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Archive for the ‘Glute Training’ Category

Last week Strength Coach and Sprinter Keats Snideman came to BCSC (Bret Contreras Strength & Conditioning aka Bret’s Badass Garage) for a specialized glute and sprint-specific strength workout. This was actually his second workout in my garage as he’s making a concerted effort to maximize his glute strength and attempt to get stronger in the anteroposterior (max speed sprint) vector. Keats is a very well-respected individual in the sport-specific training community as he’s been at this for many years. He’s been there, done that, and is a bit of a wise owl. He’s known for being open-minded yet highly skeptical. The fact that he immediately approves of these exercises is a testament to the exercises’ effectiveness as it’s just not possible to “pull the wool” over Keats’ eyes. Here are the clips from his workout:

1. Barbell Glute Bridge

This short-range movement allows you to use a ton of weight and maximally activate the glutes.

2. Barbell Hip Thrust

This variation allows for more range of motion around the hip joint.

3. Single Leg Hip Thrust

Note that in my garage I use a Skorcher (a machine that I invented) to go really deep. You can mimic this by using two benches.

4. Band Hip Thrust

Again, at my garage I use a Skorcher for the band hip thrust which really accentuates the end-range contraction. This is very difficult to mimic as the band tension comes from far below the exerciser.

5. Pendulum Quadruped Hip Extension

Note that the knees stay bent to decrease hamstring contribution and increase glute contribution and the hands brace against the side rails to allow for irradiation and transfer through the lat, core, and thoracolumbar fascia into the glute.

6. Pendulum Donkey Kick

This variation utilizes knee extension with simultaneous hip extension and would better transfer to acceleration sprinting as the directional load vector is a blend between anteroposterior and axial. Note that Keats is fatigued and has tremendous difficulty controlling his core. This exercise is extremely challenging for the core, glutes, and quads, and is very difficult from a metabolic perspective as well.

Keats’ Reflections

As you can see, Keats is one smart dude. I should mention that prior to these glute exercises Keats had done sprints, cleans, deadlifts, and ultra high step ups. Keats had a race shortly after his first workout in my garage and he did very well. He speculated that these exercises helped him power through the sprint cycle and activate his glutes more efficiently even though he had only performed one workout! Indeed, a good strength training program can have dramatic short-term effects that can be seen rather quickly as well as long-term effects that are realized from many years of training.

Still squat and lunge, still do Olympic lifts, still do plyometrics and ballistics, and certainly still sprint! But make sure you add in some anteroposterior exercises as well such as barbell glute bridges, barbell hip thrusts, and pendulum donkey kicks for maximum glute power and sprint speed development. Hope you enjoyed the post!

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New Ideas

There’s a huge advantage to having a garage gym. If I get bored, I walk into my garage and start looking around, trying to think of new things. In case you didn’t see it, last week I came up with a good idea to make people go all the way to the ground when performing single leg hip thrusts in order to ensure full range of motion and stress muscular starting strength rather than elastic reactive strength. Here is a video showing the new technique. Most folks would be using two benches for this variation.

Bottom-Up Single Leg Hip Thrust

That was last week, now onto this week. One thing that’s been bothering me lately is the hip rotation exercise I came up with last year. A recent glute study I performed indicates that it leads to more glute activation than heavy squats, deadlifts, and/or hip thrusts! But something Mike Boyle said a while back kept resonating with me. He said something along the lines of, “If it doesn’t look athletic, it’s probably not athletic.”

In the past, when creating many of my glute exercises I wasn’t thinking of the sport-specific population. Rather, I was thinking of the figure and bodybuilding population. My goal was simply to maximize glute activation regardless of what the exercise looked like, not to maximize positive transfer over to sporting actions. For this reason, I often externally rotate my hips when performing back extensions; it leads to increased glute activity. However, this could interfere with running mechanics so for sporting purposes it would be wise to keep the hips in neutral and the feet straight ahead during back extensions to increase lateral hamstring activity and more closely mimic the dynamics of running.

When thinking up a hip rotation exercise last year, I simply played around with my foot stance and the direction of the band resistance to allow the gluteus maximus to contract as hard as possible in a rotational setting. However, the exercise never looked very athletic.

Tonight I went out to the garage and tinkered around with my form, trying to use what I knew about some of the popular stances in sport-specific training; tall kneeling, half-kneeling, standing parallel stance, standing split stance, etc. I tried out the standing split stance and found that it works really well with the band and cable hip rotation. I used to call the exercise “hip external rotations” but really one hip is externally rotating while the other is internally rotating so from now on I’m going to call them “hip rotations.” These exercises are amazing glute exercises in terms of glute activation. In fact, you can get your glute activation up higher with this exercise than in any other exercise out there if you learn how to do it properly. We often think that hip extension is king for the glutes but give this variation a try for a month or so and see if it might change your mind. Luckily, these variations “look athletic” and will transfer very well to sports. Specifically, the exercises teach rotational stabilization in the lumbar spine while the hips and thoracic spine rotate. This will lead to improved power output in rotational activities such as swinging a bat, racquet, club, etc., as well as throwing a punch, football, baseball, javelin, etc. You really want to teach the glutes to maximize their contribution during rotational actions. Most coaches will say “it’s all about the hips” when referring to striking, swinging, or throwing. This exercise can increase the contribution of the hips while allowing for a stable lumbar spine during sport activities.

Here are two variations; band and cable hip rotations. Personally I like the band version more but I am very strong in the glutes. Bands may not be practical for beginners. The band version works the end-range of the movement better, while the cable version works the initial-range of the movement better. It’s hard to tell but the glute of my rear leg is absolutely on fire during these movements. It may look like an oblique exercise (it certainly works the obliques really hard as there is stable transfer through the core) but if you do it right it’s a glute exercise.

Band Hip Rotation

Cable Hip Rotation

Next, I looked at my incline bench and came up with a great idea. I realized that I could take the seat off and convert it into a nifty glute apparatus. Some individuals have access to incline presses where the seat can be removed so this variation may be something those folks are interested in trying. Some might say, “Why not just do them off of the floor?” The floor limits range of motion. Just like any other exercise, when you increase the ROM you make it much more difficult.

Single Leg Hip Thrust off Incline Bench

Then it occurred to me that I could use a band and perform a bilateral hip thrust against band resistance.

***Warning: If you belong to a commercial gym, I don’t think you should try to pull this off in that setting. In fact, don’t be surprised if something like this happens if you try to occupy the incline press by performing humping motions rather than working the pecs at a commercial gym.

Consider yourself forewarned. Anyway, here is a video showing this technique.

Band Hip Thrust off Incline Bench

The last thing I thought of was something that I recently heard Mike Boyle talking about during one of his staff meetings (lately he’s been posting clips from his staff meetings on his website). When discussing core stabilization, he said, “You want a straight line between the shoulders and the knees.” When most individuals perform ab wheel rollouts, they bend at the hips and use too much range of motion which interferes with glute contribution and takes tension off of the core during the top of the movement (the standard way allows for built-in intra-set rest periods between reps). If you are strong enough, perform ab wheel rollouts in the manner shown in the video below. Basically, you shorten the range of motion and keep the glutes fired throughout the duration of the set. This is beneficial for a couple of different reasons:

1. It helps keep a stable core which prevents the low back from extending
2. It slightly posteriorly rotates the hips which decreases hip flexor contribution and increases abdominal contribution.

Here’s the video:

Ab Wheel Rollout With no Hip Bending

That’s all for now! Hope you enjoy the new ideas.

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In this article I’m going to try to please the male readers, female readers, and trainers. If you’re simply looking for a good butt workout then skip down to the bottom of this article. But if you want some substance and you really want to understand the glutes, then you should probably read the entire article.

Ladies

Okay ladies, you say you want a nice butt. You like to talk about how you’re going to get your butt into top shape. You get envious when you see a woman with a perfect butt prancing around. Well here’s your opportunity! I’m going to give you the ultimate program to improve the appearance of your butt. Best of all, it’s free!

The World’s Best or Worst Relationship Advice Ever…

I’ve trained enough women in my time as a personal trainer to know that most of them would do just about anything to get their man to pay more attention to them. I’m far from a relationship expert but here’s one thing that women could stand to learn about men. We are all very shallow. Have you ever witnessed the crap that an attractive woman with a perfect booty can get away with? She can tell stupid jokes and every guy will laugh. She can nag at her boyfriend and he’ll cave in and comply with her every demand. She’ll get job opportunities that she doesn’t deserve. In essence, she can get away with practically murder. Why do guys act like this? Because the mere thought of getting to see her naked turns us into robots!

Want to know the single best thing you can do to get your man’s attention? Work overtime on your booty! I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it’s a fact of life. Even women have a hard time keeping their eyes off of a woman with a perfect booty even if they have no lesbian tendencies! It’s almost hypnotic. As a matter of fact, I bet this article alone would cause most men’s’ testosterone levels to rise 30% just from looking at the pictures. Sexual attraction is biochemical; don’t ever underestimate the role of hormones when dealing with relationships.

Admit It! It’s Hard to Look Away!

If you can transform your booty into something like this your man will become your puppet. How do I know this? At my Scottsdale studio called Lifts several guys came to my gym to personally thank me for making their girl’s butt look so good. My female clients would tell me that their men were turning into perverts, groping them constantly throughout the night. One of my clients said she had to start pretending she was asleep to avoid her husband’s persistent sexual advances.

The good thing for women is that men are pretty lenient with booty size as long as there’s good shape. Seriously, as long as your booty is round, firm, and perky it can be small like that of Jessica Alba or Anna Kournikova or big like that of Kim Kardashian or Vida Guerra. Throughout this article analyze the booties on the various women. There exists one common theme; they’re all round and delicious.

Men

Men, I realize that many of you want a nice butt but you’re not allowed to admit it. It’s just not manly to work the glutes. So I’ll do you a favor and word everything in this article toward women. Just know that the same advice that applies to them applies to you.

Okay men, let’s fantasize for a minute. Envision a world full of Reef bikini models scouring the Earth. Everywhere you go you see scantily clad women running around showing off their perfect booties.

Of course this vision is impossible but right now I’d estimate that less than one out of a hundred women have butts like the girls in the picture above. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that 1% of woman have a rockin’ behind. What if we could triple that and take it to 3%? That’s three times the number of great booties out there roaming the Earth. How can we turn this dream into reality?

Let’s make a pact. Anytime you hear a woman complain about her butt, send them to this article. Email the link to as many ladies as you know. If you’re a trainer, start implementing the methods herein and teach your clients how to perform the newer exercises you’ll see later in the article. We have to at least try!

Perhaps you are in a relationships. I don’t care how much you love your girlfriend or wife, you know you’d be a little more “into” her if she looked like this:

Women Don’t Listen to Their Boyfriends!

Unfortunately, from my experience women don’t listen to their boyfriends and husbands. You can tell them exactly what to do and they won’t follow your advice. Whether it’s the whole, “Never a prophet in your own land” phenomenon, or they simply feel more confident when they pay for the advice or hear it on television, you probably have a hard time getting through to them. So make me out to be the bad guy. Direct them to this article. Whenever they complain about their butts or vow to “get their butt in shape,” you tell them that the Glute Guy has laid out a perfect plan for them.

Trainers

Personal trainers, would you like to become the best trainer in your area at sculpting booties? Would you like more clients?

At the risk of sounding cocky I believe that I’m the most effective trainer in the world at delivering quick and dramatic results for individuals who wish to make their butts look better. In this article, I’m going to reveal my secrets. I’m going to hand them over to you so you can be a “master butt sculptor” and a “glute guru.” But first allow me to go off on a tangent.

When I had my Scottsdale studio, I was turning out nice booties like they were on an assembly line. Here’s an example of one of my client’s results over the course of year:

I took a risk and chose to not renew my lease in hopes that I could become a popular fitness writer so I could spread my methods. The way I saw it, as a personal trainer I could only affect dozens of clients. However, as a writer I could “train the trainers” and affect literally thousands of clients. If I can get you aboard, the number of people I affect can raise exponentially.

Abandon Your Ideals and Get the Job Done!

I know a lot of strength coaches and personal trainers. Some of the coaches work for teams while some have their own facilities. Out of all of the coaches I know who own their own facilities, all of them take on personal training clients. Sure, they train a lot of athletes, but they also train regular folks. Most regular personal training clients come to trainers for body sculpting purposes! It is our job to deliver to them the results they want. If a male client wants big biceps but you’re so anti-bodybuilding that you won’t prescribe him a single biceps-isolation exercise, or if a female client wants a nice butt but you won’t prescribe her a single glute isolation exercise then you are doing them a disservice. The reason why celebrity trainers get popular is often due to the fact that they’re the best at listening to what their clients want and designing a program specific to those needs. Most coaches and trainers are too hung up on their own ideals to maximize their effectiveness as trainers.

Should We Train Women Like Athletes or Bodybuilders?

This question comes up a lot. The answer is neither. Bodybuilding exercises such as leg press, hack squats, leg extensions, and leg curls serve no purpose in a woman’s routine. These exercises act on the quads and hamstrings, not the glutes. The quickest way to get a great booty is to focus on glute exercises. Every lower body exercise a woman performs should hit the glutes hard. When you do this, the quads and hamstrings get plenty of stimulation but the glutes grown in proportion to the legs. You don’t want the quads and hams to grow while the glutes remain dormant. This will make the glutes look even worse as they will be overshadowed. However, certain bodybuilding methods are advisable when training women. More on this later in the article.

Furthermore, when you train athletes you get them as strong and powerful as possible regardless of the physique adaptations that are imposed. Sport-specific exercises like power cleans can build up a woman’s traps too much. Even squats and deadlifts if progressed upon over and over and over can get a woman’s quads and backs too big. However, many sport-specific methods are advisable when training women.

What Caused Me to Write this Article?

To be honest, I try really hard to write about all kinds of fitness-related topics. I don’t want to “type-cast” myself into a trainer who only specializes in the glutes. Truthfully, I’m very interested in all the body’s muscles, joints, and systems. I love sport-specific training, max-sprint speed development, bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, strongman, MMA, and physical therapy. About the only thing I’m not that interested in is endurance events and any sport or event where the hips don’t move through much of a range of motion. However, I can’t help but write about the glutes when I keep seeing room for improvement in the fitness industry.

In the past week alone I’ve stumbled upon several online forms of media which enticed me to write this article.

The Brazilian Butt Lift Infomercial

First, while I was working on a TMuscle article late Monday night (sometimes I keep the television on in the background just so I feel like a normal human being who stays connected with the outside world), an infomercial caught my eye. It was called The Brazilian Butt-Lift. A Brazilian trainer named Leandro Carvalho who is referred to as “the supermodel’s secret to a perfect butt” has supposedly created the ultimate plan to sculpt a woman’s butt to perfection.

Although Leandro has also been referred to as the “Butt Master,” and “Tush Technician,” I could create a much better program. I’m not saying the program would sell better (to make an infomercial work there are lots of things to consider. Infomercial companies usually end up making fun-looking dvd’s with a lot of dancing, including bands for resistance because they’re easy to ship, a simple diet plan, and a whole lotta shady science), but I am saying that the program would work better.

Here are some things I noticed throughout the infomercial:

Bad

1. There was a ton of lumbar compensation during the various exercises by the models. You want the glutes performing the movements; not the spinal erectors!
2. There were misleading graphics and information inferring that the glute medius and glute minimus add to the lower-outer shape of the glutes. This isn’t true; they’re smaller muscles that located on the upper-outer glutes.
3. I didn’t see a single bridging movement being performed. Bridging movements reign supreme for glute activation and constant tension.
4. The program included tons of lunging and squatting movements despite the creator’s claim that they aren’t optimal because they bulk up the quads. I’m not saying lunging and squatting movements are bad; I’m just saying that it was a blatant contradiction.
5. There were misleading before/after photos involving women who in the after-pics would excessively arch their low backs and anteriorly tilt their pelvises to create the illusion that the shape of their butts improved when in actuality they simply altered their postures.
6. Lots of fun dancing that may burn a lot of fat but won’t do much for butt sculpting
7. There appears to be a lack of progression schemes. People start at totally different levels. One person may be able to start off squatting against resistance while another may take months to build up the strength, mobility, and stability to be able to perform a bodyweight full squat.
8. No weights for more advanced customers. Sure, you can get a great a great butt with just bodyweight exercises, but weights will allow you to get there much quicker.

This is Bullshit! I Guess Nowadays You can Completely Fabricate Anatomy

This is More Realistic

Good

1) Leandro spoke about how the butt needs variety and can’t be sculpted optimally by just hitting it from the same angles over and over. Amen! Hallelujah! This is what I’ve been preaching for the past several years! Unfortunately I wasn’t popular until several months ago so no one heard me shouting.

Many of these things are to be expected from an infomercial (especially a Beach Body infomercial; they have it down to an exact science).

Valerie Waters on Fitcast

Earlier this week I was listening to a podcast featuring Valerie Waters. She mentioned that she is known in Hollywood for her ability to get women’s butts looking very good in a very short period of time. While I have no doubt that she does a great job at sculpting booties, I am positive that she could do better. I hope that she reads this blog so she can become even better at what she does.

In this article, Valerie lists her top 3 butt sculpting moves as the Valslide reverse lunge, high step up, and standing donkey kick. Obviously Valerie is going to be a bit biased since she is the inventor of Valslides.

While these are excellent glute exercises, there are even better ones for sculpting the butt. For the record, I like the Valslide reverse lunge. Some individuals see more glute activation by using Valslides than they do with a regular reverse lunge due to the ability to better control the eccentric component of the exercise. However, in advanced exercisers it flip-flops. For example, I’m advanced and I see less activation when I use Valslides in comparison to reverse lunges with the same amount of resistance because I am able to more effectively use the hip flexor muscles of my rear leg to contribute to the lift which decreases the contribution required from the glutes of the forward leg. And while high step ups are amazing and often underrated for glute development, donkey kicks have much room for improvement as they are way too easy for most individuals. We need to set the bar high if we want to better the world’s glutes!

Adam Campbell on Dr. Oz

The other day I saw that Adam Campbell from Men’s Health Magazine made an appearance on The Dr. Oz Show. He did an excellent job as he gave the thumbs down to the thighmaster and butt-toning shoes. He also did a great job recommending Valslide lunges and glute bridges. However, many individuals find regular glute bridges too easy. Beginners start out at very different levels. Some can’t do a single bodyweight bilateral glute bridge while activating their glutes significantly, while others can bust out a hundred repetitions. In fact, I once trained a stripper who busted out a hundred bodyweight glute bridges during her warm-up in her very first session with me. I told her to do 20 and she cranked out 100 in probably 50 seconds. It was crazy! Obviously her job and “extra-curricular activities” gave her a head-start on typical clients but you have to inform people how to progress in an exercise or you’ll turn the advanced clients off. I sure wish Adam would have told the audience that they can place a dumbbell in their lap for extra resistance once they are able to perform 20 repetitions.

I’m obviously very advanced in glute strength but I can do ten barbell glute bridges with 495 lbs. A bodyweight glute bridge gets my mean and peak glute activation to around 20% and 35% mean and peak activity depending on the exact location of the electrodes. A barbell glute bridge gets my mean and peak glute activation to around 65% and 140% respectively. Without the use of resistance, many individuals get short-changed.

What a perfect opportunity to spread the word about the barbell glute bridge – on National television! Oh well, it will have to wait for another day.

Valerie Waters “Exercises for a Great Butt” Video

Just recently I came across this video by Valerie Waters. Again, lots of Valslide lunging. That’s one good movement, what about recommending some bridging or quadruped movements? We need multiple angles!

Mike Boyle Interview With Valerie Waters: “How to Get Your Best Butt”

How To Get Your Best Butt! Episode #19 from valerie waters on Vimeo.

A couple of weeks ago I saw this interview with Mike Boyle. While I certainly agree with much of what Mike is saying, I wish he would have said to people, “learn how to do single leg hip lifts.” Single leg hip lifts are an amazing exercise that Mike programs for his athletes (I call them single leg hip thrusts). He even figured out a crafty way to use band resistance for them. Mike’s been recommending bridging movements for many, many years now.

Remember, we need lots of angles for optimum glute development. Squats, lunges, deadlifts, single leg hip lifts, etc. In my opinion Mike missed out on a great opportunity by intentionally “dumbing it down” for the audience. Too many experts and gurus do this these days which is unfortunate. Don’t avoid speaking about a great exercise just because the audience may not know what it is. Instead, take the time to teach them the exercise or at least mention it. People are pretty resourceful these days. If they don’t know of an exercise many will look it up on Youtube or Google or it will plant a seed so that next time they hear about it they will be sure to look it up!

Physiologically, How do we Transform a Booty from Pathetic to Perfect?

Most women don’t understand what needs to take place in order to go from flab to fab in the glute region. Their butts are often flabby and wide so all they can think about is making their butts smaller. This makes them want to starve themselves and perform a ton of cardio. While they certainly need to whittle off the fat, they usually don’t have any muscle or shape underneath their fat so they would be left with nothing but a flat, saggy butt after the fat had melted off. In order to have a nice looking butt, a woman must have muscular shape to give it the sought-after round, perky, and lifted appearance. You want glute depth, not width. It’s not easy to build glute muscle so they must train hard and intelligently. The good news is that exercises that work the glutes are difficult so they significantly raise the metabolism. A simple booty workout is actually a form of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) so the workout will burn fat off of the butt while simultaneously adding muscular shape. This is how you get a nice butt! Look at all the pictures in this article. Nearly all of the girls have more glute muscle than a typical woman.

Benefits of Using Different Exercises to Hit Different Angles

Let’s say that all a woman ever does for her glutes is squats and lunges. Unfortunately squats and lunges always hit the quads really well but for some individuals they don’t hit the glutes very hard. Some individuals don’t use good form and therefore fail to hit the glutes during squats and lunges, and some individuals simply have unique anthropometries (body-types) which prevents their glutes from getting maximally targeted from squats and lunges even if they’re using great form. To obtain the best butt possible, we need to hit the glutes from a variety of angles with a plethora of exercises. Look closely at Ronnie Coleman’s glute fibers. When analyzing the fibers, it makes sense that they’d need a variety of exercises to maximize their potential.

Special Glute Experiment – More on Exercise Variety for the Glutes

A few months ago I decided to conduct a unique experiment where I placed electrodes on the glute medius, upper glute max, mid glute max, and lower glute max and performed a variety of hip extension, hip abduction, and hip external rotation movements while measuring the electromyography (EMG) activity in the various muscle parts. Here is a chart that shows the results of the experiment (the top number is the mean or average activation according to maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) while the bottom number is the peak or highest activation according to MVC):

The Winners

Based on this experiment, here are the top three exercises in terms of mean and peak activity for each muscle part:

Glute Medius

Mean: Quadruped Hip Circle, Band Standing External Rotation, Barbell Hip Thrust

Peak: Quadruped Hip Circle, Quadruped Band Donkey Kick, Quadruped Hip Extension

Upper Glute Maximus

Mean: Barbell Hip Thrust, Band Skorcher Hip Thrust, Quadruped Hip Circle

Peak: Quadruped Hip Extension, Barbell Hip Thrust, Bird Dog

Mid Glute Maximus

Mean: Band Standing Hip External Rotation, Band Skorcher Hip Thrust, Barbell Hip Thrust

Peak: Band Standing Hip External Rotation, Band Skorcher Hip Thrust, Cable Standing Hip External Rotation

Lower Glute Maximus

Mean: Deadlift, Band Hip Thrust, Band Standing Hip External Rotation

Peak: Single Leg Hip Thrust, Shoulder Elevated Single Leg Hip Thrust, Deadlift

As you can see, the results were pretty shocking. My findings indicate that the glutes show varying levels of activation in the different regions of the muscles depending on the exercise performed. Of course, we already knew that the various heads of the delts, pecs, and traps have varying roles and levels of activation depending on the exercise, but this study indicates that the same is true regarding the glutes and possibly more muscle groups.

This experiment has huge implications for sport-specific training and figure training as maximum glute activation appears to be region-specific and requires a variety of movement patterns to optimize activation across the entire spectrum of muscle fibers.

This experiment also lends validity to “low-load activation training” as the glutes seemed to be highly activated by certain simple bodyweight movements such as quadruped hip extensions, single leg hip thrusts, bird dogs, and quadruped hip circles.

It also has huge implications for research as it shows that data will be considerably different depending on where the electrodes are placed on the glutes for EMG experiments.

What in the Hell is the Skorcher?

The Skorcher is a machine I invented to be able to perform hip thrusts with extra range of motion and band resistance. I am not having it manufactured so you will not be able to perform Skorcher hip thrusts. Just perform barbell hip thrusts instead. Here’s a video of yours truly performing band Skorcher hip thrusts while rockin’ out to Miley Cyrus!

What Rep-Range is Best for the Glutes?

Most texts state that the gluteus maximus are a 60-68% slow-twitch muscle. This lends support to going light for high reps. However, an overwhelming amount of journal studies show that the glutes don’t activate much in simple tasks such as walking or standing from a seated position. This lends support to going heavy and/or explosive for lower reps. Anecdotally, bodybuilders have realized that the lower body tends to respond best to higher rep ranges. However, I believe that we should utilize low reps, medium reps, and high reps when trying to build the glutes and shape the butt.

Just consider the exercises themselves. Some exercises lend themselves better to heavy weight for lower reps such as squats and deadlifts. Some exercises lend themselves well to medium reps such as hip thrusts, pull throughs, and walking lunges. And some exercises lend themselves well to high reps such as side lying abductions and side lying clams.

Going Too Heavy and Going Too Light

Let’s say I prescribe a client really heavy pull-throughs or walking lunges. In the case of the pull-through, they’ll stumble and lose their balance and fail to work their glutes. If you go too light you won’t work the glutes either so there’s a happy medium that must be reached with pull-throughs. The same goes with walking lunges. Go too heavy and you won’t maintain forward momentum. It’ll look like a static lunge followed by a farmer’s walk. Again, a happy medium must be reached to work the glutes the best, form can’t be compromised but there needs to be ample tension on the glutes. Here are examples that illustrate this concept:

Benefits of Doing Squatting/Lunging Movements

These movements work the quads really well and they work the glutes best in a position of deep stretch. Because of the eccentric activity in the stretch position, they lead to the highest levels of glute soreness and inflammation. This muscular damage is a critical part of hypertrophy adaptations. Several journal studies support this last statement. Many folks believe that the squat or lunge is the best glute exercise. Maybe they’re right; maybe they’re wrong.

Benefits of Doing Deadlift/Good Morning Movements/Back Extension/Reverse Hyper Movements

These movements work the hamstrings really well and they move the hips through a full range of motion while hitting the glutes pretty hard. Many folks believe that the deadlift is the best glute exercise. I’ve heard some say that the back extension is the best. Maybe they’re right; maybe they’re wrong.

Benefits of Doing Bridging/Kickback Movements

These movements keep the knees bent while they move the hips through a full range of motion. Because of the bent knees which decreases hamstring contribution and increases glute contribution and the emphasis on end-range contraction, they lead to the highest levels of cramping or “pump.” This pump is a critical part of hypertrophy adaptations as well. Several journal studies support this concept despite what many naysayers believe. Most of my clients believe that barbell glute bridges, hip thrusts and pendulum quadruped hip extensions are the best glute exercises due to the fact that they “feel” their glutes working most in these movements. Maybe they’re right; maybe they’re wrong. We don’t know enough about hypertrophy to know for sure.

Benefits of Doing Abduction/External Rotation Movements

Abduction exercises often hit the upper glutes really hard while external rotation movements hit the entire glutes really well. In fact, as you can see in the chart above the band external rotation is an amazing glute exercise…most likely the best glute isolation movement in existence. It’s difficult to master, but if you can do it, you’re glutes will respond very favorably! Doing these movements first in a routine often allows the client to feel their glutes working more on subsequent exercises which is a huge plus.

Why Most Personal Trainers Fail

Many personal trainers fail at delivering great glutes to their clients because of several reasons. First, they don’t adequately understand the concept of progressions. Most start their clients off with too much weight or too difficult a variation to handle. Second, they don’t understand corrective exercise. Many clients can’t automatically perform squats or hip thrusts. They need to improve their ankle, hip, and thoracic mobility, they need to learn how to activate their glutes, they need to improve their flexibility in various muscles, etc. You can’t just throw a bar on someone’s back and tell them to squat. Start out with bodyweight, progress or regress as needed and use corrective strategies to get the clients moving properly.

Why Most Strength Coaches Fail

Some strength coaches fail at delivering great glutes to their clients because they are too rigid in their beliefs to the point where they are anti-bodybuilding. Female personal training clients often come to coaches/trainers to improve their physique. This requires the coaches to step out of the box and borrow some techniques from the bodybuilding world. Get over it! Some of these methods flat out work, and you’re not going to injure anyone as long as they use good form.

The Plan

1. Screen
2. Warm-Up
3. Progressions
4. Advanced Protocol

Screen

Ideally prior to your first workout you’d receive a proper screening. I’m biased toward the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) but in order to use good form on various exercises you need to have proper levels of mobility and stability in the various joints.

Warm-Up

Ideally for each workout you would warm-up by completing a circuit consisting of drills from each of the following five categories. The screen would determine which drills and how much of each category should be performed prior to the workout. The warm-up should last around 20 minutes:

1) Foam Rolling/Trigger-Point Therapy – this addresses soft-tissue quality and density, gets rid of trigger points, breaks up adhesions, and increases blood flow to allow for better contractility and flexibility

2) Static Stretching – this addresses soft-tissue flexibility. In general, all of the muscles that act on the hip – from extensors to flexors, abductors to adductors, and external to internal rotators, need to be loose.

3) Dynamic Mobility Drills – this addresses mobility and ensures that joints like the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine can move properly to allow for proper movement during exercise performance

4) Core Stability Drills – this addresses core stability and ensures that you are able to brace the lumbar spine and move at the hips and thoracic spine in order to produce proper motor patterns

5) Glute Activation Drills – this addresses glute activation and ensures that your glutes are turning on and firing properly so you will use them during your workout

Warm-ups are for everyone; beginners and advanced. Nobody is too good for them. We all need to make it a habit of going through the motions of a proper warm-up so our muscles don’t tighten up and/or quit activating.

Progressions

Ideally you would start at the most basic exercises and demonstrate proficiency before moving on to a more difficult variation. For example, you must demonstrate that you can squat and lunge with bodyweight before you hold onto dumbbells or place a barbell on your back. Before performing barbell hip thrusts, you must be able to demonstrate proficiency with bodyweight hip thrusts.

Start with simple bodyweight exercises like squats, static lunges, single leg reaching RDL’s, glute bridges, quadruped hip extensions, and side lying clams. Once your form is perfect and you feel the exercises working the right muscles and you are controlling the movement, move onto more difficult variations like bodyweight walking lunges, Bulgarian squats, single leg glute bridges, and bird dogs. Once you master those, finally you can move onto weighted movements and more advanced variations.

What if I Just Jump Right into the Advanced Protocol Even Though I’m not Ready for it?

You will not be able to use good form, you will most likely injure your low back or knees, and your glutes will not look any better than before. In fact, they’ll probably look worse since you won’t activate them much (so they won’t grow) but you’ll definitely activate all the synergists which pick up the slack for the weak glutes (erector spinae, hamstrings, quads, etc.). This means that the other muscles will grow but your glutes won’t so they’ll look even smaller and more pathetic. Go about things wisely and start at the bottom and move up gradually.

Advanced Protocol

At last! This is what you’ve been waiting for. The advanced program! It is important that you’ve spent adequate time preparing your body to perform the following program and that you have the necessary levels of mobility & stability to perform each of the movement patterns correctly. Without futher ado, here’s what you’re going to do when the time is right:

1. Pick an Abduction/External Rotation Exercise and do 2 sets of 10-20 repetitions

Options: x-band walk, band standing abduction, band seated abduction, band/cable hip external rotation

* On these movements you must focus on “feeling” the glutes doing the work.

2. Pick a Quad-Dominant Hip Extension Exercise and do 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions

Options: full squat, box squat, front squat, Zercher squat, walking lunge, high step up, Bulgarian squat, pistol

3. Pick a Hip-Dominant Hip Extension Exercise and do 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions

Options: deadlift, sumo deadlift, trap bar deadlift, Romanian deadlift, rack pull, single leg RDL, good morning, back extension, reverse hyper

4. Pick a Bent-Leg Hip Extension Exercise and do 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions

Options: hip thrust, glute bridge, single leg hip thrust, pull through, pendulum quadruped hip extension

*On these movements you want shorter rest times and you want to try to force as much blood into the glutes as possible. Think constant tension and think “pump.” You should be waddling like a duck after these movements.

How do I Perform Some of these Movements?

Here are some videos that can help you out. I took some videos of my niece who trains with me once per week for the past six months or so. If a 13 year old girl can do it, so can you!

Pause Squat

Here is my niece doing 3 pause-squats with 95 lbs.

Deadlift

Here is my niece doing 5 deadlifts with 115 lbs.

Bottom-Up Single Leg Hip Thrust

Here’s my niece doing a new variation I just made up; I call it a bottom-up single leg hip thrust:

Barbell Glute Bridge

Here’s my niece performing a barbell glute bridge with 95 lbs for 30 reps! (Ideally her knees would stay a little more stable):

Hip Thrust

Here’s an entire video I filmed showing how to do a proper hip thrust:

Band Hip External Rotation

Here I show how to do a proper band hip external rotation. Cables can be used for this exercise as well.

What if I Want to Do a Full-Body Workout, Not Just a Glute Workout?

No problem, just alternate between lower body and upper body movements and throw in a horizontal press (bench press, push up), vertical pull (chin up, pull up, pulldown), vertical press (military press, seated db military press), horizontal pull (one arm row, inverted row, seated row), and ab/core exercise (plank, side plank, Pallof press, ab wheel rollout, bodysaw, suitcase carry, landmine, cable chop, cable lift).

So one workout could look like this:

band hip external rotation
push up
front squat
chin up
sumo deadlift
db military press
barbell glute bridge
one arm row
ab wheel rollout

If doing full body workouts just do two sets of each exercise.

What if I Want to Work My Butt Out at Home and Don’t Have any Equipment?

You can still get a great workout. Here are a bunch of great glute exercises you can do at home:

How Often Should I Work Out?

My niece is seeing great results training with me one day per week (but she also plays volleyball throughout the week). Most people see the best results when they hit their glutes three times per week. Really strong people like myself see better results when we hit the glutes twice per week. I’ve trained some clients five days per week and hit their glutes hard every day with great results.

Bottom line – The number of days isn’t too important and depends on the training split, the training load and intensiveness, how advanced the lifter is, etc. I recommend 3 full body workouts per week or 4 upper/lower split workouts (meaning 2 upper body and 2 lower body workouts per week) for most women.

Conclusion

There you have it! That’s the secret to amazing glutes! Now spread the word so we can live in a world like this:

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If you want to get “accepted” in the strength & conditioning industry, I’ll let you in on the secret. Just don’t rock the boat! Use the FMS, have your clients foam roll, do mobility drills, develop single leg stability and strength, follow the joint by joint approach, develop core stability, and utilize “accepted” equipment and exercises.

Although I’m in favor of the methods listed above, I’m not always in agreement with the mainstream especially as it pertains to “unsafe” exercises. What do you do when a new fad comes along that goes against what your past experience has taught you? Do you go with the flow in order to get interviewed on the popular podcasts, posted on the popular websites, or invited to speak at the popular seminars? Or, do you stand your ground knowing that it won’t win you any fans in the industry? I’m proud to say that I am the type of guy who stands his ground. I will not cave until I am completely convinced that I should change something, and there are certain trends in the industry that leave me unconvinced at the moment.

I must admit, sometimes I have a hard time taking certain individuals in the S&C community seriously. For instance, when I listen to some of them speak boldly about exercises or concepts in which they have limited or no experience, I realize that they’ve been brainwashed. Many are so wrapped up in theory that they become “addicted” to the science even if it doesn’t add up in the real-world. You see, I’m an advanced lifter who has been training for seventeen straight years and is still trying to increase his strength, muscle mass, and power. You can’t pull the wool over my eyes very easily.

Many strength coaches these days are anti-back extensions and reverse hypers. While I appreciate the logic behind these folks’ arguments, I am still a big supporter of these lifts. For the record, I have no problem with a strength coach who has years of experience with these exercises and arrives at the conclusion that these lifts are not worthwhile. I do, however, have a bit of a problem with rookie strength coaches who have never spent a significant amount of time with these apparatuses and simply regurgitate what they’ve heard from their mentors.

I also have a problem with guys who are so passionate about being “anti-back extensions and reverse hypers” to the point where they’re irrational and absurd. From listening to some of these guys speak you’d think that lifters’ discs would explode and squirt gel across the weightroom the second they performed a back extension or reverse hyper. Sometimes the mindset of today’s younger generation of strength coach ticks me off! In conversing with some members of this crowd I realize that they think I’m an absolute idiot for prescribing back extensions and reverse hypers, yet I’ve had my glute ham developer, 45 degree back extension, and reverse hyper for four years and have trained myself as well as hundreds of clients off of them while they’ve only seen pictures of them or read an article or two about them.

We often forget that the online S & C community is a small sample of the total S & C population and that just because one’s favorite gurus have iron-clad beliefs about a certain topic, it doesn’t mean that they are completely correct or that hundreds of strength coaches and trainers out there aren’t having great success with the very same methods that are being denounced by the online community of coaches. For example, I know of a handful of top sprint coaches who list the reverse hyper as one of their top five exercises for speed development. Unfortunately, their voices aren’t heard because they’re so busy training sprinters.

Moreover, I’m shocked at the number of younger strength coaches who will see a video clip of a coach prescribing a high-caliber athlete an exercise like a back extension or a sit up and will race to the forums to post something like, “Oh my God! Can you believe that (insert athlete)’s coach was having him do (insert bad exercise such as back extensions, reverse hypers, sit ups, bent over rows, good mornings, flies, pullovers, hanging leg raises, or leg presses)! He’s so behind the times. It’s a wonder that these (coaches/trainers) get hired with such a lack of knowledge!

If a coach is having great success with a particular lift, and it seems to be transferring over to his or her athletes’ sports performance without creating any perceivable harm to the athletes’ bodies, then why on God’s green earth would that coach abandon the exercise?

When we omit certain movements, we raise the risk of allowing our athletes to get weak in a particular movement pattern. I’ve witnessed plenty of strong athletes who can squat and deadlift a ton of weight yet struggle to execute twenty bodyweight back extensions or reverse hypers. What does this tell you? They’re weak and need more strength endurance in their posterior chains!

It is this coach’s belief that variety greatly reduces the need for strict periodization and that one should alternate accessory lifts frequently. Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with having a huge pool of exercises from which to choose. I believe that strength coaches should have their handful of “money lifts” as well as a plethora of accessory movements on hand to slate into their athletes’ programs.

In this article I’m going to roll through some of the arguments in favor of and against back extensions and reverse hypers. I’d like for you to be the judge.

Arguments Against Back Extensions and Reverse Hypers

1. Deadlifts and especially trap bar deadlifts are a safer hip dominant lift
2. Most folks do them incorrectly and compensate with their lumbar spine
3. Repetitive flexion-extension wreaks havoc on the spine
4. They require adequate levels of hamstring flexibility, anti-flexion core stability, hip flexor flexibility, and glute activation
5. Deadlifts and squats are much more effective due to a more pronounced eccentric component, more total-body muscle activity, and increased testosterone-release
6. “Supported” lifts or lifts that support part of the body train muscles without improving upon integrated, coordinated movement
7. In sport-specific training the isolation of joint actions is not worthwhile
8. They lead to significant amounts of shear loading on the spine even if executed properly

Arguments in Favor of Back Extensions and Reverse Hypers

1. While deadlifts, good mornings, squats, and lunges have axial, vertical directional load vectors, back extensions have anteroposterior, horizontal directional load vectors and reverse hypers are one of the rare lifts that have cyclical, dynamic directional load vectors due to the pendulum reorienting itself throughout the lift
2. These lifts can be done properly with all hip extension and no lumbar extension, and if done properly this tells a lot about the athlete in terms of hamstring and hip flexor flexibility, core stability, and glute activation
3. Just like we “isolate” for core stability, it’s a good idea to “isolate” for hip strength…whether it be hip extension, hip flexion, hip abduction, hip external rotation, etc.
4. It’s never unwise to hammer the posterior-chain which is often a weak link among lifters and athletes
5. Reverse hypers are therapeutic for the low back
6. These lifts will improve squat and deadlift strength as well as sprinting speed
7. These lifts have impressive levels of hamstring and glute EMG activity
8. Anything that strengthens the posterior chain might lead to less low back pain and injury

Let’s take a closer look at the various arguments against straight leg hip extension exercises:

1. Deadlifts and especially trap bar deadlifts are a safer hip dominant lift

Anyone with any weightroom experience knows that deadlifts involve much higher incidents of acute injuries. In fact, I can’t think of one strong deadlifter who has never aggravated his or her low back at some point from heavy deadlifting.

The case could be made that back extensions and reverse hypers lead to higher incidents of chronic injuries but I don’t agree. More on that later.

2. Most folks do them incorrectly and compensate with their lumbar spine

I agree. Most folks do in fact perform these lifts incorrectly. However, most folks also perform squats, deadlifts, and lunges incorrectly. It’s our job as professionals to teach our clients and athletes how to perform lifts properly. Shouldn’t we exhibit high expectations for our clients and athletes and “expect” them to learn how to perform lifts correctly? Think about how many times you “coach” squats and deadlifts. If you apply this same amount of “coaching” to other lifts they will get it.

3. Repetitive flexion-extension wreaks havoc on the spine

I am a big fan of Stuart McGill. I believe he’s a great person, a passionate researcher, and an impactful presenter. The science behind his work makes perfect sense. Bend the spine back and forth enough times and the intervertebral discs will eventually rupture. However, I take his research with a grain of salt.

Considering that 80% of individuals suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives it is important that we figure out exactly what is causing this pain. Is it weak glutes? Weak core? Repetitive flexion-extension? Poor back endurance? Quad-dominance? Tight hip flexors and poor posture?

It is my opinion that a weak posterior chain and weak glutes in particular are largely responsible for the alarming number of low back pain in the U.S. The flexion-extension argument just doesn’t hold up in the real-world. There are many folks that perform crunches, sit ups, and back extensions their entire lives and never experience back pain. If there were indeed a “set number” of flexion-extension cycles, every single individual who performed crunches would have disc-related injuries. Although it’s not en-vogue these days to go against the great Dr. McGill, you can’t ignore this simple fact.

The world record for sit ups was set by a Brazilian gentleman named Edmar Freitas who did 133,986 sit ups in 30 hours. He’s also done 111,000 sit ups in 24 hours. If we were truly dealt a fixed number of flexion-extension cycles, Edmar would have likely used his up during his remarkable feats and would have herniated a disc on sight. He’d have been carried off the premises in a stretcher. All boxers, wresters, and bodybuilders would have herniated discs as well. Edmar has probably executed over a million sit ups in his life yet he’s still able to walk around with an intact spine.

What does this tell you? I’ll tell you what it tells me:

1) Clearly we don’t have a fixed number of flexion-extension cycles
2) Strong muscles and proper form can buttress against shear and compressive loads, and
3) The intervertebral discs can clearly regenerate themselves to a certain degree

At any rate, I have no problem with folks who decide to abandon more traditional ab exercises like crunches, sit ups, leg raises, and side bends, and instead concentrate on performing solely stability exercises like planks, side planks, Pallof presses, ab wheel rollouts, bodysaws, chops, lifts, and suitcase carries. While I still program straight leg sit ups and hanging leg raises, I’ve found myself programming core-stability exercises much more often and traditional ab exercises much less often. However, back extensions done properly do not involve spinal flexion or hyperextension!

You be the judge; does it look like my low back is going into unsafe levels of flexion or hyperextension? I should mention that the two videos below showcase subtle technique alterations from “standard form” that increase gluteal contribution and decrease erector contribution:

As you can see, my low back doesn’t flex or extend even when holding onto a 100 lb dumbbell and draping a miniband around my neck which probably offers another 50 lbs of resistance to the top of the lift.

What about reverse hypers? Here’s a video clip of Smitty from the Diesel Crew explaining how they perform their reverse hypers:

As you can see, it is possible to perform reverse hypers without flexing or extending the lumbar spine as well. If you tell me that this form is just too hard for people to master then I will think you’re a crappy trainer. Remember – high expectations and quality coaching!

4. They require adequate levels of hamstring flexibility, anti-flexion core stability, hip flexor flexibility, and glute activation

Proper squats require adequate levels of hip, thoracic spine, and ankle mobility; should we avoid them? Are you okay with your clients or athletes not being able to perform proper back extensions or reverse hypers? If they can’t do them right, it means that they either have crappy hamstring or hip flexor flexibility, poor levels of core stability, weak glutes, improper motor patterns, or simply an insufficient knowledge of form. Personally I’m not okay with my clients or athletes suffering from any of the aforementioned dysfunction and I intend to fix their movement patterns. If someone like me can do them correctly, then I surely expect them to do them correctly and will keep working with them until they get it right.

5. Deadlifts and squats are much more effective due to a more pronounced eccentric component, more total-body muscle activity, and increased testosterone release

I would actually agree with this statement. However, back extensions have an eccentric component that is more accentuated up top in the contracted position, while reverse hypers have an extreme eccentric component if you perform the exercise correctly and stop the pendulum from pulling your low back into flexion.

When you hold onto the handles in the case of the reverse hyper, you activate the forearms and lats and transfer energy from the hands down through the arms, back, and core. In fact, the process of holding onto the handles and adding a lot of weight to the pendulum makes the reverse hyper an excellent total body exercise. If you doubt me, I recommend palpating someone’s erector spinae all the way up and down the spinal column to see how hard they’re contracting during the lift.

The last thing I want to mention is that there have been a couple of studies that have come out in the past year or two showing that increased testosterone release from lower body exercise does not impact muscle protein synthesis in upper body muscles. This means that we may be wrong about “squats and deadlifts” causing upper-body growth due to increased testosterone release. Maybe the increased upper body growth from squats and deadlifts is simply due to the development of a strong set of erectors which allows for more weight to be lifted during upper body exercises like bent over rows, t-bar rows, bent over rear delt raises, and barbell curls.

6. “Supported” lifts or lifts that support part of the body train muscles without improving upon integrated, coordinated movement

At first thought I would tend to agree with this statement. However, upon further consideration one realizes that this is not in fact true. Since these lifts can hone in on muscular weak links and improve strength in the integrated, coordinated total-body lifts like squats and deadlifts, they lead to improved integration and coordination in a round-about manner. In other words, if you strengthen the hip extension pattern and the posterior chain in general, you’ll get stronger at squatting and deadlifting and more powerful in running and jumping.

Furthermore, is integrated, coordinated movement the sole objective of sport-specific training?

7. In sport-specific training the isolation of joint actions is not worthwhile

What happens when you get an athlete with virtually no glute development? Don’t you try to isolate the glutes with quadruped and bridging patterns in order to increase activation and hypertrophy? What if an athlete has weak hamstrings? Don’t you prescribe Russian leg curls or glute ham raises? The bottom line is that there are times when we need to increase the size of a certain muscle as well as times when we need to increase the muscular endurance of a muscle, both of which warrant isolation.

When you really think about it, nearly everything we do in sport-specific training is “isolation” work. In sports the body is all over the place. In the weightroom, we’re very controlled. Squats isolate double extension. Plyometrics isolate triple extension. Planks isolate core stabilization. Static stretching isolates muscles. So do mobility and activation drills. We foam roll individual muscles. When we bench press we isolate horizontal pressing. But in sports we combine several joint actions at once and usually move our upper and lower bodies simultaneously.

In sport-specific training we get individual parts strong so we can assemble them together on the field, court, or ring with the right timing patterns to create powerful movement. Although it’s wise to focus on “money exercises” that give you much bang for your buck, it is still okay to program some more isolated work as accessory movements. That said, I have a hard time seeing how anyone could really consider a hip extension movement “isolation training” when there are over 20 muscles involved in hip extension including large muscle groups such as the glutes, hamstrings, and adductors.

Here’s another way to think about it: Stronger deadlifts equal faster sprints. Reverse hypers equal stronger deadlifts. Therefore, reverse hypers equal faster sprints. In mathematics we call this the transitive property of equality. If stronger deadlifts truly lead to faster sprints, then anything that strengthens the deadlift therefore leads to faster sprints. In this manner a grip exercise could increase sprinting speed if it strengthens the grip which happens to be the limiting factor in one’s max deadlift.

Obviously if you’re limited on time, go with standing movements. Standing lower body movements like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and power cleans reign supreme for a variety of reasons, but supine, prone, and quadruped lower body movements can supplement standing lifts very well and lead to synergy in training adaptations. In other words, 2 plus 2 doesn’t equal 4; it equals 5.

8. They lead to significant amounts of shear loading on the spine even if executed properly

Deadlifts also lead to significant amounts of shear loading especially at the bottom of the lift when bent over and even more significantly when the lifter keeps his or her hips high when deadlifting. This technique is characteristic of taller lifters. When we pick up plates or dumbbells off the bottom rack, we experience large shearing forces on the spine. In fact, any supine, prone, or quadruped hip extension movement or standing hip extension movement that involves bending forward significantly is going to produce large shearing forces.

It is important to expose the body to forces from different directions as Davis’ law and Wolff’s law state that the body’s tissues can strengthen and restructure themselves to better prepare for the types of forces to which they’re regularly exposed. If we avoid certain directional loading patterns then injuries will arise in sporting situations as soon as the body is greeted with unfamiliar directions of force. With proper progression and mechanics, you can perform heavy back extensions and reverse hypers and not have to fear spinal injury, and you’ll even safeguard the body to prevent injuries in competition.

Summary of Arguments in Favor of Straight Leg Hip Extension Exercises

Back extensions and reverse hypers may be more “specific” to top-speed sprinting and may transfer better due to the more specific-nature of the directional loading pattern (horizontal vs. vertical) in comparison to squatting, lunging, and deadlifting patterns. Since the glutes contract very hard at the top of these movements at end-range hip extension, they may help add much needed power to that range of motion during athletics. This range of motion includes the critical stage of ground contact in sprinting.

When an athlete can demonstrate proficiency at heavy back extensions and reverse hypers, you know that he has adequate levels of hamstring and hip flexor flexibility, anti-flexion core stability, and glute activation. In other words, you can feel confident that their backs aren’t going to round forward or hyperextend very easily, their glutes are strong and can turn on when needed, their hamstrings are loose enough to allow for a healthy range of forward bending motion, and their hip flexors are loose enough to allow for full hip extension.

Strengthening the posterior chain in general may increase squat and deadlift strength in addition to staving off low back pain and injury. Many individuals have witnessed their back pain disappear once they started performing back extensions and reverse hypers. In fact, some experts argue that the reverse hyper is quite therapeutic for the low back as it rotates the sacrum and may “pump” fluid into the intervertebral discs. Although this sounds great in theory, it may or may not be true. Anecdotal evidence seems to support the notion.

In the clip below, I perform a heavy set of reverse hypers while allowing the sacrum to rotate. I have been performing reverse hypers for four years and am one of the individuals who feel that it’s benefited my back health tremendously.

As Dr. Stuart McGill has often mentioned, pain is very specific to the individual’s injury, dysfunction, or pain-mechanism. For example, a flexion-intolerant person better keep a strong arch while he performs back extensions or reverse hypers and avoid going too deep or he’ll certainly feel it the next day. Conversely, an extension-intolerant person better brace the core hard and avoid going up too high on back extensions or reverse hypers or he’ll certainly feel it the next day. I should mention that arching the low back slightly in comparison to flexing the low back helps buttress the spine and protect the low back from shear forces by 23-43% (McGill). As a matter of fact, simply bracing the spine and contracting the core musculature increases spinal compressive loading by 12-18%, yet the act simultaneously enhances spinal stability by 36-64% (Granata and Marras, 2000). Some individuals get an uncomfortable tingling sensation when they perform reverse hypers. This is usually due to tight hamstrings and glutes and clears up with stretching and continued use of the reverse hyper.

The last thing I want to mention is that many high-level coaches are in support of the reverse hyper including Louie Simmons, Dave Tate, Kelly Baggett, Joe DeFranco, Erik Minor, Christian Thibaudeau, Martin Rooney, James Smith, Jason Ferruggia, and Charlie Francis. You certainly cannot call this list of coaches a bunch of idiots as these folks are some of the top minds in the S & C industry.

How Do I Use Reverse Hypers in Training?

1. I prescribe bodyweight reverse hypers to beginner males and amateur women that I train
2. I prescribe heavy reverse hypers to all sprinters that I train
3. I prescribe them infrequently (maybe every other week) to most athletes that I train
4. I personally perform them when I notice that I have trouble getting the bar moving in the initial portion of a max deadlift

I hope that I’ve done a good job of trying to persuade strength coaches to being open-minded about back extensions and reverse hypers. Thanks for reading my article!

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In the past several months I’ve seen so many bad hip thrust videos on Youtube that it occurred to me that I’ve never filmed a hip thrust instructional video.

In case you didn’t know, in September of last year I started writing about the hip thrust and incorporating the exercise into articles for various strength training websites. The exercise has already become very popular around the world. I receive multiple emails daily from individuals who have begun using hip thrusts and have seen excellent results in terms of better butts, faster sprints, and improved deadlift strength.

To date, I know that strength coaches Dave Tate, Christian Thibaudeau, Kelly Baggett, Mike Boyle, Nick Tumminello, Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore, Jason Ferrugia, Martin Rooney, Mike Young, Mark Young, Patrick Ward, Joe DeFranco, Charlie Weingroff, Sam Leahey, and Brad Kaczmarski have been performing and prescribing variations of hip thrusts. Famous celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson programs them into his celebrities’ workouts. There are probably many more gurus and athletes using them but I have yet to receive feedback. Furthermore, strongman Kevin Nee and powerlifter Andy Bolton have used variations of them in their training. The hip thrust has been featured on TMuscle.Com, StrengthCoach.Com, Elitefts.Com, Men’s Health Magazine, and Oxygen Magazine, not to mention numerous blogs and forums around the world.

If you’ve studied the history of the bench press, you know that it took many years – around fifty years to be more precise, for the lift to evolve into the world’s most popular upper body exercise. It started off as the “back press,” “press from back,” or “floor press,” morphed into the “bridge press” or “belly press,” and finally evolved into the modern “bench press.” Many weightlifters from back in the day did not like the bench press because it was performed while lying supine. These folks felt that all “manly” lifts were performed from a standing position – barbell military press, cleans, jerks, snatches, squats, deadlifts, curls, and bent over rows. The weightlifters would see people performing the bench press and would scoff at those who wanted to “expand their pecs.” Despite the close-mindedness of the weightlifters of that era, the bench press caught on because it works! The hip thrust is catching on very rapidly because like the bench press, it works too! If you do the hip thrust correctly your glutes will burn like they’ve never burned before.

When you think about it, the hip thrust is very much like the bench press. One could consider the hip thrust “the lower body bench press.” You can perform a floor press but a bench allows you to perform the movement with a full range of motion. Similarly, you can perform a glute bridge, but a bench allows you to perform the movement with a full range of motion. Lying supine allows you to train the pecs optimally which are best worked from a horizontal load vector. Similarly, lying supine allows you to train the glutes optimally which are also worked best from a horizontal vector.

Although standing exercises will always reign supreme, sometimes we need to throw in supine, prone, or quadruped exercises in order to train different angles. The bench press correlates very well with the shot put. Similarly, the hip thrust seems to correlate well with top speed sprinting. In my opinion, the hip thrust is getting popular faster than any other new exercise I’ve seen since I’ve been following the fitness field.

In order to perform proper hip thrusts, you must move at the hips, not at the low back. You must feel the glutes doing the work, not the lumbar erectors and hamstrings. Finally, you must control the weight, which means no flinging.

Do yourself a favor and watch this ten minute video. It will really pay off in the long-run. I’ve been performing hip thrusts for three-and-a-half years now, so I can provide you with some pretty darn good advice! Ironically, Soviet and American scientists Yuri Verhkoshansky, Mel Siff, and Tudor Bompa thought up variations of hip thrusts decades ago and prescribed them to athletes and sprinters. Although these exercises didn’t “stick,” it appears that the more modern variations I’ve come up with are here to stay.

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The following is a repost of a guest blog I recently wrote for a friend named Jonathon Acosta.

What Women Want
By Bret Contreras

I don’t want to waste anyone’s time so I’m going to dive right into things. Women want a nice butt. There’s no debating that. The conundrum for a woman now becomes, “how do I get a nice butt?” The answer is, “it depends on your body.”

Women come in all shapes and sizes. Most need to lose fat. Many need to gain muscle all over. Some need to gain muscle in certain places and avoid muscle gain in other places. Every woman is unique in this regard.

One problem that turns many women off to strength training is that many of the “great” glute exercises are also the best quad exercises. A simple bodyweight squat typically activates 70% MVC for the quads and only 20% MVC for the glutes in women. This is why most women feel squats only in their quads.

I’ve trained a whole lot of “skinny types.” The stronger you get these types of women, the better they look. Get them strong at squats and lunges and their butt and thighs keep looking better.

I’ve also trained a whole lot of “heavier types.” No matter how hard these women worked, their thighs always appeared a bit bulky. This is where the disconnect lies between trainers and clients. A trainer may know deep down that over time getting a woman strong at the most basic movements like squats, deadlifts, lunges, bench press, bent over rows, chin ups, dips, and military press will serve her body very well. However, the worst thing you can do to an already-insecure female client who is self-conscious about how large her thighs are is prescribe a bunch of exercises that the woman feels working her quads. The second her jeans start fitting more snug in the thighs and she will want to quit working out.

Many trainers don’t really experience this phenomenon, simply because they are “conditioning-type” trainers. They don’t worry about loading the exercises and they stick mostly to bodyweight, band, med ball, dumbbell, kettlebell, and trx exercises. They simply move you from one exercises to another and try to keep your heart rate elevated throughout the workout. While this is good for fat loss, it’s usually not the best solution to developing a better butt.

A typical client has experienced severe gluteal atrophy due to inactivity over the years. Their rear-ends may appear large because they are loaded up with excess adipose tissue, but underneath all that fat there isn’t a whole lot of muscle. We need to whittle away the fat, which decreases hip width, while building muscular shape, which increases hip depth. That’s the secret to developing a nice set of buns.

Getting back to what I alluded to earlier, women don’t want to develop shapely glutes at the expense of simultaneously developing huge thighs. Can a typical woman’s thighs get too big from regular strength training? Again, it depends on the trainer/training. I come from a strength and conditioning background and am well-versed in bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman, and Olympic lifting. A healthy woman who trains with me for six months could easily build her full squat up to 95-155 pounds if I pushed her. She could be performing walking lunges with 30-40 pound dumbbells as well. This may or may not lead to overdeveloped thighs, depending on the shape of the woman. Furthermore, it may or may not lead to great glutes. Some woman don’t get a lot of glute activation from squatting and lunging. Even though they exhibit what appears to be great form, they’re using mostly quads. Clearly we need to search for exercises that are more “hip-dominant” and less “quad-dominant.”

Are deadlifts the solution? Deadlifts may lead to a similar problem, albeit in a different area. A healthy woman who trains with me for six months could easily build her deadlift up to 155-205 pounds if I pushed her. This may or may not lead to overdeveloped traps, depending on the shape of the woman. Deadlifts indeed work the glutes well, but they are also the best all-around back exercise and will lead to muscular growth from the neck down to the feet. Is there an exercise that is more specific to “what women want?” Enter the hip thrust.

Let me preface this by stating that squats, deadlifts, and lunges are amazing exercises. I’m not stating that women or trainers should avoid these amazing exercises. I’m simply stating that there comes a point where women may become “too strong” at these exercises and their strength will start to negatively impact their physiques. In contrast, a women can develop all the strength in the world at hip thrusts and it will only benefit her physique. The stronger she gets, the better her butt will look. A simple bodyweight hip thrust typically activates 40% MVC for the glutes in women while offering less quadricep activity and virtually no upper back activity. While squats and lunges may make the thighs too big and deadlifts may make the back too big, hip thrusts hone in on the butt region.

It’s very rare that a woman’s actual glute musculature become too bulky. Sure, we’ve all seen pictures of women with huge, round butts but usually all the matter/mass comes from a combination of fat and muscle. If we were to take a scalpel and carve away the fat, these women’s butts would likely look absolutely perfect; shapely and firmed. The problem with the typical “starve yourself and do tons of cardio” method is that you’ll lose weight and lose your butt along with it. Now you’re left with “No-ass-at-all,” a disease characterized by an uninterrupted flow of legs right up into the back with no bulge where the glute muscles should appear.

In all my years of experience as a trainer, I’ve seen several women whose quads started getting too big, several women whose backs started getting too big, and not a single woman whose glutes started getting too big. A healthy woman who trains with me for six months could easily build her hip thrust up to 95-135 pounds if I pushed her. The best part about the hip thrust is that I don’t have to worry about the woman getting “too strong.” The stronger the thrust, the better the butt!

Obviously training needs to be very specific to the individual. Overweight women need to simply move around a lot using basic movement patterns so they can lose weight and eventually incorporate barbell movements into their arsenals including hip thrusts. On a side note, since overweight people weigh a lot, bodyweight hip thrusts are an excellent strength and conditioning exercise for these folks. Weak, tight women need to increase their hip mobility, core stability, and glute activation before attempting barbell hip thrusts or they’ll simply use their low back muscles to move the weight and will end up doing more harm than good to their bodies.

However, I’ve had a ton of success with hip thrusts and if you start incorporating them into your routine, I believe that you can have huge success as well. Just make sure you start off with bodyweight and move up slowly over time. After you get the hang of bodyweight and can perform 3 sets of 20 repetitons, move up to the barbell. Make sure you place a pad around the barbell to minimize the pressure on the hips. Learn to develop an intense “mind-muscle connection” by contracting the glutes as hard as physically possible on each repetition. Always make sure you feel” the glutes doing the work. There are also many other great glute isolation exercises that can be employed that won’t work the quads or upper back, such as single leg hip thrusts, band quadruped donkey kicks, single leg back extensions, reverse hypers, and pull throughs.

If you are a woman, I recommend continuing with squats, lunges, and deadlifts, but keep an eye on the size of your quads and upper back. If muscle mass starts negatively impacting your physique, then stop going heavy on these exercises. Concurrently, start supplementing your routine with hip thrusts and some other targeted glute exercises for optimal glute development. If you do this, I believe that your glutes will be very appreciative.

If you’d like to learn more about hip thrusts and glute training in general, please visit my blog at www.BretContreras.wordpress.com for more information. Now get thrustin’!

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Movements such as walking, running, sprinting, kicking, jumping offf one leg, cycling, skating, and freestyle swimming involve simultaneous hip extension and hip flexion. In each of these activities, when one hip is extending the other is flexing. Many strength training gurus have written about methods to train this coordinated movement pattern. For example, Mel Siff discussed some of Yuri Verkhoshansky’s methods in Supertraining, Tudor Bompa discussed some methods in Total Training for Young Champions, and Yuri Verkhoshansky discussed some of his methods in Special Strength Training.

I believe that Verkhoshansky is many years ahead of his time, as was my favorite writer Mel Siff. Here is a picture I drew that illustrates Verkhoshansky’s methods (I apologize for the poor quality of the picture):

I’ve been experimenting with different versions of these movements and have come up with two of what I believe to be the most practical methods of employing this concept. One version is performed with vertical loading, while the other is performed with horizontal loading, so between the two you strengthen the stretched and contracted positions of flexion and extension due to axial vs. anteroposterior loading. Here is a video that demonstrates my two methods:

I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth combining the two strengthening methods (hip extension and hip flexion) together or just training each quality separately, but I thought that I’d write a blog so other trainers could start experimenting with these methods. You can use ankle weights, cables, bands, or simply tie an object around the foot for this purpose. I like ankle weights. A ten pound ankle weight is too easy for me on these movements, but if I wear two of them at the same time (20 lbs) it works really well. One drawback is that you need to be high up in order to do this right (even higher than in my video).

Hope you enjoy the update!

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