Not all bum exercises are born equal. And look, we’re busy people, so if we can get the most bang for our buck and get our derrières as peachy as possible in the shortest space of time, we’re in. I asked five of London’s finest trainers to share their favorite bum exercises that really work. You’ll be pleased to hear there isn’t a squat in sight (not to say they’re not good to do).
Explains Third Space elite trainer Andy Vincent, “Most people instantly say squats are the best glute exercise, but I would disagree. It’s not an exercise everyone can do, and it’s not an exercise that many people can feel their glutes working. Being able to create a mind-muscle connection is important for developing any muscle in the body.” These moves will activate your glutes, firing them up, so not only will they power your gym sessions more effectively, but they’ll work better throughout the day.
You see, gluteal amnesia is basically where your glute muscles forget to work, and the other surrounding muscles have to pick up the slack. Not only can this affect your posture, but with the glutes (maximus, medius and minimus) making up the largest muscle group in the body, the more they work throughout the day, the more calories you’ll be burning. Keep scrolling to find out if you have gluteal amnesia and see the three bum exercises you need to add to your routine.
Do my Glutes have amnesia?
If you sit at a desk all day you’re basically training your butt to switch off. The quick and easy way to test whether you have gluteal amnesia is to do the Trendelenburg test:
1. Stand up straight in front of a mirror, legs hip-width apart.
2. Bend your right leg to lift your foot off the floor. Assess your pelvis; has it dropped down on the right side?
3. Try on the opposite leg.
Exercise #1: Glute Bridge
For beginners, a glute bridge is the best place to start, and the great thing about this move is that you can do it at home in front of the telly. “It’s easy to set up and easy to do. All you need to do is work with different tempos whilst doing the exercise or holding at the top to make those muscle fibres twitch,” says Rod Buchanan, Head of Barre at Psycle.
Buchanan reveals how to do the glute bridge:
1. Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor under your knees.
2. Draw your abs in, pull your tailbone underneath you and lift the hips off the floor (not your ribs). You should feel both glutes being fired up.
3. Slowly lower to the ground, and repeat.
4. If you want to advance the move, once your glutes are in the air, lift one foot off the floor, and pull the knee into your chest, making sure to keep your abs engaged and your pelvis tucked in so your hips stay level. You’ll really start to burn now, but push yourself that bit further, hold your hips still, tap your toe on the floor and then pull the knee back into the chest a little more. Keep repeating until you feel the burn.
5. Repeat on the other leg.
6. Once you get used to the move, you can try adding weight by holding a plate across your tummy or lying under a padded barbell and using your hips and glutes to drive the bar off the ground, keeping it steady with your hands.
Exercise #2: Hip Thrust
“Bang for buck best glute exercise is the hip thrust, says Mellor.” “It targets the glute max (biggest of all the glutes) and is the only exercise to fully load the glutes, meaning that to execute the exercise, you’re solely using your glutes. This exercise was made famous by Bret Contreras. He has a PhD in biomechanics, so he knows how to optimally work certain muscles.”
Verena Stefanie, personal trainer at Equinox, reveals the optimum number to do per week: “For the best results, I would recommend performing hip thrusts three times a week with a rest day in between. Perform day one with high reps and a low weight. The next session, perform with 10 reps and mid-weights, and on your final day of the week, try lower reps (three to four) with heavier weights.”
Vincent’s guide to getting the hip thrust right:
1. To set up, you need a bench, barbell and ideally Olympic plates, as they are round and make set up easier, plus they give the lifter enough space to get out if they fatigue also I’d suggest using a barbell pad or Airex pad to protect the hip when the bar is in position.
2. Sit on the floor with your back against the long side of the bench. Sit tall with your shoulder blades above the edge of the bench, and roll the barbell (with pad) so that barbell is positioned in the hip crease and is centered to your body.
3. Bring your feet in so that they are about a trainer’s length from your bum, as you sit on the floor with feet roughly hip-width apart. (Note: If you’re using it to pre-activate your glutes prior to a big lift, like a squat or deadlift, try to closely match the foot width and angle you will be using on the next lift).
4. Extend your hips up so that you come parallel to the ground. Keep your chin tucked into your chest throughout the lift.
5. Try not to just think about pushing straight up as far as you can. Instead, towards the top of the lift, think about tilting the pelvis and finishing with the glutes as activated as you can. Pause for two seconds before coming down. Keep your abs braced throughout the lifts, and exhale on the way up.
Exercise #3: Kettlebell Swings
“Why is this my favorite bum exercise? If you lack in glute development, you can generally benefit from strengthening the entire posterior chain (lower back, hamstrings and glutes). One of my go-to exercises would be the ballistic kettlebell swing. Why? Because in order to do this exercise correctly, one must learn to hip hinge properly and encourage efficient glute activation,” explains Felix Ma, mobility expert and personal trainer at FitMiBody.
“While Kettlebell swings often look relatively easy, the movement is often done incorrectly, causing people pain in their lower backs and incorrect muscle engagement,” he adds.
Ma’s guide to mastering the Kettlebell swing:
1. Stand shoulder-width apart with a kettlebell in front (about a foot away).
2. Bend at the waist (hip hinge), and grab the kettlebell handle with both hands. “Pack” your shoulders down and back, and brace your midsection. You should feel rock solid.
3. Lift/pull the kettlebell off the ground, and allow it to travel between your legs. It’s important to bend your knees slightly in order to load the glutes and hamstrings (without rounding your back!).
4. Thrust your hips forward until you stand straight and glutes are fully contracted at the top. The kettlebell will propel into the air (up to chest height) from the momentum. Avoid lifting with your hands.
5. Allow the kettlebell to descend back down between your legs, and move with the weight back into the hip-hinge position (again making sure your knees are slightly bent). As you perform the desired rep amount, you should aim to create a pendulum effect throughout.
6. On the last rep, allow the kettlebell to swing back between your legs, and gently place it back in front of you on the floor. “This is not a squat,” notes Ma. “If you’re not familiar with the hip hinge, practice the movement before attempting the KB swing. Your hips and glutes should be doing the work during this move, not your arms. You should always be balanced throughout the move.”
Next up, how to get rid of belly fat.
Michigan Medicine University of Michigan. Are you at risk for dead butt syndrome? Updated July 7, 2017.
Fujita K, Kabata T, Kajino Y, et al. Quantitative analysis of the Trendelenburg test and invention of a modified method. J Orthop Sci. 2017;22(1):81-88. doi:10.1016/j.jos.2016.09.007