Article written by Matt Mills
If you have read any of my previous articles here then you know big I am on weak point training. With that being said, I see a growing trend in America that I’m not happy with: There are way too many flat asses out there! I have come up with a name for this that I call Flat Saggy Ass Syndrome (FSAS), and I have the fix for it! FSAS can be attributed to lack of exercise, the fact that we sit for most of the day causing tight hip flexors, and the glutes to fire improperly. For the guys, I’m sure you are like me, and like to see a girl that fills out a pair of LBEB booty shorts. And Ladies I would hope you feel exactly the same about guys, well aside from a dude wearing booty shorts, but you get the point.
I think it’s safe to assume that all of us following LBEB are interested in improving both our squat and deadlift. Stronger glutes will absolutely improve these lifts drastically. With that being said, I’m leaving squats, and deadlifts out of this article, as you should always be performing them. So without further ado, here are my top 5 glute assistance exercises.
Barbell Hip Thrusts
This is a fairly simple but painful exercise. I love this exercise because you are able to hold the top for a second, and really squeeze your glutes hard. There is no doubt you will be feeling this one the next day if you haven’t tried it already. The first time I performed Hip Thrusters I was sore for days, so start light and ease into them. If you use less than 135lbs on the bar then I would recommend using bumper plates, as it will be difficult rolling the bar into place otherwise. Once the bar is loaded, position a flat bench against something sturdy, as you will be pushing your back into it as you drive your hips up. Now, there is one thing that’s acceptable that goes against the LBEB squat commandments, it’s ok to use the bar pad. I know a few crazy people that have worked up a tolerance to having the bar there, but I’m not one of them, and I want to use as much weight as possible. If you have a good deadlift you will most likely need a thicker pad, but just make sure you hide them in the gym as newbies will most likely grab them when they have to squat (it’s happened at my place before).
If you have bigger legs then you will have some difficulty rolling the bar in place. Deadlift mats, or small bumpers plates will work well to elevate the bar to get it in the proper position. Once the bar is in the crease of your hips, position your upper back slightly on top of the bench, and get your heels directly underneath your knees. If the heels are a little further out from the knees, you will be activating your hamstrings more. Now you are ready to hip thrust properly, so begin by thinking about pushing the knees forward to elevate the hips. If you drive the hips up too high, you will most likely be over-arching at the top, and not working the glutes as you should. At the top of the movement, you want a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, and hold the top for one second squeezing your glutes as hard as possible. Some common mistakes you want to avoid is not to look forward at the bar, this can be problematic for you neck, so keep your head back. Make sure you drive through the heels of your foot and not through your toes. If it becomes a problem, simply pick your toes up through the movement.
I say Heavy ASS Swings because most people don’t use enough weight on these to really build any muscle. Don’t get me wrong, doing some light kettlebell swings for high reps, or time circuits is great conditioning, but that’s not the goal here. Start by having the kettlebell a few feet in front of you, and grab it with both hands. Begin by hiking the kettlebell back, and push your hips back like you are doing an RDL. The knees should be loose, not locked out, so do not turn it into a squat. A properly performed Russian Kettlebell Swing should look like a fast RDL. Be careful not to have the kettlebell too low as you will look like the picture above. The low back should stay tight, and arched throughout the movement. The wrists should come directly into your thighs, and think about absorbing the kettlebell with your hips. Quickly stand up, and squeeze your glutes until you are completely upright. The finish of the swing is just like the deadlift. Stand up tall, but do not lean back, as this will only stress your lower back more, and less on the glutes. Remember that the arms do nothing but hang on for the ride, grip tight, and keep them straight. You are not trying to turn this into a heavy front raise, so the hips do all of the work here. I like to keep the reps in the 8-12 range for strength, and power. Another added benefit of heavy swings is the added grip work. Heavier kettlebells have very thick handles, and you will find your grip giving out before anything else in the beginning.
If you do not have a single heavy kettlebell then try double swings.
Split Squats This is one of my recent favorites because you will have no choice but to activate your glutes to maintain balance. These can be performed a number of ways with a barbell, kettlebells in the racked position, or dumbbells. If you haven’t performed a split squat before, you may want to start with just your body weight, as they can be tough to balance the first couple of times. Spread your feet apart as if you just did a lunge, but do not move them from here. You are now going to align your feet so a straight line should go from toe to toe. An easy way to set up is if you have mats down at your gym simply get on one of the breaks, and line your feet up this way. Immediately you will notice the balance will be tough, so squeeze your glutes hard to maintain. Lower yourself down until your back knee almost touches the ground. If you have trouble at this point grab some kind of a mat and softly touch your knee down, but do not plop. Keep the glutes tight throughout the movement, and stay as upright as possible.
Reverse Lunge from a deficit Reverse Lunges from a deficit are not for beginners, so be warned. Reverse lunges by themselves cause excessive soreness for most people so make sure you are ready for these. Again, these can be performed with different tools but I like using the bar here, and specifically the safety bar, as it adds difficulty to the lift. Choose a deficit of about two inches; I use one of the steps you would find in an aerobics room, as they are pretty cheap, and useful for a few things. Get the weight in position, and as always stay tall to maintain balance. Take a big step back and drop the back knee almost to the floor again. Same as before, use a pad if you have trouble here. Squeeze the glutes hard coming up, and push hard with your front foot to return to the starting position.
Single Leg Elevated Hip Thrusts These are a little different then the basic barbell hip thrusts, but equally as difficult. The hamstrings will come in to help more on the exercise, which is never a bad thing, but focus on squeezing the glutes as usual. Take a flat bench and position it in front of you. Lay flat on your back, and place one leg on the bench with only the back of your heel making contact. Put your hands straight out to your sides with your palms up. Keep your weight on your upper back, and drive your heel through the pad to elevate your hips. As always squeeze the glutes hard at the top and hold it for a second. Control the eccentric portion of the lift until your butt nearly touches the ground before returning to the top. To make this exercise even more difficult, make the eccentric a slow 5 seconds down. These are also great as a warm up to get the glutes firing before squats, and deadlifts.