How To Build An Effective Glute Workout

Aug 30, 2022
Mark Carroll

Let’s build some Glutes!

When it comes to a training session, there is an abundance of exercises we can do for muscle groups. The most common approach you generally see with exercise selection for a muscle is for people to choose either an exercise that is not being used or a similar movement for that muscle as they know it’s an exercise that trains that muscle. 

This can be fine for someone beginning however, the more advanced you become the more you want to ideally understand the intricate details of creating an effective workout. It is not about hoping for the best with various glute exercises. You need to have a strategy. I want you to think “How can I build an effective glute workout?”

  1. “Why is this exercise being chosen?”
  2. “What is the objective of the exercise?” 
  3. “Does this exercise compliment the other exercises I have used in this workout?” 
  4. “Does the exercise I have chosen for my second exercise, practically train the glutes the same way as the first movement?” (Which is not what we want the majority of the time.)

Building an effective glutes program should be like solving a puzzle – everything needs a place. You do not just put pieces anywhere, it’s all about putting the right pieces in the right place. This is the same when it comes to program design. 

The most simple starting point to building a glute workout is to focus on our 3 big key movement patterns. 

These movements are going to be the bulk of the work in building glutes. The way I want to choose exercises is about ensuring I am training each of these movement patterns in a client’s workout. 

The 3 movement patterns include:

  1. Hip extension/hip hinging – These are exercises like a Romanian deadlift, trap bar deadlift, etc. 
  2. Thrust/bridging – No shock here, this is going to include your hip thrusts and glute bridges 
  3. Knee dominate movements – Exercises like lunges, squats, leg press. These will naturally involve more quads than the above exercises. But they will also involve the glutes as hip extension will still occur in these certain movements. Think quads and glutes for these. 

These 3 movement patterns are the foundations of creating a workout.

Ideally, the base of building an effective glute workout will require an exercise for each of these movements. 

3 movements = 3 exercises. There we have a solid starting point.

Our biggest glute muscle is the glute max. This muscle is involved in hip extension, abduction and also external rotation. I will target primarily exercises that train hip extension for the glute max. But, this does not mean an exercise like a seated machine abduction can not train the glute max. It can through abduction, but I do tend to bias the work majority of the time to hip extension movements personally for the glute max. 

The other major glute muscle which will give an aesthetic look to the physique will be the ‘glute medius’ which sits slightly above the glute max and runs diagonally almost. The glute medius is effectively trained through abduction movements like straight leg abductions. Taking the leg directly to the side or around a 45* angle abducted relative to the torso. 

Therefore our 4th movement pattern we can include in creating a glute workout is abduction movements!

However, with abduction I would place it later in the workout due to the hip extension movements tending to be more demanding on the body. This is due to them involving exercises that will use more range of motion and often load the spine. So I prioritise these earlier in the workouts. 

Now we have some structure for putting together a workout.

We have 3 key movement patterns for the glute max:

  1. Hip hinge
  2. Thrust, bridge
  3. Knee dominate

Then we have added a 4th movement pattern which is abduction

Now, let’s put a workout together!

What exercises fit into this structure to ensure we are achieving training in each of these movement patterns? 

  • Hip hinge – Romanian deadlift 
  • Thrust/bridge – Glute bridge from the floor 
  • Knee dominate – A reverse lunge 
  • Abduction – We can then finish the workout with a straight leg abduction to the side with a cable or band. 

Pretty simple right? Just choose a movement for each of our goal movement patterns! 

This is what I would call how to build a glute workout 101. Basic. But extremely effective for the majority of lifters out there, both beginner to advanced.

Then we can delve deeper into putting the workout together. Factors such as resistance profiles will impact exercise selection. A resistance profile is when a muscle will encounter peak tension through a range of motion. 

For the glutes, an exercise with a resistance profile is greatest when the muscle is stretching. It will be more challenging for the lower division of the glute max. While an exercise where the resistance is higher when the muscle is shortening eg. a hip thrust, will most likely have increased recruitment of the upper division of the glute max. 

Why does this matter? It matters in order to build a bigger glute muscle & achieve an overall glute transformation. We want to ensure both the lower and upper division of the big glute max muscle is being effectively trained. This is why understanding movement patterns as your base foundations of a glute workout is important. But, the second level up of smart exercise selection is ensuring you are training the glutes through both lengthened and shortened bias movements. 

For instance, with our hip hinge. A Romanian deadlift will be the hardest for the glute when in the bottom position. While a hip hinge in a horizontal back extension (90* hip extension) will still be a hip hinge, however, due to the altered body position relative to gravity, tension will be highest at the top when the glutes are shortening. Both hinges, but opposing resistance profiles.  

First, think “Am I choosing an exercise that achieves all these key movement patterns?” That’s step 1. 

Step 2 is then identifying whether you are training the glute max through both a stretch biased movement and a lengthened biased movement. 

If you ensure you are doing both of these steps, you are going to be so far above the thinking of most people out there getting into the gym. Simple stuff? Yes, but effective. 

Next time you ask yourself “How to build a glute workout?” Think about this article. This will have you well on your way to training effectively to build your best glutes possible. 

Want to learn my methods for building world-class glutes? Your Glute Coach allows you to implement my methods and strategies on yourself to achieve your own 12-week glute transformation!

 Coach Mark Carroll

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