Scroll through your Instagram feed, and I can guarantee you, every 2nd/3rd photo is some form of glute progress photo especially on #humpday. Our feeds are inundated with them. And don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem with glute progress pics, because training glutes is as important as training every other area of your body. And of course having a nice round butt that fills your jeans is the dreaaaaaaaaaaaaam.
But what I’ve heard a lot of people moan about recently, and something I’ve also moaned about in the past before I researched the topic, is that they want a bigger bum, but don’t want to train legs for fear that their quads will get too big also.
So this is where Anterior V Posterior comes in.
In short, and simple English terms:
The posterior chain is the group of muscles that runs from your lower back down behind your legs, hence the name, posterior. These muscles include the lower back, the glutes, the hamstrings, and also the calves.
The muscles that comprise the anterior chain are often referred to as the beach muscles. These include the chest, abs, and quads.
And unfortunately, a lot of people unknowingly create serious muscular imbalances between the anterior chain and posterior chain.
A large proportion of leg exercises you see performed in the gym — squat and leg press, for example — are very quad dominant and, therefore, anterior chain moves. Which in time, can lead to adding size to your quad muscles instead of those juicy glutes. And people think by just adding some seated leg curls to their programs and that they’re sufficiently hitting the posterior chain. Not even close.
So in short, heavy leg training doesn’t automatically lead to better glutes, a lot of exercises actually train your quads, lower back, and hams without doing much for their butts.
And I am not condemning that you shouldn’t incorporate the leg day favourites being back/front squats, leg press etc. into your workouts. Not one bit. As you will see from my own training splits, those still have a place in my plan. I am suggesting perhaps incorporating more of the below into perhaps 2 of your sessions, and the good old favourites into one to ensure that both anterior and posterior muscles get hit all round.
So what are the best exercises in my opinion that will give you a nice juicy butttttt and minimise your quads taking on all the growth?
1. Cable Squat
Cable squats in my opinion trains the posterior chain better than normal squats, taking the overall weight focus off the quads and more into the glutes. The Squat is one of the best-known exercises to build that back side, and for good reason. Not many exercises hit the glutes as hard as the Squat.
The second of the Big 3 barbell exercises is the Deadlift. There are many variations: conventional, sumo, Romanian, single-leg and snatch grip. The idea is simple: Lift a load of weight off the ground until you are standing straight up with it. It’s simple yet incredibly effective for building strong hip extension and a strong upper back.
3. Glute-Ham Raise
This exercise is underused by athletes and general gym goers. It requires a special piece of equipment called a Glute-Ham Device or GHD. The exercise hits your glutes and hamstrings hard! When you do it properly, you should be able to do only 2 to 4 strict reps with average strength. Once you get stronger, you can work up to 10-plus reps. Set up with your feet hooked in and press your feet against the plate. With your knees bent at 90 degrees and pressed against the pad you should be completely upright. Slowly lower yourself and let your legs straighten, keeping your back flat until your torso is at about 45 degrees. Return to the top by firing your glutes and hamstrings. Try not to overextend your back.
4. Back Extension
For this exercise, you can use a GHD (above) or a specialty piece of equipment made for back extensions. This exercise trains the erectors (the muscles that run parallel to the spine from the pelvis to the skull), glutes, and hamstrings. These are best trained in high-rep sets with body weight or a lighter weight held in the hands. Jump on the GHD or back extension and hook your feet in. With your legs straight, lower yourself slowly about 45 degrees, then return to the top, making sure not to overextend your back at the top.
5. Good Mornings
Essentially, the Good Morning is a weighted hip hinge. Perform it with a bar on your back, push your hips back, keep your back straight and hinge at the hip. Once you’re parallel with the floor, explode back up to the top, firing your hips forward as you squeeze your glutes. This trains the glutes, hamstrings and erectors. See a pattern yet?
6. Kettlebell Swing
Swings are another way to build explosive hips. Set up in a shoulder-width stance with a bell between your heels. Hinge at the hip until you can reach back for the bell, then explosively shoot your hips forward until they reach full extension. The bell shouldn’t go any higher than your sternum. Let momentum carry you through another hinge, and then BOOM! pop your hips forward again and repeat.
7. Barbell/Banded Glute Bridge
Sit on the floor with your back against a bench that is pushed up against a wall or rack so it doesn’t slide. Keep your legs flat on the ground straight out in front of you. Roll a loaded barbell over your legs and rest it on your hips. Use a bar pad or wrap a towel around the bar to prevent nasty bruises and sore hips the next day. Bring your feet toward your butt, drive your heels into the ground, then push your hips into the air, squeeze your glutes and make a table with your hips. Slowly return to the floor and repeat.
8. Donkey Kick-Back
Whether on the cable machine, smith machine or using bands, donkey kick-backs really engage those glutes. And added weight on the cable machine means you can really challenge yourself more as the weeks progress.
9. Hip Abductors
The hip abductor muscles are a group of four muscles located in the buttocks and lateral hip region on both sides of the body. You can use a lot of weight, so you feel strong, and both exercises leave you with a serious burn. The hip abductor muscles are responsible for lifting your thigh out to the side, giving that rounded shape.
So go on, give it a go and incorporate some of the above into your glutes workout, and be prepared for the glutes to burn and grow while minimizing over working and growing the quads area. And this applies to both males and females, guys don’t be fooled, girls love a good squat booty too. 😉