Most people seem to think that squats are all you need to build big, strong glutes. While squats are great for glute hypertrophy, they mostly work the bottom-end of the hip hinge range of motion. During a squat, your glutes work hardest down in the hole, AKA the bottom of the squat. That means your glutes are firing most when they are being stretched.
You also need to incorporate movements where your glutes are working maximally in a contracted position. In doing so, you hit the glutes from all angles, strengthening it at all points of the hip hinge range of motion (your hip hinge is the hinge between your torso and legs).
Your glutes are stretched when you bend at the hip, folding your torso closer to your thighs. They are contracted in hyperextension when you squeeze your glutes and thrust your hips forward.
To better understand and visualize this, simply think of your glutes as a rubber band connecting your lower back to the tops of your hamstrings. If you bend at the hip, the rubber band stretches. If you thrust your hips forward, the insertion points of the rubber band get closer together and tighten up, as muscles do when they contract.
The following 3 exercises work your glutes at the bottom, middle, and end-ranges of motion of your hip hinge. What’s special about these exercises is that you can go really heavy with them and get really strong. Mass moves mass. If you’re barbell thrusting 225 pounds, I guarantee your glutes will grow to ample proportion.
1. Barbell Hip Thrusts
This is one of the greatest glute-growing, booty-pumping exercises out there. If you want to build big, strong, shapely glutes, you better incorporate barbell hip thrusts.
Simply load up a barbell, lie flat on the ground, and slide the barbell over your feet and knees until it rests directly above your hips — this is your starting position. Hold the barbell in place on your hips and press through your heels until your butt comes off the ground. Push the bar as high as you can until your hips are fully locked out. Return to the starting position. That’s one rep.
One set of 8 reps with heavy weight will have your glutes burning like no other. Sure you could accomplish a similar burn doing 20 glute kickbacks, but heavy weights are more fun and will really pack the mass on that behind.
“But my bestest friend ever said deadlifts will break my back.”
That’s true… if you do them wrong. Deadlifts are one of the best exercises for glute development because of the large load you can apply and because they are a hip-hinge dominant movement. They work your glutes most during the middle to end-ranges of the hip hinge.
Sumo deadlifts and conventional deadlifts are both extremely demanding on the glutes. The hip extension needs for each movement are nearly identical. Some will tell you otherwise, but a study was run using an EMG to compare the electrical activity in the glutes and hamstrings between the two styles. The readings for sumo and conventional deadlifts came out the same. So, for glute hypertrophy purposes, both types of deadlifts will produce similar results. My advice is to find the stance you are most comfortable in and can perform the exercise most smoothly.
That said, consult a knowledgeable and experienced lifter or personal trainer to coach you through the form queues required for a proper deadlift. I don’t want anyone breaking backs out there — only pant seams.
Of course, if we’re talking about building a booty, squats have to enter the conversation.
Like I said before, squats work the bottom-range of the hip hinge. In order to fully utilize this stretch on your glutes, make sure you are squatting deep. Quarter-squatters are going to have trouble developing their glutes with squats. In fact, quarter-squatters aren’t even squatting. The crease of your hips must pass below your knees in order to perform a proper squat.
The deeper you go in your squats, the more you stretch your glutes. The more you stretch your glutes, the bigger your booty will get.
While you’ll definitely see decent results from using any of the 3 exercises above alone, implementing all 3 will give you phenomenal results. What’s most important is that these exercises allow you to work up to heavy resistance. Heavier weights stimulate your muscles more, and more muscle stimulation equals more growth.