I thought it was probably about time that I posted something fitness related, and after discussing this very topic with a good friend last week, I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about! Glute training.. But instead of the predictable ‘squats do a booty good’, I thought I’d talk about my alternatives to squatting. -After all, not everybody loves squats, and some people actually really struggle with them, due to various health factors; most commonly knee & hip complaints. .. I’m sure you’ve all probably seen this Cinderella meme many times before, but is The Fairy God Mother actually right? Must you?.. There is no denying that squats are an excellent leg building exercise. They are a great functional movement, and promote muscle growth throughout our whole body, whilst arguably burning more fat than any other one movement. However, when we are talking about glute specific exercises, are squats really the best method of getting that peach to grow?
If you are anything like me, you might find engaging your glutes during squats, is particularly difficult. My quads however, they are ready to fire up, and take the limelight, any day. In my opinion, when it comes to targeting glutes, squats are perhaps somewhat overrated. Now, don’t get this twisted- I am not dissing squats. I LOVE squats, BUT I have been training squats since day one, and I would honestly put very little of my glute improvements down to them.. Squats are a key, compound movement for many bodybuilders, and if we are talking about overall strength and conditioning, you really can’t go wrong with these old faithfuls. They are a staple part of any of my leg day workouts, but in terms of actively hitting my glutes during a workout, I can do so, more than sufficently without incorporating a single squat.
As somebody who was teased in school for having the flattest ass going, and having a bum like a little boy, I can tell you now that I am not someone who has a naturally perky, peachy bum. No genetics to thank here; just good old fashioned hard work and dedication. It’s taken consistency, dedication, and a total overhaul in mindset when it comes to food. (Another story for another day). In comparison with many in the industry, my buns are decidedly UNimpressive, but in terms of my own personal growth, I am bloody proud of my derriere, and its baby peachy gains!
So, you may be reading this thinking, that’s all well and good Lis, but where are your credentials?! Why would I listen to you? .. I am not a personal trainer. I am not a fitness professional, nor do I claim to be. I have no formal qualifications in the field. (Yet..) But, what I do have is years of practise, and years of experimenting with different movements. And through a long drawn out process of trial and error, I am confident that I have finally been able to differentiate between what does, and what does not work (for me). So, I am more than happy to pass my experiences on, in the hope that it’ll also help somebody else who is struggling to see improvements in their own glutes.
The first 3 years of my glute sessions largely consisted of squats, and cable kickbacks with very poor form, and I saw very little in the way of growth. However, in the past year, I’ve incorporated glute isolation exercises, and largely ditched the squats. (Well, on my glute days anyway). So, I am going to share with you my ultimate booty building movements; The ones that I have found DO efficiently isolate my glutes, cause an epic burn, and have finally helped me make noticeable progression.
This is where it begins. Before I do ANY glute training with weights, I take to the mat, with only myself, and my trusted resistance band. Before I even look at a weight, I’ll work on getting my glutes fired up and ready to take control. I’m naturally a quad dominant female, so particularly when it comes to squats, my quads often end up taking all the glory. For years they have triumphed, as I persisted with squats, jumping straight into them at the start of a workout, without any form of activation, falsely believing that squatting alone was the key to growing my butt. However, my hamstrings and glutes are finally at an even playing field, and that is with thanks to proper glute activation, giving them a helping hand, and a kick start. So, without further ado, here are my staple movements to activate that booty.
- Glute raises – I tend to go for high reps of these, enough that I really feel the burn, and then I’ll dig a little deeper for 10 more. At the top of the movement, I will squeeze my glutes, and hold for a moment; enough to feel the squeeze, then lower back down, and repeat the movement.
- Donkey kicks – for these I’ll aim for 20 reps each side, with a good squeeze at the top, and never fully dropping my knee between reps. This is just my personal preference, as I find it keeps my glutes under constant tension. I will also sometimes add a set of 10 pulse like half reps at the end of the initial 20 reps, if I want an extra burn, or feel I’m struggling to feel the muscles activating.
- Fire hydrants – if you are using bands for these, you may only need to do 10 repetitions to feel a sufficient fire up, but if without, or you feel you are able to do more, try for 15 or even 20, each side.
- Bridge clam shells – I don’t know the actual name of this exercise as it’s kind of something I just made up one day, just messing around and then thought, ohh blimey, that’s doing something. Haha. So, for this one, you want to get into a bridge pose, but then turn your ankles out so the soles of your feet are presed together. Whilst doing this, keep your hips in their bridge/ glute raise position really squeezing those glutes, whilst performing a clam like movement. Between reps, do not lower your hips, remain up right in the bridge position, and keep your glutes squeezed.
I generally will perform these as a circuit, anywhere from 2-5 times, depending on how successfully I gauge my glutes to be activated. All of these exercises can be done with a resistance band/ hip circle, I personally use a SlingShot hip circle for the glute circuit, but you may feel sufficient activation without a band to begin with. If you feel your glutes firing up, job done. I will also do glute activation before any lower body workouts, just to encourage my glutes to get involved.
LESS IS MORE
Okay, so now that our glutes are fired up, it’s time to hit the weights. When it comes to the amount of weight I lift for glute days, I would definitely say that less is more. We are trying to isolate the muscles we are working, so a concentrated smaller weight is far more beneficial here. Maybe you can hip thrust 150kgs, but are you specifically hitting your glutes with this much weight on the bar? Because I know that for me, (I max out at 110kg, I’ll just add), this brings a whole load of other muscle groups into play. Nope, for glute day, I leave the ego at the door, forget about PB’s, and target my glutes effectively by focusing on correct form, and that all important squeeze. I have found that the difference between a successful and unsuccessful glute exercise, is in that squeeze, if I’m not getting a squeeze at the top of the rep, it’s highly unlikely that it’s working my glutes in the way I’d wish.
SQUAT FREE GLUTES
For glute exercises, I like to try to keep the reps reasonable high, so try to work in the region of 12-20 reps, for 4-5 sets. Here are my top 10 squat free glute exercises:
- Hip thrusts – might have seen this one coming after my previous reference, but, my golly gosh(!) do they work?! I often find myself struggling to just sit on the floor between sets, after a good set of hip thrusts! You really don’t need to pile the weight on, as you may have seen various athletes on Instagram doing. If you are specifically strength training, by all means, load up that bar. But for glutes, we need to keep the movement tidy, concentrated, and aimed at the gluteus maximus. Focus on the squeeze at the top of the movement. I also like to use my SlingShot for hip thrusts, to keep constant tension in my glutes, throughout the set.
- Rope pull throughs -emphasis again, that all important squeeze at the top.
- Hyperextensions with weight plates – with squeeze and pause at top of movement. I also like to add in a finishing set of half / pulse reps at the top of the movement. This gives you an epic burn, if done as a superset with full hyperextensions.
- Cable kickbacks – for these, think of the donkey kick movement on the floor, and shadow this on the cable machine. I use my own Ankle Straps for these. I’ve seen women lock out their legs straight whilst performing kickbacks, but personally that technique does nothing for me. So instead, I perform my kickbacks with a bend in my leg. Have a play around and see what position hits your glutes, and works best for you.
- Vertical leg press in smith machine & push – so, this is a 2 part movement for me. I’m not sure if it has an actual name, but for me, it is a vertical leg press on the smith machine, progressing into an upward push, so that your lower back lifts off the floor. (I hope that makes sense.)
- Dumbbell RDL’s – straight leg, or standard, these are great for glutes. Keep the emphasis in the upward movement to the top leading into the squeeze.
- Hamstring ball curls – these are surprisingly tricky, and once performed correctly, are guaranteed to give your glutes and hams an epic workout. Think slow controlled movement.
- Single leg hip raises – these can be performed on a flat surface, or with one foot on a bosu ball. Focus on keeping your hips aligned, and as always, that squeeze at the top of the movement. Hold it for a few seconds if necessary to feel the burn.
- Sumo deadlifts – keeping the bar close to my legs, and concentrating on that squeeze at the top.
- Barbell good mornings – these are also great for hamstrings. I like to do the upward motion fairly swiftly, squeeze and hold at the top, then slowly descend into the downward motion, really feeling that extension in my hamstrings.
So, you’ve probably all noticed a pattern emerging with each of the exercises, and in case I haven’t said it enough already, the emphasis should be in the SQUEEZE.
Finally, I’m going to share my favourite glute stretches with ya’ll. I have seriously neglected stretching over the years, but over the past few months, it has made a big come back, and is massively helping to reduce my DOMS, increase my flexibility, and improve my overall technique.
Bridge pose – squeeze buttocks for count of 10. (You want to feel it, so really squeeze, change position of feet as require to feel burn.)
Deep glute stretch – both buttock pressed to floor, hold for count of 10 each side. (Again, you want to feel the burn so tighten your grip as needed to feel the burn in your glutes.)
Pretzel yoga pose – opens up your hip flexors, gives your glutes a great stretch, and helps increase flexabilty. Popular amongst yogi’s.
Pigeon yoga pose – again, opens up hip flexor, and gives your glutes an awesome stretch.
Again, I just want to reiterate that squats are awesome, but they alone are highly unlikely to give your booty the workout you were hoping for.
When it comes to leg day, and growing strong, shapely pins, they are BAE. I bloody love them. They are the bees knees! In fact, I love them so much, that I will jolly well put together a post entirely dedicated to them, and my most favourite squat variations.. eeeek!! I’m getting excited just thinking about all the different types of squats I can babble on about! Watch this space..
So there it is, my squat free guide to successful booty building! Give it a go and let me know what you think! Please feel free to comment/like/share, as well as giving the blog a little follow, via your own WordPress, or email address for any future updates! ❤️ Ohhh, and please do let me know if I’ve missed any of your own personal favourite glute exercises / activations / stretches! I’m always looking to try new things in the gym, and I’d LOVE to know what has worked for you!
Happy booty building beautiful people.
Lots of love