Your glutes are your body’s most powerful muscle group. They're essential in almost all athletic movements, from running and jumping to squatting and everything in-between. For this reason, training them is as much about the practical as it is about the aesthetic, says celebrity trainer Louisa Drake.
"The muscles in your bum include the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus – together these three muscles not only help to stabilise your pelvis but also assist with balance and knee extension," she says. "However if you don’t use them enough (especially if you find yourself sitting all day), your glutes can 'turn off' or forget how to activate properly," she says.
According to Drake, many popular forms of exercise don’t do as good a job of training the glutes as we ideally need. "Glutes that become less active have been termed 'gluteal amnesia.' The result of gluteal amnesia is often too much movement and loading at the lower back instead of the hips." This has been shown to be one of the primary causes in the development of low back pain, which is exactly why it's so important to focus in on this areas during your workouts.
If you're searching for an easy yet results-driven routine to master at home, look no further. If you have at-home equipment, grab a resistance band and a weight, before sculpting, strengthening and firing up your posterior with Drake's five-move, 15-minute routine.
Squats are one of the best exercises to target the gluteus maximus, which is the largest muscle in the lower body. They also work the hips, thighs, calves, and even the core. The sumo squat is a favourite of mine as it suits those with tight hips and isolates your posterior chain, as well as targetting the inner thighs. Biomechanically, everyone's squat stance will be slightly different, so if it feels better to go wider for you, that's fine: the width helps you create more space to drop your pelvis lower and takes pressure off the lower back. Hold a weight in front as this helps you to shift your own weight back so you don’t fall over.
Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and toes angled out. (The more you turn your feet out, the more this move will work your inner thighs, but be mindful of your knees.) Hold a weight by your chest.
Hinge at the hips, bend your knees and drop your hips towards your heels as you lower into a squat. Keep the spine long and core engaged, and pause at the bottom. The glutes only come into action at the bottom of the squat, so squat deep!
Keeping your core tight, push through your heels to stand up straight. Keep the weight close to your body.
Pause at the top and squeeze your butt. This is one rep. Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds
2. Alternating reverse lunge
It’s common for the quads to take over in exercises such as squats and lunges, when in reality the glutes should be doing the majority of the work. Tight hips can also mean you initiate movements from your knees instead of your hips, so the focus is on the legs instead of the glutes.
One simple switch everyone can make is to swap a regular lunge for a reverse lunge. This is a great move to work the glutes a little harder and add flexibility to your hips. Reverse lunges also align the body better, which can help if you are sat down all day.
Stand up tall, then take a large step backwards with your right foot, bend both knees to 90-degree angles and lower your body while bringing hands or weight in front of the chest.
Hold for up to a few seconds, squeeze your rear glute and aim for your front knee to stay above your ankle.
Press through the left heel to return to standing, keeping head and chest lifted throughout.
Repeat on the opposite side. Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds.
3. Single leg deadlift
If you want to strengthen nearly the entirety of your body’s posterior kinetic chain (backside of your body), including your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and back muscles, the deadlift is one exercise that pretty much reigns supreme.
Single-leg deadlifts are super versatile as they offer a balance and stability challenge, so there's an increase in the glute demand. If you’re just starting out, you can use a chair for support and no weight. Once you start to feel comfortable with the balance component, you can work towards adding a weight.
Stand with both feet under the hips with a dumbbell in the left hand.
Shift your weight to the right leg, which should be nice and straight with a soft bend in the knee. Begin to step your left foot back so you are in a staggered stance. Simultaneously, slowly start hinging at the hips, tipping your torso forward until it’s almost parallel to the floor, reaching the weight down as the other arm extends to the side. Alternatively, use a chair for balance.
At the bottom of the position, your body should be in a straight line from the top of your head to the bottom of your left foot. Then, begin pulling your left leg down while keeping it straight, and lift your torso up until you’re standing again. That’s one rep.
Aim for 10-15 reps on one side and repeat on the other leg. 10 seconds rest in between.
Top tip - Remember to not lean too far forwards and do not arch the lower back. Height of the leg is not important. Focus on feeling the glute engage by squeezing it while keeping the core tight.
4. Banded glute bridge abduction
Glute bridges are known for their incredible glute isolation, but if you add a loop band to the mix, you take it to a whole new level. Glute bridges strengthen the pelvic floor and open up the hips and target your inner and outer thighs. When you place a resistance band just above your knees, as shown here, you're also engaging your outer thigh muscles to drive your knees out. Just be careful not to lift your hips too high to prevent overarching the lower back.
Place the loop band around your thighs, just above your knees. Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, feet flat on floor inline with your hips.
Drive through your heels and lift the hips to the ceiling, squeezing your glutes. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees. Keep your pelvis tucked under, no arch in your back, and pull your belly button to your spine to maintain correct form.
Hold the bridge, press your knees outward and return to centre, keeping tension on the loop band the whole time. Lower back down to complete one rep.
Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds.
5. The LDM all-fours finisher
This sequence is perfect for sculpting several key areas of your body including your glutes, hips, and core simultaneously – plus, you target your butt from all angles. By adding a loop band we create some serious muscle activation in the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius. To make this sequence more effective, move slowly with control and you'll feel this in both the working and supporting leg.
A. Donkey kick
Place the loop band just above your knees. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
Lift your right leg, bent at a 90-degree angle. The foot should be flexed so the sole is facing the ceiling. Avoid rotating your hips by keeping the shoulders and hips squared to the floor during the entire exercise.
Hold at the top for 2 seconds, really focussing on the glute. Slowly return to starting position.
Aim for 10-15 reps at a slow and controlled pace before holding the lift and transition to part B.
B. Donkey-kick pulses
Don't let the small range of motion fool you. You're about to sculpt further with this micro movement.
Keep your raised leg elevated and add small pulses, down an inch and up an inch to increase time under tension. Really dial your focus into creating a small and precise lift from the glute.
Aim for 20-30 seconds before lowering and transition to part C.
C. Fire hydrant
Remember to keep your core engaged, so you're stabilised and not shifting or sinking into your hips. You can modify onto your fists or forearms if your wrists get sore.
Without shifting your hips, lift your right knee out to the side inline with your hip so the band is tight to a 90 degree angle.
Hold at the top for 2 seconds. Slowly return to starting position controlling the band as you lower.
Aim for 10-15 reps at a slow and controlled pace before holding the lift and transition to part D.
D. Fire hydrant pulses
You also want to try and keep constant resistance in the band, so if that means you don't come all the way back down to the ground you can hover the knee as a challenge.
Keep your leg out to the side and add small pulses, down an inch and up an inch to increase time under tension. Really dial your focus into creating a small and precise movement.
Aim for 20-30 seconds before lowering and rest and reset for 90 seconds before repeating this on the other side.
Top tip - The lateral lift that your leg is doing away from your body (abduction) allows you to move in three dimension, which most people don't commonly do! This translates to better hip mobility and flexibility.
Finish with a short stretch to finish releasing the glutes, legs and back.
For more workout inspiration sign up to LDM On Demand's 7 day free trial and access a variety of award-winning workouts from the comfort of your own home.
You can train with Louisa Drake and LDM online via daily live-streamed classes, LDM On Demand workouts or in-person at the LDM Studio in London's Fitzrovia.
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