Behind a glass storefront on a busy San Diego street, a model does barbell hip thrusts while a Brazilian-jujitsu fighter grunts through a set of 315-pound box squats. They’ve both come to this gym for the same reason: ass. Only it’s their own asses they’re interested in.
Welcome to the Glute Lab, an 1,800-square-foot one-room space packed full of machines even a gym rat would find exotic. There’s everything from a giant black setup called a Booty Builder to a contraption with pads for your calves, hooks for weights, and a belt for your waist. You buckle up, then squeeze your glutes as you simultaneously open your legs. (Trust me: It’s hard.)
There’s no blaring rock music here, and nobody’s doing curls or bench presses. In fact, the lone bench in the building is sort of stuffed into a tiny middle section, wedged between a squat rack, where one of the assistant trainers is coaching another model (there are four in here right now) through box squats, and a Sorinex training machine that three other employees are busy constructing.
Everyone here, including me and Glute Lab founder Bret Contreras, Ph.D., C.S.C.S.*D, is chasing stronger glutes. I’ve been in the Glute Lab barely five minutes, and the godfather of booty training already has me lying with my shoulder blades in one of the hip-thrust machines that he sells on his website thehipthruster.com. My butt and feet are firmly planted on the ground, and a bar loaded with a whopping 295 pounds is sitting right over my hips. Contreras wants me to squeeze my butt cheeks super hard, an action that should propel my hips (and that bar) upward and straighten out my torso in the process.
He’s certain I can do this, so after he rearranges my head position, I squeeze. The weight is driven up, and I do 10 reps. “See? Your glutes are stronger than you think,” he says with a grin.
Same for everyone else in the building. The bells on the door jangle and another model in booty-hugging spandex walks in. She goes up to Contreras, who quickly gives her three exercises that she seems to already know how to do, then sets off on her workout.
Why All The Glute Love?
Contreras, 43, has made it his life’s work to show everyone the power of their glutes, and he’s squeezed all that knowledge into his new book, The Glute Lab: The Art and Science of Strength and Physique Training. “Glute training is vital to so many things,” he says. “It’s the engine for your power.”
Contreras, a six-foot-four, 250-pound slab of a human, is using that engine to power an empire. He has more than 745,000 followers on Instagram, and his BootybyBret program has more than 4,500 monthly subscribers.
He also sells his own line of glute-building gear, including that hip-thrust machine, a bespoke barbell that’s better for glute training since the handles are specifically designed with glute work in mind, and special butt-building resistance bands you loop around your knees.
Your glutes don’t simply look good in jeans, either; they’re far more important and useful than that. Well-developed and -functioning glutes protect you from knee, hip, and lower-back injuries, and they power you in the gym and in sports. From Olympic sprinters to top NHL hockey players, top athletes almost always possess powerful glutes.
And training them is even more important if you’re sedentary or have a desk job. Sitting all day can tighten your hip flexors and lead to weak glutes, which can inhibit your ability to achieve what’s called “hip extension”—essentially the opening of your hip joint. Strong glutes also stabilize your pelvis, supporting your spine and alleviating back pain.
“Your glutes are like a Swiss Army knife,” says Contreras. Do these exercises to make them stronger.
Get Hip With Your Glutes!
Hip extension is a critical human motion that’s driven by your glutes. If you sit too much or avoid activating them on a daily basis, your body forgets how to do it. Wake up your glutes and you get better at these things:
Hip extension helps you explode off the ground when you run, lengthening your stride and pushing you a bit farther with every step. “Have you ever seen a sprinter with a small butt?” Contreras asks. “No.”
Want to jump high? Then you need to extend at the hip. Explosive, powerful hips react with your ankles and knees to propel you upward. They’re fueled by a strong glute contraction.
The final motion of a squat or deadlift occurs when your pelvis shifts into truly neutral position. Are you having trouble doing that? Squeeze your glutes extra hard and watch what happens.
Booty-Blasting Moves You Should Do
Add these moves to your workouts, doing them as often as 3 times a week, to grow your glutes:
Pulse Goblet Squats
Stand with a dumbbell at your chest, heels on 5-pound plates. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. This is the start. Lower until your thighs are below parallel, then press up until they’re just above parallel. (You’re doing only the bottom half of a full squat motion.) That’s 1 rep; do 20.
Bench Hip Abduction
Lie with your right side on a bench, legs and hips hanging off it, legs straight. Bend your right leg. Keeping your left leg straight, let it drop toward the floor until you feel a stretch in your left glute. Drive your straight leg up as high as it will go. That’s 1 rep; do 12 per side.
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