Deadlift Monday, I like to say. It’s my little way of avoiding International Bench Press Monday which is known and celebrated the world over. And when I headed into the gym yesterday I realized – as I do almost every Monday – that hardly anyone deadlifts. Which got me thinking. Why are so many people headed to the gym to build a better butt, yet so few are even doing the exercises required to get them that result?
If you’re squatting, you’re doing something right. There are two exercises that I think are really fantastic glute building exercises, but they don’t seem to get the attention they deserve.
I gave one away already, the deadlift, but the other is the hip thrust. Let’s go into a little more detail.
I’ve written many times on the deadlift and I’ll continue to do so because it’s an extremely important exercise. Athletes, amateurs, boys, girls, young, old, it doesn’t matter – if you’re a human, you should be deadlifting. You may not need to be using a heavy barbell and grunting like a powerlifter, but you should be training the pattern because it’s inherent to how you move as a human. Here’s my deadlift guide for novices if you need a refresher.
But with this article I want to focus on deadlifts. That is, the heavy kind with a barbell and ideally bumper plates so that you can let the weight “drop.”
I admit, heavy deadlifts can be intimidating. They are loud, few folks in the gym give them a try, and those that do rarely lift beyond 5 reps. Plus, they are hard! Even I have to pump myself up for twenty minutes before I even leave my home to go to the gym on Deadlift Mondays. It takes a lot of will power to lift twice your bodyweight off the floor for fun.
But back to those glutes. You want to know what the best way to build your glutes is, right? Well, part one is deadlifting. In my experience, to have any real benefit in the shape and size of your rear end, you need to lift heavy. It may take you some time to get up to a heavy load (and you should take your time to be safe), but when you do I think you’re going to realize that every muscle in your body is being put to work. That this posterior chain exercise is really, really putting you to work. And when you lift with good form, you’re using your glutes to control the movement and lock it out at the top.
In my Monday workouts, I deadlift for three work sets, at five reps a piece. I should note that I do a considerable amount of warmup and mobility work, and then quite a few warmup sets before I finally get to the real meat of my lift. Now, fifteen total reps may not seem like a lot, but when the weight gets heavy, trust me, it’s plenty. After these work sets my glutes are fatigued and my back really fatigued. But to build some enviable glutes you need to push it a little harder…
I once listed the hip thrust as an underrated exercise that few know and fewer understand. That was back in 2014 and not much has changed, it seems. The barbell hip thrust is an amazing posterior chain building exercise, it’s a great glute builder. Plus, it’ll really get at your hamstrings and back.
As with so many exercises, there can be different variations. The thing to remember, is that just like the deadlift, the hip thrust is a hip dominant movement. When I first started experimenting with it I had always had my back flat on the ground. But to really get a great ROM, I learned that I needed to progress to using a bench such that my torso angle was around 45 degrees or so. Today, the weight has gotten heavy enough that I need to use an airex pad to cushion the bar on my hips.
Here’s a great demonstration from the Glute Guy himself, Bret Contreras:
The front and back squat are revered mass builders and they demand a lot of your glutes. But if your goal is to shape your rear end, I really think you need to spend some time on building your deadlift strength with the hip thrust. And by sticking to the barbell, you can really load up the weight and shock the muscle. Don’t get me wrong, an accessory work glute builder like banded duck walks and pistols are great, but the barbell should be your go-to.Two glute builders that don't get enough attention by Ryan Wagner