Source: Web exclusive: July 2010
Knowing your glutes
The gluteus region is made up of three main muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Although the gluteus maximus is the strongest in the group, the gluteus medius and minimus should not be ignored.
Why the glutes are important
The glutes stabilize your pelvis when you sit, stand or walk. This helps with posture and lowers the amount of stress placed on the lower back, spine, hips and knee joints.
The glutes also help with these moves:
‘ Extension of the hip (brings leg back)
‘ External rotation of the hip (moves thigh or pelvis outward)
‘ Abduction of the hip (pulls the thigh away from the body)
‘ Internal rotation of the hip (moves thigh or pelvis inward)
‘ Transverse abduction of the hip (moves thigh away from body when hip is bent).
Choose the routine that’s right for you
Determine the shape of your butt and choose the program designed to make your backside toned and lifted.
Round: Outline begins at the hips and keeps a full figure all around, similar to an apple bottom
Repetitions/sets: 8-12 reps / 2-3 sets
Tempo: moderate or fast
Upside-down: A butt that sits between a small waist and bigger hips; similar to a pear
Repetitions/sets: 0-15 reps / 2-3 sets
Flat: No definite contours; can appear saggy or non-existent
Repetitions/sets: 8-10 reps / 2-3 sets
Note: Tempo is the speed the exercise is performed at.
A slow tempo is a 1-2-3 count up with the same speed down.
A moderate tempo suggests you move in a 1-2 count up and a 1-2 count down.
A fast tempo means that the movement is explosive for a count of 1-0-1.
Adding variety to your routine will keep the muscles guessing and stimulated for better results. Avoid overdoing it; the exercises are divided into two groups to be done on non-consecutive days. Alternating weeks, do the program for four weeks, then repeat with increased intensity or difficulty.
Exercises for program A: Lunges, single-leg deadlift, lying lateral leg lifts
Lunges works glutes, thighs and core
Stand with your feet together, hands on your hips or behind your head.
- Step forward with the right leg. Bend both knees and begin lowering yourself until the front thigh is parallel with the ground and the left knee is almost touching the ground. Both legs should create 90-degree angles at the knee. Your torso should be straight up and down, not bent over.
- Keeping an even weight distribution on both feet, return to starting position and alternate legs.
Intermediate → Try holding dumbbells at your sides or on your shoulders.
Advanced → Add a jump when returning to starting position and quickly switch the forward foot in mid-air.
Single-leg deadlift works glutes, hamstring, core
Stand straight with your feet staggered, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing toward your body.
- Shift your weight onto the front leg and begin bending forward, keeping your back and arms straight, until the weights are just below your knees (you will feel a stretch in the back of your thighs).
- Raise your back leg to form a straight line with your head, hips and heels. The front leg should remain slightly bent throughout the exercise to avoid straining the knee. Avoid leaning forward by drawing your belly button in towards your spine. Keep the majority of your body weight on the heel of your front foot.
- Contract your glutes as you return to the starting position without letting the back leg touch the ground. Repeat on the same leg for the required number of repetitions then switch to the opposite leg.
Intermediate → Try a heavier weight.
Advanced → Add a small hop once back at starting position.
Trouble with balance? Start by holding a weight in one hand and use your free hand to balance against a wall.
Lying lateral leg lifts works glutes ( primarily the glute medius and minimus)
Lie on your side with your shoulder, hip, knee and ankle all forming a straight line. Bend your bottom leg at a comfortable angle and keep the top leg straight with your ankle pointing toward the ceiling
- Lift the upper leg toward the ceiling (approximately 2-3 inches), contracting your buttock muscles at the same time. Ankle points towards the ceiling.
- Lower the leg (but don’t let it rest) and repeat the movement in a small fast pulsing manner.
Change the angle of the leg relative to your body after you have completed the set repetitions at one angle: after straight leg lefts, try leg at 45 degrees and leg at 90 degrees
Intermediate → Do in a side-plank position with forearms on the ground.
Advanced → Do in a side-plank position with your hand on the ground placed directly under your shoulder.
Exercises for program B: Squats, plié squat, bridge
Squats works glutes, thigh and core
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly turned out. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
- Initiating the movement from your knees, lower your hips backward until your thighs are parallel with the ground (or as close as you can get them). Maintain an upright torso, a forward gaze and keep your knees aligned over your ankles. To protect your knees, don’t let them go farther forward than your toes.
- Pause and return to starting position by contracting your glutes as your straighten your legs. Your weight should be evenly distributed between the balls of your feet and your heels. Do not lock your knees at the end of the motion.
Intermediate → Try single leg squats. Use a chair for some extra guidance on the squat pattern.
Advanced → Jump out of the squat as high as you can. Start with only your body weight and progress to holding weights. This increases the muscle fibre recruitment, particularly in the gluteus maximus.
Plié squat works glutes, inner and outer thighs
Stand with your feet wider than hip width apart and your toes turned out (approximately 45 degrees). With both hands hold a dumbbell in front of you with arms straight but not locked.
- Keeping your torso upright and your abdominals tight, lower your hips until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Widen your stance if your knees appear to be over your toes.
- Return to starting position.
Intermediate → Try holding the dumbbell at chest level with your arms stretched out.
Advanced → Add a jump at the end of the movement for increased muscle stimulation.
Bridge works butt, lower back, hamstrings
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor directly below your knees, and hands at your sides.
- Lift your butt off the mat as high as you can go. Press down with the heels of your feet, toes pointing forward.
- Hold the position and lower your butt back to starting position without allowing a rest between repetitions. Repeat.
Intermediate → Put your feet on a bench or stability ball.
Advanced → Do the exercise with one leg.
Jesseny Rojas is a personal trainer who uses a multi-disciplinary approach to empower individuals with a sense of ownership over their health, fitness and overall well-being.