Most people can benefit from training their butt. Here's the crack.
Having a strong, healthy set of glutes (butt muscles) is not only aesthetically pleasing, they are important to sports, lifting heavy stuff and reducing injuries. Thanks to a lot of work by people such as Bret Contreras PhD aka The Glute Guy, training the glutes have come a long way.
Unfortunately due to work and lifestyle, we often find ourselves sat for long periods
of time either at work or in front of the TV. This coupled with other factors such as
previous back / lower body injuries and just plain not working them properly leaves
many people with weak butt muscles.
To understand why this is important to everyone, let's get a little bit nerdy for a
What do the butt muscles actually do?
When we talk about the butt or the glutes, we are referring to three main muscles - Gluteus Maximus; Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus.
Combined, these muscles have the following main functions (apart from filling out your jeans nicely):
1) Extension of the hip joint - Either moving the leg backwards (i.e. every time you walk) or lifting the body up from a bent over position
2) Abduction of the hip joint - When the leg moves out to the side of the body
3) External Rotation of the hip joint - where the leg rotates outwards, away from the centre of the body
4) Works to prevent Valgus Collapse - Valgus Collapse is when the knee caves inwards during an exercise or movement i.e. as you squat down, the knees drop inwards.
5) Helps to stabilise the hips - during general movements and exercises, the glute muscles (along with other hips muscles) work to maintain level and stable hips.
6) Reduce the chances of certain injuries - When the butt muscles are weak or not working properly, the slack is taken up by other areas such as the lower back and hamstrings. When these other areas have to take on the work they weren't meant to do, that's when you increase the chances of pulls, strains and tears. The knees can also be at a greater risk of injury from weak butt muscles.
There are some other functions the butt is involved in, the above are the main ones though.
Looking at what the glute muscles do is important when it comes to picking the right exercises to ensure a well rounded (pun intended) training plan.
Training the butt
There are 4 main categories of exercise to look at. They sound complex, but I'll break them down:
1) Vertical loaded, knee dominant, hip extension.
This means leg exercises where the knee is flexing more than the hip. The vertical loading refers to the weight moving up and down, in line with the body also moving up and down.
These hit the lower portion of the glute muscles more than the upper portion.
Exercises for this include: Squats; Step Ups; Lunges and their variations such as Walking Lunges & Front Foot Elevated Reverse Lunges; Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats and 1 Leg Squats
Barbell Back Squat
Racked Dumbbell Step Ups
Foot Elevated Reverse Lunge
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
2) Vertical loaded, hip dominant, hip extension
This means leg exercises where the hip is flexing more than the knee. The weight is moving up and down, in line with the body also moving up and down.
Exercises for this include: Deadlifts; Romanian Deadlifts and 1 Leg Romanian Deadlifts (which works across a few categories)
1 Leg RDL
3) Frontal plane, hip abduction
The Frontal Plane is an imaginary plane that divides the body into front and back sections. If you move side to side (instead of the normal forwards and backwards), this is moving in the frontal plane. Hip abduction is moving the leg away from centre of the body.
These hit the upper portion of the glutes more than the lower portion.
Exercises for this include: Side Lying Hip Abduction; Standing Hip Abduction; Lateral Band Walks; Hip Drops; Side Planks With Leg Raised and Copenhagen Hip Adductors
Side Lying Hip Abduction
Lateral Band Walks
Side Plank with Arm and Leg Raised
Copenhagen Hip Adduction
4) Horizontal loaded, hip extension
Instead of the body moving up and down as with a squat or lunge type movement, think of it as moving back and forth. The direction of the weight is going in the same direction.
These will hit both the upper and lower portions of the glutes.
Exercises for this include: Hip Thrusts; Glute Bridges; Back Extensions; Modified Donkey Kickbacks; Cable Pull Through and Straight Leg Glute Bridges
Modified Donkey Kick
Straight Leg Glute Bridges
As with many exercises, due to their nature some do not fall into any one category because there are various forces acting on the butt muscles.
Exercise for this include: Split Squats With Lateral Band Resistance; Hex Dumbbell Glute Bridges and Glute Bridges With Leg Swings. 1 Leg Romanian Deadlifts can also fall into this category.
Band Resisted Split Squat
Hex Dumbbell Glute Bridges
Glute Bridge Leg Swings
When fitting these into your own workouts, you don't need to throw them all in there. If you're working out around 3 times a week, pick around 5 or 6 exercises across the categories and spread them over the week.
Also a quick note about mini-bands / resistance bands. These are a fantastic training aid that can be placed either just above or below the knee for a number of these exercises. It will greatly increase the demand of the butt muscles - so a worthwhile investment.
This is my, mostly, Personal Trainer musings and information which I hope you'll find helpful!