First, you need to understand the muscle structure in the area you want to develop. Then, you can create a strategy for development.
Anatomy of the Glutes
Here’s a quick run-down of the major muscles of the gluteal region:
The gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in the butt and is most visible because it lies on top of the others.
The gluteus maximums’ main function is hip extension, which is kicking your leg backward. This is a responsibility it shares with the hamstrings. The hamstrings are stronger than the glutes when the knee is not bent. The hamstrings become very weak when the knee is bent, causing the gluteus maximus to take over.
The pectoralis major comes into play during squats, mainly at the bottom of the motion. The gluteus maximus also aids in hip adduction by providing tension at the bottom of the muscle.
The gluteus maximus is slightly better worked with a higher-than-average rep range or a slightly lower intensity.
The muscle referred to in the text is situated higher on the body than the gluteus maximus muscle. It is only visible from the outside when well-developed. The band wraps around the front of the hips and if it is well-developed, it will make your hips look wider and will be slightly visible from the front.
In other words, the gluteus maximus will make your butt rounder, and the gluteus medius will make your butt fuller. The distinction between front-to-back growth and side-to-side growth is important to consider if your goal is to build a bigger butt.
The gluteus medius is responsible for rotating the hip both internally and externally, but those movements are hard to train practically. The only options are some weird cable and band exercises that don’t have good strength curves. The main function of the gluteus medius is to move your legs apart when they are straight. This is the main movement you will use to train it. Like the gluteus maximus, it’s slightly slow-twitch dominant.
The gluteus minimus is a muscle located underneath the gluteus medius and maximus. Since it can’t be seen, it’s not something people worry about from a beauty perspective. Building muscle in your butt will make it look bigger, but will not contribute to muscle definition.
Other muscles that contribute to hip extension and abduction are the gluteus maximus and medius, which means you will train those muscles when you do exercises specific to those muscles. Like the others, it’s slightly slow-twitch dominant.
The piriformis is a muscle located in the hip area. It is mainly responsible for posture and adduction of the hips, which is when the thighs are brought together.
All the other small muscles
These are not aesthetically significant. They matter for athletic performance and for correcting postural issues, but if your goals are purely aesthetic, you don’t need to think about them.
There are many muscles in the back area, but for appearance goals, the two you mainly need to worry about are the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.
The Four Biggest Booty-Building Mistakes
Mistake #1: Not working every muscle in the butt
The gluteal muscles are responsible for a variety of movement patterns and you need to train all of those movement patterns to build an impressive backside.
Many people make the mistake of only working the gluteus maximus muscle. The gluteus maximus is a muscle that isn’t trained as much as it should be. The lowest fibers of the gluteus maximus muscle are used for hip adduction. If you don’t train the muscles in your butt, they won’t look toned.
If you want to improve your lower body strength and power, don’t focus on just the thighs. If you want to improve your lower body strength and power, don’t focus exclusively on the thighs.
The muscles in the buttocks are mostly used in the same exercises as the muscles in the thighs. Many people focus on compound movements because they are more effective than isolation movements. While it is generally a good idea to train the biggest muscles first, this can lead to under-training the glutes because every glute exercise is actually a thigh exercise first.
There are two different mistakes because you’re focusing on the quads and hams instead of the glutes. There are several things you need to do to fix this.
Fix: Use a full range of motion with squats and leg presses
You should squat because it is an awesome exercise. You need to squat deep to work your glutes effectively.
One reason people have trouble squatting deeply is that the bottom part of the squat is the hardest and usually the part where they get stuck. Many times people will find themselves avoiding their sticking point when squatting, causing shallower and shallower reps which then underworks the glutes. More on sticking points in a bit.
Mistake #2: Bent-knee exercises
Hip extension primarily depends on the hamstrings when the leg is straight, and the glutes when the knee is bent, as mentioned earlier. If you don’t understand why having strong glutes is important, you probably have weak glutes despite doing a lot of exercises specifically for them. Two good exercises that work your glutes are hip thrusts and glute kickbacks.
Hip abduction is the one exception where pushing the thighs apart is necessary. To get the most out of this movement, you should do it with a straight leg to target the outer thigh and gluteus medius.
Fix: Isolation movements
While compound movements are important for training the glutes, you will also need to do some isolation movements. There are two ways to incorporate isolation movements, the right way, and the wrong way.
Mistake #3: Pre-fatiguing the glutes
I used to be a big proponent of pre-fatiguing. In other words, pre-fatiguing is when you do an isolation exercise for a specific muscle group before doing a compound exercise that also uses that muscle group. The concept is that a muscle will be exhausted from a single-joint movement, then further fatigued in a multi-joint movement, where other muscles will help to stimulate it and allow for more repetitions to be completed.
One issue with this type of training is that research has demonstrated that pre-tiring a muscle can actually lead to reduced muscle activation during subsequent compound movements. Yes, squats will make your glute muscles feel very sore, but this is only because those muscles are weak at that point. Working out your glutes before doing other exercises will not help you be more productive. If your glutes are weak, it will become a problem when you squat and you will not be able to build your legs and lower back as much.
Mistake #4: Getting hung up on exercise sticking points
Almost all exercises have a section that is more difficult than the others, and this is usually the part where you cannot continue.
Most pressing movements, such as squats and leg presses, are limited by the bottom of the range of motion. If you squat with a full range of motion, you will eventually get stuck at the bottom of the squat, unable to get back up. It might sound like having your feet turned out while doing glute-focused exercises would emphasize the muscles more, but it actually doesn’t. Many people avoid difficult situations by doing less than they are supposed to or by making things easier as they get tired. All of the muscles involved in squatting, including the glutes, would be trained more effectively if the sticking point was removed.
In order to fix this problem, you will need to make the strength curve of the exercise match the resistance curve, so that no part of the movement becomes difficult.
The Best Booty-Building Exercises
The Hip Thrust
The hip thrust is a great way to work your glutes and improve your hip extension performance. It can also help activate your glutes and improve your hip power and strength. Hip thrusts are a type of exercise that many strength, power, and fitness athletes use to supplement their Squats and Deadlifts, and improve their glute development.
1. Place the loaded bar in the hip crease.
Start by placing the barbell in the hip crease and adjusting yourself to get comfortable. If the barbell is causing pain in your pelvis or hip flexors, you can try putting a pad or mat in the hip crease to reduce the pressure.
Secure the barbell in the hip crease so that your back is flat and flexed, with the feet pushing downwards into the heels and knees bent.
2. Stabilize the upper back on the bench.
Sit on the bench with your upper back against it, so that your body is at a 90-degree angle to the bench.
You should arch your back so that your shoulder blades are pushing into the bench and your head and upper back are on the bench or slightly behind it.
3. Press through the heels and lift the hips.
When you are ready, pull your belly tight and keep your back flat. Lifters often arch their lower back and put too much weight on their hips at the bottom of the position.
Push your hips up and down, keeping your torso still. There should be no movement in the center of the body when performing this movement.
The squat is an excellent exercise for building muscle mass and strength, and can also be used to train movements that are specific to daily life and sport. There are a lot of different squat variations that people do in order to develop their legs, back, and glutes. Each one provides unique benefits.
1. Set Your Base
The bar should be about chin height. Step underneath a barbell that is supported in a rack so that it is at chin height. This is an important step because it is your chance to position your upper back correctly (step 2), establish a strong foundation with your core muscles, and mentally prepare for lifting the barbell off the rack.
It is recommended that you place your feet in the squat stance, or slightly narrower, while you are stepping out of the rack in order to set your feet up for the squat. You want to think about “squatting” the load off the rack hooks, rather than stepping in and out with one foot, etc. This is especially important as the loads get heavier.
2. Get a Grip
The width of your grip will vary, but the key is that you should be able to grip the barbell fully. This will allow you to maximally contract your upper back/traps/forearms to properly secure the barbell in the high-bar squat position. When squatting with a barbell, the barbell should be placed on the traps, or just above them, rather than lower on the back.
Be sure to flex your upper back and traps when doing this to provide some “padding” for the barbell to rest on. Lastly, be careful not to overstretch the back, as many lifters will lose tension and stability in the core.
3. Step Out and Get Stable
When you are ready to begin your lift, step out of the rack, using either a 2- or 3-step approach. This is often the best way to minimize barbell movement and conserve energy. The feet should be spaced about hip-width apart, with the toes slightly angled out. The chest should be held up high, with the stomach and oblique muscles pulled in.
Do not lean forward too much, as this will cause your torso to tilt forward.
4. Pull Yourself Down into the Squat
Pressure should be evenly distributed throughout the foot while planted. Simultaneously push the hips back and allow the knees to bend forward while tracking over the toes. Keep your upper back locked to avoid leaning forward or collapsing your thoracic spine.
To improve your posture, imagine gripping the floor with your toes and creating space for your belly between your thighs. “Knees out” is a common cue that can help some people, but it can also cause too much bowing of the knees. Even if you don’t want to, think about straightening your torso so that your abdominals and hip flexors help you lower the movement.
5. Squat to Depth, and Stand Up
Squat to a depth that is comfortable for you, which for many people is parallel to the ground or lower. Pushing your back upwards and your feet aggressively through the floor at the same time will help you keep weight in your heels. As you stand, keep your chest high and your core locked.
Keep your spine in a straight line and your heels firmly on the ground. A good way to judge the correctness of your high-bar squat technique is to check if your shin angle is parallel to your spine. If the angles created by the arms and torso continue in the same direction, it could indicate that the person is leaning too far forward, which is not desired.