Glutes Isolation Exercises for Strengthening

Working out with glutes isolation exercises, Why? and is it really necessary? Got the ripped abs? Yes. What about building a ginormous chest? On the way. Boy, you have humongous Biceps. Yeah! Cool right. Turn your body and you can pretty much see a flabby butt and weak glutes most often. The exaggeration and over-emphasis on the mirror muscles just make you ignore other crucial muscle groups. This can drastically affect your body physique. Soon, this imbalance of strength in your body will cause cramps, strains, and injuries.

Not to forget, that good and firm buttocks will turn some eyes onto you. We can at least confirm this, someone might get attracted to your facial or upper body features but as soon as they notice ah! Poorly shaped butt, it will definitely be a turn-off!

Let me just remind you! In one of the best James Bond movies, The Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd did notice James Bond’s perfectly formed arse! You can go ahead see this in their flirtatious train ride with venomous banter. It’s kinda awesome!! People do notice it, so let them have a chance to compliment you.

So, let’s get down to understanding your butt muscles which are also called glutes, and how to actually build them no matter what shape they are in right now.

Anatomy of Glutes

Glutes are not a single muscle but three muscle groups that sit in a 3-Dimensional Plane. Glutes are the largest and heaviest muscle in the lower body and are present in the buttocks region. 

  1. Gluteus Maximus
  2. Gluteus Medius
  3. Gluteus Minimus
glutes-anatomy-figure
 Anatomy, Bony Pelvis, and Lower Limb, Gluteus Maximus Muscle by StatPearls [Internet], licensed under CC BY 4.0

Gluteus Maximus

This is the largest and heaviest muscle in the body and it covers the region starting from the pelvis and extends until the femur. It has a quadrilateral shape and it is also the superficial muscle of all the gluteal muscle groups. It generates a huge amount of force, given its huge size as well. 

Gluteus Medius

This muscle group resides pretty much below the gluteus maximus but not entirely. This muscle starts from the lower back region and this upper part of the gluteus medius is uncovered. Sometimes, you might feel pain in the lower back region and this might not be entire because of low back issues but having weak glues, we will talk about this in much detail later. But let’s just focus on muscle anatomy for now.

Gluteus Minimus

This is the smallest muscle group and it is close to the hip joint and plays a role in the stabilization and abduction of your hip. It is present underneath the gluteus medius and Maximus.

What do your Glutes do?

Glutes engage in a lot of activities even though they are neglected by most of us. Glutes are present in the region where your body can hinge from. So, these are at the junction and other muscles from the upper body and the rest of the lower body also need good support from these muscles.

I will be listing here a few of those from the top of my head, but glutes do a lot more than just these.

  • Rotate and extend your hip joint laterally and in the frontal plane.
  • Glutes also help us in powerful limb movements such as kicking, stepping on a stone, climbing, running, and sprinting but generally not during normal walking.
  • Keeping your posture upright. 
  • Standing on one leg
  • Also responsible for the abduction of the hip joint and this is done mostly by Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus. These also provide stability in the frontal plane.
  • Provides support to your pelvis during gait by producing rotation of the hip.

I can go on but let me just be clear, glutes are one of the most important muscle groups and they are often neglected which can raise other issues.

What causes Weak or Tight Glutes?

There could be several reasons you are having weak or tight glutes, in some cases, it might be due to some health issue. But, let’s address commonly experienced trouble with glutes and why this occurs?

Well, your glutes are muscles like every other body part has but they get numb or dead based on how you use them. Particularly in the modern working culture, where you have to rest your butt on a chair for longer hours than usual and without much movement throughout the day. Your glutes can get inactive and won’t engage in their general functions.

If your glute muscles are not receiving enough attention, then they can fall into a condition called Gluteal Amnesia. We’ll see this below in detail.

Let me address some common issues that make your glute functions problematic:

  • Sitting for long periods.
  • Poor Posture while Sitting and Standing
  • Poor form while Exercising
  • Not warming up before Workout
  • Not Stretching after a Workout

What is Gluteal Amnesia?

Alright, the primary reason for this is sitting for too long but that can’t be the only reason. Let’s see how this happens, the underlying reason is called reciprocal inhibition. Oh, Lord! What is this now? Don’t worry, I will explain.

Let’s examine your sitting position and understand this. When you sit in a chair, there is a tightness in your hip when compared to your normal posture. In turn, this will create a length in your gluteal muscles as they are stretched to support your hip.

If this happens for too long, your neurons that signal muscle fibers to contract will get compromised and over time the mind will learn “maybe this is the new normal” and leaves a weak mind-muscle connection.

Flat Butt and Steatopygia

This is another important aspect we need to cover. Not just whether your glutes are active or inactive but also their shape. This can have a great effect on your gluteal muscles.

Let’s get one thing clear here! You won’t have any amount of control over what kind of shape your butt has from birth as this depends on your genetics.

Flat Butt is where your glutes are underdeveloped or haven’t received enough attention during your growth. Most commonly, this is seen in people who are extremely inactive and haven’t been involved in any sports or physical activities.

The glutes isolation exercises specified in this article will help you develop your glutes gradually and build a firm shape for your buttocks and also by strengthening them.

Steatopygia is a genetic condition where people develop more round butts that are larger. This is common for women but also seen in men. This can create a weak posture also known as Anterior Pelvic Tilt. People who suffer from this condition will have a hard time activating glutes as there is more fat deposit in the buttocks region than usual.

Well, to deal with steatopygia you must incorporate some additional things into your workout regimen that help and you can find them here in butt fat reduction along with following the glute activation process.

If you choose something like Tabata or HIIT for fat loss, then you must go through this article to understand and adapt yourself for getting good results.

But if you are someone who is obsessed with having bigger butts like Kardashian’s and others, then it’s your choice. Here, it is clearly put together training tips for glute shape, in particular for women.

7 Red Flags to spot for Weak Glutes

We will discuss this in detail, I don’t want to leave you in a dilemma with a half examination of your glutes.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

This is a strong indication of weak glutes. You can notice this when you stand and look at your body posture from the side in a mirror. There will be an extreme arch in your lower back.

This happens because of the communication between your muscles but the underlying cause is your weak glutes. You can have an over-extended arch because of an imbalance in your body muscles, your weak glutes cannot support the hip flexors and so your lumbar spine comes into the scene saying “Oh, hey wait! I can keep it in position” and brings your back into a curvature.

 Now your body is pulled from the top and your glutes are not supporting from the bottom, the hip is misaligned and creates a tilt, now because of this your hamstring gets tight because your glutes are not helping and they come to rescue as well. 

One important thing to understand here is your hip is out of place not because of your hamstrings but it is the other way. Most often, when people experience tightness in their hamstrings they immediately try to free it but this can result in an even bigger problem.

We will see how to bring back your glutes into an active state and correct your posture after a few paragraphs.

Loss of Power or Speed as an Athlete

If you are an athlete, there will be an incredible amount of effort needed from your legs. And gluteal muscles being the largest, heaviest muscle group, deliver a huge amount of force. If you are having weak glutes then you can lose this comfort and your legs are going to suffer and even you can experience lower back pain.

Glute Activation Test

  • Get on the floor with your palms and knees as your base.
  • Now lift either one of your legs to make it parallel to the floor. If your pelvis tilts, then it is already unstable.
  • To make this test even better, Bend your knee while lifting your leg. This will take the hamstring out of the action and isolate your glutes.
  • Let’s take a step further, swing your leg up and down. If you are not able to do it correctly then it means you have a weak mind-muscle connection in this area.

It is very important to do this on both legs as sometimes we can see some discrepancies and we don’t want to see this in our strength.

Lunge Test

Take a dumbbell that is heavier than usual and try to balance on your opposite leg. Your pelvis must not wobble or tilt. This will be a sign of weak glutes again. Your glutes are 3-dimensional, they are not on a single plane. Here we are testing the frontal motion and it should be a well-balanced straight.

Bridge Test

  • Lay your back on the floor and bend your knees.
  • Lift your hip to bring your body to a straight line from knees to shoulder.
  • Now, lift either one of your legs and if you can’t balance your body or if your hips start to wobble or drop down immediately, then it’s a sign you have weak glutes
  • Even if you feel a cramp in your hamstrings, this is an indication of weak glutes. Because your glutes must be the ones that drive hip extension.

Low Back Pain Test (Pseudo)

This can be a sign of weak glutes but not completely sure. You can confirm whether this low back pain is caused by weak glutes or not by actually testing yourself with these other tests specified above.

I call this pseudo low back pain because the root cause is gluteal muscles and not your lower back. This will take your glutes away from work as a protective mechanism and continued low-back pain can even inhibit glute muscles even after lower back pain recovery.

Plantar Fasciitis

This can be observed usually on a runner’s feet. Somebody with weak glutes will have an abnormal gait as their hip is not getting enough support and particularly during movement. This will make you develop a bad foot strike position and it could eventually lead to plantar fasciitis, which is a delayed sign of having weak glutes.

How can this affect your Workouts?

Strong glutes are necessary to fully engage your body during workouts. Glutes give extreme support in running, climbing, cardio, and strength training.

If you have weak glutes, during a workout other muscle groups will have to compensate for those and it can lead to serious strains and injuries.

How to Awaken your Glutes

Now, let’s focus on increasing the activity level of your baby’s buttocks, we shouldn’t rush into putting a lot of pressure on them as they are not active for a while. We have to bring them into action gradually.

Dr. Stuart McGill has confirmed with his expertise that these two key exercises will re-establish your gluteal patterns between mind and muscle.

Glute Bridge

This will target your gluteus maximus.

First, lay on your back with your knees bent. Keep your core braced and without arching your lower back.

Squeeze your butt muscles while you are still on the ground and lift your body with your glutes contracted.

At the top, pause for at least 5 seconds while keeping your glutes squeezed.

Clam Shells

This will target your gluteus medius.

Lay on your side with your knees and hips bent and rest your head on your arm.

Bring your feet together and with your core engaged, lift your top knee towards the ceiling and bring it back down. The movement mimics the opening of a clamshell.

You have to perform these exercises mindfully and engage your glutes for at least 3 sets of 10 reps.

Progress with Resistance and Load

Now, that you have brought some activation to glute muscles, your hamstring and lower back will get some relief. It’s time to bring some more training to your buttocks, 3 exercises can fire up your glutes and take those glutes isolation exercises to next level.

These workouts are most commonly found in everybody’s workout regimen. So, we don’t need to go into much detail about them but I will mention a few points.

For all these exercises, you need to maintain at least 3 sets of 10 reps each. 

  1. Lateral Step-Ups
  2. Squats with your feet 45-degree open
  3. Cable pull through

These 3 exercises are going to charge your glutes and other leg muscles including the lower back. These will help in building mind-muscle connection and also to get your glutes to know how to work collaboratively with other muscle groups in movement patterns.

Glutes isolation Exercises in all Dimensions

Not to forget, your glutes are 3-Dimensional and you need to work out in all these planes. So, here are some workouts that will build your glutes to the next level. 

Bringing effective fat loss in your body is imperative to see any results from strength training. So, John has written a great article on losing stubborn fat, this can help you.

These workouts are popularised by Dr. Bret Contreras as the most effective for building stronger glutes.

Hip Thrust (Upper and lower glutes)

  • Pause at the top of this hip thrust
  • Most effective form: Keep your head, neck, and torso straight and hinge at the top.

Squats (Lower Glutes & Quads)

  • The best way to deeply engage your glutes is to open your feet 45-degrees and perform squats. You are going to feel the burn.
  • Great variants of squats exercises are Pause Squats and Temp Squats.

45-Degree Hyperextension (Lower Glutes & Hamstrings)

There are 2-ways you can perform this exercise which will help you to get your glutes more active.

  • Neutral-Neutral-Neutral: This means to maintain the straight line when you are at the top and just hinge your body at the hips but still maintain a neutral position along your torso and legs.
  • Rounding Back & feet 45-degree Open: This is more glutes isolation exercise as rounding your back will disengage your lower back from the exercise and keeping your feet 45-degree open will take the hamstrings out of action. Now, your glutes are working more than in the previous form.

Side-Lying Hip raises (Upper Glutes):

This is one of the toughest exercises. You need to lay on the floor sideways and have to lift your hip by basing it on your arm and foot.

In this workout, all gluteal muscles are at work in the bottom position but at the top (frontal position) gluteus medius is the only boy working.

Nutritional aspects of building Strong Glutes

Building any muscle requires you to maintain proper nutrition and you have to be very disciplined in this process. Whether you are looking to bulk up in this area or trying to burn fat, Diet plays a major part.

If you are already following some diet restrictions in building your body, then it’s fine. Always, try to maintain some healthy protein, fats, and carbohydrates ratio in your meal. These are the macronutrients you need to monitor. Also, the timing of your meal is very important.

Have your pre-workout meal at least 2 hours before the workout and the post-meal workout within 30-45 minutes after the workout. You can spread the rest of the meals throughout the day. And your pre-workout meal must have enough carbs to provide you with the fuel to work out and the post-workout meal must contain enough protein to help your muscles recover and grow.

Include enough veggies so that you can feel satiable and won’t cheat your diet. A lot of people overlook this!

For people who are dealing with steatopygia, you can find here the list of foods to consume and some to avoid. This will give you a good start to deal with the stubborn fat on your behind.

Conclusion

There you go! Now you know how to get rid of those flabby glutes and build strong muscular glutes. Well-developed glutes will not increase your strength and athletic performance but also help you to have more confidence interacting with others, possibly your date. Go ahead and put this to work and enjoy the results.

SUMMARY- Glutes are widely the most overlooked and forgotten muscle group. Let’s see how to re-establish the gluteal patterns and build stronger glutes.

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