How to tone and strengthen the weakest muscles in your body: your glutes.
There are glory muscles and there are real muscles. Biceps? Glory muscles. Quads? Real muscles. Pecs? Glory muscles. Your entire core? Real muscles. Glory muscles get the attention, but real muscles do all the work. So, what happens when you sit in a chair at work all day, then go to gym and work on your glory muscles while ignoring anything that doesn’t immediately show up once you throw on a tank top or go shirtless at the beach? You overdevelop some muscles (and a lot of the time, very useless ones), create imbalances in your body, and become the man who can bicep curl 50s but can’t do 10 lunges without tipping over or hurting yourself. Well, we’re here to make sure you don’t become that guy by giving you five exercises to strengthen the weakest muscle in your body, your glutes, courtesy of Paisley Meekin (BA in Nutrition, CPT), owner, lead trainer, and cycling instructor at Honest Training.
1. Straight Leg Single Leg Deadlift
Stand on one leg with the opposite leg raised off the ground. Using your hip as a hinge, bring your trunk parallel to the floor to make a 90 degree angle. Make sure your spine stays straight, avoiding the hunchback, and that your standing leg is straight with a very slight bend in the knee. As you do the move, think about driving your hips back as you bend over, then forward as you return to the starting position. Also, remember to squeeze your glutes. This exercise is effective because it isolates the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, lower back), an area where most people are quite weak, Meekin says. To add intensity to the move and incorporate core and balance components, hold the weight in the hand opposite the leg on the ground.
2. Cross Over Lunge/Speed Skater Lunge
Start with your feet hip distance apart. Next, lunge back and behind, crossing the midline of your body with the back leg and lower down by bending your front knee. Then, drive up through your heel to the starting position. Alternate legs or do 10-20 reps on one leg, then 10-20 reps on the other. This move is great because while it focuses on the gluteus medius (the side of your butt), it also uses your core, balance, hamstrings, quads, etc. Again, remember to move from your hips, not your knees.
3. Barbell Back Squats
Getting into this position can be tricky for the first few times, so watch the video above before trying this one. Also, you do not need to go as low as the man in the video when you are first starting out. Once you have the barbell on your shoulder/back, place your feet at about shoulder width apart, with your toes pointing straight out, or if it’s more comfortable, a bit outwards like in the video above. Next, squat down while keeping your spine straight, your core and glutes engaged, and your chest up. Avoid the hunchback! As you get stronger and the motion becomes more fluid, start squatting lower than 90 degrees to really target the glutes, says Meekin.
4. Forward Lunge and Reach
“This is one of those movements that happens in real life so it’s important to learn,” explains Meekin. “It’s taking a big step up a hill on a hike, it’s lunging for a ball playing softball.” Start with your feet hip distance apart and lunge forward with one leg. The back leg can bend so the knee just kisses the ground, or it can stay off the ground like in the video above. Tap the floor with one or, preferably, both hands, then drive through the heel of the front foot to push yourself back up into the starting position. Alternate legs or do 10-20 reps on one leg, then switch to the other. To intensify, add weights but still perform the forward tap.
5. Hip Extensions
Lying on your back, bend your knees so that your fingertips can reach your heels. Next, push your lower back off the floor while driving through your heels to lift your hips as well. Hold for a three second count, then lower back down but do not let your butt hit the ground until you have done as many reps as possible. To intensify, try the same move with one leg lifted off the ground. This move is great for people rehabbing from injury, as it is low-impact but still isolates and works your glutes effectively. Remember to drive through your heels and squeeze your butt as you go up and hold the pose, before slowly lowering yourself back down.