Even if you know how to train your glutes optimally, it’s helpful to know what not to do so you can avoid making errors that might negatively impact your training goals. And if you’re a trainer or someone people look to for training advice, knowing what not to do is even more important, because people will ask you if they can do certain things, and it’s up to you not only to steer them in the right direction but also to educate them as to why certain training strategies are not productive and fruitful. There are so many glute training mistakes out there!
Glute training has come a long way in the last decade, and we’ve also learned a lot. Here we outline the most common mistakes that we see people make and that we also have made in the past and explain why they’re not ideal for maximizing glute training results.
MISTAKE #1: EXERCISE SELECTION (JUST SQUATTING)
As you’ve learned, squat variations work the glutes in a unique way in that they stretch the glutes while under tension. Stated differently, you get maximal glute contraction at the bottom of a squat when the glutes are fully lengthened, which hits the lower subdivision of the gluteus maximus. For this reason, squats (and deadlifts) are a primary movement pattern that is essential for developing the glutes.
But here’s the rub: if all you’re doing is squatting, you’ll never develop your glutes to their full potential. Squat variations don’t work the upper glutes that much, they don’t produce a lot of metabolic stress, and they don’t get you maximal glute activation.
You might recall from previous posts that bent-knee hip extension movements such as the hip thrust and glute bridge activate the glutes maximally and target both the upper and lower subdivisions. This makes them, along with all of the other glute-dominant exercises, more effective at developing and strengthening your glutes than just squatting.
MISTAKE #2: TRAINING THE GLUTES ONLY ONCE PER WEEK
Many people think they can train their glutes once a week and get great results. If you’ve been lifting properly for a while and have built up your glute strength, you might be able to maintain what you have, and if you’re genetically gifted, you might even see slight gains.
But for most of us, and for those who want bigger, stronger glutes, one day a week won’t cut it. The glutes are large and robust muscles that can take a beating. For the best results, you need to train your glutes at least twice a week, with three days probably being optimal for the vast majority of people.
MISTAKE #3: NOT DOING ANYTHING FOR THE UPPER GLUTES
This ties in with Mistake #1. If all you do is squat, deadlift, and lunge, you’re primarily working your lower glutes. To work your upper glutes, as well as your upper and lower glutes combined, you need to perform glute-dominant movements such as glute bridges, hip thrusts, kickbacks, pull-throughs, and abduction variations.
MISTAKE #4: NOT DOING ANTEROPOSTERIOR (HORIZONTALLY LOADED) GLUTE EXERCISES
If you want to develop your glutes maximally, then you need to perform horizontally loaded exercises like the glute bridge, hip thrust, and 45-degree hyper. These exercises produce a ton of tension and metabolic stress, keep your glutes under fairly constant tension throughout the movement, and strengthen the zone of hip extension range of motion that maximizes activation, which is important.
MISTAKE #5: THINKING THAT CARDIO WILL YIELD GOOD GLUTE DEVELOPMENT AND WEIGHT LOSS
Make no mistake: cardio is great for your heart and overall health. However, people think they need to do cardio (cycling, running, swimming, elliptical training, stair climbing, and so on) to burn fat and lose weight, but in truth, you mainly just need to follow a good resistance training and diet plan. (Remember, diet is the key factor that determines whether you’re gaining, maintaining, or losing weight.)
Sure, cardio can help, especially if it blunts your appetite, but if you can stick to your diet and create a calorie deficit by eating less while still training hard, you’ll lose weight. In other words, cardio as a weight loss strategy is highly overrated. You might notice that doing cardio helps you lose weight, but it might not be the cardio; it could be the effect that cardio has on your appetite. It can either make you hungrier or decrease your appetite, depending on your genetics and the type of cardio you perform (such as HIIT training; see sidebar, opposite). And there’s more: people overestimate how much cardio helps with fat loss because they believe the monitors on the machine are accurate. But they are not accurate, especially if you are already lean. The monitor might say you burned 800 calories when you actually burned only 300.
But enough about fat loss. How effective is cardio for building the glutes? If you’re training your glutes it’s not necessary to perform cardio for your glutes. Now, if you’re a novice or a sedentary person, you may experience some glute growth in the first few months of doing cardio. But if you’re an advanced practitioner or you’ve been training for several months, especially if you’re following my system, then you will not get any additional glute growth from doing cardio.
It’s important to realize that cardio pulls from the same overall recovery pool as glute training, meaning that you’re accumulating physical stress. If you’re trying to condition your body for endurance efforts, cardio is necessary because it’s sport and task-specific. If you’re training for overall health, then doing cardio is beneficial. But if you’re hitting the stair stepper hard in hopes of growing your glutes, you’re wasting your time. You’re better off focusing on resistance training and doing cardio that you enjoy and doesn’t interfere with muscle development, such as walking.
When it comes to strength and conditioning, you can’t be the best at both. In other words, you can be very strong and conditioned, or you can be strong and very conditioned, but it’s hard to be very strong and very conditioned. So you’ll never squat the most weight and run your best marathon at the same time. This implies that training for multiple qualities can compete with one another. Scientists have coined this the “interference effect.” While you shouldn’t be afraid of performing some cardio, doing too much can hamper your glute training gains.
If you’re hell-bent on doing cardio, you simply enjoy it, or you’re getting the results you desire, then we recommend prioritizing your strength workouts first and then doing your cardio afterward. But understand that too much cardio will likely interfere with your glute growth. For example, if you go for a long, hard run, chances are you will get fatigued and potentially sore. And if you’re drained and beat up, you can’t hit the weights as hard.
Here’s what we want you to understand: Cardio does burn more calories than lifting weights, but lifting weights builds and maintains muscle, whereas cardio doesn’t. So, if you’re striving to lean out and you want bigger, stronger glutes, cardio isn’t mandatory. It is useful and necessary if you are concerned only with losing fat and you don’t want to maintain or put on muscle. But remember this: You need to lift weights to maintain the muscle you have underneath the fat. If you enjoy doing cardio and cardio suppresses your appetite, you might benefit from lifting weights and then doing cardio afterward. But if you want to get lean, you need to keep your muscle and lose just fat for weight loss. This is best achieved through intelligent weight training and proper nutrition.
MISTAKE #6: ENGAGING IN HIGH-RISK TRAINING ACTIVITIES
Although the glutes are highly involved in activities such as plyometrics, sprinting, and most sports, doing these activities is not the best way to develop your glutes. Again, resistance training reigns supreme for building muscle. The best glutes in the world are almost all built by placing maximum tension on the muscles (strength training), something that cannot be said of sprinting and plyometrics, since the contractions are too fast for the muscles to generate maximum force. Resistance training is also safer to perform and more predictable. But allow us to elaborate.
It is true that sport training builds some glute muscle (but doesn’t maximize it) and improves the functioning of the nervous system in terms of recruiting the gluteal muscles. Athletes who have played ground sports (think soccer and football) but have never lifted weights tend to see results much more quickly than people who don’t have athletic backgrounds. This is largely due to the fact that they have developed proficiency in utilizing the glutes explosively from all of the aforementioned vectors (vertical, horizontal, lateral, and rotary).
In contrast, beginners who haven’t played a lot of sports haven’t developed the motor patterns and mind-muscle connection because they haven’t been using their glutes in their training. But let’s say we have to train a beginner who never played sports or did much of anything athletic—or even a former athlete whose goals have switched to aesthetics and maximizing glute development.
In these situations, we don’t recommend sprinting, jumping, or dynamic training due to the risk of injury. Strength training is the best way to build muscle due to the slower speed of muscle contractions. The slower contraction in weight lifting produces maximum tension on the muscle and therefore leads to greater hypertrophy.
If you’re an athlete and you’re training for performance and function, on the other hand, then explosive and plyometric training is necessary, not because you’re trying to build muscle but because you’re trying to get better at your sport (think speed, power, agility, and coordination).
MISTAKE #7: NOT HAVING FUN
If you’re not having fun with your training, then you will have a hard time staying consistent. Adherence is the name of the long-term game, and you won’t stick with your training if you don’t enjoy it. Find the exercises and program design that you enjoy the most and avoid exercises and training routines that you loathe. It’s that simple.
Final note: The Most Common Glute Training Mistakes
For most men and women, round, firm glutes are seen as more attractive than having a flat, pancake butt. The glutes are a key muscle for athletic performance and keeping them strong can also go a long way to preventing back and hip pain. The problem is, that most people program and/or approach their glutes workout the wrong way. Most people only think they are training their glutes properly. However, the reality is something totally different. Glutes are an integral part of many lower body exercises and engaging them correctly requires proper form and coordination. If you keep making these 7 glute training mistakes you will never build a better booty!