Don’t let your assets become a liability!
Besides attracting hungry eyes from all over the gym, proper butt training has a lot of other highly important functions as well. These include: increased total body strength, increased total body muscle mass, increased metabolism, increased weight loss, and perhaps most importantly- the increased ability to protect your lower back from injury.
And you thought butt day was all about improving your twerkability?
Be that as it may, your booty comprises the body’s largest overall muscle group. The glutes themselves are a key part of your core complex- together with the abdominals, they help to maintain a degree of stiffness in the spine that is needed for proper movement- especially the type that involves the lifting of heavy objects.
In addition, your butt (hips) is your most powerful “hip extensor.” Whenever you jump, or perform loaded strength movements like the squat or deadlift, your glutes are what we call the “primary movers.” When they don’t function properly, your hamstrings and adductors (groin muscles, of which you have 5) are forced to do more than their fair share of the work.
Thus, that hammie or groin tightness you felt after a lower body workout could be attributed to inadequate mobility, OR due to the fact that your glute firing is less than optimal.
Fortunately, we have a way of correcting these problem problems, and ensuring that your assets don’t let you down when it comes to lifting properly, recovering properly, and attracting the apple of your eye from afar.
The following 8 exercises will help to make your ass the envy of all those who glance upon it!
Single Leg Hip Lift– You can do this on a bench (as shown) or on the ground (master the two-legged variation FIRST). The single leg nature of this movement means there is an “anti-rotation” component, which will further challenge the glute on that one side. Push through your heel, and lift as high as you can without hyperextending your lower back.
Goblet Squat- This should be the first loaded squat you ever attempt- certainly before getting under a barbell. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell against your chest, and keep it locked in that position as you push your knees out and keep the weight through your heels during both the descent and ascent. Squeeze your butt as hard as you can at the lowest point of the squat, and continue firing as your rise to stand.
Bulgarian Split Squat– Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in either hand (after first mastering this movement unloaded, mind you), and make sure you descend toward the bench on the way down to load through your heel. In addition, try to keep the forward lean in your upper body to a minimum throughout. Squeeze the glute of the loaded leg as hard as you can throughout the movement, especially as your rise to stand.
Single/Straight Leg Deadlift– Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in the hand OPPOSITE the leg you are standing on, and perform the deadlift motion on that leg. Hinge the hip and straighten the back leg as you lower the weight toward the floor. Keep your weight through the heel, maintain a straight back and keep the core tight. Squeeze the glute of the standing leg hard as you rise to stand.
Sumo Deadlifts– essentially the Goblet Squat of Deadlifts that should be performed after all hip lift variations, and before moving to a barbell or even the aforementioned Single Leg Deadlift. Start with the kettlebell between your legs. Stick your butt back as far as possible while keeping a straight back and your weight through your heels. As you stand, squeeze your butt hard, and make sure the kettlebell maintains a straight upward and downward trajectory (between your legs and not in front). Keep your head neutral and your core tight.
Bench/Box Step-Ups- A progression of the standard lunge, this is basically a lunge to elevation, which requires added stability. With a weight in either hand, step onto a stable, elevated surface such as a plyo box or bench (start at 12”, and progress over time to 18-24”) by pushing through the heel first, and then rising to stand on one leg. If your balance is good enough, raise the opposite knee to hip height, before stepping down onto that leg. I recommend performing this movement in an alternating manner.
Hip Extension Kickbacks– Loop a superband (almost looks like a car belt) onto the sole of the foot of your “working leg.” From there, get into a quadruped position (on all fours) and kick the working leg backwards against the resistance of the superband. The butt is challenged here not just by the resistance itself, but because of the instability created by the band. Make sure you do not hyperextend the lower back.
Stability Ball Hip Lift to Leg Curl- You can perform the hip lift on its own, or do it with the leg curl as well. Either way, the natural instability of the ball makes it challenging. Start with the soles of your feet on top of the ball as much as possible to ensure that you can thrust your hips upwards through your heels (otherwise, this very quickly becomes a hamstring-only exercise). For the leg curl, straighten your legs forward once you reach the top point of the hip lift. Squeeze your butt and your abdominals hard throughout, and reverse the motion.