Well, summer is approaching, which makes me think of three very specific things.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, True Blood will be back in just a few weeks, which means we all get to bask in some awesome violence and steamy vampire sex.
(If you’re into that sort of thing. Which I am. Because it’s awesome.)
The second notion is sort of a result of the first. True Blood, like many shows on Premium Cable, is filled with people walking around mostly naked (or all naked); which is to say, if you watch premium cable, you can’t go one episode without seeing someone’s ass.
There are more naked people on this show than in most porn.
Now, depending on your perspective on nudity—and, of course, the ass in question—this is either a very good thing or a very bad thing. Thankfully, most of the time the booties are in great shape, because, let’s face it, this is HBO and they don’t screw around.
The third, and most pertinent to you, came as a sort of afterthought when considering the previous two points: if there is anything that should inspire you to work your butt into tip-tip shape more than looking at werewolf tushie, it’s the mere fact that summer is around the corner and it’s going to be on display.
True, for guys the boo-tay-tay is not on display as much as for the ladies (unless you wear a Euro swimsuit. I’ve tried; didn’t work out); but, still, for a guy that follows the fashions (ahem, me) you’ll be wearing some tight shorts, so it behooves you to get to work.
To that end, in the spirit of summer and getting you into the kind of shape that justifies nudity for 40 minutes out of a 60 minute television show, I’ve complied a list of my top 6 exercises to get your butt in shape. Literally.
And, before you get all whiny on me, I should mention that all of these exercises will also improve athletic performance, as well as have carryover to stuff like squats and deadlifts.
So, ready to get your ass into gear*? Awesome.
*NOTE: I fully exercise my right to make as many butt-related puns as I feel like it during this article. Enjoy.*
Before we begin, here’s a fun picture of Jamie Eason
A Gaggle of Exercises for Glorious Glutes
1) SINGLE LEG ELEVATED GLUTE BRIDGE
We’ll start with the exercise that is the easiest to perform and requires the least equipment—the bodyweight glute bridge.
While you can do this bilaterally, I specify the single leg version simply because—although it’s a tad more advanced—it’s really the only version worth doing if your goal is posterior development. In addition to allowing your body weight to serve as a greater load allowing for all the benefits of unilateral training, you’ll need to stabilize anti-rotationally, so you get some core work, too.
Here’s a video of both versions:
When performing this, it’s important to focus on two things: recruitment and position.
In order to make sure you activate and recruit the glutes to the fullest extent, don’t just think about lifting your hips; instead, think about driving your heel into the bench and focus on using your posterior chain to raise your body. Also, remember to flex and squeeze the working glute the entire rep. To increase activation, lightly rest your hand on the cheek…it’ll look silly, but help out a bit.
As for position: how you finish the exercise is important here. Don’t just drag your ass off the ground and stop when you’re in the air—a fully executed rep ends when your hips are completely “locked out.” To make it simple, raise your hips as high into the air as you can; in the finished position, you should be able to follow a straight line from your knee to your shoulder.
This exercise is great for development, but I find it works best as both an activation exercise during a warm up, and a teaching tool for helping people to understand and develop increased awareness and activation.
2) BARBELL GLUTE BRIDGE/HIP THRUST
Staying with the same theme, let’s look at barbell glute bridges. Popularized by Bret Contreras, the barbell glute bridge (or BBGB, as I like to call it because it’s more fun to say) is the exercise contributed heavily to Bret becoming known as The Glute Guy. (NOTE: It probably also helped that he registered the domain thegluteguy.com and uses it as his blog; but let’s not split hairs.)
There are a number of variations of the BBGB, the main difference between them being the number of benches used, which varies from 0 to 2. Using multiple benches increases the range of motion the difficulty, and the name. Once you add in a bench, the name generally changes from a glute bridge to a hip thrust.
Difference in names notwithstanding, the movements are similar in a few ways, not the least of which his that they both involve using your tuckus to drive your hips up while loaded with a barbell.
Here’s a video of big Bret rocking out the BBGB with just under 500 pounds.
Moving on to the hip thrust, this is you have your shoulders elevated, increasing the range of motion and lines of force. The hip thrust is more difficult, and because of that perhaps more effective in a number of ways.
Here’s a video of Bret’s client, the lovely Kellie Davis, banging out reps with 225.
I have no idea if she’s single, gents, so maybe give her a call…if you’re okay with her being stronger than you, that is.
For more videos, check out Bret’s YouTube channel, which is the biggest collection of ass-related videos not on a porn site.
3) HALF-SQUAT FROM THE BOTTOM
I don’t think there’s a butt in the world that can’t benefit from squats; moreover, I don’t think that there are many great buts that have been built without them.
Today, we’re going to take that one step further with an exercise designed just
This highly specialized version of the squat is done for just half a rep—the bottom half. You see, the glutes are recruited more heavily as squat depth increases (1,2); therefore, it is the bottom half of the squat that involves them the most. By limiting the movement, you focus on the goods.
Here’s how it’s done: In a power cage, set the pins at just above where your shoulders would be if you were in the “rock bottom” position of a squat. Load it up, climb under, and ignore the looks you get. As you come up, focus on flexing the glutes. Halt your ascent at roughly one-half of the way up, pause for half a second, and come back down. Allow the bar to come to a stop on the pins. No bouncing!
This is a killer exercise because you’re moving the bar from a dead stop for every rep, there’s no possibility of cheating, and you completely take away any effect inertia would have had. The movement becomes much harder and is very effective.
Now, this variation of the squat is very specific; while useful in the context of glute training, in general you should be doing regular squats as well.
5) KETTLEBELL SWINGS
I’ve often heard people say things like, “I do the stair climber for cardio because I also work my butt.” While that’s not totally untrue, it’s also not the best option; if you want to get your ass in shape figuratively while getting your ass in shape literally, KB swings are the way to go.
Now, I’ll say right off the bat that I’m not really a kettlebell guy. I like kettlebells as a conditioning tool, and I see some value in terms of specific applications. This differentiates me from pure kettlebell gurus, a number of whom are so passionately dogmatic about kettlebells that I suspect KB swings are part of their masturbatory rituals. A hyperbolic assumption, perhaps, but it made you laugh, so deal with it.
Anyway, that brings us to the topic at hand. Kettlebell swings, not masturbation.
Again, KBs are good for condition and specific application, one of those applications being glute training.
For a simple movement, it’s hard to beat the KB swing. Done with proper form, it works the majority of the posterior chain, and hits the glutes like little else. (It also teaches the hinge quite well, having carryover to other stuff.)
You can use the swing with mildly heavy weight as part of a more complete program, or you can do use lighter weight and higher reps for a cardio/conditioning effect; each effective for different goals, but both effective with regard to your butt.
No kettlebell? No problem. Here’s a video of me doing a version with a dumbbell:
FURTHER READING: Tim Ferriss wrote a detailed post on how to use the KB swing to sculpt the KB swing to sculpt the perfect posterior, which you can read here.
5) GLUTE-HAM RAISE
I don’t know why I even bother to include the GHR, other than the fact that if I don’t, other fitness pros will lambast me for leaving it out.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome exercise, if you’re in the small 2% of people who doesn’t mess it up. Since I’ll assume that all of my readers fit that, we can discuss.
There are two ways to perform the glute-ham raise: on a machine, and without one, which is called a natural glute ham raise. The machine version is generally easier for set up—at least in the sense that you don’t need a partner for it—but executing is murderously difficult.
A few companies make decent GHRs, but the best one by far is produced by EliteFTS. If you’re considering picking one up, that’s the model I’d go with.
Most gyms don’t have a GHR machine; so, let’s talk about some modifications. The first of these is to use a friend. I don’t do this version that often because I don’t have any friends. (Just kidding, everyone loves me.) It’s somewhat difficult to manage, though.
To perform Kneel down on some padding and have your partner secure your feet behind you. Keep your trunk upright (your back straight and in line with your hamstrings) and lower yourself to the ground as slowly as possible. If you can pull your self back up, do so. If you cannot, simply use your hands to work back into the starting position and perform another negative.
If you don’t have any friends a partner, there is another variation that makes use of the lat pulldown. Essentially, you’ll be using the knee-rollers to hold your ankles in place, and perform the GHR. This is the first version that I ever tried, and in most gyms is the one I do when traveling.
Here’s a lil’ sippy-snippet:
Looks easy? Nope.
All variations of this exercise are murderously difficult. And pretty easy to screw up.
Now, here’s it’s awesome: while in many ways this is a hamstring exercise, it still works the glutes, oddviously. Specifically, this will work what we in the biz call, “the gluteal fold,” or the glute-ham tie-in; the often saggy flap where your butt meets your leg. Meaning that the GHR is going help your ass look awesome when you’re naked more than almost any other exercise. Making it exceptionally important.
Despite my tongue in cheek (I am not even gonna touch that pun) approach in this article, glute training is important, because strong glutes are important. The exercises mentioned above make you stronger, faster, and hotter.
Give them a shot, and you’ll never look back…except to look at your butt.
- Caterisano A, et al. “The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles.” J Strength Cond Res 2002 Aug;16(3):428-32.
- Vakos JP, et al. “Electromyographic activity of selected trunk and hip muscles during a squat lift. Effect of varying the lumbar posture.” Spine 1994 Mar 15;19(6):687-95.
Bonus Exercise – hill sprints!!!!1!1!1!1!
Yeah, hill sprints. That’s my bonus exercise for you.
Not only are these pretty much the most awesome form of cardio you can do. How do I know this?
Here’s a quick breakdown using my patented rating system:
Equipment Needed: Hill, legs
Difficulty: Varies (6-8)
So, basically, hill sprints are convenient, effective, and make you look awesome. They’re hard, but it’s worth it.
Also, because of the incline, the work the gluteal fold and make you bootylicious.
Walter Payton, the greatest running back of all time, did these religiously. Whenever I’m home on Long Island for long stretches of time, I go to my old high school, and sprint the same hill my coach made us run when we were late for practice. We stopped being late partly because hill sprints make you faster. (See what I did there?)
Just for fun, here’s an awesome picture of a great ass.