By Brad Schoenfeld, MSc, CSCS, CSPS, PH.D., CSCS, FNSCA
A tighter, shapelier posterior is not just some pipe dream. To the contrary, it’s a readily attainable goal— provided you take the proper training approach. That’s where this article comes into play. The program described herein blends cutting-edge exercise science with real-world application, ensuring optimal results in minimal time. Just follow the routine as outlined, put forth the requisite effort, and you’ll see noticeable differences within a matter of weeks. Guaranteed!
Sculpting the Booty
The glutes are actually comprised of three separate muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Because of this anatomical complexity, it should be apparent that you can’t sculpt a better booty simply by performing a few sets of squats or lunges. There are several considerations to take into account here. For one, torque curves during glute exercises change throughout the range of motion. Some exercises display greater peak muscle activation at the top of the movement, some at the midrange, and others at the bottom. Furthermore, because the fibers of the glutes attach obliquely, certain exercises will have greater effects on the upper region, while others target the lower region. Finally, lateral movements work the glutes differently than sagittal movements, consistent with the diverse functions of these muscles.
Bottom line: A varied approach incorporating different angles, vectors and planes of movement is imperative if you want to achieve optimal gluteal shape and symmetry.
Multi- and single-joint Movements
Both multi- and single-joint movements are beneficial to results. Multi-joint exercises allow for the use of heavier loads, thereby enhancing muscular tension— a critical component in muscle development. Studies show that activation of the gluteus maximus increases with increasing hip flexion. This means you should try to squat as low as possible, preferably descending to where your thighs pass parallel to the floor. Those who have difficulty achieving adequate range of motion should focus on stretching the muscles of the ankles and hips, as they often are limiting factors in squat depth.
And if you’re worried about safety, rest easy. Provided you have healthy knees, there is no evidence that deep squats increase injury risk. Alternatively, single-joint exercises confer complementary benefits. Namely, they allow you to maintain continuous muscular tension throughout each repetition by restricting movement to the hip joint. This can heighten vascular occlusion, which, in turn, helps to enhance the growth response.
Engaging the Glutes
One issue that can impede results is an inability to properly engage the glutes during exercise performance. This is particularly true in females who, in comparison to men, are predisposed to quad dominance. Specifically, research shows that women tend to rely more on their frontal thighs to carry out lower body exercises at the expense of the posterior musculature. The upshot: decreased gluteal recruitment. The good news is that quad dominance can be reversed by harnessing the power of your mind-muscle connection.
Simply stated, a mind-muscle connection involves visualizing the muscle that you intend to work and then feeling it contract as you perform a given movement. While this may sound somewhat hokey, it’s actually backed up by solid research. In fact, muscle activation has been shown to increase almost 18 percent simply by employing a mind-muscle focus. A surefire way to improve the mental connection with your glutes is by performing “butt squeezes.” The technique is really as simple as it sounds. Just consciously squeeze your butt cheeks together as forcefully as possible, hold the contraction for about 10 seconds or so, and then relax. Perform several sets of these isometric drills on a daily basis and you’ll quickly see a positive transfer to your training efforts. In short order, your glutes will be firing to their max in every targeted exercise.
• Perform twice a week.
• Allow for 72 hours rest between sessions (i.e., Mon/Thurs).
• Exercises were carefully chosen to complement one another, whereby they combine synergistically to fully stimulate the spectrum of fibers in all three gluteal muscles.
• Aim to use a variety of repetition ranges so that you train with heavy (3-5 reps), moderate (6-12 reps) and light (15-20 reps) intensities on a regular basis. This will help to promote an optimal balance of muscular strength and shape. Just make sure that the weight you choose is sufficient so that you struggle to complete the last few reps— if your muscles aren’t challenged, they have no impetus to adapt.
• Stay dedicated, train hard and it won’t be long before you’ll be calling your backside your best physical attribute.
Rest a barbell across the back of your neck, grasping the bar with both hands. Assume a wide stance equating to approximately 140 percent of shoulder-width, feet turned slightly outward. Descend downward as far as comfortably possible. Your lower back should be slightly arched and your heels should stay in contact with the floor at all times. When you reach the bottom position, reverse direction by forcefully straightening your hips and return to the start position.
Grasp a straight bar and let it hang in front of your body. Assume a shoulder-width stance and brace your core so that your lower back is maintained in neutral position. Keeping your knees bent at about a 20-degree angle, bend forward at the hips and lower the barbell down as far as comfortably possible without rounding your back. Reverse direction, contracting your glutes as you rise upward to the start position.
Lateral Band Walk
Secure a resistance band around your ankles and assume a shoulder-width stance. Keep your posture erect, bend your knees slightly and while maintaining tension on the band, lift your right foot and step laterally to the right. Lift the left foot and bring it towards the first so that you return to a shoulder-width stance. Continue stepping laterally for the prescribed number of repetitions, then repeat the process on the opposite side.
Deficit Reverse Lunge
Grasp two dumbbells and allow them to hang down by your sides, palms facing your body. Assume a shoulder-width stance on a small step or box, shoulders back and chin up. Take a long step backward with your right leg and lower your body by flexing your right knee and hip. Continue your descent until your right knee is almost in contact with the floor. Reverse direction by forcibly extending the right hip and knee, bringing the leg forward until you return to the start position. Perform the move the same way on your left, then alternate between legs until the desired number of repetitions is reached.
Standing Cable Abduction
Attach a cuff to the low-pulley of a cable apparatus and then secure the cuff to your right ankle. Position yourself so that your left side faces the weight stack and grasp something sturdy for support. Keep your body erect, your core braced and allow your right leg to come across your body so it crosses over your left leg. Initiate the movement by pulling your right leg across your body and directly out to the side, and then return the weight along the same path back to the start position. After finishing the desired number of repetitions, reverse the process and repeat on the left side.
Sit on the floor with a barbell positioned over your shins and align your upper back across a secure padded bench or step, feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Roll the barbell over your thighs so it rests at your hips (if the bar causes discomfort, consider using a pad or towel around the bar). Brace your core and forcefully extend the hips until the torso is parallel with the ground and a hip-neutral position is reached. Hold the contracted position for a moment then return to the start position.
Exercise – Sets
Sumo squat 3-4
Romanian deadlift 3-4
Lateral band walk 3-4
Exercise – Sets
Deficit reverse lunge 3-4
Standing cable abduction 3-4
Hip thrust 3-4
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