It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, great glutes are high on the wish list for anyone looking to sculpt their physique. There’s no doubt that the buttocks contribute to a desirable body shape, still, working out how to tighten or grow your booty might seem complicated at first.
To make sense of it all, Muscle & Fitness talked with former bodybuilder, and health and fitness guru, Whitney Johns, to figure out the best approach to making gains with your glutes.
“Stability, strength, posture, power, these are all benefits of training your glutes,” Johns says. “Functionally, it is super important to have strong glutes as well as the aesthetic benefits.”
So, begin with making sure that you carry out each movement with the correct form. “The form is everything,” she says. “People do so many different exercises hoping to build their glutes and they’ll either take the weight on their quads or only in their legs, and so they are not recruiting those glute muscles. Getting the full range of motion is important, and getting that mind-muscle connection too.”
Johns is an NASM-certified personal trainer and with her “Find Your Fit with Whit” app, she offers a program that can be individually tailored for her clients. She believes that it is important to start with a glute-activation circuit, before the main workout. “This is something that can be done with resistance bands or body weight,” Johns says. “And that’s great for the home or in the gym.”
As an avid weightlifter and bodybuilder, Johns designs her workouts to scientific precision. “Your glutes are a combination of fast-twitch, and slow-twitch muscles,” she says. “Fast-twitch muscles are really going to respond to the strength training, heavier compound movements like squats and deadlifts, lunges and compound movements, somewhere around the 4-to-8-rep range. The slow twitch muscles respond to the higher volume, lighter movements like bodyweight type stuff, or it could be cables that are just lighter, in the 12-to-30-rep range.”
Eat Your Way to Greater Glutes
Toning the glutes is one thing, but if you want to increase the muscle mass on your booty, you’ll need to eat more, not less, she says. “I get a lot of people who want to build their glutes, but they also want to be on a diet,” Johns says. “You can’t really build that muscle on a calorie deficit.”
The fitness model and mentor finds that people are often freaked out at the thought of bulking, but she stresses that this should be seen as a necessary muscle-building phase for gaining the desired shape. “As long as you are doing a clean-calorie surplus, you have to remember you are ‘doing it for the glutes!” Johns says.
According to Johns, this can always be followed by reducing calories after the muscle-building phase is complete, and can be rotated seasonally if required.
“I really encourage my clients to track their macros,” she says. “Even if that’s just a couple of times per week because meal serving sizes are so deceiving. I hate tracking macros too, but if you can make yourself do it, you will find out if your protein intake is on point, or if your calorific intake is on track, and then you will know you are getting somewhere.”
Whitney is also keen to point out that building a better butt isn’t all about isolating the glutes. “You have to strengthen your hamstrings and your erectus spinae (back muscles) to support it. Quad strength is also needed, so if you’re only doing cable kickbacks all day trying to target your butt, you need to trust in the process and do a well-rounded routine. You want the legs to match the booty!”
Whitney Johns’ Tips for Working the Glutes At Home
- Invest in a good selection of resistance bands.
- Adjustable ankle weights are also very effective.
- Body-weight exercises are great for high-volume, slow-twitch muscle workouts.
- Kettlebells and dumbbells will take your home workouts to the next level.
- Find something that you can step-up on, like stairs or a sturdy coffee table.
Whitney John’s Tips for Working the Glutes in the Gym
- Don’t be intimidated by lifting free weights. Use the Smith machine if you need additional assistance.
- Boxes are another great way for extra support.
- Use a glute thrust machine if your gym has one. It’s very convenient in terms of setting the weight.
- Increase your weights every week or two, as the exercises start becoming more comfortable.
- Make use of the cables. Kickbacks are a great exercise for high-volume work.
Whitney John’s Anywhere Glute Workout
Whitney advises that you should keep your rest intervals short in order to really feel the burn.
- Kettlebell Sumo Squat: 3 sets, 15 reps. Keep chest up, core tight, feet and knees pointed slightly out.
- Bulgarian Split squat: 3 sets, 12 reps (each side). Keep hips and shoulders squared off.
- Good Morning: 3 sets, 10 reps. Hinge deep into hips. Keep your spine neutral.
- Single-Leg Deadlift: 3 sets, 12 reps each side. Keep core strong, hinge deep into hips.
- Single-Leg Hip Thrust: 3 sets, 20 reps (each side). Keep hips square throughout movement, push through heel to activate glutes.