A nice booty is quite possibly one of the most sought after effects of weight training or really any fitness plan. But what most people don’t understand is that a nice bum doesn’t come from endless cardio or simply stripping away body fat. No, a nice back side must be built.
A butt that is just simply void of fat but lacking muscle is what we call a pancake butt. And unless this is the look you’re going for, building a nice, shapely butt will take a little more work, time, and the right moves with a little bit (or a lot) of weight.
First of all, your glutes (the muscles that make up your bum), are extremely powerful movers of your lower body when trained to fire properly. Without developing these and training them well, not only are you denying yourself a curvalicious (yep I said it) back side, but you’re also denying yourself a properly functioning, highly powerful lower body. Without glutes, the rest of the chain tends to fall apart, whether it be through muscle strains, back pain, knee pain, or poor posture and faulty movement patterns.
So by strengthening your glutes you can not only build an aesthetically pleasing bum, but you can also prevent and/or correct injuries as well. Win-win!
There are many exercises and lifts that you can (and should!) include in your workouts in order to build a better butt, such as squats, split squats, lunges, dead lifts, glute ham raises, etc. etc. But there is one that stands out in my mind as the best for building that booty: the barbell hip thrust.
This is an exercise that can be done by people at any level of fitness, and can be done with body weight only, or a barbell loaded up with plates.
To start, you’ll want to be in a seated position on the floor, with a bench directly behind you. For true beginners, this is the only equipment you’ll need, as you’re going to start without any added weight. Bending your knees and driving down through your feet, push your hips up, giving your glutes a good squeeze at the top, literally “hip thrusting” the air. Yes, people may look at you funny.
If you are ready to add weight, you can start with an empty barbell. I usually pad the barbell with a folded up yoga mat, but you can also use the squat collar or a foam balance pad that your gym may have. Place the pad over your hip bones, and the barbell directly over the pad. Hold the bar in place so that it does not roll around as you move through your range of motion. The pad may not feel very important at this point, but trust me, once you start moving up in weight, that barbell will leave some nasty bruises on your hip bones without it!
How to load the bar:
Once you are able to do hip thrusters with your bodyweight, and then with an empty barbell with good form, you’re ready to load it up a little bit. If your gym has the bigger bumper plates at smaller weights (less than the traditional 45s), you can use these, and simply roll the bar over your thighs into place. If your gym only has smaller weights, or you need to start with a smaller bar, try propping the sides of the bar up on something such as the pins in the squat rack or aerobics steps. Ben Bruno shows a great example of this (and some awesome videos of single leg hip thrusts) here.
Things to remember:
- This exercise is all about the glutes. If you’re feeling it mostly in your hamstrings or in your lower back, your glutes are not firing correctly, and are allowing other muscles to take over the lift. If this is the case, you’ll need to go back down in weight (maybe even to body weight) to practice engaging those glutes and really squeezing them at the top of the lift. Pretend you’re holding a penny in there. Seriously.
- Once you have good form down, don’t be afraid to push the weights with this exercise. Like I said before, your glutes are extremely powerful movers, and their potential is pretty impressive. Once you learn how to engage them properly, the glutes can handle some pretty heavy loads, and progression with this lift is generally much quicker than with some of the more compound lifts, such as squats or deadlifts.
- Try some variations. You can do single leg hip thrusts or glute bridges (with your back on the floor instead of on the bench) to switch it up a little bit. If you are having trouble contracting your glutes at all, start out with body weight glute bridges in order to really feel how to activate your glutes to extend your hips.
This is one of my absolute favorite lifts, and the benefits of this can directly influence your other bigger lower-body lifts, such as the squat and dead lift. And besides your strength, who doesn’t want a nice, shapely bum to fill out their jeans?
Readers: Do you utilize hip thrusters? Do you have another exercise you use to really target the glutes?