28 Jun Glute Training Mistakes To Avoid
Note from Zach: I’m excited to have Meghan Callaway back on TheBarbellPhysio to share this incredible article. Meghan is an amazing strength coach and she has teamed up with two other rock-stars in Kellie Hart Davis and Sarah Ellis Duvall to create their “Glutes, Core, and Pelvic Floor Workout System“. This product is amazing and I highly recommend taking a look at it!
Strong and highly functioning glutes are responsible for a lot more than filling out a pair of pants. This extremely pivotal muscle group plays a key role in how the body functions, looks, and feels. The glutes are the largest muscle group in the human body, and are a vital component of the core muscles. While countless people train their backside purely for aesthetic reasons, strengthening and developing the glutes is extremely important to the overall health of the body and its ability to function and perform at a high level.
Unfortunately, a plethora of people of all genders are committing some glaring mistakes that might be preventing them from achieving their glute strengthening and building goals. Here are some key errors that might be holding you back from strengthening and developing your glutes to their peak potential:
1) Using too much resistance
When it comes to strengthening and developing your glutes, like any other muscle group, using proper form for 100% of your reps is paramount to your success. Many people suffer from breakdowns in form as they select a resistance that is too great for their current strength or level of technical proficiency. As a result, they either skimp out on range of motion, lack control, lose proper body positioning, or compensate with other muscle groups. An exercise where many people use too much weight is the barbell hip thrust. As a result, they might compensate by using the muscles in their lower back instead of their glutes, they lack control, or they lose proper body positioning (you will often see a flared ribcage and hyperextended lower back). This is just one of countless exercises I could use, and let me be clear, I’m talking about all types of resistance, including a barbell, dumbbells, bands, cable resistance, and ankle weights. Select a resistance that allows you to achieve your full range of motion, use the correct muscles, maintain proper body positioning and control for 100% of the movement. When you first select your resistance, be very conservative, and only add resistance incrementally if and when you are sure that you are performing the exercise correctly. If you are unsure, ask someone who is qualified.
2) Not using enough resistance
Many people shortchange their glute growing goals as they are using much less resistance than they are capable of. Again, this resistance can come in the form of a band, barbell, dumbbells, cable machine, or ankle weights. For whatever rep range you choose to adopt, if you are using the desired muscle groups, are going through your full range of motion, and are maintaining control and proper body positioning, use as much resistance as possible. This is especially true when you are performing lower risk exercises. For the higher risk/more technically demanding exercises, leaving several reps in the tank is advisable for most people, but for the low risk exercises (often band resisted or bodyweight), going to technical failure can be a good option.
3) Not performing unilateral variations
Don’t get me wrong, bilateral variations of glute exercises are fantastic and should be included in your training program. That being said, many people solely perform the more popular bilateral glute exercises and skimp out on the equally important single leg exercises. Remember, many daily movements and sport specific movements are done unilaterally. Therefore, it is really important to perform both unilateral and bilateral variations. This will also help you strengthen and grow your glutes to their peak potential.
Here is one of my favorite unilateral glute exercises. Adding the second bench allows me to use a slightly greater range of motion
4) Not performing a variety of movements
When it comes to achieving all performance, aesthetic, and even health-related glute-goals, performing exercises that target all of the fundamental movement patterns is extremely important. Making sure to include bilateral and unilateral squatting and hinging variations, in addition to single leg exercises like glute bridges, hip thrusts, lunges, step-ups, and so forth, will help ensure that you are targeting all of the muscle groups in your glutes, and in all planes of motion. In addition to the staple fundamental movements I listed above, performing exercises that involve hip abduction and external rotation will help you improve the strength, development, and overall function of this ever-important muscle group. I often like to perform these exercises as part of my warm-up, or at the end of my workout as a “finisher,” but do what works and feels best for you.
Here is one of my favorite glute “finishers”:
5) Sticking to a single rep range and tempo
When it comes to the glutes, make sure to use a variety of rep ranges. Many people get married to a single rep range, and this can hold them back from strengthening and building their glutes to their full potential. While in most cases I’m not an advocate of performing extremely low rep ranges (1-3), using a combination of a higher end low rep range (4-6 reps), a medium rep range (7-12 reps), and high rep range (12-20+ reps) can be very beneficial. Also, using different tempos can be a great option. For instance, really focusing on the eccentric and performing the movement slowly (3-5 seconds is a good benchmark), holding for a longer count in the top position (for instance, the lockout during any hip thrust, glute bridge, or other hinging variation), or performing both the concentric and eccentric movements explosively are different examples tempos that can be used. It is extremely important to note that no matter what tempo you decide to use, you must maintain control 100% of the time, and your form must be impeccable. When you are first starting out, performing reps at a regular, or even a slower tempo, is more advisable as it is easier to learn how to master the movement. A key rule is form and fundamentals first, speed after.
Here is a video of a medium rep range set of barbell glute bridges. Again, note the vertical shin positioning. With these, I was focusing primarily on the concentric portion and the lockout, and was lowering quickly. That being said, I maintained control for 100% of the movements:
6) Not training your glutes frequently enough
Many people do not train their glutes enough to experience significant gains in development, strength, and overall function. While this of course varies on an individual basis so I am not speaking in absolutes, many people benefit from training their glutes 2-3 times per week, and performing multiple glute exercises during these workouts. Other people experience a great deal of success when they address their glutes most days of the week. That being said, you do not want to over-tax your glutes every day as this might take away from your other performance, aesthetic, or health related goals, and you absolutely need to give your glutes ample time to recover. If you prefer to train your glutes more frequently than the 2-3 days per week that I recommended, opt to perform different exercises and movements throughout the week, and stick to a lower overall volume per workout. Plan your training intelligently, use trial and error, and figure out what works and feels the best for you. Again, there is no one size fits all approach.
7) Not utilizing the mind-muscle connection
Countless people do not achieve their glute-related goals as they skimp out on the mind-muscle connection. When you are performing exercises that are meant to primarily isolate the glutes, make sure that you are actually using your glutes to execute the movements. This is especially true when you are performing exercises with band resistance, a single leg, or are using less resistance, and your main objective isn’t moving as much weight as possible from point a to point b. Palpating the muscles that should be working is a great way for many people to tune in to the ever-important mind muscle connection. Also, making sure that you are both mentally and physically attentive for 100% of your reps is vital. A lot of people do not perform exercises correctly as they have checked out mentally, and they are not making use of the mind-muscle connection. In so many cases, people accuse an exercise of being too easy, when in fact the only reason the exercise feels too easy is because they aren’t performing the exercise correctly, and this often boils down to a poor mind-muscle connection, and a lack of attention to details. Mindfulness matters.
Here is an example of me palpating my glutes when I am performing a band resisted exercise:
8) Not maintaining control
With all glute exercises, no matter what speed you choose to adopt, make sure that you are performing 100% of the movements with complete control and mindfulness. Using the hip thrust as an example, rather than performing the eccentric (lowering) component with control, many people drop down with reckless abandon and usually end up hyperextending their lower back and flaring their ribcage, and many others fail to gain control in the top position during the lockout. Personally, I have found great success when I pause for a good count in the top position, if not longer, but even if you choose to keep the time of your lockout short, make sure that you are in complete control. This will help keep your body feeling good, and will help fast track your glute strengthening and growing success.
9) Faulty shin angle during any hip thrust or glute bridge variation
Hip thrust and glute bridges are extremely common glute strengthening exercises, hence why I am including this key point. When many people are performing these two exercises, and this includes both unilateral and bilateral variations, they place their feet so they are too far forward, and so their shins are on an angle. This can cause the hamstrings to kick in and dominate the movement. In fact, a lot of people feel their hamstrings cramp up when they make this common mistake. While preferred shin positioning will vary from person to person, aiming to keep the shins in a relatively vertical position tends to be extremely effective, and allows the glutes to perform the bulk of the work, instead of the hamstrings. When you are setting yourself up, take a look at your shins and make sure that your knees are close to, if not directly above your heels.
Here is a video where I demonstrate basic bodyweight single leg glute bridges and maintain a vertical shin position:
10) Pushing through the full foot instead of the mid to back portion
When a lot of people are performing any hip thrust or glute bridge variation, (and you could even add in any glute exercise where the feet are in contact with the floor), they mention that their quads are taking over. While a lack of glute strength can be a culprit, another common reason for this issue is that they are pushing through their forefoot and toes more than they are the mid to back portion of the foot. This is one of few exercises where I encourage people to abandon the tripod foot base (weight on the mid to back of the feet and all of the toes in contact with the floor, particularly the big and baby toes) and to push through the back of their feet. In some cases, lifting the toes off the ground and focusing solely on the heels can help take the quads out of the equation, and can allow the glutes to do the majority of the work. Figure out what works and feels best for you.
11) Inability to isolate the glutes due to poor breathing, bracing, and rib positioning
This applies to all glute exercises. Having the ability to stabilize the lumbo-pelvic region makes engaging the glutes, performing 100% of movements correctly, and safeguarding the health of the body a lot more possible. Many people notice their lower back working during many glute exercises, or they compensate with other muscle groups as their pelvis and spine are not in a fixed position. This lack of stability around the hips and spine can result from poor breathing, bracing, and incorrect rib positioning. For the duration of most exercises, your head, torso, and hips should remain in a stacked position. I liken this to a canister, and I got this analogy from Tony Gentilcore. If you are performing a hip thrust or glute bridge, your head, torso, and hips should remain in a stacked position, and should move as a single unit. During other exercises, perhaps side lying clamshells, or standing band resisted toe taps, proper breathing, bracing, and rib position will help stabilize the pelvis and spine so you can utilize your glutes to their full potential. With both of these exercises, you will often notice the pelvis and spine rotating, or leaning to one side, when both should remain in a fixed position and facing straight ahead. This can be reflective of a lack of lumbo-pelvic stability. While breathing and bracing will vary depending on the exercise, resistance being used, and individual preference, aim to do 360 degree breathing, and a 360 degree brace. For all exercises, be extremely mindful that you keep your ribcage down, and do not allow it to flare. This will also help prevent your spine from hyperextending, and the muscles in your lower back (or other areas) from kicking in.
Here is an example of how I maintain the “canister” during band resisted toe taps.
12) Assuming that squats and deadlifts are enough to strengthen and develop your glutes
I’ll be the first to say that I absolutely love squats and deadlifts, and they are staple movements that most people should be performing. In fact, there are countless variations that can accommodate people of most fitness levels and abilities. However, while the glutes are involved during these two fundamental movement patterns, they are not top tier glute building options. In fact, your glutes usually need to be strong for you to thrive at both squats and deadlifts. So, while both of these exercises can absolutely be a small piece of your glute building puzzle, they should not be the entirety.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meghan Callaway is a strength coach from Vancouver, Canada. She has over 14 years of experience coaching elite athletes, post-physical therapy rehabilitative-strength training clients, to the everyday person who is looking to feel, perform, and function at a higher level.
Here new “Glutes, Core, and Pelvic Floor Workout System” just launched and is an amazing asset for those wanting to train the right way!
Meghan believes that working out should be fun, empowering, and effective, and is extremely passionate about helping her clients achieve their unique goals. Meghan definitely uses an individualized approach with her coaching and training programs. Meghan has become somewhat known for her love of pull-ups, and other advanced bodyweight exercises. To Meghan, these exercises represent play and freedom, and she loves to teach others how to perform these exercises.
Meghan majored in kinesiology at the University of British Columbia. She is a published writer and blogger, and loves to share her knowledge and passion through her writing and on podcasts.