Build strong glutes! The importance of glutes and a routine for beginners/intermediate lifters.
Glutes a.k.a butt muscles are comprised of 3 parts: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
For simplicity purposes, we will focus on the main functions of the glutes as a whole and exercises that will give you the most bang for your buck for total booty development.
The glutes are primarily responsible for movements of the hip and thigh. The functions of the glutes are hip extension (deadlift, jumping, any type of thrusting), lateral abduction (lifting the thigh away from the hip) and external rotation of the thigh (the thigh when you point your toes outwards). It's also part of the core musculature and helps with stabilizing the pelvis and lower back.
Having strong glutes not only looks good, but will help with protect your knees, low back, hamstring and groin. Having stronger and more powerful glutes will improve your ability to sprint, jump and change direction in sport.
Since most of us have sedentary jobs, our glutes are underused and dormant from sitting on our ass all day! Dr. Stu McGill, low back god and professor at the University of Waterloo coined the term gluteal amnesia to refer to these underactive glutes that can't contract sufficiently. As a result, the gluteal amnesia hinders the glute's ability to protect joints, help with engaging core and generate force.
The most common thing I see is collapsing knees when doing squats. This is usually a problem when a person glutes are dormant and therefore unable to externally rotate the thigh and knee joint to a safe and stable position. As a result, the knee caves in which can be dangerous especially in weighted exercises.
The butt is one of the largest muscles in the body yet often neglected in training for quad-dominant and hamstring dominant exercises. Squat and deadlifts are great multi-joint exercise because they hit most of the lower body at once; however, they do not work the glutes to it's full potential. Potential is measured using an EMG - an electrical node that is attached to a muscle which can measure neural activation of a muscle. Greater EMG signals is associated with higher levels of muscle recruitment therefore is hypothesized to lead to greater gains.
[ The data below, I've learned from Dr. Bret Contreras a.k.a the Glute Guy. He's done a lot of research on glutes and popularizing the hip thrust. His website is here: www.bretcontreras.com - a good book I recommend is Strong Curves]
Glute activation in the barbell back squat: 35.6% average, 114% peak
Glute activation in the deadlift: 55% average, 110% peak
Glute activation in the barbell hip thrust : 84.1% average, 180% peak
Below are foundational exercises necessary to train glutes properly and then exercises where you can stick with and become stronger at. I've broken them down into two phases. Phase one is foundational exercises. Phase two is progressive exercises. You must be able to do the all exercises in phase one properly before moving on to the progressive exercises.
Phase One: Foundational Glute Workout - Prerequuisite to Phase Two
1. Pelvic Tilts: Mobilizes spine and develops sense of where hips are in space
2. Bird Dog: Teaches you how to use core while engaging glutes. (In the video, I should've raised my arm higher to ear level, my lack of shoulder mobility is showing)
3. RKC Plank: Practice keeping neutral spine with tension
4. Side Lying Leg Abduction: important motion of the glute. Be sure to keep leg straight and foot behind the hip.
5. Glute Bridge: Practice keeping a neutral spine throughout hip extension
6. Fire Hydrant: Good for hip mobility and trains abduction of the hip
7. Core Tight Superman: Practice keeping core engaged and reinforces glute activation in hip hyperextension
When these exercises have become comfortable for atleast 20 repetitions, you can progress to these:
Phase Two: Progressive Glute Workout
1. Warmup: Pelvic Tilts, Bird Dog, Fire Hydrants, RKC Plank
2. Banded Lateral Walks - builds upper part of glutes
3. Barbell Hip Thrust / Barbell Glute Bridge - builds lower part of glutes
3. Feet Elevated Reverse Lunge with Valslide - builds glute ham tie-in
4. 45 Degree Back Extension Glute Focus - builds glute ham tie in-in
5. Cable Kickback - builds lower part of glutes
6. Standing Ankle Weight Abduction - builds upper part of glutes
In the progressive glute workout, make these exercises staples in your routine for atleast 8 weeks and try your best to improve in them: either in weight, reps and sets. Start with 40-60 reps broken down into as many sets as you like per exercise in phase 2.
Track your progress by logging workouts, measuring glutes, pictures from front-side-back. Test and record vertical jump tests, sprint times and whatever metric you find relevant. Like any muscle, it takes time and dedication to build and strengthen significantly. Focus on getting proficient and strong in these movements and you can't go wrong.