There's no doubt about it: big butts are in. On top of the ubiquitous pop-culture references, there was an immense increase in butt augmentation between 2013 and 2014 -- a trend that's likely to continue.
While dropping a load (pun intended… all puns intended) of cash on a cosmetic surgery is all well and good, you probably already have a butt, which means you're well on your way to achieving the toned, taut rearview you're dying to show off on your Instagram feed, no surgery required.
The key to pumping up your bottom half lies in a combination of compound exercises that work your lower body and isolation moves that target the three major muscles that make up your glutes. All you really need is extra time in the gym and a game plan for developing your glutes. If you're limited on time and want to keep things simple, stick to these four moves.
There are about a million different types of squats, but for the purpose of targeting your glutes, choose between the front squat, back squat, or goblet squat and load on the weight. You'll activate your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, and core, building strength through your entire lower body while also developing bone strength and coordination.
Regardless of which squat version you choose, the basic form remains the same. Start with your feet roughly shoulder-distance apart, your toes angled slightly outward. Tighten your core and start the squat by pressing your hips back, as though you were going to sit down in a chair. As you press your hips back, begin bending your knees to lower your glutes toward the ground. Make sure you're keeping your weight in your heels and your knees aligned with your toes without jutting in front of your toes. Drop your hips as far as you comfortably can (there's no need to take them all the way to the ground), then press through your heels and return to standing, pressing your hips forward at the apex of the squat, squeezing your glutes.
Perform three to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Use enough weight so the last one or two reps of each set feel hard to complete.
Like the squat, the Romanian deadlift isn't designed to only target your glutes, but to strengthen your lower body and core, focusing on your posterior chain -- specifically, your hamstrings, glutes, and, to a lesser extent, your back. Also like the squat, you want to load up the weight as much as you comfortably can without compromising form or risking injury. This is because the goal is to build strength and muscle, and the most effective way to do that is to add weight.
Stand with your feet roughly hip-distance apart, your knees slightly bent, holding a weighted barbell in your hands at your thighs. Tighten your core and roll your shoulders back. Keeping your upper body completely straight, start the deadlift by pressing your hips back as you tilt your torso forward toward the ground. As your torso tilts forward, allow the barbell to "skim" the front of your legs. When you feel a stretch along the back of your legs, stop, then tighten your hamstrings and glutes and use them to pull your body back to standing.
Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Use enough weight so the last one to two reps of each set feel challenging to complete.
Weighted hip thrusters
There's nothing like a good hip thrust to isolate those glutes. While traditional glute bridges are a perfectly good exercise for working your butt, weighted hip thrusters are even better when it comes to building muscle and developing strength. All you need for this straightforward exercise is access to a bench and a weighted barbell.
Start with your shoulders lying across the center of the bench so your torso is perpendicular to (forming a "T" with) the bench. Your feet should be flat on the ground, your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, and your hips lifted so your body is flat from your shoulders to your knees. Place a weighted barbell across your upper thighs, just below your hip bones. From this position, start the hip thrusters by lowering your hips toward the ground, keeping your core engaged and your torso straight. When you've lowered your glutes as far as you can, reverse the movement and tighten your glutes as you thrust them back up to their starting position.
Perform four sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Use enough weight so the last one to two reps of each set feel challenging to complete.
Quadruped hip extension
If you have access to a reverse-hyper machine, fantastic. If not, no big deal. The quadruped hip extension can be performed with or without added weight, and it can be performed using other gym equipment, like the Smith machine or leg extension machine. This glute-isolation exercise is a little bit awkward, but offers one of the highest levels of glute activation when measured with EMG data.
Regardless of whether you do the exercise without weight or while using a machine, the basic form remains the same. To perform a bodyweight quadruped hip extension, start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position so your knees are under your hips, your palms are under your shoulders. Engage your core and shift your weight slightly to the left, taking your weight off your right knee. Keeping your knee and ankle bent at 90-degree angles, engage your right glute and extend your hip, pressing your right foot toward the ceiling. Pause at the top of the movement when your hip is fully extended, then slowly lower your knee back toward the floor, stopping just before it touches down.
Perform three sets per leg. The number of repetitions you'll complete depends on whether you're performing the exercise with or without added weight. You always want the last one to two reps of each set to be challenging to complete. If you're performing the exercise without weight, aim for 20 to 25 reps per set. If you're performing the exercise with weight, choose a challenging weight and aim for eight to 12 repetitions per set.
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