Can You Really Add Size At Home?
Sure, building maximal strength requires significant loading for it to be developed or maintained. That's because it has a large neural component. But hypertrophy (muscle growth) is stimulated by mechanical loading.
Mechanically loading the muscle is directly linked to the force-velocity relationship, which means you want to activate as many muscle fibers as possible and then use them to generate a high degree of intramuscular force. The latter is accomplished when there's an involuntary slowing of the muscle contraction. The word "involuntary" there is super important.
Training to (or close to) failure, is what you're after when seeking hypertrophy. Involuntary, in this case, just means that even though you're trying to move the weight as forcefully as possible, the concentric or lifting portion of the rep gets slower and slower due to the fatiguing of the muscle fibers. That means high degrees of force production and growth.
So can you use bodyweight movements and actually reach failure? Does a bear shit in the woods?
It's a "yes" to both. We'll get into the details on how to do that, but first...
Why Exercise Order Actually Matters
When you're working with your own bodyweight (not an external load) and you want to reach failure in an exercise without doing a gazillion reps, it's important that your choice and order of exercises helps you get there as quickly as possible. This will make training more efficient and keep recovery needs down to a minimum.
It's also because training the muscle at each length in conjunction with a high degree of effort means the muscle itself gets stressed across those different lengths. This leads to more complete development of the muscle as well.
The proper order for this would be to train the muscle in the shortest position first, because that's where it'll be the weakest and fatigue the fastest. From there, an exercise that trains it in the lengthened position, and then an exercise that works the midrange, would be ideal.
When you do your movements in this sequence, you'll achieve a high degree of tension much more quickly, and you'll be able to hit failure (or near failure) without doing a metric butt-ton of work. This also means this can be repeated more often, giving you more chances to stimulate growth.
Since we're talking about building some glutes at home here, that means working the glute bridge or partial-range hip thrust to fatigue them first, before moving on to the rest of the workout.
- Single Leg-Glute Bridge or Partial Hip Thrust: 3 sets, max reps with 3 second holds per rep
- Bilateral Glute Bridge or Partial Hip Thrust: 3 sets, max reps with 3 seconds hold per rep, 10 second iso-hold to finish each set
- Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat: 2 sets, 3 second pause in bottom, come halfway up, pump reps and a 10 second iso-hold
- Bodyweight Squats: 1 double rest-pause set, maximum reps using half ROM for pump
Here's what it looks like:
1 – The Glute Bridge or Partial-Range Hip Thrust
Despite the fact that the hip thrust has become the staple in a lot of glute programs, I'm a bigger fan of the glute bridge for working the glutes in the short position. The glute bridge is typically done with your back on the floor instead of on a bench, but you can use a bench too and just shorten the range of motion (ROM).
This offers a more concentrated amount of work. I actually see the full-range hip thrust as a bit more of an overall lower-body exercise since the hamstrings and quads contribute.
But with a shorter range of motion there's less input from the quads and hamstrings, making it incredibly glute dominant. If using a bench, then simply reduce the range of hip flexion.
The toughest way to use do it? That'd most definitely be the single-leg version. You don't have both feet on the floor to create a higher degree of stability, so the nervous system is going to produce less output from the working muscles.
"Isn't that bad?"
No. It's situational.
Movements that provide the greatest degree of stability will always offer potentially higher degrees of output from the muscles. The more stable a joint is, the more force the muscles attached to it can produce. The body is smart that way.
Also, two limbs are going to be able to move more weight than one. Yes, ideally, we want to pick exercises where we get the greatest amount of output. However, this also means we're going to be able to use the greatest amount of loading in those as well. Since we're talking about home training here, where you may not have access to heavy weights, we're okay with this as an option.
Single-leg movements are harder because there's a higher degree of internal stability involved and because we're loading one limb instead of two. Glad we got that out of the way.
We can use both the single and double-leg versions of this movement, but starting with one leg is going to be ideal because we'll get to a state of fatigue much faster.
This is how we'll set that up:
3 sets of max reps, hold at the top for 3 seconds on every rep.
3 sets of max reps, hold at the top for 3 seconds on every rep, then finish with a 10 second iso-hold for each set.
This alone should have your glutes cursing at you in some third-world country language you don't even understand. Now let's move to loading the glutes in the lengthened position to further the booty gains.
2 – The Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat
Anyone who's done their fair share of split squats...
- Probably hates them
- Also realizes how bad-ass they are for glute development
The glute medius is responsible for hip abduction, but if you really want to challenge it then make it stabilize the pelvis by doing stuff standing on one leg, like the rear-foot elevated split squat.
At this point, if you did the glute bridges correctly, your glutes should be damn fatigued. This is good because it means we're not going to need to do a zillion reps of the split squat to continue the glute annihilation.
We also want to be smart about execution and make sure that we're taking advantage of the range where the glutes will be loaded the most.
In a squat motion like this, the top quarter of the movement isn't providing any resistance against hip extension, so there's no real need to do the entire range of motion. Instead, let's keep the glutes loaded with your bodyweight and focus on the bottom to mid ranges of motion.
How do we do that? Sink into the bottom of the split squat, pause for 3 seconds, then only come halfway up. This way the glutes are being maximally loaded in the lengthened position for these reps.
After you feel yourself reaching that "cry uncle" stage in the set, remove the pause and go to pump-style reps coming only halfway up. Grind out max reps in that fashion and do as many as you can.
But we're not done. For the last rep, come halfway up and finish with a 10 second iso-hold.
You're probably not going to need more than two rounds for each leg like this. Not if you do them right.
3 – The Bodyweight Squat
Now that your glutes hate you, let's keep this simple and do some good ol' bodyweight squats... the same way you just did the split squats. Because I'm awful like that.
Remember, in the single-leg version you fatigue faster with less loading (outside of bodyweight). So think of this as what you did with the glute bridge. You're moving from a harder single-leg version to the bi-lateral version of the squat, where you're able to produce more force.
You'll do a double rest-pause set with bodyweight only, and only half reps. That means, from the bottom halfway up, keep all the tension on the glutes.
You'll want to do these reps pump-style, so drop into the bottom and then get some piston action going. Do reps till you fatigue and then rest for 20 seconds and do a second round. Rest for 20 seconds and then do the final round of max pump reps.
Lay down. Try not to cry. Cry anyway. Appreciate the maximum glute pump.
Remember, when doing squats for glutes it's imperative that you...
- Keep a neutral spine. So don't arch.
- Don't squat so low that you get into posterior pelvic tilt (butt wink). This takes tension off of the glutes.
If your glutes aren't smashed to bits after this workout, then you have to be a living centaur. And if that's the case, then I'd advise you immediately get an entry in for the new "wellness division" because you're going to crush.