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Building bigger glutes: a comprehensive guide

Are you looking to build bigger, stronger glutes? While larger glutes are a highly desired physical characteristic, they also play a crucial role in stabilizing and strengthening the lower body.


In this blog post, we will delve into glute musculature and provide you with valuable insights on effective exercise selection, nutrition’s role in bigger glutes, and strategies for maximizing muscle growth while in the gym.


Muscles involved

Your glutes are comprised of 3 muscles, the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.


A man in athleisure holds a start position for a conventional barbell deadlift while in a gym.

Glute Maximus

The largest of this muscle group is the glute maximus or glute max for short. This is the outermost glute muscle and plays a crucial role in hip extension, which is the movement that brings the leg behind the body. The gluteus max also helps to maintain proper posture and stability in the lower back.


Glute medius

The smaller muscle that lies beneath the gluteus maximus is known as the glute medius. This muscle is located on the outer surface of the pelvis and plays a key role in maintaining balance and stability. Specifically, it helps to keep the pelvis level during walking, running, and other lower-body movements, prevents excessive tilting or dropping of the hip on one side, and plays a critical role in proper knee tracking.


Glute minimus

The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the group and is located beneath the maximus and medius. The gluteus minimus works in conjunction with the gluteus medius to stabilize the pelvis, maintain balance, and prevent excessive inward rotation of the hip joint, ensuring proper alignment and function during movement.


Together, these three muscles of the glutes play a crucial role in lower body strength, stability, and overall function as they work together to support and power various movements, from basic daily activities to intense athletic performance.


A personal trainer watches as his client holds two 35lbs dumbbells and performs a split squat

Exercise selection

If your goal is to build size and strength in your glutes, it's important to incorporate compound exercises that primarily target the hips. Compound exercises use multiple muscle groups which, in the case of the glutes, will allow you to target more muscles at the same time ensuring none are missed, while also saving time.


Incorporating a combination of leg-focused movements like deadlifts, squats, hip thrusts, lunges, and their variations as your core lifts will help you target the muscles surrounding the hips. The key here is to include multiple exercises, not just one or two.


A 2021 position stand on muscle hypertrophy found that by including multiple exercises in your program to target your desired muscle group, like the hip region, elicits a more complete development of musculature (4).


In addition, it’s important to consider the plane of motion or the direction you’re moving, whether it’s front and back, side to side, or rotational. Far too often we choose exercises that move front to back, known as the sagittal plane, and the problem with this is we don’t solely move in that way naturally.


Incorporating a variety of directions in your exercises can also help. For example, a lateral lunge will allow for greater activation of the glute medius, while a deep step-up will give you a greater range of motion for the glute Maximus.


A personal trainer encourages his client to complete his repetition while the client is mid-squat

Progressive overload

Exercise selection is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to muscle growth. As mentioned in a previous blog post, progressive overload refers to the gradual increase in intensity during your workouts.


Progressive overload can be implemented via volume by increasing sets, reps, and weight, by changing your exercises, and by reducing rest times. Of particular importance, time under tension and variation are two methods that are often forgotten.


Time under tension

To maximize muscle growth, pay attention to the tempo or time under tension you are using during your exercises. By increasing the time it takes to complete a rep, you increase the tension in your muscles, thus challenging the body through a longer range of motion, both concentric and eccentrically, leading to an increase in muscle damage (3).


A 2019 systematic review that examined 30 other studies related to maximizing muscle growth found varied results when it came to optimal rep tempo. However, studies did find a slower, controlled tempo throughout the entire rep can contribute to said growth (3).


A personal trainer demonstrates a forward lunge to shoulder press exercise while in a gym.

Maintaining moderate, controlled speeds allows for constant tension in your working muscles, increasing local muscle damage and blood restriction, leading to a more significant muscle growth response.


Variation

Additionally, consider incorporating variation into your workout routine. Your body adapts to stimuli relatively quickly, which is why applying variation to your fitness program has shown to be an incredibly effective variable in a training program (2,4).


Approximately every 4-6 weeks, change your exercise program to some extent. You can switch up the exercises performed, include more sets and reps, or change the tempo, among other possibilities described in my previous progressive overload post.


Nutrition

Now you can do everything right in the gym, but if you’re not eating enough protein, your efforts will not transpire into your achieved outcome. Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in the growth, repair, and maintenance of our body's cells and tissues and is critical to maximizing strength and muscle growth.


A close look at a jar of overnight oats seen with berries.

The findings of a 2017 position stand from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition indicate that consuming 1.6g of protein/kg of bodyweight per day had a positive effect on gaining lean mass (1). This suggests that going beyond the recommended daily allowance, which is about 0.8g/kg of bodyweight, can yield better outcomes in strength training (1).


Eating enough protein in your day can be challenging for some, so in order to eat more of this important macronutrient, consider including more animal-based protein sources, like fish and low-fat Greek yogurt, as well as plant-based protein sources, like whole grains and nuts. Incorporating whey or vegan protein powder into your day is also effective. I’ve also outlined more tips on increasing your protein intake in a separate blog.


Putting it into action

In conclusion, building bigger and stronger glutes is not only desirable for aesthetic reasons but also important for overall lower body strength and stability. By incorporating compound movements into your workout routine, paying attention to factors such as progressive overload, time under tension, and variation, and consuming enough protein in your diet, you can effectively achieve bigger, stronger glutes.


Keep pushing yourself, stay dedicated, and embrace the journey to a stronger, healthier you.


 

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When you’re busy, staying fit can get put on the back burner, causing your fitness goals to suffer. Discover how a certified personal trainer can help you stay on track with your fitness goals by visiting shifttostrength.com/onlinetraining today.


 

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References

  1. Jäger, R., Kerksick, C. M., Campbell, B. I., Cribb, P. J., Wells, S. D., Skwiat, T. M., ... & Antonio, J. (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14(1), 20. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8

  2. Kraemer, W. J., & Ratamess, N. A. (2004). Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Medicine and science in sports and exercise36(4), 674–688. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000121945.36635.61

  3. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review of advanced resistance training techniques and methods. International journal of environmental research and public health16(24), 4897. https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fijerph16244897

  4. Schoenfeld, B., Fisher, J., Grgic, J., Haun, C., Helms, E., Phillips, S., ... & Vigotsky, A. (2021). Resistance training recommendations to maximize muscle hypertrophy in an athletic population: Position stand of the IUSCA. International Journal of Strength and Conditioning1(1). https://doi.org/10.47206/ijsc.v1i1.81

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