I do wonder how it happened. When I got into the fitness industry, what most people said was important to them was what you probably would guess. Better arms, chiseled abs, big chests, defined legs, were 99% of the goals that I was told my clients wanted to achieve. So, you can imagine my surprise how popular glute exercises have become in all walks of life in fitness.
On one hand I think it is awesome, people understanding how glute exercises can be a big part of helping the low back epidemic and playing an integral role in real world strength are slam dunk reasons to make glute exercises a priority. I definitely think SOME of those things are part of the popularity of glute exercises, some of it I am sure is the value we have in a nicely defined back side, but to be honest, I can’t even say I saw people going crazy for glute exercises like we see now.
As long as it is a positive thing, we don’t often need to know why, what we may benefit from more so is helping people understand the how! It doesn’t matter the goal, if it is a positive one, I want to do everything we can to help people achieve them.
You could imagine that is really why I get frustrated when people don’t understand what makes for good glute exercises. It isn’t hard with glutes or any other body part to “waste” a lot of time going for the pump. Why did I use quotation marks with the idea of wasting time? Mostly because in this day and age, consistent and well intended movement is never really a bad thing. Especially if it is safe. What I mean by “waste” is can we get more out of it than just looking better.
While looking better is a great goal, if we dig a bit deeper we see we can get more out of glute exercises than a nice looking back side. Heck, we might even find BETTER ways to enhance the look of our back side if we think about smarter ways of using glute exercises.
Real World Glutes
One of the key ways to actually developing glute exercises that really make a difference is looking at how the glutes are really made to operate in human function. A great article by Bram Swinnen explained what the glutes do in life,
“The gluteal muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) stabilise the hip by counteracting gravity’s hip adduction torque and maintain proper leg alignment by eccentrically controlling adduction and internal rotation of the thigh [6, 7].
The gluteus maximus allows us to maintain an upright position needed for bipedalism. Through evolution the gluteus maximus enlarged in humans as a means to stabilise the trunk while standing and counteract the high impact forces that tend to flex the trunk anteriorly during running and sprinting.”
As you can see the glutes are really important for locomotion, but we do such a bad job of creating progressions and movements that help stimulate these qualities. That’s why we can start on the ground for many our glute exercises, but we want to get standing as soon as possible. WHAT we teach on the ground though is more important than just doing exercises on the ground. Jessica shows some great starting points that go with the fact that the position of our pelvis and getting people to create force from the right points are very important in building good glute activation.
Once we get to standing, we have so many ways to build glute exercise that match what we do in life. As Swinnen describes, our glutes are most active when we move in ways that we are not just going up and down!
“The gluteus maximus is especially active during stair climbing, running and activities that involve stabilising the trunk against flexion [9, 37, 38, 39]. An exercise that combines these movements would trigger a strong contraction of the gluteus maximus and addresses both the stabilising and movement role. Single-leg stance exercises require the gluteus medius, minimus and upper part of the gluteus maximus to resist gravity’s hip adduction torque.” (you can read the whole article HERE)
This is reinforced by a 2018 study by Tobey et. al that stated, “single leg glute bridges require stabilization of both the hip abductors and core muscles through isometric contraction. Because strong gluteal and hamstring groups are imperative in lateral stabilization and explosive linear movement, the single leg glute bride is beneficial to the general population and athletes in a verity of sports, such as soccer, football, and rugby.” (study HERE)
A lot of people are starting to embrace more single leg based movements, although it is still a struggle to get people to see how smaller numbers deliver bigger results, that focus on more single leg based exercises is one solution. Others are starting to use loaded carries to meet these demands of the glutes, BUUUUUT they are missing the fact that people need strength training in these other areas to really benefit from loaded carries.
Carries are often performed for their training of the lateral hip. However, due to weakness, lack of training of these muscles, and people have poor core stability going RIGHT to loaded carries isn’t the answer. Actually focusing on strength training the lateral system is very important, novel idea right?!
While we have gone over side planks a lot, which is a great baseline, the reality is that lateral strength training should go from foundational to complex like everything else! The video below is how we do so, but where I do the most complex first;)
Using such lateral training comes to being very power based like Shawn Below demonstrates below..
More complex deadlifts like renowned fitness expert, Alwyn Cosgrove shows…
And as DVRT Master Cory Cripe shows, lateral strength goes both directions and can be a hinge or a lunge!
The cool thing about spending just a little time teaching people about how the body works is that a much bigger world of functional fitness opens to us. Not only to offer us more variety, but actually and opportunity to integrate BETTER training!
Don’t miss the opportunity to use many of these great DVRT drills with our DVRT Water Bags. The movement of the water will really help you “wake up” the core and glutes, but more importantly, will teach you about accurate movement. Best of all, our DVRT Water Bags come WITH sand filler too! Save 25% with coupon code “strong” HERE and get our free DVRT Water Bag manual too!
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