Morphology And Functions
What is traditionally known as the “gluteus” is actually a complex made up of the gluteus maximus, medius, and minor. As the name suggests, the gluteus maximus is the largest. In fact, it is the largest muscle in the entire body. They have multiple origins, including the ilium, coccyx, sacrum, and pelvis, and are inserted into the iliotibial band and the femur. That is why they act in a wide variety of movements.
Its main functions are:
- Hip extension (“push” your hips forward)
- Hip abduction (separate your leg from the midline)
- External and internal hip rotation (rotate your leg out and in)
- Pelvic retroversion (“poke ass”)
To fully explain their functions and how to train them optimally, we will first look at the gluteus maximus first and then the middle and minor. To finish we will see some key points, such as intensity and which exercise is the best to develop good glutes.
1. Main Buttock
Its main function is the hip extension. As we have already said, it is a very large muscle, and therefore very strong. It is also the most superficial and the one that gives the greatest appearance of volume, for that reason glute training is usually focused only on this muscle.
The ratio of type 1 and 2 muscle fibers is more or less 50/50, so both low repetitions (5-10) with heavy load and high repetitions (12-20) with light load should be used.
1.1 Hip Thrust, The Star Exercise
Hip thrust is a variant of a gluteal bridge with resistance, usually by a bar or gums or both, where you have your back resting on a bench and is undoubtedly the exercise that generates the most activation in the gluteus maximus. At first it may seem like a weird move, even embarrassing doing it in the gym, but it does professional athletes, bodybuilders, powerlifters, athletes, NBA, NFL players, etc. They do it… why wouldn’t you?
In this exercise, the moment in which it costs the most or requires the most effort ( sticking point) coincides with the point of greatest gluteal activation, generating enormous tension in the gluteus that is very necessary for muscle growth.
Due to the great capacity for progressive overload that it has, our goal would be to get stronger in a range of 5-20 repetitions, alternating heavy days with light and medium days, and of course, without forgetting the correct exercise technique.
Some tips for this exercise:
- It would be a good idea to perform a glute pre-activation (it will increase performance, prevent injuries, recruit more fibers = greater hypertrophy), it could be one or two series of lateral displacement with band or clamshell with or without a band, at high repetitions and focusing in feeling the muscle.
- Keep the pelvis in a neutral position. Although the gluteus performs a pelvic tilt, studies show increased activation of the superior gluteal if we maintain a neutral pelvis during this exercise.
- Place your feet at least shoulder height or a little more apart and with the points slightly outward, in this way, we will maximize glute recruitment.
1.2. Health And Performance
Beyond being a very attractive muscle, the gluteus performs important postural functions for good health, as well as intervening in almost every day-to-day movement and in most actions carried out in sports.
For example, spinal extension movements mainly involve the lumbar and buttocks. If your glutes are weak, the lumbar will take too much work, with an overload injury likely. It is very common to see men, who tend to pay less attention to glute training, with back pain for precisely this reason.
If we talk about performance, the glutes intervene in most actions carried out in sports (vertical jumps and sprints especially), so it is common to see that glute work is included, with exercises such as hip thrust, in the majority of programs professional athlete training.
A strong and functional gluteus is often the factor that separates an intermediate athlete from an advanced one.
Also Read: 4 Tips To Lose Belly Permanently
2. Middle And Minor Gluteus
The gluteus medius and gluteus have a major role as stabilizers of movement, but they are also abductors and internal rotators of the hip. Due to its higher proportion of slow fibers (type 1), most of the specific work we do should focus on a high range of repetitions (12-20 + repetitions)
2.1. Maximum Activation
Ideally, to focus maximum effort on these muscles, work on exercises that combine hip abduction (“leg out”) along with internal rotation (toe-in). We would have several options but the most common would be the abduction machine and the cable abduction with the tips inward.
Let’s not forget its role as stabilizers, and although this function will work with multi-joint exercises such as the squat or the deadlift (or even with the race) a very good way to increase the work is by incorporating unilateral exercises such as the strides, the leg press to one leg or the Bulgarian squat.
2.2. A Chain Is As Strong As Its Weakest Link
And when we do exercises that involve a lot of muscle, this Thomas Reid quote makes a lot of sense.
For example, in a squat, if the gluteus medius and gluteus are weak, knee valgus may occur due to a lack of hip abduction. This can lead not only to a loss of performance, but to an incorrect technique that leads to injury.
My recommendation would be to include specific abduction exercises + internal rotation and / or unilateral exercises:
As an activation before the main exercise (recommended if you already have a good muscle level)
As an accessory exercise , doing a greater number of sets (recommended if your gluteus medius is really behind compared to the other muscle groups)
The best training in the world, super personalized and based on 100 meta-analyzes, will not help you if you do not train hard. You have to give your body a compelling reason to make it want to grow.
4. Hip Thrust vs Squat
There is a popular belief in the gym that if you want to have good glutes you should focus on squats only. And although the squat is an incredible exercise unfortunately it is not the best to develop good glutes. In the squat there are many muscles involved, and although the gluteus is worked, the tension generated is less than in a hip thrust. A variant of squat that would activate the buttocks more would be the sumo squat (legs more separated) with the points rotated outwards, although in the hip thrust there would still be more activation.
In this study, two twins followed a training program with hip thrust (black) or squat (red) for 6 weeks, and then gluteal hypertrophy was compared. As you can see the hip thrust won, although the difference is not very significant, keep in mind that it was only 6 weeks, and this in the long run would surely result in more significant improvements.
Also Read: 10 Exercises For Shaping Thighs And Glutes
5. Training Volume
In this section I am going to give you some guides on the training volume for the glutes. To do it in a simple way we will quantify it in series. It is important to clarify that for these series to “count” they have to be close to failure (RPE 7 or more). Also clarify that these series would be direct work. That is, exercises where the main muscles involved are the buttocks.
Furthermore, it is important to mention that these are general recommendations, there are many factors that can make these numbers vary. But these guidelines will work well for most people.
1. MAINTENANCE VOLUME : 0 series / week
By being involved in most lower body exercises, you can maintain the size of your glutes without working them directly, assuming there is lower body work with multi-joint exercises and with sufficient volume and intensity.
2. MINIMUM CASH VOLUME: 0 series / week
Since they are worked indirectly in many exercises, they can hypertrophy without the need for direct work, although the increase in size will not be as significant as if they were trained directly.
3. MAXIMUM ADAPTABLE VOLUME: 4-12 series / week
If your goal is to maximize glute gains you are going to have to train them directly. The range is quite wide because it will depend on the amount of lower body work you do and whether it is mostly multi-joint or isolation.
If you do a lot of squats, deadlifts, leg press, etc. you could go to the low range (4 series / week). On the other hand, if you do not train your legs frequently or base your work on isolation exercises such as quadriceps extension, femoral curl, etc. so to get the most development you should go to the high range (12 series / week). There are other factors that will allow you to increase this maximum adaptable volume, such as a good diet, night rest in quantity and quality.and good stress management. The more variables you control, the better you will recover and it will allow you to train more and better.
4. MAXIMUM RECOVERABLE VOLUME: 16 series / week
This is the amount of effective series from which we can recover. If we increase the volume even more, we may begin to not recover from training, losing performance even worsening hypertrophy.
This value is what Mike Israetel gave in his guides for hypertrophy, but as you will understand it is not an arbitrary value and written in stone. It is possible that some people with 14 series are already fried or others can tolerate 25. Everything will depend on genetics, how controlled the other variables are (rest, nutrition, stress) and the amount of volume we perform in the other groups. muscle.
6. Routine Proposal
How often to train them? We have increasing evidence that training a muscle group 2 or more times a week is better than training it 1 time. Bret Contreras, the greatest glute training expert, classified the exercises into 3 groups according to the approximate time they needed to recover:
Stretcher: Exercises that generate great muscle damage and need more time to recover (3-4 days): Squat, Romanian deadlift, strides, …
Activators: Exercises with a lot of activation but more analytical need a moderate recovery time (2-3 days): Hip thrust or pull-through, ..
Pumpers: Pumping exercises. They hardly require time to recover (1-2 days): lateral displacement with rubber, buttock kicks, abduction / adduction machines, etc.
Here we propose a training routine based on the stimulus, recovery and adaptation of each exercise. Keep in mind that these exercises focus on the gluteus, and more exercises that work different muscle groups would have to be added to complete the routine. Although your main goal is to develop the gluteus, it is important to follow a complete training routine so as not to create muscle imbalances.
MONDAY / DAY 1
- Romanian deadlift 3 × 8-10
- Box squat: 3 × 10-12
- Buttock abduction from low pulley 2 × 25
WEDNESDAY / DAY 2
- Pull through cable: 3 × 12-15
- Gluteal bridges to 1 leg: 2 × 12-15 per leg
- Machine gluteal abduction: 2 × 20
FRIDAY / DAY 3
- Hip thrust with bar: 4 × 6-8
- 1-legged Bulgarian squat: 3 × 10-12
- Frog pump: 2 × 30
SATURDAY / DAY 4
- Strides: 3 × 10-12 per leg
- Hyperextensions with body weight: 2 × 15-20
- Buttock kicks from low pulley: 2 × 20
If you are a beginner you can probably get the same benefits with less series in each exercise, start with 1-2 series per exercise and gradually increase.
Also Read: Fitness – Full Body Routine For Beginners