Bum, buttocks, gluteus maximus, booty … whatever you want to call it, glutes are more than just for aesthetics. Your glutes are made up of three different muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Gluteus maximus seems to get all the attention, but medius and minimus also play very important roles. Together, these three muscles not only help to stabilize your pelvis but also assist with balance and knee extension.
Harley Pasternak, celebrity trainer, nutritionist, New York Times bestselling author, and Propel ambassador, says he wishes he knew the importance of glute strengthening earlier on in his life. “Whether it be lower back issues I’ve developed, knee issues, tearing my calves… if I had focused more on gluteus maximus and medius strength, most of these injuries wouldn’t have happened to that severity.” He says that making a concentrated effort on glute strength and training is very important not only from an injury prevention perspective, but also from a functional perspective.
Gunnar Peterson, celebrity trainer, strength and conditioning coach for the LA Lakers, and Propel ambassador, agrees and adds that consistent glute training has metabolic, aesthetic, functional, and performance benefits. “Metabolically, training your glutes is important and will pay you back after your workout,” Peterson shares. And when it comes to working out at home, Peterson says not to worry if you don’t have two of the same size weights. “Think about when you pick up two grocery bags that aren’t the same, or when you carry your suitcase and your friends suitcase that don’t weigh the same amount. Uneven loads are part of life and just create different core recruitment patterns. Grab what you have, be it a jug of water, a bottle of detergent, a backpack, and go with it.”
We sat down with both of these world-renowned celebrity trainers to find out the best glute exercises to incorporate into your workout at home or at the gym.
Peterson swears by this squat sequence that plays with foot position to target different aspects of the glute muscles. He recommends doing 5 reps of each stance in a row and focusing on form before adding weight. A resistance band positioned just above your knees can also be useful. For all squat variations, inhale as you lower down and exhale as you come back up.
- Narrow Stance: Start standing tall with your feet together. Squat straight down, shooting your hips back and keeping your weight in your heels. Remember to keep your core engaged and chest upright throughout the movement. As you come back up, squeeze your glutes.
- Regular Stance: Start with your feet shoulder width apart and toes pointing forward. Squat straight down, shooting your hips back and keeping your weight in your heels. Aim for lowering your booty down so that it is parallel with your knees, ensuring that your knees stay over your ankles and do not track over your toes.
- Slight Turnout: Follow the form cues for a regular squat in this movement, but instead start with your feet a bit farther apart than regular squat stance and turn your toes out slightly.
- Full Sumo Stance: Start standing with your feet wider than your shoulders and toes pointed out at a 45 degree angle. Keep your chest up and core engaged as you bend your knees to lower down. Engage your glutes as you stand back up.
Glute Bridge Sequence
“What separates good programming from great programming is how you sequence these movements,” says Peterson. He recommends alternating movements from standing up to laying down when working the glutes, which can keep the heart rate up and tax the muscles.
After you finish your squat sequence, he recommends going straight into this glute bridge sequence. Perform 10 reps of each glute bridge variation in a row. Once you master the movement, Peterson suggests adding weight on your hip bones or bikini line area for women.
- Non-Dominant Side Single Leg Glute Bridge: Peterson likes working on the non-dominant side first to build it up since it’s often weaker (if you’re a righty, you’ll start with your left leg in the air, and vice versa). Lay on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor and about shoulder width apart, and arms next to your sides. Engage your core, pull the belly button in to your spine and recruit your glutes as you lift your hips up until they have created a “bridge,” which is a flat surface from chest to knees. From this position, lift your non-dominant leg straight up into the air. Squeeze the glutes for a second before lowering back down.
- Dominant Side Single Leg Glute Bridge: Repeat the same cues as step one but on the dominant leg.
- Narrow Double Leg Glute Bridge: Glue your legs and feet together for this glute bridge variation. Follow the same cues to engage your core and glutes as you lift your hips up, and come back down slow and controlled.
- Wide Double Leg Glute Bridge: Bring your feet wider than shoulder width apart for this glute bridge variation, and ensure you are pushing your knees outward and not letting them cave in.
“From a functional standpoint, you’re driving off the glutes every time you stand up, reach down, or pivot. It’s a complex muscle group, so engaging your glutes at different angles deserves the extra attention when putting together your training program,” says Peterson. This lunge variation is perfect for targeting different angles of the booty after you complete your squat and glute bridge sequences.
Start standing tall with feet hip width apart, core engaged and chest lifted. Envision that you are standing in the center of a clock face. For each lunge variation, Peterson suggests locking in at that center spot to avoid flying through the movements. Perform 10 reps of each lunge variation in a row.
- 4 o’clock Lunge: Step your right foot to 4 o’clock, reach down and touch your toes, slightly bending the forward knee and pushing the hips back. Engage your core and glutes as you return to standing position.
- 3 o’clock Lunge: Step your right foot to 3 o’clock so you enter into a side lunge, reaching your left hand down to your right foot. Engage your core and glutes as you return to standing position.
- 8 o’clock Lunge: Step your left foot back to 8 o’clock, reach down and touch your toes, slightly bending the forward knee and pushing the hips back. Engage your core and glutes as you return to standing position.
- 9 o’clock Lunge: Step your left foot to 9 o’clock so you enter into a side lunge, reaching your right hand down to your left foot. Engage your core and glutes as you return to standing position.
Bent Knee Glute Kickback
This classic toning move is perfect for sculpting your legs and booty. Peterson says he is a big fan of any kind of resistance over just body weight, so adding resistance bands placed on your thighs just above your knees in this move can make it more effective. Instead of flying through the movements, he recommends slowing down and moving with a purpose.
Start on a non-slip rug or padded mat with your forearms and knees on the floor. Core is engaged and lower abs are drawn in. Keep your left leg bent and foot flexed as you kick your left foot to the ceiling. Lower back down with control, and repeat 10 times on each leg.
Single Leg Plyometric Jump
Plyometric exercises are often neglected, but Peterson says that as we age we lose a lot of movement patterns and practicing plyometrics is important to from a functional standpoint.
Start standing tall with core engaged. You can hold the side of a desk or credenza if you need extra support for this movement. Hinge your hips slightly and shoot the booty back, then explode up towards the ceiling with the right knee coming up towards the chest. Try to get 5 plyo jumps on each side, ensuring that your foot breaks contact with the ground and absorbs the landing.