We all know I am a fan of big legs and being a total quadzilla. #thickthighssavelives #whatthighgap. But I want you to know that you CAN build and shape a juicy booty without increasing leg development.
Let’s start off by debunking the myth that squats are what give you a big butt. FALSE. Some people feel squats in their glutes and hammies, but most feel them in their quads. I have watched and interacted with plenty of women who have done squats for years and seen 0% booty growth.
In three bullets:
You must learn to treat the glutes as their own muscle group (because they are).
I love the big compound lifts likes squats and deadlifts (in all sorts of variations), but when I went on a quest to build up my back side, I transitioned my accessory work toward a “bodybuilding” mindset: fatigue and work the muscle group from different angles. THIS is what gives you a bigger + rounder rear.
Squats and deadlifts only work in one plane of movement (the sagittal plane) and your legs are most likely doing most of the work, NOT your glutes.
Below I give you five glute specific exercises. Set and rep schemes would depend on how many days per week you training glutes and if you are super-setting the exercises.
These were made famous for good reason by Bret Contreras a.k.a The Glute Guy. He has extensive research on growing the glutes and what exercises recruit the most glute activity. If you are into growing your glutes, you NEED to follow him and eat up all of his free content.
The thrust is the mother of all glute exercises. You can load up heavy weight and it is FUN to do. Tips >> feet straight forward or turned out slightly, heels under knees, padded bar or hips, upper back on a surface that is lower than your knees, chin tucked and eyes forward (this is to avoid hyperextending through your back – make the glutes do the work). As always squeeze like your life depended on it at the top.
These are WAY harder than they look and they will leave you walking funny for days. While you can load up some serious weight on the bar for barbell hip thrusts, bodyweight will be just fine for single leg thrusts. This is great for isolating one glute at a time and focusing on the mind connection/feeling the glute do the work.
You can do a tabata of these (switching every 20 seconds for 4 minutes), do 3×12-15 on each leg with no rest or throw them in a superset with other glute specific exercises.
You can do this standing one leg at a time as well or standing with a cable machine. The main point here is that you are working the glutes in the frontal plane (laterally). You want the “shelf”? DO THESE…A LOT.
In the video you see that I do them in the three different positions; leaning back, sitting straight up, and leaning forward. Again, this is to burn the glutes in different angles. You can also do this on a seated abduction machine with added weight.
You can do these standing with one ankle hooked to a cable machine as well. There are lots of machines in gyms that offer this type of movement. Find one, and feel the burn. This will get after the area where your hamstrings tie into your glutes, although people tend to feel them in different areas. That is fine. Just focus on driving back through your heel and squeezing the glute at the top. As with all of these movements, make sure you are controlling it. Don’t just fly through them.
This exercise gives you the “side dimple” and outer glute shape. Keeping your hips square to the front, rotate your foot out as far as you can and lift your leg towards the ceiling from the glute. You should be able to feel or see the actual dimple during this exercise. I like to throw these in my warm up for 20-30 reps or use them as a burn out at the end of a leg day.
There you have it; the key to growing the booty without becoming quadzilla. If you do love big legs, keep doing your squats and deadlifts, but add these exercises or similar variations into your accessory work if you wish to grow and shape your glutes.
I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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