By Mekita Rivas, VIDA editor/member
Let’s be honest: Everyone wants a nice booty. And with swimsuit season in full swing, that’s motivation enough to get your derrière in tip-top shape. But aside from looking (and feeling) great, there are tons of other reasons to give your glutes some extra attention the next time you hit the gym. We caught up with VIDA Fitness Master Trainer Emma Krieger to learn why focusing on your glutes is important and which exercises are critical for getting the backside you deserve.
Do you think glutes are overlooked? Why do they matter?
Yes, the glutes are constantly overlooked when it comes to working out. We see this trend with the popularity of HIIT classes. Everyone is trying to get their heart rate up and sweat as much as they can, but at what cost? The glutes are responsible for hip extension and posterior pelvic tilt, hip abduction, and hip external rotation. We use them for squatting, sprinting, cutting back and forth, throwing, etc.
If someone does not have fully functioning glutes, the wrong muscles will work to overcompensate, thus still allowing us to perform the movement, but not in the correct way. If you have strong quads, you will use them more — the same thing is true if you have strong glutes. The glutes are an important muscle group because most of your power generated will be derived from them. If your glutes work how they should, you are far less likely to get injured. The glutes simply help the body function better.
How often should people focus specifically on their glutes within their fitness routine?
Everyone’s anatomy is a little different, and you need to find what works for you. For example, not everyone can perform a glute bridge the same way because of hip anatomy. Some people may need their feet further from their body or have their toes and/or knees out more. Others may need to work on maintaining a posterior pelvic tilt, while some may need to learn to engage their abdominals and other muscle groups.
Occasionally I get clients whose glutes aren’t strong enough to hold a body weight bridge. This is where a band can be your best friend. Bands are a great way to really isolate the glutes. I will also have a client go up into a bridge and actively press their knees in so the muscle is forced to perform its action. When I get a beginner, we find their optimal position. Your mind-body connection is the number one thing — if you don’t feel your glutes working, then they probably aren’t. As the connection develops and is mastered, you can add load. Once the connection is solidified, I introduce different methods of strength training.
What does that look like?
As for strength training methods, variety will be your best friend. Variety includes volume, load, frequency, upper versus lower glute target areas, lateral work — the list goes on. At the very least, I try to have my clients who go to classes activate their glutes and feel the “pump” for a better mind-body connection.
One of my favorite ways to develop strength is through eccentric contractions. Eccentric contractions occur when the muscle is being lengthened under tension. The longer the muscle is under tension, the more metabolic stress it will go through. This means the muscle will have more muscle damage and will need more time for recovery. For example, during a barbell bridge, I may instruct my client, “Go up fast, pause for two seconds, and come down slowly for five seconds while maintaining tension in your glutes.” Typically after heavy eccentric sessions, I will program in a mandatory rest day. No need to overtrain the muscle — more is not always better.
What’s a good example of a typical glute-focused workout?
Here’s a sample workout you can try:
– 10 reps, 4 rounds
– Pause at the top of the bridge for 10 seconds on the last rep.
– Find your optimal position on the first rep of the first set and work from there.
– 8 reps, 3 rounds
– Pause at the top of the lift for 2 seconds.
– Weight should be lowered with control.
– You may use a barbell, the trap bar, or kettlebell.
– Do this exercise for feel. Your main compound lift today is your barbell bridge — you are not maxing out.
Deficit Curtsy Lunges
– 12 reps each side
– Use a riser or a 45 lb bumper plate.
Lateral Band Walks
– 50 reps, 4 rounds
– 30 reps, 3 rounds
Do you have any other trainer tips to share?
1. Make sure you pick a weight where you can feel 85%+ of your glutes working to perform every movement — don’t let your ego get in the way!
2. For lateral band walking, the band may go right above your knees, just under the knees, around the ankles, or across the flat part of your foot.
3. Feel free to use a band above your knees during your barbell bridges and press your knees out while keeping your tailbone tucked in by squeezing your butt, also known a posterior pelvic tilt.