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How To Build Glutes Smarter & Get Stronger

Ultimate Sandbag exercises

There is a weird narrative out there in social media land (I don’t know if I consider social media the real world so I give its own designation) that when you train in “functional” ways you don’t build muscle as effectively as you would if you focused on one particular muscle. When this does influence people it can actually cause them to shy away from ideas that could help them in more profound ways than they could imagine, especially when it comes to being healthier and stronger. A good example I’ll cover today is how this relates to all the talk about the glutes.

I don’t think I have to convince you too hard to train your glutes. The PR team for glutes has done a great job of raising awareness that the muscle group we can often see the least is incredibly important for our ability to be strong, powerful, and resilient to issues related to the low back and knees. However, there is even another reason that your glutes are VERY important.

There is A LOT of research that training the glutes can help even ankle and foot dysfunction. A study in The Journal Of Sport Therapy found, ” Improved clinical and patient-reported outcomes in the training group suggest hip strengthening is beneficial in the management and prevention of recurrent symptoms associated with chronic ankle instability).


Another study in The Journal Of Sport Rehabilitation found, “Hip-focused neuromuscular exercise produced immediate alterations in foot pronation and dynamic balance. Thus, the hip-focused neuromuscular exercise may be used to control foot posture in foot rehabilitation integrated with a kinetic chain approach and could be an effective prevention and treatment strategy.”

A big reason it is important to work on the qualities of functional training is that we see this flow happen both ways. There is evidence a sprained ankle and foot issues can cause changes in the glutes and that training the glutes can help improve foot and ankle issues. When we improve both through integrated exercises then we can see far better results in helping knee, low back, and even shoulder pain issues (the shoulder is connected to the core and opposite hip).

Of course the real question for most people is how does this impact the training of our glutes? Should we focus on just going to town on isolating our glutes, isn’t that the best way to work the glutes if we want to improve their function and growth?

To help illustrate why functional training as we show in DVRT is probably the preferred way to train the glutes, let’s examine some really interesting findings of a 2023 study comparing a barbell hip thrust to a barbell back squat (you can read HERE).

In the study, heavy barbell hip thrusts were compared to heavy barbell back squats in their ability to develop muscle in the glutes as well as some strength measures. What did they find? The hypertrophy gain of the glutes was similar in BOTH, but the squat group also achieved greater overall thigh muscle as well as the fact the researchers found, “sEMG amplitudes could not reliably predict hypertrophic outcomes across several analytical approaches.”

THIS IS HUGE because it is often believed that the greater muscle activation that we measure means that an exercise creates more muscle (seems logical right), however, this study showed that NOT to be the case! As the paper goes on to explain, “This finding implies that acute sEMG readings during a workout but are not predictive of hypertrophic outcomes, and this viewpoint is supported by a recent review by Vigotsky et al.” So, why do we give such power over EMG measurements rather than how the body is designed to function?

As this 2012 paper in Sports Medicine explains, the kinetic chain should be our goal in training…

“The hip, knee, and ankle joints when taken together, comprise the lower extremity kinetic chain. Kinetic chain exercises like the squat recruit all 3 links in unison while exercises such as seated quadriceps extensions isolate one link of the chain. Biomechanical assessment with force diagrams reveals that ACL strain is reduced during kinetic chain exercise by virtue of the axial orientation of the applied load and muscular co-contraction.

Additionally, kinetic chain exercise through recruitment of all hip, knee, and ankle extensors in synchrony takes advantage of specificity of training principles. More importantly, however, it is the only way to reproduce the concurrent shift of ‘antagonistic’ biarticular muscle groups that occurs during simultaneous hip, knee, and ankle extension. Incoordination of the concurrent shift fostered by exercising each muscle group in isolation may ultimately hamper complete recovery. Modifying present day leg press and isokinetic equipment will allow clinicians to make better use of kinetic chain exercise and allow safe isokinetic testing of the ACL reconstructed knee. Reconstruction of the ACL with a strong well placed graft to restore joint kinematics, followed by scientifically sound rehabilitation to improve dynamic control of tibial translation, will improve the outcome after ACL injury.”

What are better ways to train the glutes? Check out these great DVRT ideas by Lina Midla showing how we can move from foundational to pretty advanced training of the glutes by using progressing body position and the planes of motion we use to increase the use of all muscles in the kinetic chain. It shouldn’t be a choice of feeling or looking better if you follow such ideas.

Want to learn more? Don’t miss our upcoming Foot & Knee Masterclass HERE and right now, this week only, you can save 30% on our other online certifications, courses (the masterclass is not included), and Ultimate Sandbag equipment with code “spring” HERE