Bijgewerkt: 16 mrt 2020
When scrolling through Instagram, it literally took me five seconds to come across this picture:
Round, firm butts are popular these days, and I for one, am not complaining. Not purely for aesthetic reasons, but(t) also for health and performance, the butt (from now on called the glutes) is an important area to focus on. It offers stability to the lower back, a region that pains many people these days. It is shown that strengthening the glutes can greatly help people with low-back pain. For sports, increasing max force output and explosiveness in the hip region can result in greater sports performance.
So, we have at least 3 reasons to include glute work when training. Alas, when we look at how most people train their glutes, there is a LOT of space for improvements.
Popular ways to train the gluteal muscles include:
- Cardio (running, stair walking)
- Group sessions where you do ground based exercises with minimal weight (in Dutch: BBB sessies)
- Pump work in the gym (your typical fitgirl routines)
- Squat and deadlift variations
Well, there isn’t inherently anything bad about these ways of training the glutes, since you work the muscle group, but you easily outgrow these kinds of trainings.
The Gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body (based on volume) and is a very strong one (or at least it has a lot of potential). Because of this, just using your body weight quickly becomes easy for it. When this is the case, the muscle doesn’t really improve much anymore.
This because of something called “the General Adaptation Syndrome”, also called the GAS principle. This basically says that the body adapts tot he stresses put on it. So, when we want to continue progress over time, it is vital to increase the stressor placed upon the body so it needs to adapt to this again, and thus keeps getting stronger. When the stressor stays the same, the body does not need to use its precious energy and resources to adapt, because it is already capable of doing what you are doing.
So, if you want to get results, skip the group/BBB sessions or light pump work and focus on getting your glutes strong as(s) hell!
(Attentive audience): “So what’s the issue with squats then?”
Glad you asked!
For this, we need to look at the glutes themselves:
We see that for the most part, the muscle fibres of the glutes run horizontally. If needed more proof for this, here is an (unwanted) pic of Ronnie Coleman’s glutes:
Why is this important? Because of something called a “load vector”. This is the direction of the force that is placed upon you. When doing squats, you go up and down. When doing deadlifts, the hips move back and forward, but the force from the weight is still vertical (due to this thing called gravity). However, the muscle fibres are horizontal, which is an indication that that muscle is better at front-to back/horizontal force production, as in running (Contreras, B. Advanced techniques in Glutei Maximi strengthening).
So, for optimal stimulus, you want a horizontal load. Most common ways to do this is through hip thrust variants or with a cable station (e.g. pull-throughs).
And finally, the problem with cardio. This is mainly due to the actual muscle stimulus being too low after a certain amount. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to maintain the activity for a long time. Next to that, there is also something called “the interference effect”, which states that combining strength training and endurance training impairs each others progress, but the research is still conflicting, with more recent reviews not supporting this and even showing some benefit to combining the two, albeit with some adjustments.
So, these were some reasons why popular training methods just aren’t cutting it for decent booty development. The logical next step is then to tell you what IS. Well, decent strength training that takes into account how the glutes are built and what their biomechanic functions are. When we know that, it is just a matter of using progressive overload to keep putting the right stresses on the muscles so your body needs to keep adapting without overreaching and potentially cause injury.
How we do this will be explained in Part 2.