There’s just something magical about them.
“How do I get a nicer butt?” is my most frequently received fitness-related question to date. It seems most women these days are having troubles with it. Too small, too wide, too flabby, too saggy, you name it.
First of all, let me set something straight: There are certain genetic advantages when it comes to having a nice derriere, but that does not mean that it’s impossible for you to fix yours. Even if it does look like it was run over by a freight train.
So what are the two components of a lifted, round, well-shaped behind?
- Body fat.
Don’t make excuses for your lack of glutes, and don’t make excuses for other peoples’ glorious asses by saying “It’s just photoshop!” or, “She probably had plastic surgery!”
Believe it or not, some women work HARD to get a nice rump. So don’t be so quick to judge just because yours isn’t quite there yet. It only makes you appear insecure.
However, admiration is permitted.
TRAINING YOUR GLUTES
The way I’ll do this, is I’ll go over my favorite exercises for glutes (in no particular order of importance), and give you videos and specifics on how they should be done.
Make sure to do ALL your hip flexor mobility work and glute activation as a warm-up before you begin your exercises.
Exercise #1: Barbell Back Squats
Yeah, everyone knows this one. But not everyone does it properly. If you’re one of the people who stops at parallel, or even just an inch below…you may want to consider switching it up.
With a back squat, stopping at parallel or just barely below puts most of the emphasis on your quads, and your glutes are not as engaged as they could be. Squatting until you are below parallel (the lower the better!) will put the emphasis on your glutes and hamstrings.
The more narrow your stance is, the more focus is put on your quads. Keep your legs shoulder width apart, with your toes pointed OUT (so you can get your hips through better).
Exercise #2: Straight-Leg Deadlifts
These need to be on EVERYONE’S agenda when they’re training legs. In my opinion, SLDL’s are the ultimate hamstring exercise. These can be done unilaterally, or with both legs.
To do these properly and take the focus off your lower back, you NEED to push your hips back as far as you can until you get a very large stretch. I prefer a close stance, but you can make them sumo to switch things up. You need to keep the bar as close as you can to your legs, and keep your back straight.
Go down as low as you can while feeling a big stretch, and then come back up. Do not let your lower back round.
If you are short like me, you may need to use smaller plates to get a better stretch.
Exercise #3: Glute-Ham Raises
Don’t give me excuses for this one.
Yes, they hurt. And they are very difficult. But they’re also excellent.
I don’t believe in using bands or other assistance for GHR’s. I think that with enough practice, you will get them down. Keep the negative portion (descent) as SLOW as you can possibly manage. This is done by keeping your arms to your sides, and squeezing your glutes and hamstrings very hard on the way down.
Once you feel like you are losing tension, catch yourself with your hands and use a light push to get back up to the start.
When you’ve mastered these, you’ll be able to do them with no push-off. By then you know your hamstring strength has increased dramatically. My record of handless GHR’s was 3, and that was with a 5+ second descent.
Exercise #4: Bulgarian Split Squats
I’m not the biggest fan of these, only because they annoy me to no end. However, I know they work, so I do them.
The further you place your leg in front of you, the more emphasis is going to be on the glutes. The closer in, the more it targets your quads. Go down as FAR as you can go.
Exercise #5: Box Jumps
High box jumps. Start with lower boxes and build up. If you want to mix it up, try doing these while holding a 10-45 lb. plate.
Yes, occasionally you might miss the box and bruise your leg.
Actually I’m not even gonna lie, if you miss the box with these it’s one of the WORST training pains you’ll ever experience, aside from actually breaking/tearing something. But, it fades quickly and you just get a bruise/bleeding leg. Sexy.
Moving away from the gory aspects of it, this is an excellent conditioning exercise. It’s amazing for building explosiveness in your legs, and it DOES help with glute development as well, especially as your box gets higher. I would do these on a day separate from your leg training. If you fatigue your legs before by doing box jumps, your other exercises will suffer. If you fatigue your legs with weights and try to box jump…well…you’ll end up face-planting unless it’s a very low box.
So…do these on days off, or on conditioning days.
Wide-Stance Leg Presses, Wide-Stance Box Squats, and Good-Mornings.
Never neglect your stretching after training. Here are some good stretches for the glutes and hamstrings:
My favorite “glute cardio” is Tabata squats, uphill sprints (NOT on the treadmill), and kettlebell stuff. Keep cardio to 2x per week, and high intensity.
15-20 minutes of all-out, balls-to-the-walls, please-just-give-me-a-second-to-gasp-for-air work will be plenty.
Nothing fancy. It’s what my glutes were built off of, and what yours can be built with as well.
I’m sorry if you came here expecting me to prescribe you a pill, magical exercise, special food combination, or special rep/set scheme for your training. Building glutes has nothing to do with that. However, it has EVERYTHING to do with consistency and HEAVY weights.
I prefer to stick with the basics when it comes to training. People think they need ten different exercises in order to fashion a fine pair of cheeks, but that’s really not what it takes. What it takes is dedication, and REALLY pushing yourself. If you stop every time it gets hard or whenever it burns, you’re not going to get anywhere.
Your glutes are some of the most used muscles in your entire body. In order to get them to respond in the way you want, you have to overload them, and train them very hard and dilligently.
These exercises are best when done in the 5-8 rep range. One exception being GHR’s…you do those for as many as you can get without dying.
The other exception is the box jumps. Working in sets of 2-3 is my preference, sometimes going up to 5.
Now when I say “5-8 reps” that means your MAX for the given amount of reps. Not 5 reps with a weight that you could probably do for another 15. I mean…using a weight that you will ONLY be able to grind out a set of 5 with.
DIET AND YOUR GLUTES
Now that you have training covered, let’s go onto the diet aspect.
Depending on your genetics, you may or may not store fat pleasantly in that area. If you are someone who just has a very small butt, it will come down to eating more (yes) and training with the above exercises. If you are someone with a very large ass already but it’s not well-shaped, you need to focus on losing body fat while doing these exercises. Once down to a lower level, you can then start slowly putting on weight again to give your body raw material to build the muscle with.
Really all it comes down to is growing some muscle. Even when I was very lean, I had a well-shaped rear because even though the fat wasn’t all there, the muscle was. You need to build the glute muscles, otherwise they will continue to stay flat, or misshapen due to the excess body fat and lack of lean muscle tissue.
Yes, I have a fair amount of body fat on my glutes. But because I have a great muscle base underneath the fluff, when I gained weight it went on very evenly. Thus, despite me gaining a lot of weight, it is not misshapen.
So in short:
- Lose excess body fat (if you need to), and then focus on very slowly raising your calories until they are about 200 above maintenance, and train HARD with the exercises suggested.
- If you have no body fat to lose and you are small, do the same thing, but just skipping the dieting aspect.
- If you have saggy glutes, the same thing applies. You NEED to build up the muscle so that the skin and fat evens out.
In your ass-gaining endeavors, I would prescribe you a diet of LOTS of lean protein (don’t be scared of red meat), plenty of veggies, some fruit, and healthy fats. Keep starchy carbs post-workout.
Above all, have fun with it. Building a great set of glutes is a process, just like anything else. But when you’ve found your groove and done the work, the results will speak for themselves.
Now go out there and build yourself an ass.
Glute-related questions? Leave me a comment!