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glute exercises

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Build Muscle, Boost Performance & Crush The Outdoors

When it comes to training the glutes, there are two very common misconceptions: 1) they are only for chicks, and 2) they are only for aesthetics. The plan here is to use glute-focused training to drive performance and injury prevention, proving that dudes need glutes, too. While social media influencers may be focused on how to develop a well-rounded backside, the glutes are the powerhouse of the body, and harnessing their potential can transform your fitness and quality of life.

The glutes have the potential to be the strongest muscle in the body and already win the prize for the biggest muscle. We cannot deny the “visual” benefits of glute exercises, however, the postural improvements are arguably the most valuable—once we get past the stigma surrounding glute training at the local gym. Why? Because strong glutes lend to better posture, and better posture results in fewer injuries. This all leads to increased performance in the mountains (and life in general), as well as optimized longevity. 

What about deadlifts and back squats? Yes. These are crucial to building total body strength and resilience. Keep doing them. However, adding glute exercises in addition to your bread-and-butter compound movements will not only translate to increased strength in deadlifts and squats, but also add next-level protection from muscular imbalances and compensations that put you at risk for injuries during these big lifts. (Note: The gluteus maximus is the prime mover in hip extension.)

Gluteal Complex Backstory

The gluteal complex is made up of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. Together, these muscles work to keep our bodies upright, walk, run, get out of a chair, swing a golf club or catch yourself when you slip. The glutes stabilize the pelvis, aid in lateral (or side-to-side) movements and essentially prevent us from falling over!

Lower back, hip, knee, and ankle injuries plague Americans at a shocking rate—both active and sedentary adults. As we get older, our ability to stabilize ourselves decreases, and soon, getting out of bed is our first tough task of the day. Whether you are a backcountry hunter, CrossFit athlete, runner, work a desk job or are male or female, training your glutes should be high on your priority list to feel good and look good. 

The bottom line? Everyone needs strong glutes—even you.

6 MTNTOUGH Glute Exercises

Here are six movements to get you started on building strong glutes. The first two require a full gym setup but can easily be adapted to a home gym setup. We recommend choosing one or two of these movements to incorporate in your next workout session.

1) Barbell Hip Thrust 

This is one of the most powerful and effective exercises to work your gluteus maximus (aka the biggest and most familiar of the glute muscles). It’s a great movement because you can really load the body while completing hip extension through a full range of motion. It presents a lower inherent risk of injury compared to deadlifting and squats, and you can move a lot of weight in a controlled environment. Not to mention, it is great for glute hypertrophy (growing the actual size of your glutes). 

Barbell Hip Thrust 

2) Reverse Hyper

This is a great exercise for lumbar traction while utilizing gravity (and weight) to load hip extension. It requires upper body strength to anchor you to the machine, but can also be performed by hanging your legs off the end of a bench.

Reverse Hyper

3) Bulgarian Split Squat (with Forward Lean)

Use this iso-lateral movement to challenge not only your strength, but also your mobility and balance. Adding the forward lean will increase the load on the glutes and address any asymmetries in your lower body. This movement is great for building up quad and hamstring strength, too.

Bulgarian Split Squat (with Forward Lean)

4) Step Ups

This movement directly translates to the ways we hike and maneuver in the mountains. Step Ups provide an element of dynamic stabilization, which requires the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus to fire along with the gluteus maximus. By controlling the lowering phase (eccentric phase), you can challenge your motor control and help avoid common lower extremity injuries. 

step ups

5) Lateral Band Walks/Fire Hydrants

Band work is essential for working all three of the essential functions in our glutes. These two exercises primarily challenge the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus in hip abduction and hip external rotation. Complete 10 to 20 reps per side of each movement at the beginning of your workout to wake up your backside. 

Lateral Band Walks/Fire Hydrants

6) Side Plank with Abduction

Last on our list of glute exercises is the side plank with abduction. This exercise works the isometric strength of the glutes and core. In other words, it works by preventing movement—something that our glutes must do all day as we walk, stand, or run. Aim to hold each side for 15-30 seconds for 2-3 sets. 

Side Plank with Abduction


Do you need to get fit for the backcountry? Want to get into the best functional shape of your life? Want to build mental toughness through physical and mental fitness? Get your online fitness training fix with Sarah and the MTNTOUGH team by visiting mtntough.com. The MTNTOUGH team has some very affordable monthly plans worth checking out.

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