The Best Exercises to Get Toned Glutes
By Myprotein Writer Sarah Curran
The glutes are the biggest muscle in the body, and for ladies in particular, a muscle group that can have a huge impact on both our appearance and confidence. They are also a really important muscle to keep strong and healthy as they are used for activities we take for granted such as standing. The glutes work in partnership with the hamstrings, and training both these muscles to keep them strong can also prevent injuries in the knees, hips and lower back.
Because many of us work in offices at desk jobs, and spend much of our days sitting down, our hip muscles become weak and inefficient at contracting. Making particular effort with some glute and hamstring exercises counteracts this, and can give you some serious curves in all the right places.
Glute training also has some great benefits to it, for example due to the fact they are the largest muscle in the body, training them burns a huge amount of calories compared to the smaller muscle groups. As mentioned before another major bonus is injury prevention, especially those related to the knees and ligaments as they rely on the hamstrings for stabilisation. Your posture also improves as your strengthen these muscles.
The Glute Muscles
The glutes consist of a few important muscle groups such as the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, the gluteus minimus and then hamstrings are below them.
The gluteus maximus – is the most well known muscle due to the fact it is the main muscle that affects the appearance of the bum. This muscle is used when you stand up as it straightens the hips, meaning it is an essential muscle in squats and glute bridges.
The gluteus medius and minimus– are the final two smaller glute muscles. These are used in movements that involve raising the thigh to the side and also outwards if the leg is straight then inwards if the hips are bent.
The hamstrings– are in fact separate muscles but are described collectively as the hamstrings. There are three muscles in this group, the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. These muscles are necessary to assist the gluteus maximus extend the hip and also to bend the knee. The bicep femoris aids in rotating the hip outwards, whereas in opposition the semimembranosus and semitendinosus rotates this inwards.
There are a huge number of exercises that you can include in your training to achieve toned glutes, some are most definitely better than others though and as always compound movements should be prioritised in your routine in some way whatever the layout of your training week may be. Squats and deadlifts are excellent for training the glutes, as are good mornings. They also have a larger calorie burn as you are utilising numerous muscle groups in the body.
Good mornings are also an excellent exercise for muscular balance, which is crucial to injury prevention. This is due to the fact that there is no way to cheat on this exercise to shift the weight onto your quads instead of letting your glutes , lower back and hamstrings do the work, this can be a common issue with squats in some people. Good mornings make sure that you work all the muscles together.
How to Perform:
Begin the exercise with the feet spread slightly less than shoulder width apart. Step out of the rack with the barbell placed on your back in the same position as you would a back squat, hold the bar in place with your hands and consciously keep all your muscles tight. Keeping a slight bend in the knees, lean forwards at the waist pushing the hips back keeping the back straight.
Lower the torso to a forty five degree angle in relation to the floor. Going lower is ok if your form is perfect, but air on the side of caution when you are learning to do this exercise. Keep a tight grip on the bar at all times to stop it from rolling forward towards your neck. Keeping the glutes and hamstrings contracted, reverse the movement so that you are now back to the starting position, carry out as many reps as necessary.
It is best to start off light with this exercise and only increase weight as much as good form permits you to so that you avoid any potential injuries.
2. Glute Bridges
Glute bridges and hip thrusts are in my opinion two of the best glute exercises out there, and I found I got results very quickly when I began to include them frequently in my routine.
Bridges target the muscles of both the glutes and hamstrings, they also target the core muscles too as both the abs and lower back muscles are important in keeping the body stable throughout this exercise. Hip raises are best preformed with bodyweight until you have the form right, and then as you gain confidence you can add in a weighted barbell. When you do decide to progress to this, I can’t recommend using some form of padding underneath the barbell enough, be it a foam pad or even a exercise mat folded in two, as if you are a lady without much covering over the hips where the barbell will be placed, you can end up with some very uncomfortable and unsightly bruising from the weight of the barbell.
How to Perform:
To perform this exercise without any additional weight, simply lie face up on the floor, and keep the knees bent and your feet should be flat on the ground. Push the heels into the ground and Lift the hips which will create a nice straight line from the shoulders down to the knees. Hold the position for a few seconds while ensuring the glutes are contracted then reverse the movement so that you are back to the starting position. Aside from adding weight, you can also increase the difficulty by incorporating a bench into this exercise to increase your range of motion. Doing this exercise using one leg instead of two will also increase its difficulty and promote muscle balance.
There are also some other exercises I highly recommend including such as cable kick backs and reverse hip raises. Dumbell swings also work the glutes and are great to include in a workout.
3. Reverse Hip Raise
To perform a reverse hip raise, lie with your chest down on the edge of a bench. Your chest should be on the bench but your legs should not as you will need the space to lift them throughout the movement.
How to Perform:
Lift your legs until the thighs are in line with the torso. Hold this position then reverse the movement back to the starting position. It is important that you squeeze the glutes throughout the movement. You can also use a Swiss ball if there are no benches available, or to simply vary this exercise as the ball will be less stable.
4. Dumbbell Swings
Dumbbell or kettle bell swings are also excellent as they also have a larger calorie burn.
How to Perform:
To perform a dumbbell swing, pick up a dumbbell in an overhand grip. Hold it at arm’s length in front of your waist. Bend at the hips and knees keeping the back straight then lower the torso until you are at a forty five degree angle to the ground. Swing the dumbbell between your legs, remembering to keep the glutes contracted throughout the whole movement. Keeping the arm straight, push the hips forward, straighten the legs and swing the dumbbell as high as the chest while you rise to standing position. Squat back down as the dumbbell swings between your legs again and return back to the starting position, continuing the momentum of swinging the dumbbell back and forth powerfully. Complete as many reps as required and always be safety aware with this movement. It is not suitable to perform if the gym is packed out and space is an issue.
5. Band Side Leg Raise
Resistance bands are really useful in glute training with exercises such as a band side leg raise, a standing resistance band hip abduction and a clamshell exercise. Lateral band walks are also fantastic to do as an exercise near the end of your routine, but also at the very start to wake up the glutes and warm them up prior to heavier exercise such as squats and deadlifts.
How to Perform:
To perform a band side leg raise, lie on your left side to begin on the floor. Loop a resistance band around both ankles, a mini band is best for this exercise. Rest your head on your left arm throughout the exercise. Place your right hand on the ground in front of your chest to keep balance during the exercise. Being careful to not move any other parts of the body, lift your right leg as high as possible, hold this position and then reverse the movement so that you are back at your starting position. Simply repeat this process on the opposite side after you have repeated all the necessary reps on one side.
6. Lateral Band Walks
How to Perform:
Lateral band walks are equally easy to perform. Simply place both your legs between a resistance band, again, a mini band is useful here but if you do not have one you can tie a knot in a larger band to suit the size you want instead. Position the band just below the knees. Take small steps to the left for as many steps as possible and repeat on the opposite side.
How to Perform:
Lie on your right side with the hips and knees bent at approximately forty five degrees. Your right leg should be on top of your left leg, your right heel also on top of your left heel. While keeping the feet together, lift the left knee as high as you can without moving the pelvis. Hold this position, then reverse the movement back again to the start. Don’t allow your right leg to move off the floor throughout the movement and as with all the exercises, keep the muscles contracted throughout the exercise. This movement should look like a clam opening and closing, and although it sounds and looks easy it is actually quite a tough exercise, it is however, very effective.
A Take Home Message
By including specific glute and hamstring exercises in your routine alongside compound movements, you will notice not only a huge improvement in your appearance, but also a noticeable difference in strength and power too as all these exercises teach the muscles to work in harmony with one another and so reduce the potential for injuries hugely. It is important to stretch each muscle group fully that you have trained after every workout and foam rolling is an excellent way to finish off a stretching session too while reducing soreness post workout.