Unless you’re new to the gym, you may be a little like me and kinda bored with the same movement patterns. Our minds as well as our bodies seem to move toward novelty. Although it sometimes looks a little funky, I’m often creating new exercises to keep challenging my body with new ways to target muscles, or adapt exercises for clients who may need a different stimulus to myself or past clients. This post is about glute exercises along the lines of that funk, so these negate some explanation before some nasty critique! Also, try these before you judge, they are seriously effective if done correctly, and often a slight adjustment in technique will achieve that.
1. SINGLE LEG CABLE SQUAT
There’s an epidemic of quad-dominant people. Most people sit on their ass for most of the day and when they move, basically don’t move well. Back pain also inhibits the glutes and glute weakness causes back pain. Loads of strength and power potential (not to mention aesthetic potential if you care) can be realised with well functioning, firm glutes. Most squatting will fire the quads (picture on the left below), unless you can position your shin bones behind the point of being perpendicular to the floor (picture on the right below), which places all the stress on the major squatting muscles – hips, glutes, lower back, hamstrings.
The squat on the left – knee in front of the toes – hits the quads; the squat on the right – knee behind the toes – hits the glutes and hamstrings (realistic red images there). The second squat is fairly impossible to perform in free air, yet can be done with a box behind you, like as for a powerlifting sumo-stance box squat. The video above is a single leg squat, using the cable to counteract a small portion of your body weight, and note the angle of the front shin bone.
Since the shins are past perpendicular, you can use this sort of squat for knee injury rehab, since shear pressure on the joint is reduced by placing the majority of the weight on the heels rather than the toes, recruiting hamstrings and glutes. If your knee is positioned behind your foot while you squat, the only way you can get up is via a ‘hamstring curl’ – Louie Simmons.
In the video above, the knee also rests on the floor for a short while before returning to standing. In doing so, you break the eccentric-concentric chain, therefore build explosive power from a relaxed state. In other words, your legs (and ass) are required to barf up some strength and power from a relaxed state without the help of a stretch-shortening cycle, which usually exists with normal squatting.
Use less weight on the cable machine to make this exercise more difficult. With the shin at least vertical and your torso leaning forward, you should be getting some serious ass burnage.
2. HIP TO SHOULDER BRIDGE (MOUNT-ESCAPE STYLE HIP EXTENSIONS)
This is a great exercise which alternates between targeting the glutes and targeting the core in anti-rotation and anti-extension. It’s a great whole body exercise, can be used for warm-ups, hip mobility work and conditioning when used in circuit-syle training for high reps
3. PISTOL SQUAT ASSISTED
Pistol squats have a fairly advanced mobility and strength profile, so here is a regressed version which places less mobility demands on the ankle, hip and thoracic spine as well as lower strength demands on the quads with more placed on the glutes and hamstrings. In other words, it’s easier on a less flexible body, easier on the knees and targets the glutes more than the quads. If you struggle with knee pain in a normal pistol squat, or there is too much crunching going on, this exercise places less shear force on the knee joint since the shin is kept closer to vertical. If it’s too easy, check how much you are using your arms, and use them less! Maybe you can just use your fingertips. Extend the back and aim to keep a natural curve in the lower back at the bottom of the movement.
4. SKATER-CURTSY SQUAT
Keep the back neutral, and the knees over the toes, slide the non-supporting foot out to the side/back/cross behind the body. Keep weight off the sliding foot to maintain the intensity on the glutes and hamstrings. This video is playing double speed.
4. SINGLE LEG HIP THRUST ON BOSU
So this one is somewhat in between the easier version Foot on Floor, and the harder version Foot on Bench. Adding the BOSU was something I chose specific to my needs as a surf frother; occasionally adding stability challenge elements into strength training can be useful for surf related skills development. Unstable surface training can also be used in rehab settings to involve joint stabilisers or in general training to work those ‘unfamiliar’ muscles that you’ll say you’ve never felt before. The exercise above just burns.. bust out fifteen reps per set if you’re the doubting type.
5. BARBELL HIP BRIDGE
For glute strengthening, hip extensions can be loaded using a barbell across the hip crease. Use barbell padding or a yoga mat between the bar and the hips to avoid excessive pressure. Aim for full hip extension, not back extension. Your glutes and hamstrings should be working to lift the weight, not your lower back.
6. EXPLOSIVE BARBELL HIP BRIDGE
For glute strength and power, hip extensions can be loaded using a barbell across the hip crease. Use barbell padding or a yoga mat between the bar and the hips to avoid excessive pressure. Aim for full hip extension, not back extension. Your glutes and hamstrings should be working to lift the weight, not your lower back.
Mixing up your training is key to consistent progress, results and mental compliance. I think the broader your can keep your training – incorporate a variety of lifts, training styles and program designs – the more mature your movement vocabulary will be.