Building stronger glutes isn’t just for physique enhancement. A stronger backside means less back pain, a heavier deadlift, and greater athleticism.
Here are two butt-builders you probably haven’t tried before:
1 – Landmine Single-Leg Hip Thrust
Let’s assume you already do the barbell hip thrust so we can skip over the basics and focus more on the points of difference by using the landmine.
Here’s what it requires:
- You’ll need a landmine unit, barbell, and most likely a foam pad or bar pad. Choose a bench or step with a height that works well for you and your regular bilateral hip thrusts.
- Once you’ve loaded the bar, rest your back against the bench and set your feet in position so that your shins are perpendicular to the floor at the top of the thrust.
- You have the option of placing a bar pad on the end of the Olympic bar. This tends to work okay as long as it doesn’t slip off, since it won’t fasten up properly due to the thickness of the bar. I prefer to use an Airex foam pad.
- The bar should roll on where the end is approximately over your pubic area, or very slightly to the side of the landmine. It should sit in your hip comfortably. If you DON’T get this right, you’ll have a pretty angry pubic symphysis afterwards.
- Raise one leg off the floor, brace your abs, tuck your chin, and drive through your heel to raise your hips. Focus on getting full hip extension while posteriorly tilting your pelvis. Think “cock-up!” if you’re a dude.
- Lower the landmine back to the start position, then rinse and repeat for desired reps. You’re better off doing all your sets on one leg before switching over.
The traditional single-leg hip thrust is a valuable exercise. But many find it too unstable to lift sufficient load, or at least nowhere near what they can hip thrust bilaterally.
A landmine offers an element of stability, largely because of its attachment to the floor. By adding a landmine to a single-leg hip thrust we can create some stability and better glute output.
2 – Landmine Quadruped Hip Extension
Let’s assume you’ve mastered these with your own bodyweight. Here’s what this loaded variation requires:
- You’ll need a landmine and a barbell. Use a shorter bar if you need to start with less weight, or a full-size Olympic bar where 20 pounds will be your starting weight. (A 45-pound bar weighs approximately 20 pounds at the bottom of a landmine due to leverage factors. Yes, I’ve measured it!)
- You’ll also need a foam pad and potentially an Olympic plate underneath if you need extra clearance from the plates touching the floor as you perform the movement. A bench is optional but ideal for most.
- Throw a little weight on the bar. Smaller plates are better since they give you more clearance from the floor.
- Set yourself in a quadruped position with one knee on the pad and the other in the gap between the plates and the edge of the pad.
- Put your elbows on the bench and lock yourself down. Feel free to grab the bench for support.
- The bar should be placed in the crook of your knee with your knee pressed slightly against the plates. This helps with the slight hip external hip rotation you get at the top of the movement.
- Brace your midsection, lock yourself down, and begin to extend your hip. Keep your knee at 90 degrees as you lift the bar as high as you can, then squeeze your working butt cheek hard at the top.
- Get full hip extension and glute engagement without compromising lumbar position. You might think the range of motion is a little short in the video (foot not kicking up high enough), but for me this is full hip extension without sacrificing lumbar integrity and hyperextending the back.
- You’re better off doing all of your sets on one leg before switching over. This will save you a lot of time and space.
In a study by the American Council of Exercise, researchers found that the quadruped hip extension achieved greater glute activation (both maximus and medius), and outperformed a number of common lower-body exercises such as squats, lunges, and leg presses (1).
The quadruped hip extension exercise (sometimes called glute or donkey kicks) can be a useful glute isolation exercise. Don’t compare these to your primary glute exercises; think of them more like a secondary or assistance exercise to sprinkle into your workouts.
The quadruped hip extension is truly a great option but, with very few ways to add weight, putting significant load through your glutes and challenging lower rep ranges can be an issue.
The landmine quadruped hip extension is an efficient way to add weight. Not only do you have the option of adding load to the bar as your strength gradually builds, the size of the bar and support from the landmine allows the weight to comfortably sit there.
Plus, look at where the load’s placed. Not only are you able to gradually add weight, but where it’s sitting is allowing the load to bypass those distal hamstrings, which are more involved in knee flexion. This will force your proximal hamstrings and glutes to work harder. Say hello to a killer “glute-ham tie-in” area.
Quadruped hip extensions can be done with your hands on the floor or elbows on a bench. The point is, you should feel as locked-in as possible, so whichever set-up you choose needs to reflect that. Most seem to prefer the feeling of the bench.
Since you’re on all fours, there’s a large stabilization requirement from your core musculature. As you reduce your base of support by extending one hip, it’s working extremely hard to resist rotation. Since your aim here is to work your glutes and not the rest of your core, any hand or arm position you can use to help assist is fine. You may even adopt a super-wide arm position as the load gets heavier.
It’s important to do both unilateral and bilateral glute exercises. While bilateral might be better at activating more muscle and creating some hypertrophy, unilateral is better for hip coordination, stability, and ironing out imbalances.
The exercises above combine some of the benefits of both worlds and solve some problems that come with the more traditional variations. Don’t knock ’em until you try ’em!