Glute Training Tips for Hypertrophy
by Dr. Mike Israetel, Co-founder and Chief Sport Scientist |
Feb 14, 2017
Here are some helpful tips for your glute training. Please note that these are averages based on my experience working with lots of clients and my own training. The recommendations here should be food for thought or places to start, not dogmatic scriptures to follow to the letter.
If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out the Training Volume Landmarks for Muscle Growth article. It discusses the theoretical and practical bases on which the upcoming recommendations are made. And if you love this info but want a bit of help in building your own workouts from the expert scientists at RP, check out the super popular Male Physique or Female Physique Templates.
In almost every case, just doing squats and other quad work is more than enough to maintain glute gains. So that if you’ve really been beating up the glutes with direct work for multiple mesocycles and they need a break, don’t be afraid to remove all direct glute work for fear of losing gains… so long as you’re doing some squatting, your newfound glutes shouldn’t be going anywhere.
The minimum effective volume for most individuals is actually ZERO sets per week. But remember, that’s sets of direct work. What this means is that most individuals will get SOME glute growth, even in the long term, from not even training glutes directly, but training quads and hams, and thus engaging the glutes significantly. If your desire is to grow your glutes more than their minimum potential, you’ve gotta train them more, and just letting them get their stimulus indirectly from other leg work is no longer enough.
Most people respond best to between 4 and 12 weekly sets on average.
Most people seem to encounter serious recovery problems above 16 sets per week. Mind you, this is ON TOP OF a full complement of quad work and hamstring work. So that’s 16 sets of perhaps lunges and deadlifts per week on top of the same amount of squatting per week and maybe 8 sets of hip hinge hamstring work… that adds up!
Frequency: 2-3 times per week.
The glutes are large muscles that can produce lots of force, and they are involved in so many other exercises than just their own direct movements. In fact, they are even involved in isometric tasks in such exercises as barbell rows! If you train your glutes very often, combined with them being hit pretty much all the time indirectly, they will never have a chance to recover and grow to their fullest potential. Thus, direct glute training is not likely to be a 4x a week activity, but is best limited to 2-3 sessions a week. Even one glute session a week works great for bigger and stronger lifters, as their quad, ham, and back work at other times of the week provides meaningful stimulus to the glutes as well. Interestingly, even if the glutes can locally take higher frequencies and even training volumes than this guide gives them credit for, their constantly being fatigued can impair other muscle group training (such as hams and quads), and thus lower your overall results. Even if you want the biggest glutes ever… ease into training them a lot and make sure the rest of your program is balanced to allow for glute training.
In my experience, glutes LOVE higher intensities. Sets of as low as 6 reps on deadlifts and their variations produce significant glute gains, so don’t be afraid to go pretty heavy on those movements. However, glute bridges and other hip thrusting moves seem to do very little if super heavy weights are used, and are perhaps trained better in the 8-12 rep range. Lunges, as unstable and potentially dangerous as they are, should be trained at even higher rep ranges, perhaps as many as 20 reps (total steps) per set. However, please note that VERY high reps (20 plus) for lunges with very light weights (such as bodyweight for experienced lifters) tend to tax the quads much more than the glutes (in my experience), so don’t get carried away with super light loads if glute hypertrophy is your main goal with lunges.
Within the microcycle, you can use just one exercise and vary just the rep range if you train glutes only twice a week (something like sets of 8 one day and sets of 12 another… and make sure the reps are exercises specific… you want to do 8’s in the deadlift and 12’s in the lunge and not the other way around). But for 3 sessions, you are best served by using two exercises, and performing one exercise per session. Especially for the intermediate and advanced lifter, doing one or two days of glute bridging and one or two days of pulling and/or lunging is likely ideal for full glute development.
Between every mesocycle or two mesocycles (4-12 weeks total), you should swap out old exercises and replace them with new ones.
Range of Motion:
Stretching the glutes a ton is not realistic under heavy loads, but they do seem to like their peak contraction. For full glute development, make sure to really squeeze at the top of glute bridges and lunges. In addition, deep squats and deficit deadlifts (especially sumo) seem to hit the glutes very well, so full ROM is always a good idea.
Special Metabolite Techniques:
Much like the hamstrings, the glutes seem not to respond to metabolite techniques too well but rather grow from heavy loads. Even in high rep lunges with short rest breaks, the quads will often give out first. Maybe some day down the line myself or one of you will discover how to really fry the glutes with metabolites, but for now, just heavy training through a variety of rep ranges
Just like with most bodyparts, your first mesocycle should be moderate weights and reps. The next mesocycle can be more of the same with perhaps slightly different rep ranges and exercises, OR it can be a higher volume block that incorporates lighter weights (closer to the 60%1RM mark) and more metabolite training. After that meso, a shorter (3-4 weeks) mesocycle of strength training (70-85%1RM) with lower volumes is likely a good idea to resensitize your muscles for more growth, at which point you repeat the process. With glutes, super metabolite training never seems to do much, so I just focus on more straight sets in the 8-12 rep range.
There is a lot of variation on how much glute training someone can handle without it affecting the rest of their program negatively. It’s up to you to find that value and the MEV, MRV, and thus MAV values themselves. You can also do some of the isolation work that requires machines, such as one-leg glute kickbacks. And while that stuff can totally work, make sure you never stray too far from including plenty of the compound heavy glute builders listed here, and always, always squat deep as well!