Get Well-Rounded: A New Glute Exercise

A Split Squat You've Never Tried

Glute Exercise

A Glute Exercise for a Stage-Ready Butt

Building glutes isn't just about hip-thrusting. For well-rounded glutes, you'll also want to include exercises that stretch and target them in deeper ranges of hip flexion. Think high step-ups, deep reverse lunges, and deficit split-squats.

Try this if you usually skip these or just want to build a butt while mixing things up. It's one of the exercises my physique clients do to build stage-ready glutes.

These are angled with a front foot elevation but easier to set up than you'd think. You'll just need a Smith machine, a bumper plate or step, and maybe some padding for the bar for extra comfort.

  1. Have the Smith machine bar set to around armpit height and put a light weight on to start. Use a bar pad for comfort.
  2. Use a thick bumper plate or step in the center, about a foot forward from the bar. You'll adjust this depending on what feels best for you.
  3. Step one foot on the plate and angle yourself a little toward the side of your forward working leg, about 30 degrees.
  4. Rest the bar on one side of your upper back. Grip the bar with that same forward-leg side hand, leaving your other hand completely free.
  5. Use your free hand to take selfies in the mirror, film for the 'gram, sip on Surge® Workout Fuel... whatever.

  1. Shift your weight forward over your lead leg so you've got 70% or more going through it. Your back leg is just for support, so use it as little as possible.
  2. Lower the bar under control and as deep as you can until you feel a good stretch in the working butt cheek. If you can't feel it, adjust a little and search for that tension.
  3. Push through your foot to raise back to the top. Think of pressing through your whole foot to enhance stability. That means from your big toe to your heel; it should all be pressing through the floor at the same time.
  4. Focus on maximizing sensation and tension through your glutes. Don't be surprised if your quads feel it too.

When it comes to targeting your glutes, I like to classify exercises in one of two ways: it's either a stretcher or a squeezer.

Exercises like this are stretchers since your glutes are targeted most at longer muscle lengths and deeper ranges of hip flexion. High step-ups and reverse lunges from a deficit also fall in this category.

These stretchers do a great job of targeting the "lower" region of your glute max. A study by McAndrew et al. showed that the glutes are comprised of upper (cranial), middle, and lower (caudal) sections, each of which activates differently.

Squeezer exercises are hip thrusts, glute bridges, and cable kickbacks. They tend to bias more of the upper fibers. It's important to include both types to maximize total glute development.

If it's the lower region you need to work on, the split squats here are a good option. The front foot elevation – from standing on a bumper plate or step – allows you to work in deeper ranges of hip flexion. You can adjust the height depending on how much hip flexion you have available. For some, even the floor can be enough. Gradually work up to a small plate bumper plate or step, then a bigger one.

This split squat allows you to manage upper-body fatigue. There's no gripping of dumbbells, and the bar position on your back is easier on your shoulders compared to a barbell you hold with both hands.

Your grip, forearms, and shoulders are better saved for upper-body-focused workouts. These are minor details, but they all add up when you're training hard.

The Smith machine is easier to load in smaller increments than dumbbells or kettlebells. You can encourage small progressions in weight by using fractional plates. If you've been stuck at the same dumbbell weight for your split squats, these could help you break through some plateaus.

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Gareth Sapstead is a leading strength and physique coach from the UK. He specializes in problem solving and breakthrough training techniques.

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