Great Glutes Now!


When I started training many, many moons ago, the squat rack was an area to safely deposit cash, gold, and diamonds since nobody every used it.  Things certainly have changed! Even guys train legs now (and for good reason!).

Who doesn’t want a bubble butt?  Here is an outline of what I deem the most effective exercises for building the glutes.

The words ‘glute training’ inevitably spark thoughts of squats, lunges, and deadlifts.  While this is not exactly the wrong approach, I do not subscribe to the ‘you must squat’ theory.  Here’s the thing: squats work great… for some people (namely those with long upper bodies, short femurs, and generally healthy joints).  Most trainees do not maximize their squat potential.  With that being said, I am not listing the barbell squat here, not because it is not an effective exercise, but rather because:

  • It’s been covered before; and
  • People like options.

Let’s get to it!

Trap Bar Squats

Disclaimer: If your gym does not have a trap bar, switch gyms. Seriously. Trap bar squats are great for athletes with lower back or shoulder issues which might prevent them from doing conventional barbell squats.

Stand in a wide stance within the trap bar, toes pointing at 11 and 1 o’clock, respectively. Squat down, grab the bar, spread the floor with your legs, and attempt to push the floor away while standing up. The movement is a mix of a squat in the lower part and a deadlift in the finishing position.

Zercher Squats

Named after Ed Zercher, who was a strongman from the 30s, this is actually one of my favourite ways of squatting since it allows taller athletes to get more hip flexion and glute activation without too much spinal pressure.

Stand in a wide squat stance, hold the bar in the crook of your arms, and squat down with hips leading. Press upward from the heels while keeping the chest up (if you do not do that, you’ll fall). In a way, the movement is similar to the goblet squat, but you can handle more weight in a Zercher squat. Personally, I wrap the bar in a towel, but then…I am wimpy.

Walking Lunges

I prefer to do these in what I call ‘crouching tiger style’. Pick one leg to start and walk 12 steps one direction, dragging the other leg behind. Do NOT stand up fully, but keep constant tension on quads and glutes. If you are feeling adventurous, add a double dip at the bottom.

Single Leg Presses

Place one foot at medium high level and create a downward intention as if trying to slide the foot off the machine. Do not wig the knees out and keep the tension on your muscles constant.

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts (Toes Elevated)

Stand with your toes on a five pound plate, and lower the dumbbells as low as your flexibility allows (do not try to be a hero here). Raise them up by bringing the hips forward. Squeeze your butt at the top of the movement.

A few concluding notes:

  • The glutes are a very powerful muscle, so you must train heavy. Endless reps with tiny weights will not “shape” your butt. Overload will.
  • Sumo wrestlers have great glutes…that nobody will ever see! Diet is key to recognizing results.
  • If you are training your legs heavy twice a week, go easy on the HIIT cardio as it might overload your central nervous system- once a week is plenty!

This should set you on your path toward a J.Lo-shaped rear end. Let me know when you get there!

One of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City, Maik Wiedenbach is a world renowned athlete and two-times Muscle Mania Champion. Educated on a swimming scholarship from Fordham University he holds a double Masters Degree in History & Philosophy. Fluent in multiple languages including Dutch, English, French and his native German, he is an Adjunct Professor teaching Exercise Sciences at New York University.

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