Here’s a scenario we’ve all seen on TV – Here comes that commercial showing someone using the bun and thigh machine that you can use anywhere at home or office for only four easy payments of $$. Then then next screen shot shows a young model in a swimsuit….different person in each shot!
Well, that’s certainly not reality.
When it comes to our “buns” or glutes, we can effectively work them out if we understand exactly how they function and therefore how to hit those muscles.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Many people talk about “isolating” a muscle for exercise. But in general, our bodies utilize “synergies” for overall function.
In other words, our functional movements can involve more than one muscle group where isolating really isn’t possible. With the hip area, this is particularly true.
The glutes are involved in some hip movements, such as the extension of the leg and flexing the hips while bending over. They are a key ingredient in locomotion (walking and running).
If you look at athletes, particularly runners, you will notice that the power runners (sprinters, American football running backs) have very substantial, muscular glutes. They didn’t get that from an off-the-page hip & thigh machine!. They got that from performing exercises that involve the glutes to the fullest extent.
Here are some movements that will target and work the glutes well:
The Best Workouts For Glutes
Perform these using dumbbells, free barbell or Smith sliding bar. The simple fact that lunges are performed one leg at a time causes the glutes to go through a very hard contraction. Here’s how to do them:
Stand holding dumbbells or with the barbell resting on your upper back. Place one foot forward one shoe length, flat footed, then the other foot behind 1-2 shoe lengths, up on its toe.
Each foot should remain in line with it’s hip. The rear foot/toe is for stability only the focus is on the front foot. Descend downward like a one-legged squat.
The range of motion descent should be shallow only 6-8” / 15-20 cm. Reverse back up to start, stopping just short of locking out the front knee. Repeat for reps quickly so you end up with a “bobbing” motion. Complete reps for one leg, then immediately switch feet and repeat reps for the other front leg. That’s one set.
A precaution here: make sure your front knee does not travel forward, rather your hips descend down and slightly backward much like when sitting down in a chair behind you. If you see the knee moving back and forth, focus on those hips settling down and back during the descent.
This is a similar movement to the lunge but the range of motion occurs in a more flexed position than the lunge, therefore the glutes are stretched a bit more to begin with.
Perform this movement one leg at a time. This forces the glutes to work harder and keeps the pelvis stabilized (the 2-legged version allows the pelvis to “roll up” into a posterior tilt).
As in the lunge, this range of motion isn’t more than those few inches/cm, and also uses that “bobbing” motion for reps. Work each leg back-to-back. That’s one set.
In this single-leg press, I in fact recommend performing all sets back-to-back. In other words left foot-right foot-left-foot-right foot, etc. until all sets are completed.
This will give you a great, intense feeling which is quite effective.
Here’s where people have differing views! How deep should you go on a squat? Some feel that going deep is unsafe but the reality is that, as you descend, the maximum knee pressure is reached at around 60 degrees. Going further down is safe.
The concern should be with the weight itself. For most of us, we should keep it very light for deep squats. An adult male, for example, can typically do a standard squat with a weight slightly heavier than their own body weight.
I recommend reducing down to only about 30-35% of that amount of weight when going deep. So how deep can you go? It varies, but just descend as far as you are able.
As you approach your last rep, really focus on being at the bottom. Despite using as light weight, your hips are so flexed, the glutes are getting a good stretch at the bottom and a very strong contraction going back up. Stop short of locking out the knees on this one too.
Your stance should have your feet slightly wider than hip-width, feet straight, placed forward about ¾ of a shoe length.
Another precaution here….on the descent phase, your hips need to once again settle downward and back, just like that “sitting-down-in-a-chair-behind-you” analogy.
Your knees will travel forward slightly, almost to the end of your toes, but no further. If you see them going past the toes, you are not getting the hips to move back as you descend. Pay close attention to your knees. Use a spotter to observe if needed.
I prefer using the Smith sliding bar on this one, as it allows easy foot positioning and provides a little help with balance. After all, we’re working on activating the stretched glutes, not working on balance per se.
These movements are similar in that they involve flexing and extending the leg and hip. This is a functional movement. It is safe and natural. The Lunge and Leg Press can both use quite a bit of weight/resistance which provides the load required to improve the glutes.
One final tip here is in regard to the “push” phase. As you push off from your feet, make sure you push through the heel rather than the ball of the foot.
When you really focus on this, you will actually feel the glutes engage more.