If you're following Fit With Iulia's Build a Booty at the Gym workout program then you're already on the right track to growing your glutes, but it still doesn't hurt to know the key to maximizing your leg day for better glute muscle growth! And if you're not following her program, we'll tell you how you can try your first workout for free after we give you all the important stuff first!
So, you want to grow stronger glutes? It's quite a common fitness goal nowadays! The glutes are a large muscle group, and growing them not only will help give you the curves you've been dreaming about, but it will also help stabilize your body during exercise, improve your posture by helping hold your body upright, and overall just help you move better throughout the day! The problem is, most don't know how strategically grow this large muscle!
Many women tend to squat their lives away expecting massive results in their lower body, but more than often, they're left disappointed. We're here to break the bad news - focusing solely on squats is not going to help build the strong glutes you've been dreaming of. Squats are a key compound exercise that everyone should be practicing regularly, but despite common misconception, it's not the best or only way to build stronger glutes.
Iulia has an entire workout program dedicated to helping you "build a booty" so we know a strategy or a few that will help maximize your lower body workouts to get you on the right track to grow rounder, stronger glutes!
How do your glute muscles work?
To understand how to grow your glutes effectively, you must know how the muscles actually work! The glutes are a huge muscle group comprised of three primary muscles - gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Aside from those three, there are six supporting muscles that are found under the gluteus muscles and are known as the "deep six". These muscles work together to help stabilize your body when you stand up, walk, and/or twist your body. Just like your core, these muscles play an integral role in functional everyday movements, not just from your workout routine.
Let's take a closer look at how exactly these muscles work...
- Gluteus maximus: This is actually the largest muscle in your body that helps keep your torso upright as it works against gravity. The upper part of the muscle helps to drive hip extensions, hip abductions, and external rotations. The lower section helps drive transverse abduction, meaning rotating the leg out to the side in a horizontal plane. This is why many lifters perform glute exercises that involve hip extensions and abductions like squats.
- Gluteus medius: This muscle sits near the outside of your pelvis. Its main purpose is to help with side-stepping. So, abducting and rotating your legs inward.
- Gluteus minimus: This is the smallest of the three primary muscles and it lies directly under the gluteus medius. It assists with abducting your leg away from the center of your body and rotating your leg inward.
- The deep six: We won't name all six, but just know that they work to externally rotate the thigh bone in the hip joint.
It's good to know this information because it kind of shows you why people perform certain exercises. For example, if you want to grow your upper butt (upper gluteus maximus) then you would prioritize exercises that work that muscle groups so any hip extension and hip abduction exercises like glute bridges, hip thrusts, and squats or even using the hip abductor machine at the gym. Knowing what area you want to build muscle in will help you better determine what the best exercises for your workout plan are.
How to grow your glutes 101
For some reason when it comes to booty building many think it's easy and expect massive results within a month or two. Although you can get some results in that time, building muscle in any area requires a lot of time and hard work. There are no shortcuts! If you really want to grow firmer and stronger glutes, then you must have an effective workout plan for your leg days.
Stretch and activate glutes
As with any type of workout, it's important to have a proper warm-up before hitting the heavy weights, but it's especially important for glute workouts. Whether you workout after a long day at work or early in the morning, your glute muscles and hip flexors are most likely tight. Tight muscles are unable to work through their full range of motion, and if you're squatting or hip thrusting then it's crucial to do so.
To solve this issue simply have a warm-up routine that implements exercises that help to lengthen the muscle and activates them! Not sure what to do? Don't worry, we'll give you some ideas...
First, if you have a foam roller, use it!! Foam rolling before you exercise will help wake up and loosen the muscles around your glutes and hips. Second, do some static glute stretches like the figure four stretch, seated twist, half pigeon, frog pose, and more. Third, incorporate some dynamic stretches! This involves actual movements that improve blood flow and help to increase your range of motion. You can do glute bridges, leg swings, deep bodyweight squats, and more. The last and best way to finish off your warm-up is by doing at least two glute activation exercises and performing at least 2 sets with 10-15 reps. Glute activation exercises require a resistance band to help fire up and activate the gluteal muscles that way when you hit your leg workout they're actually working! Neglecting to activate your glutes can lead to the surrounding muscles picking up the slack, which means if you're doing hip thrusts then your hamstrings might be doing most of the work. So, take the time to activate your glutes! Pick a lateral move like fire hydrants, hip abductions, side leg raises, and pick a sagittal plane move like donkey kicks, glute bridges, and standing glute kickbacks. This will ensure that you're activating various muscle groups in the glutes, not just one.
Anyone strength training knows that the key to building muscle is practicing progressive overload. Unfortunately, many women looking solely to build a booty do not know this. They have this misconception that resistance band exercises, squats, and hip thrusts are enough, and just continue doing the same amount of reps, sets, and weight, thus halting any further progress. Getting comfortable with your workout routine will lead to hitting a workout plateau, so to promote glute growth and lower body gains, practice progressive overload.
For those who don't know, progressive overload is a fitness principle that involves increasing the amount of resistance or workload you expose your muscles. There are other techniques involved, but the most important is adding more resistance as you make progress so you can continually challenge your muscles and promote better muscle growth. To do this you have to either increase the weight or the number of reps you do. For example, if you're new to strength training and starting out with resistance band exercises, but feel that you're breezing right through them without breaking a sweat then it’s time to introduce free weights! Move up to dumbbell exercises, and gradually increase the weight as you make progress, eventually, you'll be able to do barbell squats, hip thrusts, and other heavy weight exercises. Just avoid adding a lot of weight/resistance at once! You want to gradually make changes to your routine, so add another 10lbs next week or aim to push for 15 reps instead of 10. Keep it simple, yet effective.
Follow the rule of thirds
Adding resistance is one way to practice progressive overload, another way is by having a workout routine with a variety of exercises and techniques. Bret Contreras has a rule of thirds that will help you create an effective training plan that will maximize your glute growing efforts.
For those who don't know, Bret Contreras, Ph. D., C.S.C.S., is the glute guy. He's an accomplished exercise physiologist credited for inventing the renowned glute growing exercise, the hip thrust. He recommends training the glutes at least three times a week, as do we! In fact, Iulia's Build a Booty program has three lower body workouts a week.
So, the rule of thirds involves not only training the glute three times a week but also in a way that includes a variety of loads and exercises. Contreras says to perform approximately one-third of exercises that are horizontal in nature, vertical, and lateral/rotary. Here's an example of exercises you can do:
- Horizontally loaded exercises: Hip thrusts, cable pull-throughs, glute bridges, good mornings, and more.
- Vertically loaded exercises: Deadlifts, step-ups, squats, walking lunges, and more.
- Laterally loaded exercises: Banded lateral walks, clamshells, hip abductions, side leg raises, and more.
The rule of thirds also applies to the weight and rep ranges. Many believe that heavy lifting is the way to building a bigger butt, and there is truth to that, but you shouldn't only focus on heavy weight training. Instead, have roughly one-third of your routine be heavy sets with lower reps, one-third should be medium for moderate reps, and one-third should be light for higher reps. This will help you naturally select a variety of different exercises. For example, you can choose two to three heavy compound movements like hip thrusts, deadlifts and/or squats, which naturally require a heavier weight and lower rep range. Followed by one or two unilateral exercises and isolation exercises like single-leg deadlifts, single-leg glute bridges, Bulgarian split squats, hamstring curls, and/or leg extensions which typically require a moderate weight and moderate rep range. Then finish off with one or two burnout exercises, pick a light weight or use a resistance band to do banded lateral walks, hip abductions, and/or squat pulses.
Following the rule of thirds will ensure that you implement different techniques as a way to challenge your muscles in different ways and angles that keep you from getting too burnt out.
Master good form
Neglecting good form can lead to minimal results, performing 5 squats with good form and technique is better than 15 squats with terrible form. Why? Let's take a look at squats for example. Lifters often advise going deep on your squats, and there's a good reason. Going deep, or through the full range of motion, requires more work from the muscles, particularly in the hamstrings and glutes. The same pretty much goes for all leg and glute exercises, if you want to recruit more muscles you have to work through the full range of motion. So, take your time to practice proper form and technique for any strength training exercise to ensure you're recruiting the muscles you are intending to grow.
There's one glute growing technique that everyone should nail - the posterior pelvic tilt. This is a technique used at the end range of the exercise, it requires locking out your glutes to contract the muscles. It's essentially a glute squeeze that will put you in maximal hip extension and ensure that your glutes are fired up and working. So, when should you try this technique? Finish any gluteus maximus exercise with it! This includes, but is not limited to, barbell hip thrusts, step-ups, and glute bridges.
Prioritize nutrition and recovery
What you do in the gym isn't the only important part, what you do outside of the gym matters too! When it comes to dieting, women tend to cut carbs and calories in order to accelerate fat loss. Well, we have some good news and bad news. If you want to build muscle in your glutes, you need to prioritize your nutrition and be in a slight surplus (or at least not in a huge calorie deficit), which includes eating plenty of good carbs! Undereating by a large amount will only promote weight loss, not muscle growth. The best approach to ensure you're eating enough nutrients for your goals, calculate your macros and track them (here are all the details on tracking macros in case you need them)!
Building lean muscle mass is a demanding process, and requires that your body is getting essential nutrients for sustainable energy and muscle recovery. But you also need rest... And we're talking about good, deep sleep and enough rest days! You shouldn't be hitting your glutes every day, or every other day, you'll just end up being burnt out and increase your risk of an overuse injury. To avoid this, get at least 6-8 hours of sleep and only train legs 3x a week with proper training splits to ensure you’re resting your glute muscles enough in between each session.
Bottom line is, these five simple strategies will help maximize the effort you’re putting in at the gym and get you the glute growth you've been dreaming of! You're not going to grow a booty overnight, but you will build muscle in your entire lower body and build sustainable healthy habits along the way. Implement them into your workout plan, and don’t forget to checkout Iulia's Build a Booty at the Gym program! Iulia plans every single workout program on the Fit With Iulia app herself every week. She picks the best exercises designed to get you results for the given goal, appropriate training splits, and the app features progress tracking so you can practice progressive overload all in one spot!
Want to see what all the hype is about?
The first workout of every goal is available for everyone to try for free! Just download the app, click on the goal “Build a Booty at the Gym”, and start working out with Iulia.