(This article was written in 2013, but recently updated.)
If there is one part of your body that makes or breaks your physique, it is your glutes.
I’m talking about your butt, dat booty, your derriere, or even that donk.
The fact of the matter is that even an otherwise well-developed physique looks incomplete with pancake glutes. Have you ever seen one of those quadzilla women at the gym?
From the front she appears to be a serious lifter and looks like she has all the answers. But once she turns to the side her lower body disappears like Batman. Here one minute, but gone the next.
While squats and walking lunges are phenomenal, franchise-building movements, they have one thing in common: they stress the quads more than the glutes. If your program is heavy on those exercises, you will develop bigger quads at the expense of having bigger glutes.
Genes Are King But Training Can Create Big Changes
Genetics is the father of how your glutes will naturally look, but you can maximize your genes through proper training, nutrition, and recovery methodologies. I am going to show you the way.
Your genes will be the author of how your book (your glutes) reads without editing (training/nutrition/recovery). This means that some of us are born with naturally flat butts and some are born with bigger, rounder butts.
I am born with the naturally flat glutes. Other folks are born with a head start in the glutes department like Serena Williams or Jennifer Lopez.
Even if they were not athletes, they would still be far ahead of the average person in terms of glute size.
There are also the examples of lifters who can still build bigger glutes with only squats and lunges because of great glute genetics.
The glutes of athletes who are in sports like track and field stand out in a prominent way. As a result, sprinters have the best glutes in the world because a sprinters’ training program revolves around sprinting and lower body lifts.
When I arrived in college I was 135lbs of nothing but skin, bones, and flat glutes. After 3 years of running track and developing my training programs, I was 155lbs with glutes that sat higher and tighter than a military fade haircut.
We all have the potential to improve our glutes but it will take time and patience. When it comes to building bigger glutes the moves below will save your arse from looking weak, depleted, and ironed flat.
Sprinting is the ultimate training movement.
If I could only do three movements for the rest of my life, sprinting would be my first choice.
If you are not sprinting as a part of your training regimen, you are losing badly in terms of muscle growth, fat loss, conditioning, and high glutes.
When I ran track in college, sprints were the movement most responsible for building the muscle mass in my legs and glutes. No other exercise can create the intense contractions in the glutes and hamstrings like sprinting.
It gets real sometimes during long sprint workouts and your glutes could potentially seize up in the midst of these workouts. That extreme, pumped-up feeling you get in your glutes after longer sprints is what we call bootylock in the track game.
Bootylock is not pleasant in the moment. But the trade-off is that your glutes begin to sit higher and tighter after adding sprinting to your training program.
If sprinting is not a part of your training program but hopping on that lame treadmill/elliptical is then I advise you to make the change unless you enjoy being Pamela Pancake.
A few cues to improve your sprinting are:
–Perform a proper sprinter warm-up. The most common injury in sprinting is the infamous pulled or torn hamstring but you can minimize the chances of it happening by warming up properly.
–If you are brand new to sprinting, start on the hill. The hill acts as a natural governor switch which will prevent you from hitting top speed and blowing out that hammie on day 1.
–Perform your reps at about 80-85 percent speed to start. You have to condition your body to move faster before you get into the 90-95 percent range.
2) Barbell Hip Thrusts
Hip Thrusts are the number 1 barbell glute movement in the book.
This move was brought to the forefront by Bret Contreras in 2009. After reading his classic article “Dispelling the Glute Myth,” I began to implement the barbell hip thrust into my training protocols.
I wish I would have known about this movement during my college track days. Stronger glutes would have definitely made a difference on the track.
The barbell hip thrust is not just for athletes. Many women are searching for ways to add size and curves to their butt and the barbell hip thrust will get them there.
On the flip side many men laugh at the barbell hip thrust and say that it is a “women’s exercise.” This is a completely bogus thought process.
First, the same men used to say the same thing about lunges until they did the lunges and saw that lunges could build phenomenal legs.
Second, with the amount of men I have seen who look like Wario from the rear, they need to get their weak arses under that bar and start thrusting. Their wives would appreciate it too.
There is nothing good in looking like you have one long back instead of glutes that stand out. A few cues to improve your barbell hip thrusts are:
–Make sure your bench set-up is correct. A bench that is too tall or short will limit the results you get from hip thrusting.
–Sit upright. If you are sliding down the bench, you will be losing leverage and making the exercise less effective.
–Properly position your feet. If your feet are too close or far from your hips, you can shift the emphasis away from your glutes.
–Tuck your chin when you thrust. This keeps your core tight and lowers the chances that you arch your back at the top.
3) Bulgarian Split Squats
These are the most brutal move in the gym especially when you do them with a barbell or safety bar.
They require superior strength in the glutes to maximize their effect. In other words, if you possess weak glutes, it will be extremely hard for you to drive yourself out of the bottom of the movement.
For this reason I would recommend that a new lifter start with the bodyweight version and then progress to the dumbbell version before working their way up to the barbell version.
After performing bulgarian split squats, your glutes will be singing as the stretch your glutes get in the bottom of the movement is savage. You will feel the pump after a few reps.
To increase your glute involvement you can:
-take a wider step forward with your front leg, but do not go too far or you will put your groin at a risk for injury.
-set your back foot higher on the adjustable single-leg squat stand, but do not go too high as again you could put your groin at risk for injury.
A few cues to improve your bulgarian split squats are:
-You must have balance. Don’t even think about adding more weight until you have the balance and control to handle it.
-As you descend into the movement, make sure your knee gently contacts the floor before rising up.
-Keep your chest high for the duration of the movement and do not bend at your waist.
RDL’s (aka Romanian Deadlifts) are a variation of the deadlift that puts more emphasis on the posterior chain (back, hamstrings, and glutes).
RDL’s definitely hit the hamstrings harder than they hit the glutes, but the glutes are still involved to a large degree at certain points during the movement.
When you are lifting the weight from the bottom to the top of the RDL, the glutes are the main muscle working to help you lock out the weight to complete a rep. Many lifters get stuck near the top of RDL’s because they do not have the glute strength to lock out the rep.
A few cues to improve your RDL’s are:
-Perform your first rep as if it was a conventional deadlift.
-As you descend into the movement push your hips back and keep your back flat.
-Keep the barbell close to your body for the entire rep so that you prevent your lower back from getting injured. If the bar escapes you, your lower back will be in serious jeopardy of getting injured. That pain you feel will be singing like a low ranking minion facing life in prison.
5) Barbell Hip/Back Extensions
If you want to squeeze more growth out of your glutes, hip extensions should be a part of your program.
Most lifters do back extensions in horrendous fashion by arching their lower back hard at the top of the movement. They have seen every commercial gym trainee do them this way, but what actually happens in this scenario is that your lower back is hyperextended beyond belief.
Hyperextending your lower back in any exercise can lead to a serious back injury. In 2012 I once hyperextended on a heavy deadlift and suffered a terrific lower back injury.
I learned my lesson as I paid the steep price of not being able to deadlift for about 9 months due to pain.
When you do hip extensions in a certain way, you will put all of the emphasis on your hamstrings and glutes instead of overcooking your lower back like bad salmon.
A few cues to improve your barbell hip extensions are:
-Turn your feet out on the platform to engage your glutes and hamstrings significantly more than having your feet straight.
-Round your upper back as you come up to the top to keep the tension on your backside therefore sparing your lower back.
6) Barbell or Dumbbell Reverse Lunges
Barbell reverse lunges are very tough mentally and physically, but they are very good for the glutes.
Stepping back into the lunge instead of walking forward while lunging works the glutes harder. While the knee still does bend in this lunge, the quads do not completely dominate the movement as they do in walking lunges.
The advantage of the barbell reverse lunge vs. the dumbbell reverse lunge is that you can really load up good weight without having to worry about your hands. Your grip will always quit before your legs do.
Barbell reverse lunges also do not take up a lot of space. You can perform them in the power rack.
By adding a forward stretch in your front leg while you are descending to the floor you can stress the glutes even more.
Remember your back knee must contact the floor for the lunge to count. Fake hustle reps build a fake hustle body and you cannot fake your way through barbell reverse lunges.
A few cues to improve your barbell reverse lunges are:
-As you step back into the lunge, keep your chest up.
-When you descend towards the ground make sure your knee gently contacts the floor to reach full range.
-Push through your heel and mid-foot to stand back up.
Notable Omission: Barbell Squats
Squats are at the top of the list for overall leg movements for good reason. They build tons of muscle and strength in your lower body.
Although the glutes are definitely involved in squatting the quads always take the brunt of the movement.
I’ve seen many lifters in my day both male and female who could squat all day and were the definition of a quadzilla.
The truth about the squat would always be revealed when they turned around and their glutes and hamstrings were significantly smaller than their thick thighs.
Big, round, and cut quads look great, but not at the expense of having Olive Oil’s glute development.
I’ll always be a major fan of squatting for overall leg gains and adding size to the quads. But after years of trials with myself and my clients I would not rank it high for pure glute development.
I’ll let you know that in 2013, when I wrote the previous version of this article, I advocated squats for glutes but I have learned so much more about physique development since then.
Keep squats in your program, just do not expect them to work any miracles for your glutes by themselves.
But always remember, thick thighs save lives.
Knowing is a third of the battle but planning and execution make up the rest. How can you use these movements to build big glutes if you do not even have a legit training program?
I will share a basic protocol below. You will replace your regular lower body days with workouts that put the emphasis on your glutes.
Workout Split (4 Lifting Days and 2 Sprinting Days)
Monday-Lower Body A
Tuesday-Upper Body A and Sprinting A or B
Thursday-Lower Body B
Saturday-Upper Body B and Sprinting A or C
Lower Body A (RP-21)
Barbell Hip Thrusts SS GHR 7×3
Barbell Reverse Lunges SS 45 Degree Hip Extensions 6×5 (10 total lunges)
Hip Thrust Pumper 3×15
-use a weight you could get 18-20 reps with at this point
-perform 15 reps
-rest 1 minute
-repeat twice more
-turn to the side and writhe in agony from the serious bootylock you now have
Seated Calf Raises 5×10
Note: You can use dumbbells or barbells for the hip extensions based on how strong you currently are. Make it your goal to use the barbell version.
Lower Body B (Volume)
Bulgarian Split Squats 5×10
RDL SS Barbell Hip Thrusts 4×8
Standing Calf Raises 5×10
Sprinting A (choose one)
1) 30-60 yard/meter hill sprints x 6-8 reps
2) 30-60 yard/meter track sprints x 6-8 reps
-your rest is the walk back plus 1-2 minutes
Sprinting B (choose one)
1) 80m, 100m, 120m, 150m x 1-2 sets
2) 200m, 150m, 120m, 100m x 1-2 sets
-your rest is the walk back plus 1-2 minutes
Sprinting C (choose one)
1) 150m, 200m, 250m, 300m x 1-2 sets
2) 300m, 200m, 100m, 100m x 1-2 sets
-your rest is the walk back plus 2-3 minutes
Note: Unless noted, the sprints should be performed on the track or a turf field if you need to use a softer surface.
If you are sprinting with more intensity (85-90 percent speed) use 1 set (B or C). If you are sprinting at a lower intensity (75-80 percent speed) use 2 sets (B or C). Keep in mind these are not pure speed development workouts.
The training is laid out but it will not equate to you building a bigger butt without adequate nutrition.
To gain mass in your glutes while using this scheme, you have to increase your calories so that you can build more muscle. In other words, the growth you want will not occur with a nutrition plan suited for a bird.
It’s hard for me to give you the exact numbers you need to grow because I have no idea what you currently eat. I also do not know how fast your metabolic rate is.
Here are some calorie estimates that you could use to put the emphasis on gaining size:
Eating on training days
Your current bodyweight x 14-16 = your caloric intake
Your current caloric intake + 250-500 calories
Eating on non-training days
Your current bodyweight x 12-13 = your caloric intake
Your current caloric intake + 125-175 calories
The calories are going up on training days to support your glute growth. In the same vein your calories on non-training days will come down a bit as you do not need the same amount of food on rest days.
If you consume too much food on off days, you will add more body fat to your frame. As far as foods go, I have provided a sample list below of some of your options:
You also want to aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
Growth does not occur in the gym when you are breaking your muscles down. Your muscles get bigger and stronger when after you train you feed them and then allow them to properly recover.
Do not skimp on sleep or you will not maximize the size of your glutes. I was that lifter in my younger days and he does not grow.
While sleep is directly related to better glute gains, living a low stress life is just as important. If you waste energy on frivolous things in life you will be going nowhere fast.
Have you ever seen someone who is always stressed out? They look worn out, weathered, and they seem to be on the edge most of the time.
Somebody taking your parking spot or a restaurant getting your order wrong are no reasons to lose control. Somebody having a difference of opinion than you or the weather not being ideal are also not reasons to blow things up.
Take that energy and put it into your goal which is to build bigger glutes. You will reach the end goal faster if you can manage your stress levels.
Even if you were born with the serious condition known as Nassatol (pronounced Nah-Sa-Tall), there is hope.
By consistently performing these basic movements, eating enough food, and prioritizing sleep/low stress, you will be walking around with thicker and rounder glutes.
I’ll holla at you next time.
The People’s Trainer
You may also be interested in:
DID YOU LIKE THIS POST?
Join our mailing list and be first to get the latest news.