Let me tell you a secret really quickly: the best way to grow your glutes is to use an integrative fitness program.
This means that you are employing multiple techniques to assist with the process of glute growth.
Growing muscle can be quite uncomfortable and your body needs to be properly taken care of in various ways while you are working to build muscle.
Growing glutes is not all about lifting heavy and doing squat jumps,
In fact, it’s your nutrition and recovery that are going to be of the highest importance here.
But I’ll get more into that later in this article-to start I am going to get you up to speed with some baseline information.
My goal is that this article allows you to understand the anatomy of the glutes, along with the work, nutrition and recovery necessary to cause glute hypertrophy.
Here’s a summary of everything I will be talking about in this article:
- Get to know the glute muscles
- Ensure even glute muscle activation
- Workout program for glute hypertrophy
- Diet for growing glutes
- Recovery to grow your glutes
- Checking for glute growth
If you see links throughout but don’t want to get sidetracked, don’t worry: I will re-link them at the bottom!
So let’s get started on some booty basics…
Booty Basics: Get to know the glute muscles
Where is the Gluteus Minimus
The gluteus minimus is one of three glute muscles-it sits deeply under the other glute muscles, closer to the actual hip bone.
The glute minimus runs laterally from the back to the outsides of the hips, in the area commonly referred to as the “hip dip”.
This muscle assists in hip stabilization and plays a large role in abduction movements as well.
Where is the Gluteus Medius
The gluteus medius sits on the upper part of the glute minimus, in the upper part of the back and side of the hips area.
The glute medius runs a little more vertically than the glute minimus and does more work assisting with lateral leg movements and twisting at the waist.
Where is the Gluteus Maximus
The gluteus maximus is the largest glute muscle and it is also the one that sits on top of all of the other glute muscles.
The glute maximus is responsible for the majority of the glute-based movements we know such as hip thrusts and the hip hinge.
Ensure Even Glute Muscle Activation
Muscle activation is the single most important thing to glute growth: it simply refers to your ability to intentionally contract the glute muscles.
If you cannot intentionally activate your glutes at the beginning of your fitness journey, that’s normal but you will want to give attention to a preworkout process to help you ensure even glute activation…
First: loosen up
One of the biggest things that can inhibit muscle activation is tension that prevents full or safe movements.
Make sure to stretch and maybe even foam roll before starting your glute hypertrophy workouts-and get all around the hips and legs too!
In my experience, if you’re having a hard time activating the glutes, you might have a lot of tension on the front side of the legs and hips that need to be released.
Spend about 10-20 minutes releasing any tension from around the hips and legs.
After you’ve loosen up a bit, you’re going to want to practice moving your joints in their full range of motion-this may also feel a bit like a stretch.
Movements to help mobilize the hips, knees and ankles include:
- Hip and ankle circles
- Knee tucks
- Butt kicks
- Pulsing lunges or squats
- Seated knee drops
- And more!
The goal with these movements is to warm up the joint in it’s full range of motion so that all the appropriate muscles can be accessed during any given movement.
Perform about 10 minutes of hip, knee and ankle mobilization after you have finished stretching/ tension release.
The last thing to do before getting into your workout is to activate the glute muscles by doing specific, glute-focused movements that allow you to feel the glutes working before you add more weight and stress.
My recommendation is to start your activation with unilateral or single leg movements, and then do a couple of bilateral movements at the end-this will help make sure that one glute does not get bigger or stronger than the other.
Activation exercises can be any standard glute exercise such as:
- Hip thrusts
- Hip abduction
- Deadlifts (see variations here)
It can be literally anything, but the key is to drop weight and move slowly so that you really feel the glutes warming up and working.
This is not the part of the workout to move fast and get your heart rate up: move slow and feel the glute muscles working.
***A great way to help develop mind to muscle connection is to literally touch the area you are trying to feel-yes, hold your butt while you move if necessary.
Do about 10 minutes of activation and then you’re good to get into the workout!
Note: if you have an unusually hard time activating the glutes or any muscle group then you may have a movement discrepancy and be in need of Corrective Exercise.
Workout Program for Glute Hypertrophy
Heavy lifting is the fastest and most effective way to grow your glutes-period.
Because of this, you’re going to want to make sure you’re doing heavy lifting for the glutes and legs 2-4 times a week.
Now, what qualifies as “heavy” varies wildly from person to person, so I can’t give you an exact number of pounds you’d need to lift but my rule of thumb is this:
If you can easily do more than 12 repetitions (WITH PROPER FORM), then it’s too light.
If you can’t do at least 5 repetitions (WITH PROPER FORM), then it’s too heavy.
***A lot of women are nervous about heavy lifting so I have taken the time to make a Women and Weightlifting blog about how weightlifting specifically affects the female body.
Progressive overload is an exercise programming technique in which you perform the same workouts on the same day every week (such as leg day every Monday), but increase intensity every week by adding reps, sets, weight or time under tension.
The idea is that the workouts are getting more challenging every week, in a way that is predictable to your body, so that while you are getting stronger the workouts are also getting harder so that you can keep getting stronger.
This is a great way to accelerate the build and prevent plateau, but it does require you to deload, or take periods of lower intensity training, so as to prevent overtraining or injury in the long term.
Activation work, as detailed above, needs to be included before every workout so as to ensure that you are properly hitting the glute muscles.
In addition to the preworkout activation routine, you may consider adding an entire workout of glute activation and stabilization exercises to your week-especially if you’re only heavy lifting 2 times a week.
This can help you be able to increase your weight lifted faster, because you will feel sturdier while performing your lifts.
Diet for Growing Glutes
The next most important factor in glute growth is your nutrition and diet plan for growing glutes-if you don’t eat correctly, your body will have nothing to build with!
Nutrient timing refers to the intentional timing of your snacks and meals so as to constantly supply your body with nutrients to support your muscle build.
An added benefit is that it will also help to boost your metabolism!
For glutes growth, it is recommended that small snacks or meals are consumed every 2-4 hours, consisting of:
- 15-30% of your daily protein needs
- .5-1 serving of a healthy fat source such as avocado, nuts, olive oil
- A slow digesting carb source such as quinoa or sweet potato
Protein is the main nutrient that actually causes and supports the build.
Proteins are structures made of amino acids and proteins are considered to be “complete proteins” when they contain all 9 Essential Amino Acids.
Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) are essential because the body cannot produce them so they must be consumed in the diet.
All animal-based protein sources are complete protein sources, meaning they have all 9 EAAs.
Plant-based protein sources (except for processed meat substitutes like Impossible Meat) are not complete protein sources-they do not have all 9 EAAs and so you need to mix and match plant-based protein sources.
Examples of this include:
Rice and Beans
Quinoa and Lentils
Nuts and Seeds
This is a great amino calculator which will allow you to get a snapshot amino profile of whatever food you enter into it.
No matter how you’re getting your protein, to support glute growth you need to consume 70-100% of your body weight in grams of protein a day (or as close as you can get).
This means that if you are 100lbs, you are looking for 70-100 grams of protein a day.
As mentioned above, it is recommended that this is spaced out throughout the day but it is also highly recommended that 20-40 grams of protein be consumed directly after a workout so try to organize one of your eating times accordingly.
Your total daily calorie intake should be based on a few different considerations:
- Your RMR or Resting Metabolic Rate which you can calculate here. This is the amount of calories your body burns when at rest.
- Your daily activity level, including the thermic effect of feeding (the amount of calories burned by food digestion), calories burned during exercise and non-exercise activity.
- Your fitness and body composition goals.
For growing your glutes, your daily calorie intake should be at maintenance (you’re eating the same amount of calories that you burn every day) or around 250 calories in surplus (you’re eating a little more than you burn everyday).
If you are deconditioned and completely new to fitness, you may be able to build muscle while in a (high protein) caloric deficit of around 200 calories a day, but in general a caloric surplus is necessary to gain muscle.
Protein is often the superstar of nutritional talk when it comes to muscle building, but it’s important to note that fat and carbs are equally essential to glute growth.
Healthy fat sources will support hormone balance that will permit a healthy build without causing issues such as loss of period or complete loss of breasts.
Nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources are not only a source of additional vitamins and minerals, but are also the main fuel your body uses to get through your workout-without carbs you can’t lift very heavy.
Recovery to Grow Your Glutes
So, if the workout is you telling your body, “Hey, this is where I want to be big and strong!”, and your eating is you supplying your body the materials necessary to build with…the recovery is the actual time your body uses to focus on the build.
That means that the recovery is equally as important as the workout and the nutrition!
DOMS is an acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and refers to the situation in which you don’t start feeling your muscle soreness until up to 72 hours after a workout.
DOMS is important to consider because it reminds us that you may still be healing even if you don’t feel muscle soreness at that time.
Despite the inclination to train everyday to grow your glutes really fast, it’s actually wiser to only train glutes up to 3 times a week.
Use the days in between to let the glutes rest by working other muscle groups, doing stretching or outside activity.
Once a week at least, it is recommended that you take a full rest day from working out any muscle group.
On these days you are encouraged to indulge in some of the following self care activities…
Foam rolling, stretching and soaking
Foam rolling is a self massage technique in which you use a cylindrical piece of foam to lay on and massage various parts of your body. This is great for reducing muscle soreness, knots and mobility restrictions.
A welcome alternative to this is going for a sports massage!
Stretching, yoga and mobility work are also great rest day activities as they support recovery and muscle growth by contributing to healthy blood flow and nutrient delivery.
Soaking in a bath or jacuzzi is one of my favorite rest day activities because it feels like a little treat but it is also helping to reduce muscular tension, inflammation and promote detoxification of the body.
Checking for Glute Growth
Ways to measure muscle growth
Throw out your scale because it’s completely useless here!
Here are the top 3 ways to measure glutes growth:
- DexaScan, a quick scan that discerns how much fat, muscle and bone mass you have in specific parts of your body.
- Progress photos from multiple angles which will also allow you to see if you are building all glute muscles evenly.
- Circumference measurement: simply using a tape measure to keep track of the measurement of your hips and glutes.
There are other forms of measurement such as strength tests but these are the most direct and unbiased.
How long does it take to build glutes?
The length of time you’re going to spend on growing your glutes depends on how much glutes you are trying to grow.
On the proper fitness program, most people are capable of gaining 1-2lbs of lean muscle mass a month.
That means that if you commit to glute growth for a whole year, you will make your backside up to 24lbs heavier!
Adapt Your Fitness Plan
If you measure your progress and it’s not what you hoped for, assess and adapt your fitness program.
Change workouts to hit the part of the glutes you want, add more meals to your day…adapt your program, don’t quit it.
Muscle-building takes patience and commitment.
What’s the takeaway?
The best way to grow your glutes is to make sure that multiple lifestyle factors support glute growth.
This means making sure your fitness program includes progressive overload and organized nutrition habits.
Get personalized help meeting your booty building goals by working with a coach:
set up an appointment on our website!
A little recap of the links, as promised:
- Check out my Weightlifting for Women blog to clear up some mystery about whether or not women should be weightlifting and if it will make them look like a man.
- Review the different types of Deadlift, how the technique varies and what part of the body they primarily work.
- Read about how Corrective Exercise can help improve your weightlifting technique to enhance booty building.
Growing your glutes is possible as long as you are attentive to your lifestyle to support muscle build!
This article was written by Elexis Smolak CPT, CNC, WFS founder of Adapted Fitness and Integrative Health and Fitness Specialist for Women. Learn more or schedule a virtual coffee at AdaptedToYou.com