Sir Mix a Lot told us that he “don’t want none unless you got buns hun.” Well how can we build our “buns?” First we must learn what exactly our “buns” are. The gluteal muscles or commonly called glutes are actually a group of three individual muscles. The first and most common muscle in the glute is the gluteus maximus. The most posterior muscle in the group, the gluteus maximus is actually the single largest muscle in the body. It is responsible for a lot of movement in the hip including extension, external rotation, adduction (movement into the body), and transverse abduction (movement away from the body on a horizontal plane) of the hip. The glute maximus originates on a body structure of the hips bone called the ilium as well as the sacrum and inserts into the femur and part of the tibia.
The next muscle in the glute is the gluteus medius. Located a little deeper in the body, the glute medius is much smaller than the maximus but is just as functionally important. The glute medius is responsible for abduction (movement away from the body), transvers abduction, internal rotation, and external rotation (during abduction) of the hip. The medius originates at the same place as the glute maximus; the ilium. It inserts, or ends, higher on the femur.
The final and deepest of the gluteal muscles is the gluteus minimus. The minimus is responsible for hip abduction, transverse abduction, and internal rotation. The insertion of the muscle is located on the external surface of the ilium below the glute medius and inserts on the front of the femur.
The glutes have become an important muscle group for a number of reasons. From a functional stand point, they are responsible for a large portion of our locomotion. Simple tasks such as walking, climbing upstairs, and running wouldn’t be possible without our glutes. The also support the hips as well as the knee in the glute medius’s case which prevents inward rotation of the knee. Finally, the glute have become important in an aesthetic sense. It seems society has come to appreciate well trained glutes. Why else would so many songs be written about them?
Glute training isn’t too complicated. It is common to say that squatting will grow glutes quickest. This is true, partly. Proper squats to full depth will activate the glutes better than improper half squats. The lower we can go (safely) the more activation in the glutes. We also have to make sure the glutes are firing and activating properly. If our glutes aren’t being activated properly, oftentimes our lower back and hamstrings take a brunt of the work and injuries become more common. So assuming our glutes are firing properly, there are a number of exercises we can perform to build glute strength. Squats, lunges, step ups, and deadlifts are all great functional exercises to work our glutes. Isolation exercises such as machine kickbacks are also great for isolating our glutes. As we’ve said before, a combination of functional and isolation work will yield the best results.
Now that we understand what our glutes actually are, we can properly train them.
Sean Willitts is an ACE certified personal trainer. He graduated from Kutztown University in 2015 with a bachelor’s is sport management and a minor in fitness. Including training at Body Elite, he is also a record holding powerlifter. He uses his practical experience and knowledge to help his clients achieve their strength and fitness goals.