts and other lower body workouts 3 to 5 times per week?

    • Hey Cal,
      I strongly advise following Bret’s programs. He’s worked with hundreds of clients to fine-tune his glute building routines. I would advise not doing hip thrust every session, but to alternate it with, say, a split split squat variation. Whether Strong Curves is optimal for you entirely depends on your training status, stress levels, genetics, etc. There is no way for me to give you a short answer on this one.
      My calculator may help finding the optimal glute frequency you should follow: http://www.bodylogiq.org/en/estimating-glute-recovery-time-culculator/

  • Niki says:

    Hey Stijn,
    how would you advise incorporating leg-based cardio activity into a 4 day glue schedule? I want to start weight training to build my glutes but also like to run twice a week.

    • Niki,
      I suggest running on your ‘off’ days instead of directly after weight training, to minimally impact recovery from the glute training. This is especially true when you’re more advanced, as then glute growth levels peak shortly (3-10 hrs) after the workout. Try not to perform HIIT training, as that will definitely interfere with your recovery. Go for low-intensity running instead.

  • Cman says:

    HEY,would the American deadlift be considered a pumper since the glutes are used at a shorter range of motion than with Romanian deadlifts?

    • Hey Cman,
      Because you’re handling high loads in the American Deadlift, I would still consider it a Stretcher because of aspect 1 (activity) and 3 (emphasis on eccentric). Also, not quite sure which variation of this exercise you mean.
      I always have my clients do a ‘hip thrust’ movement at the top of their romanian deadlifts for extra glute stimulation.

  • Sarah says:

    Hi Stijn,
    Amazing article, was such a great read! (so interesting learning about the booty)

    I have recently started a new 6 day split. It consists of:
    Monday: Chest + Shoulders + Glute Pump (Pumpers)
    Tuesday: Legs + Glute Pump (Stretchers + Pumpers)
    Wednesday: Glutes (Activators + Pumpers)
    Thursday: Lower Body Strength (Stretchers + Pumpers)
    Friday: Back + Biceps + Glute Pump (Pumpers)
    Saturday: Glutes (Activators)

    Would you recommend this or is there anything that you would change??
    Thank you in advance! 🙂

    • Thanks a lot, Sarah!
      Would definitely train your upper body more frequently. How frequently mostly depends on how advanced you are. More advanced means higher frequency (3-5 times per week instead of 1-2). For the glutes, make sure you carefully monitor your strength in exercises like the hip thrust and split squat. That way you’re sure you’re actually recovering properly and advancing.

  • Amy says:

    Hi Stijn,

    Really enjoyed reading this and made notes. After reading through a couple of times!

    I am going to implement the 4 week low frequency, 4 week high frequency for my glutes session. I know we would need to emphasise stretchers and activators in the low frequency period but does that mean we should exclude them in the high frequency period altogether? Or would you still add those exercises in but less frequently? ie just one/two days a week?

    Thanks for your help!

    Amy

    • Hey Amy,
      Glad you liked it.
      No, I wouldn’t exclude them in high frequency, given that person is advanced (hip thrusting 200+ lbs for over 10 reps or so). This is because more developed glutes ask for a higher training frequency. Part 2 of the article is about that and I’m close to finishing it.
      So if you’re hip thrusting less than 130 lbs for 10 reps, I would advise against doing stretchers in a high frequency set-up.

  • G says:

    Hi.
    Great Article.

    I’m doing a 3 day split.
    Monday & Thursday: Chest+bieps
    Tuesday & Friday: Back+triceps
    Wednsday & Saturday: Leg+Shoulders

    I want to train glute more than 2 days per week. I only trian gute on leg days
    When and which exccercise sould i do?

    Thanks
    G

    • Hello G,
      Thanks!
      On your glute training days I’d try alternating hip thrust with split squats/romanian deadlifts, and add in some accessory rotator/abduction exercises. Make sure there’s a day of rest in between. These are only rough guidelines. I can’t give you detailed help because I know nothing o your sleep, stress levels, genetics, or training advancement.

  • […] what happens when you train with improper frequency.  He wrote about this in order to highlight the importance of balancing frequency with intensity and types of […]

  • […] what happens when you train with improper frequency.  He wrote about this in order to highlight the importance of balancing frequency with intensity and types of […]

  • marina says:

    Hi bret, this is all very clear and useful. thank you very much for all this information.
    however, i only have one question… how about upper body? if im not looking to increase muscle mass on upper body, would you include it one workout on one of the rest days or divide it like this one above and do it on the same days as the glute ones?

    • Hey Marina,
      Glad you liked the article.
      If you wish not to increase muscle mass there, I would still train it for health and posture purposes. You can do both: have a separate day so you can focus the other workouts on your lower body, or divide the exercises over all the workouts (make sure you do the upper body exercises last, though, so you’re fresher for the lower body work).

  • Camillia says:

    Hello!
    Thanks for this very useful article, I read you from France.
    But I have some questions about :
    I train my glute 3 Times per week (tuesday-thursday and wednesday)
    For you, what’s the best ?
    – doing activator-stretcher and pomper on Tuesday and wednesday and some activator and pomper thursday
    Or
    – doing activator and pomper tuesday and wednesday and heavy stretcher and activator thursday ?

    I thank you in advance for your answer!

    • Hi Camillia,
      More than welcome.
      I wouldn’t train glutes 3 days in a row (if I’m understanding correctly that’s what you do now). However if there’s no other possibility, definitely do the stretcher(s) on Thursday.

  • Skye says:

    Great article!! I’ve been crazy researching online to compose the best and ideal workout routine for my set goals, i have always had a good physique, because I’ve always been physically active throughout my life, although i haven’t been for a while and I’m looking to get back on track. and your article has been so far the most informative I’ve read.

    My legs grow quite easily so i decide to focus on isolation exercises more than compounds, like squats, dead lifts or lunges.

    I’ve been stressing on how many exercises i should do per workout, and how many reps/sets. So i have one day of glute/leg day in my week, after reading this i will spread it into two.

    Now my plan consists of three exercises for mind-muscle connection activation with a resistance band & ankle weights, which are: clamshells, fire hydrants & single leg glute bridges, i do 2 sets of 10 for each exercise with isometric 5 second holds, next 3 exercises i increase weights for glute hypertrophy: curtsy lunge with a barbell, standing side hip abduction on a pulley & side semi squats hops with a kettle bell (since i feel more activation when i don’t go into a full squat) i do 3 sets of 10 for each exercise. Next 4 exercises i do for overall glute strengthening: Single leg hip trusts with a barbel, pull throughs on a pulley, american deadlift with a barbel and glute bridges with a barbell. I do 4 sets of 5 with a 30 second pulse at the end because i encrease weight on these excercises…

    Now with that being said, do you have any recommendations of maybe how many exercises i should be doing, how i can split this plan into two or more days, how many reps&sets i should be doing or any other tweaks??? i would really appreciate it!!

    Thanks for the great info!!

    • Hey Skye,
      Thank you, that made my day.
      I think you’re overcomplicating your program. Because of this there’s not a clear way to monitor how many sets and reps are best for you. Optimal reps for specific muscles can be determined by a test I employ with clients. It involves calculating your 1 rep max for the exercise and seeing how many reps you can do with 70-85% of that weight (depends on exercise an your level of advancement).
      To help you out, estimate your optimal glute training frequency here: http://www.bodylogiq.org/en/estimating-glute-recovery-time-culculator/ and have one activator or stretcher per day, with 1-2 some accessory abductions/rotators, and aim for 15-30 total sets per week (this depends on a lot of factors, which I can not go into in this comment). Make sure you’re consistently getting stronger on the big exercises!

  • Carolin says:

    Hi Stijn,

    what kind of exercises would you consider good mornings, cable deadlifts and cable squats to be?

    Thanks
    Carolin

  • Sarah says:

    Hello i have been training glutes for 1 year and 8 mnths i only train 3x a week i usually do squats lunges stair exercises alot of band exercises and bridges and leg extensiones i have MS and i can not lift heavy i do barbell squats and dead lifts but. My max weight is 70 lbs i always eat protein after my workout will i see results if i continue this way or should i do 2xs a week.. I strted at 33 inches and now im at 44 but i need to target the side booty do u have any recomendations (little or no weights) Thank u for your hlp in advaced

    • Hey Sarah thanks for your reply.
      I can’t properly advise you on how to train with MS. I would advise going to a specialized professional to help you with that.
      Very good that you consume protein after a workout, the time when it’s most needed for muscle repair and adaptation.
      For the side of the glutes, focus on doing abduction or rotator exercises. A great example is Bret’s off-bench side-lying weighted hip abduction.

  • Dewii says:

    Hello!
    I want to try that workout plan, but I don’t understand one thing – if I do exercises with long recovery in monday, I will be sore in tuesday and my booty needs to rest. Shouldn’t it be that in monday I do light exercises (pumpers), which are more easy for recovery, so I will be okay for the harder session with stretchers in tuesday?

    • Hi Dewii,
      Good call. The effect of the activator (day 1) to pumper (day 2) is ‘functional overreaching’, which delays recovery and adaptation to a later stage (see the graph). Of course, this isn’t something you definitely have to follow. If you really don’t like the soreness and it interferes with your Tuesday workout, do the pumpers on Monday. That’s fine!

  • Caitlin says:

    How could I compliment a 4-day glute split with cardio?

    • Hi Caitlin,
      I recommend low-intensity cardio on your off days. If you’re a total beginner, you can also choose to do the cardio sessions directly after your workout. Glute recovery is slower for beginners (longer muscle SRA curve). and the low-intensity cardio would have less of an impact on this process.
      Watch out with HIIT, as this may very well interfere with training adaptations for the glutes because of its high intensity (which has a weight training-like effect).

  • Amanda Glasgow says:

    Hello!

    I’ve been reading up on how often to train and saw the four day glute split and the talk about stretchers, activators, etc. My question is, you only has 3 exercises listed for each day, and I saw you should do no more than 6. But, wouldn’t this make your workout really short? Should you be doing something after that? Is it effective if it’s short? How long should you be in the gym (especially on glute day) to see results?

    Thank you!

    • Hey Amanda,
      For most women, short n sweet, frequently in the week is more effective that long infrequent workouts. So yes, if you’re only training the glutes it may feel a little short. Most of my clients train their glutes 4-6 times per week for about 30 minutes. If you train your whole body it’s of course a different story.

  • sherza says:

    Hi!Thanks a a lot for this great article…so….. i train 3x per week ….sun tue thu…according to the article….i can do 2 stretcher exercises in sun …and 2 in thu…totally 4 ….but i really really like to do all this 6 stretcher exercises per week as heavy as i can do for hypertrophy ; squat-leg press-lunge-good morning-hip abduction-romanian deadlift……can i put 3 of them in sun and 3 in thu?……if not…how to include them?also what about 2 activators (like hip thrust and step up ) both in tue?

    • Hey Sherza, you’re welcome.
      I’m sorry but this really depends on the context. How advanced you are and how your stress and sleep is. In total try not to go over 20-25 stretcher sets per wek as this is overkill to most people. You just cant recover from it. In the sequel to this article, which should be released soon, I’ll include calculators that let you calculate how often you should do these stretchers per week.
      Example you can experiment with:
      sun: deadlift, lunges
      tue: hip thrust, squat
      thu: good morning, one-legged leg press
      All of them for 3 sets. You may add accessory Pumpers if you like, but they’re not crucial.

  • Amy says:

    Hey Stijn,
    thank you for the informative and well written article. The pictures also help to illustrate the explained concepts to a great extend, good job!
    After one year of glute-building I feel like I am unfortunately past the point of the “noob-gains”. Therefore, I want switch things up to generate new input for the muscles. Your article will definitively help me a lot with writing a new programm.

    However, there are some aspects that I find a little confusing. In the “example 1: mixed program” you suggest doing stretchers on thursdays and fridays with no rest day inbetween. While I am aware that there is more recovery time possible AFTER (over the weekend), I still think that there is somewhat of a contradiction to the recommended 3-4 days rest between stretchers. Additionally the stretchers on fridays as well as on thrsdays are both head drivers, which I assume work the glutes in a “similar way”. I am sure you put a lot of thought and research into this example- programm, so I would just really like to know the reason behind it.

    Another more general question: I know this may seems like it questions the whole article (which is not my intention at all!), but I am really just curious and would like to make sure I understand the concepts in detail. Pumpers, Stretchers and Activators have different recovery times but in this case all work the same muscle (glutes). Wouldn’t it slow down the recovery in the glutes of for example a squat or a lunge (Stretcher), if you perform an activator (like heavy hipthrusts) or maybe even a pumper within the 3-4 days that your glutes need to recover from the initial Stretcher? I know they work the muscle differently, but a sore muscle is sore muscle and Activators and Pumpers also stimulate and therefore break down the muscle (aka lowering of the SRA curve).

    I would really appreciate an explanation and I am looking foreward to hopefully fully understanding the concept behind the article.
    Thank you and Greetings,
    Amy

    • Amy, glad to hear you liked the article.
      Split squats are generally much more taxing (for the glutes) than front squats and off bench abductions. That’s we they’re but there before the rest in the weekend. What’s important is that we leave some rest between the 2 versions of the squat, which is why we have the activator (hip thrust) on the second day.

      In advanced trainees sometimes you only need 1 day of rest from a stretcher. Also depends on stress levels and amount of sets you did. There’s so many factors that come into play. I talk about this in the sequel to this article which should be released soon. It will help you understand. Until that time check out my calculator that estimates glute frequency based on how advanced you are and your stress levels: http://bodylogiq.org/en/estimating-glute-recovery-time-culculator/

  • Jess says:

    1 word = WOW!!!

    Thank you Brett, this article is amazing. Love your work!! When are you coming to Oz next?

  • Lia says:

    Stijn – this was so awesome and so packed full of information, that I am motivated to THANK YOU! and comment. THANK YOU!

    I do also need your help, right now I am doing 5 weeks of a 4 day split. Weeks 1-4 I will increase my weight and lower my reps and week 5 I return to 4 sets of 12. But now, I see that 4 sets of 12 may be too many reps a week. I work out Arms and Legs on Monday and Wednesday and back, Chest, Shoulders and Abs on Tuesday and Thursday. This week I did 4 of 12, next week I’ll do 4 of 10, then 4 of 8 and then 4 of 6. I rest on Saturday and Sunday and do cardio on Friday. After this article I am going to add a some pumpers on Friday with my cardio. BUT – I don’t think I have the right combination of exercises. I do Barbell Step Ups, Glute Sleds, Hip Thrusts, Squats, Leg Extensions, and Leg Curls. I do have a 15 minute cardio session after weights. Its 15 minutes of 15 second sprints at 4.5 speed and 4.5 incline and a 15 second rest.

    Am I doing too much and negatively impacting my gains?

    • Hey Lia, glad you liked it.
      For most of my female client I program 3-6 glute sessions per week. Every session focuses on one or two ‘core’ glute exercises. For your training try the bulgarian splitsquat + rom deadlift combo and the hip thrust + squat combo (every exercise for 3-6 sets, depends on how advanced you are). Those are great to experiment with. Of course you can add in pumpers as well as these wont affect your recovery much.

  • Alsou Ataeva says:

    Thank you a lot! You’ve made such a huge work to summurise everything! It help a looot! 🙂 Especially for me as a Russian coach!

  • Nicole says:

    Hi there!! Firstly I just wanted to say THANK YOU 🙂 I have read this article before but only truly properly came back to it for a proper read including comments! 🙂

    Just did a quick self assessment and i seem to fall in the Advanced category of Bret’s Female Strength Chart and based on your calculator can train optimally 6 days per week (21-30 hrs rest). Would this be 21hrs for Pumpers but 30hrs for Stretchers? I am still struggling to understand how many sets I should be doing. Currently I am doing the Strong Curves program and train with a Glute focus 4 x week but also incorporate one or two chest/back/shoulders into these sessions. Above this I do 2 x HIIT sessions (although reading through your articles and insta a bit further maybe I should stick to LISS/steady state) and one upper body strength session.

    Does your calculator then mean I should be doing more? Total sets (glutes only) from the program is 48 sets (4x exercises x 3 sets EA x 4 days) or is this sufficient! I know the SC has a very strong following and i stopped my slip training regime to do this I just hope I am doing enough! Thank you 🙂

  • Rachel says:

    Absolutely LOVED this article, i’ve been mostly doing legs 2x per week and sometimes 3x just going off how my body & muscles feel but it is nice to have some science behind it and knowledge on what exercises to do if I want to increase the amount of times I workout my glutes in a week. I was just wondering, in another comment you said ” aim for no more than 12 reps in Activators” and I’ve previously done Barbell Hip Thrusts with 135lbs (which is about 50% of my working weight) and I would do 3-4 sets of 10 reps slow & controlled with a 3 second hold at the top, directly followed by 10 fast reps. So I am doing an activator for 3 sets of 20 and I really feel the burn on these but am I doing too many reps with each set? I also love doing supersets during my leg workouts and was wondering if super-setting a stretcher & activator/pumper or super-setting an activator & pumper would increase the amount of recovery time needed? And your view on supersetting. Thank you so much for sharing all this information it is very helpful!!

    • Hi Rachel,
      Thank you. ‘Feeling’ a muscle doesn’t mean there’s an effective stimulus to grow. It can simply be the result of metabolic stress, which is not what you want to aim for in most cases for optimal growth. So I still recommend trying to aim for 6-15 reps, even if you don’t necessarily ‘feel a burn’ from this.
      Wouldn’t recommend supersetting 2 glute exercises. I am definitely an advocate of combining exercises for different muscles to reduce training time, though.
      You’re more than welcome.

  • val says:

    what is the hip abduction on the machine considered?

  • Alexandra says:

    I have been going to the gym for about 8 months now and my entire body looks toned except for my glutes so I have started doing isolated exercises for them. How often should I be training my glutes if they are sore? Do the same rules apply for beginners?

  • Heather says:

    Great article! i started training about 4 mos ago to grow my glutes and i have a few questions

    1) “Pumpers” seem to refer to band work which i dont really do. can a pumper be with weights/machines if i go light enough? if so, what rep range should i aim for? 100? ex, i can squat with a 40 lb dumbell for awhile. could this be a pumper, or is this still an activator? also banded hipthrusts are not an option at my gym. so what type of hipthrusting would be considered a pumper?
    2) Is it ok to hipthrust two days in a row if the weight is low enough to be in the 30 rep range?
    First the article says wait 2-3 days between, but then in the sample workout plan theres back to back stretcher work on thur/fri, so im a bit confused abt that
    Example: i just did a workout on saturday where i did lots of 20-30reps sets ofhipthrusts, and then some 20rep DLs, hip abducter machine, and LegPress machine squats. since im in the 20/30 rep range, none of these are very heavy. The next day my glutes were sore but i really wanted to hipthrust again with the 30rep weight for a few sets. would this be detrimental? hipthrusts are just my favoritee!!

    thanks so much for your time ♡♡

    • Thanks Heather!
      Sure if you go light enough those can be pumpers (high metabolic stress). Aim for 15-25 reps. However also make sure you’re modifying the movement so that you really feel a burn in that muscle then (keep it under constant tension, a full squat would not be suitable for this). Frog pumps are a great pumper instead of banded hip thrusts.
      However I advise to actually focus on stretchers and activators more, as those will be the biggest factors in glute growth.

      In short I would advise you to read the second part of this article, because the answers to all your questions really depends specifically on your circumstances, which I dont know. I also advise focusing on *getting stronger* over time in specifically the bulgarian split squat, the romanian deadlift, and the hip thrust, as these will give you the most glute gains. Hands down.

  • Gulinda Bering says:

    Heyyy, amazing article. I was wondering if you could give me some advise
    I train legs 2x a week, usually Monday and Friday buttt i was gonna change it after reading I can do glutes up to 6x a week, i have such a flat terrible bum but I want to grow it obviously. I am also looking to lose abdominal fat/bf% so this is what a normal week looks like for me at the moment
    Monday legs which usually includes all three activators, stretchers and 1 or so pumper.
    Tuesday abs and LISS cardio
    Wednesday upper body and 10 min HIIT on treadmill
    Thursday abs and LISS cardio
    Friday legs which usually includes all three activators, stretchers and 1 or so pumper.. Saturday and Sunday rest.

    I mix up my routine in terms of exercise and dont do the same exercise each week.

    I was thinking about changing it to;
    Monday legs including some glute pumpers
    Tuesday abs, glute activators and pumpers and some LISS
    Wednesday upper body, glute pumpers and 10 min HIIT
    Thursday legs including all three activators and pumpers
    Friday ABS and LISS

    im aiming for body re-composition, do you mind letting me know how do you think that sounds???

    I look forward to your reply!! thanks <3

    • Hello Gulinda,

      If youre going to train glutes 6x per week watch out with all the cardio because its going to comprimise your recovery capacity. Better to focus on diet to lose fat.
      Try to do at least 3 days per week where you incorporate a glute stretcher or activator. These are so much more crucial for glute development than pumpers for most.

      Stijn

  • Elaine says:

    This article is not only full of great, actionable information, but is beautifully and clearly laid out. Thanks so much for putting it together. I subscribed to your list. 🙂

    I think you’ve probably addressed this because you put banded glute bridges with barbells in the “pumper” section, but do exercises that combine bands and weights tend to move something from an activator/stretcher to the pumper category? I use bands with glute bridges because I feel it in the hamstrings otherwise, and often band barbell hip thrusts and single-leg hip thrusts.

    • Thanks Elaine!
      In this case it depends on the weight. I fthe weight you used allows you only to do 10 reps or so, there’s no room for metabolic stress to accumulate, so it’s an Activator. If you can perform 20+ reps then it becomes a pumper. The bands make them more suitable for pumpers because you have resistanca at the end range of motion which traps the blood in the muscle and causes more ‘metabolic stress bang for your buck’ so to say.

      Then again getting stronger on activators and stretchers is the one key to developing a great set of glutes. Don’t go by feel, go by what the data says about muscle activation. I dont feel my lats working in lat pulldowns, but they definitely get a big stimulus to grow.

      • Elaine says:

        Gotcha. That makes a lot of sense. I’ve already begun following your advice with an activator/stretcher period followed by a high-frequency pumper period and it’s working great (I am in the advanced/elite category, so gains are hard to come by). Thanks so much!

  • Edmond says:

    Hi Stijn, what a great article! I am doing sprinting training twice a week (Tuesday and Friday) and I would like to incorporate your glutes training into my training. My goal is to build up explosive power for sprinting 100-400m. Do you have any suggestion? Normally I do 120m x 4 (at 95%) on Tue and 300m x 3 (at 70-90%) on Friday.

    Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

  • Teemu says:

    In the part 4. Muscle length at peak tension I think the partial bicep curl is a very bad example. The peak tension is exactly at the same muscle length in bicep curl, no matter if you do the upper or lower portion as gravity is perpendicular to the forearm. Below this the example of parallel squat vs. bb hip thrust is much better.

    Nevertheless, great article!

  • Amy says:

    Hey Stijn,
    first off, thank you for the great informative article. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for for so long…some science behind my exercises!! It got me so motivated to get on with it.
    I am a beginner to all of this and am struggling to put the “perfect” program together. Could you explain what the vertical, horizontal and lateral exercises are? Does it just mean in what direction the Glutes are pushing during an exercise? If so, why is a hip thrust horizontal?
    Also, are kickbacks (with a bent or straight knee) pumpers, even if done with resistance bands and/or ankle weights? What about the leg raise in the clam shell position (with/without resistance bands and/or ankle weights) or frogpumps with weights?

    Thank you sooo much

  • Mandy says:

    I really love this article, and I’ve got it bookmarked for reference. I did have a quick question though, if you could please help me with it. I’m trying to work strength training into my routine the best I can right now, but I don’t have access to bands or heavy weights of any kind. I’m hoping that will change soon, since I know if I’m going to build muscle I will need to use decently heavy weights. However, in the meantime, if I was to use the equipment available to me (two 15-lb dumbbells, a 15-lb kettlebell, and 5-lb ankle weights), would stretcher-style exercises function more as pumpers with such light weights, and if so, would I be able to use them in high volume and frequency till I can get to more appropriate equipment? I’m very vested in building up my glutes and hamstrings, particularly because I need to balance my body more effectively (I am a runner, and generally either sprint intervals or speed walk a minimum of 7 miles each day). Running has been important for me and helped me get fit, but it’s also left me with heavy calves and weak glutes. I’d be dedicated about putting in the time and effort, but I don’t want to add another hour to my routine every day on exercises that won’t do what I need them to. Would really appreciate your input about whether this might be an effective beginning for me. Thank you so much, I really appreciate any thoughts you might have about this.

    • Hello Mandy and thanks for your comment.
      Yes you can definitely make weight exercises more pumper-like by doing more than 20 reps, focusing on concentric portion of the left. I would definitely focus on bulgarian splits squats, single leg squats, and hip thrusts. Those are the crucial exercises for glute development in your circumstances.

  • Ashley says:

    Might be a double question, but should weight be added to pumpers?

  • Alexandra says:

    Hi Stijn,

    Lovely article, just like the one on menstrual periodization! I have followed a version of your´s and Bret’s workouts – and generally your principles. At the moment, I do full body workouts with a glutes/hammies focus and superman supersets (combining a leg exercise with an unrelated muscle group) and I have achieved quite good results until now with training full body 3-4 times a week. I like the way my body –
    and my bum – looks now but i am starting to think that this is also because my body overall recomposed and i dropped fat while not necessarily because I gained that much gluteal muscle; and that my glutes actually decreased or stayed the same because I stimulate them too much before they actually recover.

    So at the moment, I am starting to think I should switch it up to a split, increase my frequency to 5-6 times a week (spread the volume), and incorporate different exercises into my routine. Not just because of the glutes, but for overall results.

    I have a question for you regarding the training split over the course of a week. I understand well that different exercises take longer to recover but in the end they are all targetting and exerting the same muscle: so stretcher and activator on day 1 and then immediately afterwards activator on day 2? should not one wait 3-4 days before hitting again the glutes with a strechter, and 2-3 days with an activator? or maybe generally speaking stretcher exercises seem to be good when one trains the glutes only 2 times per week, while activators seem better for hitting the glutes 3-4 times a week (and pumpers 5-6 times a week), but it seems to me that that there might be over-exertion of the glutes when one combines or does activators and stretchers exercises so close together. What do you think? How can we tell when we stimulate too much the glutes or other muscles, when they did not adapt and recover? lack of progrssive overload? lack of growth in actual size?

    Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Alexandra thanks for taking the time for leaving a comment.
      Yes glutes look much better with lower body fat and this changes a lot.
      I think youre definitely overthinking the amount of rest you need between these types of exercises. This is so different for everyone and due to life circumstances recovery varies.

      The ony thing you should be doing is picking a frequency to hit the glutes, then looking at how your strength in big lifts like the bulgarian split squats, deadlifts, and hip thrust progresses: you get weaker then youre probably overdoing it or not eating enough calories. You get stronger: your glutes are probably going and you shouldnt change anything.

      When it comes to gaining glute size monitoring your strength is everything. Its the biggest indicator of whether they’re actually getting bigger.

  • Karina says:

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS ARTICLE! THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!

    I have a few questions to ask you:

    1) What exercises would shape lower part of the glute? I have quite a bit of muscle on my glutes but the lower part of the glute (where the line is) seems to be not as easy to hit. I have a lower crossed syndrome so that could be also the reason why it is much harder to shape my glute on the bottom. What would be your tips and exercises I should do in this case?

    2) What would be the exercises you would recommend to grow my shoulders faster applying all this theory you provided in this article? And what would be the frequency of doing so?

    Thank you so much! I highly appreciate your hard work!

  • […] what happens when you train with improper frequency.  He wrote about this in order to highlight the importance of balancing frequency with intensity and types of […]

  • […] the previous article we explored the basics of muscle SRA: a curve that describes how long we should wait before we […]

  • Hi Alexandra thanks for taking the time for leaving a comment.
    Yes glutes look much better with lower body fat and this changes a lot.
    I think youre definitely overthinking the amount of rest you need between these types of exercises. This is so different for everyone and due to life circumstances recovery varies, The ony thing you should be doing is picking a frequency to hit the glutes, then looking at how your strength in big lifts like the bulgarian split squats, deadlifts, and hip thrust progresses: you get weaker then youre probably overdoing it or not eating enough calories. You get stronger: your glutes are probably going and you shouldnt change anything.

    When it comes to gaining glute size monitoring your strength is everything. Its the biggest indicator of whether theyre actually getting bigger.

  • Roos says:

    Hi Stijn!

    I would like to know if the schedule is appropriate for more experienced people?
    I workout for 3 years now and i want to know if this would help to increase my growth.
    Now I usually do 2 days for glutes/legs with a variety of exercises. (4 till 5 with warmup and burnout)
    And I wonder if this was aimed towards beginners or..?

    Thanks a lot!

  • […] Want to read more? Find the full article on Bret Contreras’ website here. […]

  • Maddy says:

    Hi!
    Such a lovely article and was extremely informative.
    I had a quick question about the 4 day split for working glutes (example 1, I think). Would these be done after a workout, such as after chest/back day? And how would I go about including these into my leg day?

    Thank you!

  • Hayley says:

    I want to combine a glute hypertrophy program with my powerlifting training but dont know if this is too much volume. This is my ideal training routine. This is only glute routine, I’d also be including upper body on.these days
    Monday:
    (Stretcher) Squat 4 sets 5 reps
    (pumper) monster walk 2×20
    Tuesday:
    (Activator) Barbell hip thrust 3×10
    (pumper) band side clam 2×20
    Wednesday:
    (pumper) barbell w band glute bridge 3×10
    Thursday:
    (stretcher) Deadlift 4×5
    (pumper) double band hip thrust 2×20
    Friday:
    (pumper) standing band hip hinge 2×20
    Saturday:
    (activator) 3×10

  • Joyce Catacutan says:

    Hi. Thank you so much for this article! I didn’t know what I was doing in the gym. I want to take my restdays on Fridays and Sundays though and I wanted to incorporate my upper body workouts on some days. Can you help me build my workout split? Thank you so much

  • Maria eugenia says:

    This article is amazingly well written and the content is top quality. I’d totally buy a book written by you. Thank you so much!!

  • Cassandra says:

    Hello! I am not sure how to tell if my muscles are recovered or not?
    How can I tell if my glutes are ready for my next workout or if I should wait?
    Should I go by if im sore or not sore?
    Thank you so much!

  • Aaron says:

    Love the article . Im wondering about the ten sets I wanted to experiment with Escalating Density Training would that not be an effective way to work out . Example
    Monday
    15 min ARAMP
    Split Squat
    Followed by
    10 min AMRAP
    A1) side lying leg lifts (each side)
    A2) Donkey Kicks

    Tuesday -upper body with a glute pumper between sets
    Wed: restday
    (Two days on one day off) id love to hear your thoughts .

  • Ane says:

    Hi, this article is amaaazing. i have been training my glutes for half a year now and have just seen a litte result. i used to exercise four days a week with over 20 sets in each. now i have changed my workouts to this:
    tuesday:
    front squats
    romanian deadlifts
    double banded hip thrusts
    thursday:
    hip thrusts
    romanian deadlifts cable mashine
    step spilt squat cable machine
    pistol squats cable mashine
    banded squat bounce
    saturday:
    hip abduction mashine
    high step up
    cable kick back
    double banded hip thrusts
    sunday:
    dumbbel squat
    kettlebell deadlift
    kettlebell romanian deadlift
    band glute bridge
    I take 3*12 on each exercise. is this too much?

  • emma says:

    Can I just ask how your trainee deduced that pumpers were best for her glutes? Like, in the article you said she noticed her glutes responded best to these. I can only think that by responded best you mean grew, however you simply can’t build noticeable amounts of muscle in under a period of at least 6 months.. there are a lot of studies such as those referenced by Jorn Trommelen that show no significant difference in muscle growth in less than 12 weeks, and even AT 12 weeks it was only 1.8kgs at best, and that was OVERALL muscle mass gain, not just in one muscle group. It’d just be good to know how people are measuring there progress here, given this fact. Thanks! x

  • Izzy says:

    I really appreciate this. But I do to add this 5 stretcher with pumpers and activators on my 3 days a week glute/ham/quads training. Splits squats, walking lunges. Rdl, hip thrusts(band on knees) and curtsy lunges. I used body weights with extra 2 kettlebell of 6kg. I workout from home. Please Bret help me out.

  • Tawny says:

    Hi, this is all new to me but I’m really interested in growing my glutes and getting a more plump booty. I was wondering if I was to do the Holiday Program, would I also need to incorporate other exercise as well or would following that exact routine 3x a week be enough?

  • Brianna says:

    How do I know if I will respond best to a high volume pumper program like Erin, a lower volume program of stretchers, activators, and pumpers, or if I should alternate between low and high frequency? (Especially considering the fact that I might respond better to certain splits at certain times)

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