If you want to increase the size of your muscles, you must increase your workload and give your body the nutrition it needs. Today I focus on the beloved glutes.
My primary focus for having strong glutes is not just to look good in a figure hugging pair of jeans or leggings. It’s also to ensure that this powerful muscle group is activating to improve my sports performance, and prevent unnecessary injuries associated with having weak glute muscles. The fact that a toned booty looks good is simply an added perk.
Your glutes are essentially your powerhouse and they contract to move your hips in every direction, powering you up, down, forward, backward and side-to-side. They are your body’s largest and most powerful muscle group, and because they’re big, working them can increase your metabolic rate and burn excess calories.
If you want to maximize your glute workout, consider performing both strength and cardio focused exercises in one routine. I like to do an activation exercise, followed by bootie lifting cardio and end with targeted moves.
Getting your glutes fired up and ready for your workout is an important step that you should not miss. Performing specific glute activation exercises prior to doing traditional squats, lunges, and deadlifts will result in a better and more focused workout. Glute activation is simply waking up your glutes and making the connection from your brain to your muscles so they are ready to do some work. These specific exercises should be performed as part of your dynamic warm-up prior to your workout.
My two favorite activation exercises are:
The basic glute bridge is simple. Start out by lying flat on the floor. Bend one knee at a time and place your feet flat on the floor. Your heels should be about 12 inches away from your glutes, hip-distance apart. Get comfortable in this position. The aim is to lift your hips up off the floor into a bridge position. To do this, you push through your heels to lift your butt off the floor. At the top of the movement, pause and squeeze your glutes, then gently lower back down.
Tip: Don’t push up too high, as this will stress your lower back. Make sure your body weight is distributed through your heels and upper back. At no time should you feel like your body weight is on your neck. To make it more challenging, lift one leg.
Resistance Lateral Walks
Using mini bands is a perfect way to activate your glutes. Simply put the mini band around your ankles, get into an athletic stance with slightly bent knees and walk laterally. Try to move your upper body as little as possible.
Performing cardiovascular exercise is essential for good heart health. Doing it on a regular basis can help you to improve your overall fitness level, burn calories and relieve stress. The best cardio-based exercise for working your glutes is sprinting (preferably up hill).
Sprinting is essentially the weight-lifting of running, especially when you throw hill running into the mix. The reason: your posterior chain muscles, including your calves, hamstrings and glutes, generate a lot of the power that is required. If you’re not ready for high impact activities like sprinting, consider walking up hill or doing step-ups on the stair climber.
If you wish to enhance or strengthen a particular muscle group, adding targeted exercises to your routine is important. There are many exercises that target the glutes, but these are my three favorites.
Squats: There are many variations to this amazing exercise. No matter if you are new to exercising or a seasoned professional, find the types of squat that are most comfortable for your body and add them into your fitness routine three days a week.
The options are endless and include a basic squat with no weights, with weights, with a jump or incorporating speed variations. You could even work your way up to split squats and one-legged squats.
Curtsey lunge with leg lift: This lunge works your inner and outer thighs, as well as your glutes. Stand tall and place your hands on the back of a chair for balance. Take a backward lunge step with your left leg, taking your back foot just past the mid-line of your body. The knee on your front leg (right leg) should not pass the line of your toe as you lower your body. Keep your core muscles tight and back straight. Return to standing and keep a flexed foot; now take your leg out to the side.
Deadlift: The deadlift is an excellent exercise for your hamstrings (back of your legs), butt and lower back. Because this move involves a forward leaning stance, good form is essential to keep your body safe and to get the maximum benefits.
Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands on your thighs. Keeping your back flat with a neutral spine, engage your core muscles and push your hips back as you lower your torso. Let your hands slide down to your shins—or as far as you can go while keeping a flat back. With your body weight in your heels, begin to rise back up and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. Once you master this movement without weights, try it with dumbbells or a weighted bar to ensure that you keep the weights close to your thighs. Don’t hyperextend your back. You can have a very slight bend in the knees as you go through this movement.
No amount of exercise will improve your body without proper nutrition, so be sure to fuel your body with what it needs to perform and repair itself. Each day you need to ensure that you’re consuming enough protein to allow your body to build muscle and repair itself. When you’re trying to gain muscle, you must consume an adequate number of calories each day and train hard in the gym.
Samantha Clayton is responsible for all activities relating to exercise and fitness education for Independent Herbalife Members and employees. Through in-person training sessions, educational tools and materials, and her blog (www.discovergoodfitness.com), she ensures that the important role of exercise as part of a healthy, active life is understood by all. She also helps create, organize and promote employee fitness programs and activities as an integral part of the company’s corporate wellness program.
A native of Liverpool, England, Samantha initially worked as a consultant for Herbalife for two years and led the Herbalife24-Fit program, the company’s first comprehensive fitness training program and DVD series.
Before joining the corporate ranks, Samantha was a professional athlete. She represented Great Britain in the 2000 Sydney Olympics in both the 200m and the 4x100m relay events. Prior to the Olympics, she won two medals in the Olympic AAA trials – a silver medal for the 200m and a bronze for the 100m – as well as a silver medal in the 4x100m relay during the European Junior Championships in 1997. Her personal records include 11.40 seconds in the 100m and 23.02 seconds in the 200m.
Samantha is a personal trainer and group exercise coach through the American Fitness and Aerobics Association (AFAA) and International Sport Science Association (ISSA).