Sara Bradley, IFBB Pro
Let’s set the scene! It’s 2018, I have stepped off stage at the PCA British placing third, feeling mega chuffed with myself and ready to hit the offseason hard. I needed to find out what my feedback was and what area’s I needed to improve on, in preparation for my action plan. The feedback stated that my main weakness in my physique was my legs, especially my hamstrings and glutes. We now fast forward to 2022, almost 4 years into working with my training coach Connor Macmillan, and both my hamstring and glutes have improved massively. In this blog I will go through how we grew this area of my physique and how you can apply it to your training to ensure you get the best out of posterior leg training, specifically glutes!
First, lets breakdown what the glutes are! The glutes are a series of three muscles that make up your buttocks. These are Gluteus maximus (this is the largest part of your bum), Gluteus minimus (on your outer hip) and Gluteus medius (just above the hip and over minimus). Each of these three muscles work together to bring your various movements.
Hip extension – Think barbell hip thrusts
Hip abduction – take your leg away from you body to the side
Hip external rotation – turning your leg outwards
Every glute exercise you use will target all of these muscles; however, it is possible to place extra emphasis on one over the other. There have been three main exercises that myself and Connor have focused on over the past 3 to 4 years, these include high box squats, leg extension hip thrusts and heavy v squats, let me explain why these have been my go to exercises and why you should be doing them;
High box squats – both smith and barbell
The primary focus of the glute max is hip extension, it is also one of the most powerful muscles in the body and the biggest. The high box squat (stopping just above parallel) allows us to work in a smaller range of motion allowing us to focus on driving through hip extension, whilst be able to overload it in a safer position. I would also have a slightly wider stance and toes pointed outwards, placing my hips into external rotation to place some emphasis on glute med and min. In my opinion because glute max is such a powerful muscle it should be trained with plenty of weight (hence being able to apply slightly more weight in this movement) and in a lower rep range. I typically hit this movement with a rep range of between 6-8 reps, in which by the 8th rep I hit failure. I will mention if you want to add this movement into your daily training regime, then please make sure you have a spotter and that you complete it in a safe manner. I do have a video of me doing this movement so be sure to check out my Instagram, smallbutmighty20 if you want to see it in action!
Leg extension hip thrusts
Have you ever seen someone in the gym awkwardly trying to get the barbell onto their hips, but getting more and more frustrated with themselves? This is exactly why I don’t tend to do barbell hip thrusts! Instead, I use the leg extension machine to do my thrusts on! Sounds strange but hear me out! Again, we’re hitting hip extension and hip external rotation (heavier band around the knees to help with pushing knees out before driving into extension) but being on the leg extension means we’re only focusing on one solid plane of motion and not having to worry about balancing a barbell across our hips – which you could argue might limit the amount of weight needed to truly overload the glutes as having a bar across the hips without any padding can be rather uncomfortable. Therefore, when using the leg extension for this movement we eliminate the awkward barbell issue, and we can overload and focus on just driving through hip extension and being able to overload safely. This movement has also helped massively with me queuing my engagement with my glutes as this was something I really struggled with previously. The barbell hip thrust is still a great movement, but I would recommend the leg extension version to anyone!
Heavy v squats
Ever since I moved from powerlifting to bodybuilding, I stepped away from doing barbell squats. I always had an issue with my hips, due to the amount I used to squat (this was 3 -4 days a week when I was powerlifting) and in general, just don’t get on with them. I am a huge advocate that if something doesn’t work THEN DON’T DO IT! I do still squat, but I do variations of the squat purely because I connect much better with them and it allows me to feel safer when working with heavier weights, the V squat being one of these variations. So, we’ve done a lot of the top portion of hip extension, now we want to be hitting the glutes in a more stretched position (below parallel), we approach this with a slightly wider stance, toes still pointing out. When we use a machine, we’re negating some of the risk associated with big barbell lifts as the movement is much more controlled. This allows us to increase the load on the v squat machine faster than we could with a barbell and potentially gain more glute growth. Regarding rep ranges I still like to hit this movement with a very similar rep range as the high box squat, because we want to be strong in all ranges of motion when it comes to glute growth.
And there we have it! My top three exercises for glutes growth! However, please remember this is only advice and we are all individuals that have our own way of working! These are only some of the exercises I have used to bring up my legs, and if something works for you then brilliant, if it doesn’t then that’s okay too. Just remember to change your training to suit your individual needs, and don’t feel pressured to do what everyone else is doing!
To help those big leg days I will always use Jaw Breaker pre workout to keep intensity high! I cannot recommend this product enough! To save yourself some money, please use my code Sara10 and tag myself and fireballlabz in your leg training videos, we would love to see them!