So You Want Better Glutes? Squatting Alone Won’t Do It, You NEED this Exercise

If you’ve ever cruised Instagram and looked at any of the fitness pages with large followings, you’ve probably seen the memes “oh ya, she squats” or comparison photos with the captions “no squats” over an average female in a bikini, and then the caption “squats” over a fitness model with excellent glute development. The problem is these memes give the impression that all you have to do is squat and you’ll develop jaw dropping glute development exactly like those in the pictures, unfortunately, it just isn’t true.

Let’s take genetics and diet out of the equation for the rest of this article, for now, we’re talking exercises.

To be fair, squatting definitely helped develop the backside of your favourite fitness model, and if you do nothing else other than go from a mildly active person to a mildly active person who dedicates themselves to squatting, then you’ll definitely see some improvement in your glutes, and you’ll have made the world a better place,

BUT… you’re leaving a ton of glute toning growth untouched unless you’re including some kind of loaded thrusting movement, and the best movement for this is the Hip Thrust.


Here is one of Bret Contreras’ (the inventor of the Hip Thrust) clients performing the hip thrust. However, don’t use a shoe with a high heel if you’re trying to target the glutes, more weight on the heel will activate the glutes to a higher degree. More activation = more awesome. Barefeet or socks work best

The hip thrust is the perfect companion to the squat. They hit different parts of the muscle fibers in different ways – it’s the quintessential 1-2 punch for ultimate glute growth. Here are some tips on how to perform the hip thrust for maximum effectiveness:

  1. Tight abs. You want you butt to do the work, not the lower back, tight abs stop the spine from flexing and ensure the glutes do all the work
  2. Finish the movement. The most muscle activation happens at the very top squeeze of the movement, you must make a straight line between the centre of your knees, hips and shoulders to consider it a full rep. No sagging hips! You’re only cheating yourself. If you can’t finish the rep use less weight if you still can’t finish the rep then…
  3. Stretch your hip flexors first. It’s like taking the brakes off the movement
  4. Your thighs should form a 90 degree angle with your shins at the top of the movement. For most people they will feel the most tension in the glutes here, with the feet further out you get more hamstring involvement, with the feet closer to you, you usually get more quadricep activation. Play with foot positioning until you find the most tension in your glutes.
  5. Keep your weight on your heels and use bare feet or minimal shoes. There are pressure sensors in your heel that increase glute activity when loaded, use this to your advantage to get even more out your hip thrusts
  6. Keep you head and neck neutral, but your eyes looking up. Take advantage of the oculomotor reflex to once again get more glute activation out of the hip thrust

Because squats create more muscle damage, and hip thrusts create more tension and metabolic damage, do squats first, an example workout would look something like this:

  • Squats: 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps with a weight you can do no more than 8 reps with 90s rest
  • Hip Thrusts: 1 set of 10 reps, 1min rest, 1 set of 15 reps, 30s rest, 1 set of 20 reps, 1min rest then repeat. Remove weight with each set of higher reps,and put it back on when you start again. So it might look something like this: 185×10, 1min rest, 155×15, 30s rest, 135×20, 1min rest. Then repeat the series with the same weight
  • Follow this up with the rest of your routine for the day, for fat loss you might want to finish it up with some circuit training, intervals or cardio, or you could continue your session by adding some work for the hamstrings, quads and calves.

Give this a try until next time, when we starting talking about the two other roles of the glutes and how to really get the back side development of your favourite fitness model

Here’s one of my clients performing the hip thrust with a dumbbell and added band resistance

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