BOOTY BUILDING FOR MEN

Generally speaking, nobody likes leg day. But we can all agree that lower-body workouts are the most beneficial in the grand scheme, providing the body with a tidal wave of muscle-building hormones and, of course, helping us all look better in shorts.

Aside from boosting your body’s muscle-building biology, leg workouts – especially those targeting the glutes, the most powerful muscles in your body – can also deliver some worthwhile functional and preventative benefits.

“Strengthening this area will help the hips and take pressure off the knees,” says Daniel Giordano, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., co-founder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy and Fitness.

That said, if you don’t train your legs or glutes often (let’s say, at least once a week), you’ll want to ease yourself in.

“If you’re like most office workers, you sit on one of your most valuable resources most of the day, leaving you with what I like to call ‘dead ass,’” says Matt Sauerhoff, founder of The LIV Method, a New York City-based personal training service.

The more time you spend sitting, the tighter and weaker your hips and glutes get, respectively, making you more susceptible to sustaining an injury.

“Remember, it’s all about the long game,” Sauerhoff says. “Take your time, restore balance, and move intelligently.”

The next time you roll up to the weight room for leg day – or even if you’re just looking for a lower-body workout that you can do at home (see “Essential Gear,” below) – pull up this list of exercises.

RELATED: Here’s What You Should Be Doing Instead Of Back Squats

Why Glute Training Is More Than Just Getting A Great Ass

The glutes are the largest and strongest muscles in your body, and are responsible for the extension, abduction, and external rotation of the hips, as well as the posterior pelvic tilt. Bigger, stronger glutes can help improve posture, movement, and athletic performance, while reducing the risk of a wide array of injuries.

Our larger glute muscles are one of the main reasons why humans can stand upright. They help us walk, run, sprint, jump, change direction, and much more. They also play a key role in our overall health, as strong glutes decrease the risk for injuries in the knees, lower back, hamstrings, groin, and hips. In fact, most lower back pain is a direct result of weak glutes and/or hamstrings.

So not only is a nice set of glutes more aesthetically pleasing, it’s also better for your body. Let’s take a look at the best exercises to improve glute strength, size, and function.

The Best Exercises For A Stronger, Healthier, Head-Turning Ass

Squats

It should come as no surprise that squats are first on this list. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better exercise for building a great ass than squatting.

The great thing about squats is that there are a ton of different variations that help sculpt the perfect posterior. Let’s take a look at each of them.

Few exercises allow you to hit the glutes and hamstrings with more volume than the barbell squat. This is what makes it so effective for building a great ass.

A few notes on barbell squats:

  • A common debate when it comes to squats is whether you should use a high or low bar position. A high bar allows you to squat deeper, which will hit the glutes harder, while a low bar position causes more forward lean, which also lets you hit the glutes and hamstrings more. So bar position is really a matter of personal preference.
  • Your stance also affects how much the glutes and hamstrings are worked. A wider stance (further than shoulder width) will target them more.

RELATED: Drop The Weights And Hit This Bodyweight Workout For Stronger Legs

Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is done with a dumbbell or kettlebell held at your chest. While you can’t use real heavy loads with this variation, the goblet squat allows you to get a lot of depth, further targeting the glutes and hamstrings.

Bottoms-Up Squat

This variation goes by a few different names, including the Anderson Squat. Basically, you’re only doing the second half of a squat.

To do this variation, set the bar up in a rack on the pins, equal to where it would be at the bottom of your squat. Position yourself under the bar, and explode up. Lower the bar back onto the pins, and reset. No bouncing.

This variation is great because it eliminates the stretch-shortening cycle between the eccentric and concentric portions of the squat and isolates the glutes and hamstrings.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Also known as the rear-foot elevated split squat, the Bulgarian split squat targets the glutes, as well as the quads. This variation can be done with dumbbells, goblet style, or with a barbell.

Deadlifts

Like the squat, there are a number of deadlift variations that allow you to really hammer the glutes.

Conventional & Sumo

Deadlifts are great, not only because they are a total body movement, but they also are incredibly effective for building the glutes and hamstrings, due to the ability to use very heavy loads. Research shows that conventional and sumo deadlifts are both equally effective for training the glutes. The important thing to remember when deadlifting is to really squeeze the glutes hard at the top part of the movement.

Single-Leg Deadlifts

There’s no better way to build strength and stability than with unilateral movements. The single-leg RDL will really set the glutes and hammies on fire by providing a ton of isolation.

Hip Thrusts

Barbell Hip Thrust

It might be one of the more embarrassing exercises to perform, but the hip thrust is a fantastic one for butt-building and should not be left out of your program. Popularised by Bret Contreras, the hip thrust involves placing your shoulders on a bench, with a loaded barbell over your hips. Here’s Bret himself explaining the movement.

Single-Leg Hip Thrust

When it comes to the glutes, there aren’t many bodyweight exercises I would choose over weighted exercises, but the single-leg hip thrust is one of the exceptions. Like the barbell hip thrust, your shoulders are placed on a bench, with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Extend one leg straight out and thrust your hips into the air, driving your one planted foot into the ground, and squeezing your glutes at the top.

Lunges

While lunges are primarily thought of as a quad-dominant exercise, the glutes are heavily involved in helping you return to the standing position. Lunges can be done forward, or reverse, with a barbell or dumbbells.

PERFECT SQUAT FORM

If you squat with proper technique and heavy (for you) poundage, you might grunt, scream, or even cry, but you probably won’t be injured.

Squatting is one of the most productive if not the best exercises out there (it’s called the King of Exercises by many). It is one of the most difficult to learn as well. If you are new to this exercise, please take several training sessions practicing with an empty bar or broomstick (you can do some additional work on the leg press if needed). It’s very important to get your technique down cold while the weights are still light. Your small errors with small weights will turn into BIG errors with big weights. Much of the bad press the squat has received in the media is a result of improper technique and not the exercise itself. Red flags you may encounter will be pointed out and hopefully how to avoid them.

First Things First

The first thing to discuss is not foot position or width of stance, but proper trunk position. Pretend you are a soldier and the meanest, ugliest sergeant ever just told you “TEN-HUT!” You would automatically straighten up and pull your head and shoulders back. This is the proper position of the spine for the squat. IOW, your head is pulled back; your chest is raised; and you have a slight arch in your lower back. At no time during the squat should you bend over at the low back or look down. Of course you have to bend over at the hip (more on that later). You should not look up either. OK, so you got that down?



Now, the best way to do squats is in a power rack or cage (a large rectangular rack with cross-drilled holes) so you can adjust the pins where if you have to bale, you can set the bar down without any harm. Set the pins to just below the depth you are going. They also serve as a visual cue for depth and if you go down/up crooked. Place the J hooks or posts that hold the bar for you to get under at the level of your nipple or so. Try to unrack it once to see if it’s at the right height. The bar should have a knurled area in the middle (if it doesn’t, find another bar or another gym) so it will not slide down your back.

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Barbell Squat

Many people use towels or padding under the bar. Others (including me) feel this leads to some instability because the weight is “teeter tottering” on a small area on your back. If the bar is hurting you either need to add some trapezius mass, place the bar a little further down your back (it should be just above or below the sharp ridge on your scapula (shoulder blade), buy a Manta Ray, or tolerate it because it’s part of the game. The Ray helps to spread the load across the shoulder, but it doesn’t fit everyone well.

Now step up to the bar. Place your hands about the same width as a bench press (unless you are doing the shoulder breaker wide-grip variety) and make sure you are even on the bar before unracking. Take a deep breath, step under the bar and unrack it. Most squat injuries (according to Fred Hatfield) occur during the back up. Only take enough steps that you can clear the j-hooks or posts on the descent. Remember the “soldier position” even in the unracking and back up. Place your feet shoulder width or slightly farther apart. Think if you suspended a line from the ceiling it would brush against your medial delt and hit you in the ankle.

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Use the “practice” sessions to get a width that fits you. You might say many powerlifters squat with a wide-stance and they are pretty strong as a group. I’ll agree wholeheartedly, but I’ll also point out that the conventional squat is probably more productive because you are working through a larger ROM. Learn this way and then learn the variations if you like. After you have the width right, turn your feet out at roughly a 45 degree angle. Adjust the width if need be. Now you are ready to squat.

Take a deep breath, contract your abs and descend. It should feel like you are sitting back on a chair behind you; not going straight down. Keep your knees in line with your feet. DO NOT LET YOUR KNEES BOW IN anytime during the lift! I have a Grade 1 knee sprain (MCL) from doing just this. Keep the load light enough so you won’t do this and gradually build up. Many people say to try to keep your shin at a 90 degree angle to the ground. This is impossible with the regular stance squat and is only possible by a few using the wide-stance variety. Try to keep your knees from going out past your toes. Alter the width if need be. Most people can and should descend till their thighs are parallel to the ground. This is actually pretty low. A very small majority of people can’t and may be better stopping just above parallel.

Don’t give up on reaching parallel too quick. Also, to go even close to parallel, you have to bend over at the hip (not the spine, of course). However, you should always be more upright than bent over. Two methods of determining your shin/back position and depth is to either have an attentive and adept person monitor you from the side and/or use a video camera placed to the side and close enough to determine all angles. After you have descended to the bottom position, reverse your direction immediately (don’t bounce at the bottom) and drive upwards. Try and pull your back up (hip extension) as hard as possible during the ascent.

Brooks Kubik describes this “as if a giant gorilla had a hold of your ass and your shoulder and was trying to straighten you out.” Come back to a standing position, take a breath or two (or many 8^) and descend again. Remember the soldier position between reps as well. Make each rep it’s own little lift. IOW, make each one count even on your warm-ups. If you maintain good form in your warm-ups, you’ll likely retain it for the work sets.



Belts Or Knee Wraps

Should you wear a belt or knee wraps? The former helps to stabilize the spine by increasing intra-abdominal pressure and the latter is just a way of elevating more weight. Especially if you are getting started with the squat, go without either. Use your abdomen as the brace instead of outside help. The knee wraps serve no use except to the powerlifter who wants a bigger max. They may impede the growth of structures around the knee or even cause some harm if used chronically.

The main reason the power rack gathers dust while there is a line for the angled leg press is because squats HURT! It doesn’t matter whether it’s the skinny beginner using the “big wheels” on each side for the first time or the bonafide 600+ squatter stepping under an already bending bar. They both feel some pain when doing this exercise. Learn to live with it!

The most productive exercises are the most painful. It’s a fact of life. If you squat with proper technique and heavy (for you) poundage, you might grunt, scream, cry, hurl and/or pass out, but you probably won’t be injured and you’ll make terrific headway towards your goals. Learn to be aggressive and focus your complete attention on the task at hand. Good luck and happy training!