Best Exercises for Glute and Hamstring Strength
There is a very common and quite recent trend in the health and fitness industry – glute training. Let me be clear, any training is good training, but when it comes to mainstream glute fitness, many people are missing the ball.
The main issue I have with the current training is that when it comes to long-term strength and balance in the lower body muscles you may experience pain and discomfort.
Many people who are currently training their glutes do not realize that there needs to be a balance between muscles in the body.
You shouldn’t just increase the mass of one muscle without balancing the strength with other muscles.
For this reason, the program we are about to show you will help you to develop muscle in the entire lower body – including the glutes and hamstrings.
Before we jump into the exercises and how to optimize your fitness you should have a brief understanding of how the glutes work and their basic anatomy.
Glute Function and Anatomy
The glutes are a powerful muscle system, perhaps the most powerful in the entire body. The glutes function to allow extension at the hip and are very powerful muscles for good posture and running form. When combined with the muscles in the posterior chain like the latissimus dorsi and hamstrings, the glutes will serve as the power muscle and stability muscle in lateral movement.
By this definition, you can see that the glutes are one of the most important muscle systems to develop in the human body. With that said, they need to be trained properly.
The muscle system is complex and works in many planes of movement. Nearly every exercise you do in the lower body will use the glutes – so it is important we can lock in solid form and deep strength of this muscle in order to boost glute mass and definition.
When it comes to developing strength in the glutes, big – compound movements will always help best.
Best Exercises for Glute and Hamstring Strength
Understanding how the glutes work and which movements they will function best in we will look for exercises that force extension at the hip, abduction at the hip and flexion at the knee.
1. Glute Bridge
This is the first and most obvious exercise. The basis of this movement is to develop strength in extension at the hip. Your best bet for developing strength in this exercise is to train with slow tempo (slow movement speed) and contract fully at the end-range of motion (squeezing at the top).
There are a couple of ways you can perform this exercise but the best way is to use a smith machine. You can use a bench and the bar on the smith machine to put the resistance directly over the hips and strengthen this movement.
2. Romanian Deadlift
My personal favourite exercise for developing strength in the hamstrings and glutes. The Romanian deadlift is pretty similar to a traditional deadlift with the exception of the knee angle.
In a Romanian deadlift, you will best train the glutes and hamstrings when your knees are locked into a position of minimal flexion.
In other words, your knees are almost straight and not bent.
This is an exercise where weight is not the biggest factor. Instead, focus on being slow eccentrically (lowering the weight) and powerful concentrically (standing up). This is also an exercise that you should train with moderate to high reps and higher intensities.
3. Kettlebell Swing
This is the same idea for developing strength in the hamstrings and glutes. The traditional kettlebell swing will target the glutes more than the hamstrings as the range of motion will only allow for slight flexion and extension at the hip. The benefit of using a kettlebell swing is that you can overload the muscle with relative ease.
In this way, you can put more and more weight on during this exercise (assuming your form is good) increase the development in the glutes with hypertrophy.
4. Monster Walks
I see people attempting this exercise daily but very few people actually do it correctly. When performed correctly you should notice that the outside of your hip (gluteus medius) should be doing much of the work. When doing this exercise you should also try to maintain a good, upright posture with a slight bend in the hip.
This will help to recruit more of the postural muscles in the glutes.
Frequency and Intensity
The last two concepts to take into account when training any muscle system.
Frequency refers to the number of times each week you hit a particular muscle system (glutes in this case) whereas intensity is the difficulty of the exercise.
A high intensity refers to a very difficult weight or taxing rep scheme, whereas lower intensity is the opposite.
The glutes are a large muscle system and like any large muscle system, this means they are generally used quite often. In daily life, the glutes are highly active and it is unlikely you will be available to train them more than 2-3x a week without sustaining some form of overuse injury.
Instead, I would recommend setting up workouts 2x a week to hit the glutes. Use the first workout as a strength-training workout where you hit the glutes on bridge and Romanian deadlift to develop the size and density of the muscle.
On the second day of training, you can use the accessory exercises like KB swings or monster walks to develop lateral stability, hypertrophy and explosive power.
Since the glutes are such a large muscle system and we are only going to be training them 2x a week it is important that the intensity of your training is quite high.
When you are engaging in strength training you should always do your best to work at around 80-95% of your max, and when you are on your accessory workout (day 2) you can train at a lower intensity of 70-85% of your max.
Bottom Line: Glute Training
Remember, glute training will take time.
A large muscle like this will spur growth quickly, but will also plateau very quickly.
You should be patient with your progress and understand that when you hit plateaus you may need to supplement and reassess your training to push through.
One of the better supplements for glute training is built by Black Wolf Nutrition – a company that creates a blend of supplements for your workout.
They include a pre-workout, post workout and a recovery mix to assist you in growing stronger and healthier.
For more information about Black Wolf Nutrition, click here.
Gabriello is a writer and strength expert best known for his science-based and practical approach to Exercise Physiology, Nutrition and Strength. After serving in a directors position for The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Gabriello moved towards writing to help more people understand the importance of living a healthy life. Gabriello’s writings have been published in several languages on some of the largest health and fitness websites helping people learn, grow and understand the complex components of optimizing human performance in a simplistic way.
Gabriello also takes on specialized, high-performance athletes who are in need of strength, mobility and conditioning programming to optimize their fitness through his Earned Fitness program.
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