Grow Glutes Without Growing Quads

Many people struggle to train the glutes, especially heavy, without the quads taking over. While having strong developed quads isn't necessarily a bad thing, it can result in an imbalanced overall look to the lower body, and strengthening the glutes independently will transfer into stronger lifts such as squats and deadlifts.

To understand how to keep involvement of the quads in leg work to a minimum, we must understand which functions the quads carry out. Actions of the quadriceps are: knee extension and hip flexion (Rectus femoris only). Extending the knee can include lunges, leg pressing and squats.

The glutes on the other hand, work on other movements such as: abduction, external rotation and internal rotation of the hip joint.

With this in mind, we can construct a killer glute-focussed session!


Exercise 1: Hip Thrust

The king of compound exercises for the glutes! The best set up for this is usually resting your upper back on a low bench or high box/step and loading a bar with bumper plates so that you can comfortably roll it to rest on your hips. Initiate with the glutes and do not allow the back to overextend. One way to prevent this is by tucking your chin and looking forwards, not up at the ceiling, throughout the set. You can work up to pretty heavy weights for sets of 5-8 on these so long as you are still achieving a good contraction.

Exercise 2: Barbell Stiff Legged Deadlift

To make this hit more of the glutes than hamstrings, only lower the bar to around mid-shin and squeeze the glutes at the top of each rep (as in the hip thrust), rather than keeping constant tension on the hams.Hip hinge movements such as these and good mornings are often neglected in lower body training- don't skip them!

Exercise 3: Machine Kick Back (plate loaded or using lying ham curl)

It is always a good idea to have at least one unilateral movement in a session (read more on why here). If you are lucky, your gym with have a machine specifically for glute kickbacks. If not, you can mimic this movement by getting under the lying leg curl machine and kicking up on the pad. Go for mid-high reps on these so that you can kick the leg all the back back and really engage the back glute.

Exercise 4: Cable Pull Through

Using the rope attachment and facing away from the stack. Begin with the rope held between your legs, and use the strength of the glutes to stand up with the weight.

Exercise 5: Hip Abductor Machine

A great little exercise to throw in at the start or end of a session to work the outer glute area. Be sure to go through a full range of motion on each rep.

Exercise 6: Back Extension

The glute focussed back extension, as demonstrated by @bretcontreras1

A finisher here to ensure that you have the most impressive pump possible! Perform these with a slightly rounded back and only go back as far as you need to squeeze the glutes, don't let the lower back take over. Hold a plate to make this more challenging.


Final Thoughts

Even if you are trying to avoid building the rest of your legs, you still need to be getting stronger in glute-focussed movements to stimulate growth. Complete the above session once a week in addition to a more complete leg day, which might involve sumo deadlifts, split squats and leg curls, to hit the glutes with some quad and hamstrings!

About the Author

Savannah Westerby, BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition. IG:@savannahwesterby
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