Building Better Glutes: Part 1 – Activation


Ladies, this is for you! This is part 1 in my 3 part mini series on building better glutes. Guys, this applies to you as well. If you’re not filling your pants out in the rear, you should read this article! If you don’t have it up top, you better bring it at the bottom. And even if you have something going up top, your rear needs to match, or you wont’t be proportional.

No one likes a saggy butt! Everyone has their own best way on how they like to train legs, & perform glute exercises. After you begin training for a while, you’ll find that some exercises work better for you, and some not so much. If you focus on your flexibility & mobility, you’ll find that you can get a greater range of motion through your exercises. You’ll also start to feel these exercises working the areas they are supposed to work if you’re doing them correctly!

A 30 day Squat challenge from Instagram or Pinterest might sound enticing. But what’s the point if you perform 100’s of reps, and you don’t feel anything in your glutes? Plus, those challenges don’t work well anyways. They may motivate you to start exercising. Yet at the end of the day, it’s going to be numerous hours in the weight room that builds and awesome behind, not just body weight exercises alone.

This blog in particular is about building a butt that turns heads, not about losing a whole bunch of weight from wall sits, bodyweight squats and lunges performed for hours on end. Alot of what I preach is based on the the knowledge of Bret Contreras, as he has dedicated much time and effort to glute training. If you’re eager to learn more, you’ll find incredible information from him and more pertaining to glutes.

Before you think it’s a few magical exercises that’s going to get your butt from soft to firm, or even firm to hard, let’s take a step back and dig down on one very important detail. YOU NEED TO ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTES! So many women are primarily quad dominant. 2nd to the quads is hamstring dominance. Sometimes this isn’t even present. Then, the last thing to be activated is the glutes. Many women squat and lunge for days, thinking this will build a better butt. Yet, they are so focused on the exercise, they forget to squeeze their butt! This even goes for fitness competitors. I’ve seen many women with great leg development, yet lacking in the rear.

If you don’t use it, you lose it! Learn how to engage your glutes immediately, or they will be harder to train later as you over develop other areas of your legs as they take over. Train the mind muscle connection of the body part you want to work.  I could blog for hours on all types of things that you can do for mobility, warming up and such, so I’m going to keep this as concise as I can. You’re about to hear about one exercise in particular that rest assured, you will feel!


If you want to feel a muscle in your behind for the first time, look no further than performing a cable kick back. This is just one of many, but it’s a good one to do that can be felt easily. Many women do similar exercises like this without added resistance, thinking they will shape and tone their butts. It makes for a good warm up, and that’s it. It can possibly serve as a good burnout finisher if you have some ankle weights. If you’re performing a body weight kickback already having  been in the gym training for some time, you need to step up your game. If you want development, YOU NEED RESISTANCE!

You can perform this exercise without the cable, and still feel a contraction. Yet, I highly recommend to use an ankle strap and add a small amount of resistance to really feel the glutes engage. When performing this exercise, you will position yourself as seen in the picture above. You can do this standing, but I like the range of motion being on one knee, as you won’t feel it as much in the leg that’s not working.


Be sure to keep a slight bend in the knee on the way up, as this will help to keep the tension on the glute. If the leg is straight, you will feel more of your hamstring through the range of motion. At the end of the movement, you may extend your leg to really focus on squeezing the glute as hard as you can. When you are contracting the glute, hold this position for at least 2-3 seconds to really feel the muscle working. Try to keep squeezing it as hard as possible. Then slowly lower the leg back down, and repeat this movement. I would try and perform at least 15-20 repetitions for 3-4 sets on each leg. As soon as you finish the set on one leg, immediately move to the next leg with little rest. Repeat this process until you are finished.

The other leg will have plenty of rest from waiting on the one leg to be worked. Try increasing the weight/resistance every set. Make sure you are able to finish the repetitions with good form. If you start getting sloppy losing the contraction, stop. Lower the weight, and see if you can get a few extra reps with good form. Performing this exercise will really help you feel your glutes. As you get better at executing this, you can perform other exercises and feel your glutes contracting more on those as well. Understanding the mind muscle connection in your body will take you further than just trying to rip through a workout you saw online, a squat challenge, or whatever you’re doing on your own.

Glutes Work

To develop the body you want, you need to make sure you know why you’re doing the exercise, how to perform it correctly, and ABSOLUTELY be sure that you are engaging the correct muscles. If you can’t feel your glutes when training, I’d probably stop squatting and lunging. Your quads are getting way too pumped up. Then for you hamstrings, you should lay off any kind of romainian or stiff legged deadlift and hamstring curls as that pumps them up a ton.

Yes, some of these exercises are still great ways to work the glutes, if you know what you are doing. If you don’t, the legs will keep growing. Your poor glutes, will be lagging & sagging.
I could have went so many ways with this article, but I chose one exercise to try out first. I’m not saying it’s the best and almighty, but it’s definitely something you can feel. The others listed here are as just as effective as the cable kickback. The banded barbell glute bridge is awesome. Try it with no weight on the bar or even with just body weight alone before amping up the poundage.

On any exercise you try, make sure you feel the glute engaging before trying to lift heavier. It’s about the mind muscle connection. It’s not the number on the barbell, machine, or sloppy tension on a band that matters. With all standing, seated, or walking movements, keeping my toes pointed in, heels out and toes down helps me feel my glutes more.

Experiment with different stances and methods as everyones anatomy of their skeletal and muscular structure is a little different. You can perform Hip abduction movements such as: ankle strapped cable abductions, side lateral banded walking, banded seated abductions, abduction machines, lying on side banded abductions, or lying face down external hip rotations.

2. You can also perform american deadlifts. Very similar to the romainian deadlift, except you are generating a huge pelvic tilt forward at the end, really focused on squeezing the glutes.

3. Barbell glute bridges are a phenomenal booty builder! If you want your glutes to grow, you’ll for sure want to get stronger at this exercise over time.

4. Banded hip rotations work well also, but many women don’t know how to activate their glutes during this movement.

5. Single leg elevated hip thrusts need no equipment, just you lying on the floor. Still be careful with these as they can possibly lead to more hamstring activation. Yet if done properly, they will get the glutes fired up. Make that mind muscle connection! All of these exercises target the upper glutes.

It’s important in all of your leg exercises, that you try to squeeze your glutes as much as possible. They are the largest muscles in the body, and it’s important that you know how to use them efficiently. Once you begin to see the development in your rear and feel happy with the progress you have made, you can add those other exercises I said to quit doing back in. Squats, deadlifts, and lunges are some of my staples in glute training. Again, I can feel my rear end working when I’m performing these exercises. If you can feel it, then please continue to do these exercises.

In part 2, I will dig further into strength & hypertrophy. Once you can activate your glutes, you will now be able to build them. I will build off some of the exercises I listed here, and get you on the path to having an awesome backside by adding a few extra things to try out. Circuit training can be part of the plan and is great for fat/weight loss. Although, the meat & potatoes is in the lifts! The topic is building better glutes, not losing a lot of weight. You don’t need injections, and you don’t need implants. You need hard work and some solid quality glute training to build the butt of your life!

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