How to Increase Gluteal Muscles?
You’re having a bad day already, nothing is going as planned and you’re just aiming for that one hour of gym to end your day on a productive note.To make things worse,you see a guy being constantly getting ‘those’ looks by the all the women passing by. You get pissed and look at the veins popping out of your arms, but it’s not working. You fall into a one minute depression and introspection phase and realize what the other guy had. He had that peach protruding from his trousers, the muscles cared more by women than men –Gluteal Muscles aka Glutes.
Are you the guy who’s ever gotten into this low phase?
If yes then you’re at the perfect place and we’ll learn to build them by a No-Bullshit way backed by science and modern researches.
If no then shut up and still read this article by heart as it’s your ego speaking. Sadly, you have small Glutes man!
And for women, this article would be the best source for your favorite muscle training queries. We’ll be covering all the aspects starting from the Anatomy of the Muscles up till the optimal exercises for training them.
Also, if your goal is not aesthetics and all of this seems nonsense to you then let me enlighten you with a fact that it’s the most important muscle group required to build a fully functional body. Well-built Glutes will directly help you to improve the important compound lifts such as Deadlifts and Squats.
You can skip to the last section stating the Optimal Exercises for training Glutes if you don’t want to saturate you brain with some science.
Functional (Real Life) movements involving Glutes
Functional movements are movements based on real-world situational biomechanics. They usually involve multi-joint movements.
Examples of Functional Movements involving Glutes would be:
- Picking up heavy objects from the floor involving hips
- Climbing stairs
- Standing from a squat position
- Changing directions while walking
- Depicts the gait
Anatomy and Functions of Gluteal Muscles
Let’s get a bit more into details of
The Glutes are made up of three muscles:
- Gluteus Maximus Gluteus Medius 3.Gluteus Minimus
They are better categorized into Phasic muscles (muscles responsible for the movement).
- Glutes are a mixed slow and fast twitch muscles, meaning that a mixture of both high and low repetitions and/or high and low velocities are probably useful for training these muscles.
Now to understand any muscle’s functions, we need to understand about the origin points and the insertion points of that particular muscle.
Origin – The origin is the end closest to the center of the body.
Insertion – The insertion is the end furthest from the center of the body.
- Role of the muscle is to pull the origin and insertion points together.
- Multiple attachments(origin and insertion points) will lead to multiple functions of the muscles.
- Understanding the functions of the muscle is really important as it makes us understand which exercises to be used so that it mimics the function of that muscle.
- Also, the load (resistance) should be aligned to the muscle fibers’ directions.
- Gluteus Maximus
Gluteus Maximus is the largest muscle in the body, whether measured by weight, cross-sectional area or volume and eventually should be trained like other muscle groups.
It functions both to produce high levels of force at low speeds through small ranges of motion, as well as low levels of force at high speeds through large ranges of motion. Optimal training may therefore require movements in both categories.
Origin – Iliac crest, sacrum, coccyx (tail of the spine) and fascia around lumbar spine
Insertion – Femur (Bone of Thigh) and ITB of the fascia latae
Joint Structure (Lateral View) in a seated Position
- Hip extension
It’s involved in running, jumping, squatting, lunging, bending, climbing, and thrusting.
- External Hip rotation
- Posterior Pelvic Tilt
- Knee &Sacroiliac joint Stabilization
- Gluteus Medius
The Gluteus Medius is around half the weight and volume of the Gluteus Maximus having very large physiological cross-sectional area.
Located just on the side of Gluteus Maximus, it has a fan like shape as it narrows down to the insertion point.
It has a mixed fiber type composition biased towards slow twitch fiber types which certainly means that slow speeds and higher repetitions are beneficial for training this muscle.
Origin – External iliac surface of the pelvis, between the anterior and the posterior gluteal lines
Insertion – Greater trochanter of the femur (Lateral Surface)
Joint Structure (Lateral view )
- Hip Abduction
- Hip External Rotation (Posterior Fibers) and Hip Internal Rotation (Anterior Fibers)
- Hip Socket Stabilization (Single legged Movements)
- Gluteus Minimus
The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the Glutes and lies beneath the other two muscles in the region and shares almost identical functioning with the gluteus medius muscle.
Located deep and somewhat anterior to (in front of) the Gluteus Medius, it has a triangular and fan like structure.
Origin – External surface of ilium, between the anterior and inferior gluteal lines.
Insertion –Greater trochanter of the femur (Anterior Surface)
Gluteus Minimus and Gluteus Medius are same functionally and act together to perform different functions :
- Hip Abduction
- Hip Internal Rotation
- Hip Socket Stabilization (In Single-legged movements)
- Thigh Internal Rotation
Optimal Exercises for training Glutes
Now if you don’t really care about the anatomy and functions of the muscles, but you’re interested in knowing the best exercises for their growth, this is the most important section of the article for you. Performing all the functions of the muscles in the form of exercises is necessary. Time to build those Glutes!
A large population might still believe the best exercises are the ones which produce more burn in the muscles and get them sore for days. These factors for depicting the best exercises and working the correct muscle can be partially correct but not the best ones certainly.Some research articles related to ambiguity in mind-muscle connection:
The major factors for determining the best exercises include a lot more than just feeling the burn, they include:
- EMG (Electromyography) – It simply measures the electrical activity of muscles during exercise. The electrical activity that EMG measures is a measurement of the nervous system’s signal to the muscles. Determining EMG includes measuring MVC(Maximum Voluntary Contraction) for setting a baseline and Mean & Peak Activation of the muscle in an exercise.
- Total Muscles and Joints worked
- Active Range of Motion
- Joint Safety
- Ability to produce Muscle Soreness
- Directional Load Vectors
Considering and measuring all the above mentioned factors, the best exercises for developing Glutes are listed below:
- Squats and Deadlifts
They are probably the masters of all exercises and should be programmed in most of the workout regimes. Period!
They involve numerous muscles of the body and also if we are talking about building glutes, they involve the functions of Gluteus Maximus like Hip Extensions and Hip External rotation (toes are outwards) but may not be optimal if the goal is increasing Glutes size.
In Squats, the barbell is axially loaded and the body has to stabilize itself in the frontal plane. There is very less tension on the glutes at the top position(extended position).
Some golden sources to learn Squats and Deadlifts:
- Glute Bridges and Hip Thrusts
These exercises have been supported by one of the most intelligent minds in the industry -Bret Contreras ‘The Glute Guy’and thus gaining popularity in most of the gyms.
Hip Thrusts are exactly the same as Glute Bridge except that your back is elevated, which will increase the range of motion.
Why are these better than Squats and Deadlifts in terms of increasing Glutes Size ?
In these exercises, before the lift begins, the glutes are inactive. The lifter then thrusts the hips upward until full hip extension. During this extension, peak activation reaches around 120-200% of MVC and is exhibited in all the glute fibers. The peak is reached at full hip extension, as the glutes reach their shortest muscle length.
Now if we talk about a Squat, while rising upward, the Glutes activation reaches around 80-120% of MVC and diminishes before reaching the top.
A very good article from Bret Contreras stating and comparing the EMG of both:
- Frog Pumps
In this movement, the hips exhibit more externally rotated and abducted position, so recruitment of the lower back and hamstrings is less. This is called the “frog” position. It’s a great way to build the mind–muscle connection of the glutes and can be done without any load for higher repetitions. Adding a band can be considered for greater activation.
- 45 degree Hip extensions
This movement is one of the most powerful Posterior chain exercise. If glutes are to be targeted during a back extension, this is the best bang for the buck exercise.
Keep the upper back rounded throughout the duration of the set. Try squeezing glutes at the top of each rep and keep tension on the glutes during the eccentric phase.
- Schoenfeld, B. (2016). Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy. Human Kinetics.
- Boren, K., Conrey, C., Le Coguic, J., Paprocki, L., Voight, M., & Robinson, T. K. (2011). Electromyographic analysis of gluteus medius and gluteus maximus during rehabilitation exercises. International journal of sports physical therapy, 6(3), 206.[PubMed]
- Bryanton, M. A., Kennedy, M. D., Carey, J. P., & Chiu, L. Z. (2012). Effect of Squat Depth and Barbell Load on Relative Muscular Effort in Squatting. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.[PubMed]
- Boudreau, S. N., Dwyer, M. K., Mattacola, C. G., Lattermann, C., Uhl, T. L., & McKeon, J. M. (2009). Hip-muscle activation during the lunge, single-leg squat, and step-up-and-over exercises. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 18(1), 91.[PubMed]
- Contreras, B., Cronin, J., & Schoenfeld, B. (2011). Barbell hip thrust. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(5), 58-61.[PubMed]
- Contreras, B. M., Cronin, J. B., Schoenfeld, B. J., Nates, R. J., & Sonmez, G. T. (2013). Are All Hip Extension Exercises Created Equal?. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 35(2), 17-22.[PubMed]
- Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., Schoenfeld, B. J., Beardsley, C., & Cronin, J. (2015a). A Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis EMG Activity in the Back Squat and Barbell Hip Thrust Exercises. Journal of applied biomechanics.[PubMed]
- Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., Schoenfeld, B. J., Beardsley, C., & Cronin, J. (2015b). A Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis EMG Amplitude in the Parallel, Full, and Front Squat Variations in Resistance Trained Females. Journal of applied biomechanics.[PubMed]
- Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., Schoenfeld, B. J., Beardsley, C., & Cronin, J. (2015c). A comparison of two gluteus maximus EMG maximum voluntary isometric contraction positions. PeerJ, 3, e1261.[PubMed]
- Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., Schoenfeld, B. J., Beardsley, C., & Cronin, J. (2015d). Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis EMG Amplitude for the Barbell, Band, and American Hip Thrust Variations. Journal of applied biomechanics.[PubMed]
- Conneely, M., Sullivan, K. O., & Edmondston, S. (2006). Dissection of gluteus maximus and medius with respect to their suggested roles in pelvic and hip stability: implications for rehabilitation?. Physical Therapy in Sport, 7(4), 176-178.[Citation]