Notes From The Glute Lab

If you train for the peachiest posterior possible, no doubt you're familiar with the Glute Guy himself.  I recently made the trip to THE Glute Lab to step up my butt-building knowledge.  Here are my top tips from The Art and Science of Glute Training seminar.

First things first: why focus so intently on the glutes?  If you're familiar with the fitness and beauty tabs here at EFEL, you might know that my hard-earned butt took a beating during and after pregnancy (not literally, I mean it just looked very, very sad and is still recuperating), that I wholeheartedly encourage a 30-Day NO Squat booty challenge, that these are the best accessories for glute accessory work, and then, to top it all off, you should probably go ahead and give your butt a facial.  

So the real why?  Sure, the glutes are the largest muscles in the body, and they can power you through various sports, support better posture, and other good stuff that errs on a bit more scientific than I care to get into here.  So let's cut to the chase: every woman I've ever trained - myself included -  has had one goal in common: a better butt.  Call it what you will and blame who you want - the ass is having a serious pop culture moment.  Rather than take your booty-building cues from a celebrity with a huge badonkadonk, take a stand for science and familiarize yourself with the Glute Guy himself.  

I've been following his site for years - geeking out on all his research (his PhD is in glute science - so he's literally a butt doctor) and client transformations.  This guide on growing glutes without growing the legs is LIFE-CHANGING if you're a quad-dominant gal like me, and Strong Curves is a must-have tome.  Here's what I gleaned from his live seminar.


This should come as no surprise - the man is the creator of the move - but the hipthrust isn't as commonly...accepted, you might say, as the squat as a butt-building exercise.  So why is the thrust the real "king" of glutes?  Simple: higher glute activation.  And, while a study hasn't yet been published comparing long-term effects of the barbell hip thrust vs. the squat, logically, the hip thrust would win in terms of safety.  The range of motion is smaller, and the load is placed directly on the hips.  Is it a bit awkward looking?  Might you get a few odd looks in a commercial gym?  Sure.  But get over it.  If you don't have an actual hip thruster, make do with a bench, or The Step (ideally set up at around 14" high).  Even the good 'ol Smith Machine will do.  Protect your hips (Squat Sponge, Airex pad), or the pain will make it impossible to activate the glutes.  Once you've mastered the basics, try this variation from the master himself: position feet a bit closer together (say two fists apart), heels lined up behind toes, but push knees outward.  Holy nalgas en fuego (go translate that).


As someone who prescribes programs with paper and pencil on index cards, this warmed my little heart.  Contreras showed a slide with various program design models (lots of concentric circles; some line graph something or other) contrasted with his basic program design from Strong By Bret, where he focuses on the same few movements, but changes the order of importance and variables monthly.  In short: periodization is simply the organization of variables - and doesn't need to be fancy shmancy.


If you're totally untrained, you MIGHT see some gluteal improvement from traditional cardio.  Already hitting the weights?  Then probably not.  Two things here: 1) circuit training offers can be an excellent stand-in for traditional cardio and 2) if you feel so inclined to get on a traditional piece of equipment and glute development is your main M.O., don't overdo it time wise, and mix things up (high incline treadmill walking one day, stairclimber another, etc).  I personally love banded lateral walks on the treadmill as a nice little finisher on a lighter lower body day.  


Sorry.  Yes, you can push them to a certain extent, but some of us get the short end of the stick with unresponsive glutes that may remain weak and visually unchanged, regardless of the best efforts.  Here's an oversimplification of what it comes down to: satellite cells.  They wait around muscle cells to be called upon to donate their nuclei into muscle.  A genetically-blessed individual will not only have more of these satellite cells, but said cells will also donate their nuclei more readily.  Regardless...


Train those glutes frequently (I have a note of 2-5x week, but this article explores frequency in much greater depth), hit all rep ranges, hit all levels of effort, and continually strive for PRs.  

May 2017 be the year of YOUR butt.

Enjoy your lift.  Enjoy your life!