Part 4: Bootilicious – The Glute Bridge
So the glute bridge is one of my favorite moves. It can be a good part of any warm up or a great strength exercise by itself.
It is also a great way to mix up your hip hinge workouts from vertical to horizontal! It is also incredibly hard for many people to keep their core tight enough so that they don’t feel this in their low backs, but instead feel it in their butts.
Really really focus on drawing your belly button in toward your spine when doing this move so you DON’T feel it in your low back!
So the basic glute bridge is done on the ground. You should place your feet about hip width apart and bend your knees bringing your heels in close enough that you can touch them with your finger tips.
You then squeeze your butt cheeks and raise your hips as high up as you can. You should basically be on your shoulders and heels when you drive up. You should actively squeeze your belly button in toward your spine and squeeze your glutes.
Make sure that you aren’t just simply pushing back into your shoulders off of your heels. You actually want to drive straight up and while you are pushing through your heels you want to actually think about driving your shins forward.
You should feel this move in your glutes and a bit in your hamstrings NOT in your low back.
You can also do this move with one leg raised. I like to do it with one leg off the ground with the knee bent to 90 degrees and the foot flexed. I focus on getting my hips up just as high as they were with two legs. Try to also not let your hips rotate!
Another variation that I like of the basic glute bridge is the bridge on the power wheel.
Basically the same as the glute bridge on the ground EXCEPT you have to really drive your feet straight down into the ground and squeeze your butt and core or you are going to wobble over or the wheel will run off.
Many people also feel this move a lot more in their hamstrings.
This variation is a great way to advance the traditional glute bridge and make it into a great part of your workout.
To make this move harder, you can actually roll the wheel out and then back in toward your butt. The key though is to NOT drop your hips even as your roll out.
A great intermediate move if the power wheel is just a bit too hard especially moving it in and out is the glute bridge on the sliders.
Put your heels on the sliders and raise up into a glute bridge. Just like with the power wheel, straighten the legs out keeping the hips high and then bring the heels back in so that you are in the basic glute bridge position. Repeat slowly and make sure to keep your core tight so that your low back doesn’t feel this move.
The last glute bridge variation that I really like to use is a great strength move. A beginner can do this with only their back on the bench and feet on the ground. To make it more advanced, you can do it with your back on a bench and your feet up on a bench as well (or your back on the ground and feet up). To make that harder, do it with only one leg.
The hardest variation actually returns you to the position with your back on the bench and feet on the ground. You can add weight to this position by laying a barbell across your hips.
Actually you can almost weight down any position to make it harder EXCEPT the power wheel. If you advance from this move, you could weight down the one-leg variation.
But make sure that when you weight down the glute bridge, YOU DON’T FEEL IT IN YOUR LOW BACK.
Focus on really keeping the core tight by “drawing in” your belly button toward your spine!
So if you want a bootilicious (aka perky, toned) butt, try some of these moves. They will also really help up your deadlift numbers if you are looking to get your lift numbers higher!
What’s your favorite glute bridge variation?
Part 3: Bootilicious – Activation
Ok so you’ve rolled out your hips and have loosened and lengthened the tight muscles.
Next, you’ve got to get the appropriate muscles activated – you’ve got to warm up those butt cheeks!
Most of us are quad dominate and our butts aren’t firing on all cylinders. So a few moves can get your glutes awake and ready to work.
The moves below aren’t the only moves you can use, but they are some that I like. They really make you feel your butt cheeks so that during your workout you will be well aware that your glutes are ACTUALLY working.
These moves may be funny…and yes…some of them are very Jane Fonda…but they are seriously EXCELLENT at what they do!
- Sit and squeeze – One of the simplest moves you can do to activate your butt cheeks is literally sit there and squeeze your butt cheeks. If you can’t do this, then you probably aren’t using your glutes at all during your workouts. If you are doing this properly, you should feel like you become taller.
- Kneel and squeeze – So in this one you are kneeling on one knee. So if you are kneeling on your right knee, with your left knee up, you are going to drive your hips forward and really squeeze that right butt cheek. You aren’t leaning forward, you are simply squeezing and hold that back butt cheek. You can make this a bit tougher, if you stand on one leg and bend the other knee to 90 degrees and squeeze the butt cheek of the standing leg. The standing move has the bonus of working on your balance!
- Fire hydrant – So this move basically mimics the move a dog does to pee on a fire hydrant so I’m assuming that is where it got its name. Place your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Flex your feet. Then raise one leg out to the side, keeping the knee at 90 degrees. Try to not let the foot get higher than the knee or the knee get higher than the foot. Really squeeze the butt cheek as you lift. Repeat all reps on one side before moving on to the other side.
- Straight leg lift – To make the fire hydrant more challenging or to just add some variety, do a straight leg lift. So on hands and knees, straighten one leg out to the side and then lift that straightened leg. On both the fire hydrant and the straight leg variation, make sure NOT to bend your elbows. The straight leg move is tough and you may not lift the foot very high off the ground. Don’t force it or rotate. Just really isolate the glute. It should be firing on the first lift!
- Donkey kick – So setup just as you would for the fire hydrant. Instead of raising the leg out to the side, you are going to kick the leg straight back. Keep the knee bent close to 90 and keep the foot flexed. Don’t let the low back arch. Make sure that as you lift you are squeezing the butt cheek of the leg you are raising! Also make sure the foot is driving straight up to the ceiling. And do not let your elbows bend.
- Hip Circles – So this move combines the donkey kick and the fire hydrant with a knee drive. To do this move setup on hands and knees. First drive the knee back and do a donkey kick. Then without lowering to the ground, bring the leg out to the top of the fire hydrant move. Then without setting the knee down, drive it forward into the elbow. Keep the foot flexed the entire time. When you drive into the elbow, you should really feel your abs engage. Then lower the knee down and repeat.
- Clams – So these can be done with or without bands for resistance. If you use a band, put it around both legs right below the knees. Lay on your side, propped on your forearm. Place your feet on top of each other and bend your knees to just above 90 degrees. Then without rotating, open the top knee, squeezing the glute. A great way to do this at first is to set up with your butt right against a pole or a wall so you can’t rotate. You are opening your top knee and driving it up toward the ceiling by squeezing your glute. Lower down slowly if using a band and repeat.
- Glute bridge – So this move deserves its own whole post and will get it, but the basic glute bridge is a great activation/warm up move so I had to include it. Lay on your back with your feet about hip width apart. You should basically be able to touch your heels with your finger tips. Then bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Drive your elbows, shoulders and heels into the ground as you drive your hips up. Make sure your knees do not fall apart. Actively squeeze your butt as you drive your hips up. If you feel this a lot in your hamstrings, make sure that you aren’t driving off your heels backwards. You shouldn’t feel like you are driving back into your shoulders. You want to actual feel like you are driving your knees forward over your toes even though you are driving through your heels.
- Posterior Plank – So this move looks like a move right out of Flash Dance to me (maybe she could get her hips up a bit higher, but yep….it is the exact move. Start seated on the ground with your hands behind you. It is best if you can turn your finger tips toward you. Push up onto your hands and heels. Drive the hips up as high as you can and really press your chest out. Relax your head back.
- Band walks – So a great active way to warm up that butt. You place the band around both feet. To make the move easier, for one you can use a lighter band. For two, you can place the band up above your knees or even right below. The higher up the band the easier the move. The closer to your feet, the harder the move. Two great walk moves that I do…one forwards and one sideways. Walking forward…walk with monster steps out to each side. Do not let the feet come all the way back together. Also walk backwards back. Then walking sideways…just like a shuffle. Take a big step out to the side then bring the other foot to almost meet it, keeping tension in the band. Make sure the toes stay pointing forward. Don’t rock side to side. Keep the knees bent and take as big a step as possible.
So those are my top 10 activation moves. You don’t need to do ALL of them each and every time. I usually choose 2-4 depending on which ones I plan to do and what workout I’m doing that day. Today, since I was doing a posterior chain workout with single leg deadlifts and swings, I did 4 activation moves to make sure the glutes were really really awake.
Check back next week for a break down of some great butt STRENGTH moves! And if you missed it, or your butt cheeks are now active and ready to workout, try one of these deadlift variations!
Just because you can pick the weight off of the ground, doesn’t mean you should.
While you technically may be strong enough to lift a weight, your body may not actually be ready to handle the loads, especially on a consistent basis.
So how do you build up so that your body can handle the weight?
- Foam roll – Foam rolling releases tight muscles and helps restore proper length tension relationships so that the correct muscles are recruited when you need them.
- Stretch – So if you’ve ever seen a competitive lifter, you will notice they are extremely flexible. While you may not want to do any static stretching BEFORE you workout, a good stretching program each day will help to prevent injury and increase range of motion around your joints.
- Activate – Too often people aren’t using a HUGE muscle when they do squats and deadlifts – their butts. Make sure before you work out that you have all the proper muscles activated – you will lift more that way. And part of having everything activated….Is warming up!
- WARM UP – Walking on a treadmill for 5 minutes before you lift isn’t a proper warm up. Sorry. A good warm up should loosen up muscles and active muscles so that they are ready to work. Band walks to activate your glutes can be a great part of a warm up. So can inch worms, side shuffles, skips and multiplanar lunges!
- Light first – So each time I start a heavy lift, my first couple of sets is lighter than the rest. Even if I’m trying to maintain the same heavy weight for 5 sets, I’ll do two or three warm up sets first to build to the weight. NEVER jump right into the weight you built up to last week!!!
- Steady slow increases – As you build up to heavier and heavier weights, you want to do it in slow, steady increases. While form may break down when you hit your true max, you don’t want it to break down as you slowly add weight. Track your progress and each time try to add just a little more.
- Work your weak points – You are only as strong as your weakest link. If your shoulders aren’t strong, you won’t be able to bench as much or do as many push ups as the rest of your upper body can handle. You don’t have to do isolated muscle movements to strengthen the weak points just choose exercises that allow them to be the main mover!
- Choose complementary exercises – Don’t just keep doing the same exercises over and over again. Sometimes variety can be key. While you don’t just want to do random exercises, you do want to make sure that you are strengthening your muscles from a couple of different angles. For deadlifts, kettlbell swings can be great. Glute bridges can also help. Plus the variety in exercises can keep you mentally interested.
- Fuel properly – Eating the right stuff can also help your body be ready to handle the loads. If you don’t eat enough, you may find your strength declining!
- REST – Yep. If you want to hit the big numbers, you need to get enough rest. This means days off each week AND it also means adequate rest in between sets. If you don’t rest enough between sets, you won’t be allowing your body to get ready to lift even more weight the next set!
So follow these 10 tips and start building up to the big numbers!
Baby Got Back
So the other night I was talking to one of my male clients who I was making do some clams (the exercise where you have a band around your knees and lay on your side and externally rotate at your hips and knees).
It was a stabilization workout and he really needs work on activating his glutes. And although clams may be a Jane Fonda move, they are a great way to get those butt cheeks firing!
Of course he was slightly embarrassed by doing them even though it was just his wife, me and his 19 month old daughter there.
He says to me, “You know this is one of those moves that guys AVOID doing at the gym.”
I said, “Yea I know….Ever notice how many guys have SMALL INACTIVE butts?”
He laughed and repeated what I said and continued to do the clams.
Out of the corner of my eye though I saw his wife shaking her head in agreement.
What I said is completely and utterly true. Most people, especially men, don’t focus on getting glutes that activate.
They are much more interested in working on their beach muscles. Although they do pride themselves on being able to lift heavy weights.
But if they took the time to do some of those “embarrassing” glute activation exercises like band walks, glute bridges, clams and straight leg deadlifts they would be able to LIFT MORE.
AND they would look better. (Sorry but pants that sag because you have no butt is not attractive).
Plus they would also probably suffer few injuries. Active glutes me proper movement patterns!
So to anyone out there who skips those “embarrassing” butt exercises, but wants to lift heavy…Don’t.
That includes you ladies. While lifting heavy is essential that doesn’t mean totally leaving out the Jane Fonda moves…It just means not ONLY doing them!
For more on glute activation, check out this article on T Nation! LOVE IT!