Barbell Hip Thrusts
Heavy ASS Kettlebell Swings
This is another exercise that really gets butchered, and gets a bad rap for being bad for your back. The problem is, like most exercises, it is done with horrible form. Just to be clear, I’m not covering the American swing used in Crossfit as it’s not the best variation for glute activation.
|Please never swing like this, or listen to anything Jillian Michaels has to say.|
I say Heavy ASS Swings because most people don’t use enough weight on these to really build any muscle. Don’t get me wrong, doing some light kettlebell swings for high reps, or time circuits is great conditioning, but that’s not the goal here. Start by having the kettlebell a few feet in front of you, and grab it with both hands. Begin by hiking the kettlebell back, and push your hips back like you are doing an RDL. The knees should be loose, not locked out, so do not turn it into a squat. A properly performed Russian Kettlebell Swing should look like a fast RDL. Be careful not to have the kettlebell too low as you will look like the picture above. The low back should stay tight, and arched throughout the movement. The wrists should come directly into your thighs, and think about absorbing the kettlebell with your hips. Quickly stand up, and squeeze your glutes until you are completely upright. The finish of the swing is just like the deadlift. Stand up tall, but do not lean back, as this will only stress your lower back more, and less on the glutes. Remember that the arms do nothing but hang on for the ride, grip tight, and keep them straight. You are not trying to turn this into a heavy front raise, so the hips do all of the work here. I like to keep the reps in the 8-12 range for strength, and power. Another added benefit of heavy swings is the added grip work. Heavier kettlebells have very thick handles, and you will find your grip giving out before anything else in the beginning.
If you do not have a single heavy kettlebell then try double swings.
This is one of my recent favorites because you will have no choice but to activate your glutes to maintain balance. These can be performed a number of ways with a barbell, kettlebells in the racked position, or dumbbells. If you haven’t performed a split squat before, you may want to start with just your body weight, as they can be tough to balance the first couple of times. Spread your feet apart as if you just did a lunge, but do not move them from here. You are now going to align your feet so a straight line should go from toe to toe. An easy way to set up is if you have mats down at your gym simply get on one of the breaks, and line your feet up this way. Immediately you will notice the balance will be tough, so squeeze your glutes hard to maintain. Lower yourself down until your back knee almost touches the ground. If you have trouble at this point grab some kind of a mat and softly touch your knee down, but do not plop. Keep the glutes tight throughout the movement, and stay as upright as possible.
Reverse Lunge from a deficit
Reverse Lunges from a deficit are not for beginners, so be warned. Reverse lunges by themselves cause excessive soreness for most people so make sure you are ready for these. Again, these can be performed with different tools but I like using the bar here, and specifically the safety bar, as it adds difficulty to the lift. Choose a deficit of about two inches; I use one of the steps you would find in an aerobics room, as they are pretty cheap, and useful for a few things. Get the weight in position, and as always stay tall to maintain balance. Take a big step back and drop the back knee almost to the floor again. Same as before, use a pad if you have trouble here. Squeeze the glutes hard coming up, and push hard with your front foot to return to the starting position.
Single Leg Elevated Hip Thrusts
These are a little different then the basic barbell hip thrusts, but equally as difficult. The hamstrings will come in to help more on the exercise, which is never a bad thing, but focus on squeezing the glutes as usual. Take a flat bench and position it in front of you. Lay flat on your back, and place one leg on the bench with only the back of your heel making contact. Put your hands straight out to your sides with your palms up. Keep your weight on your upper back, and drive your heel through the pad to elevate your hips. As always squeeze the glutes hard at the top and hold it for a second. Control the eccentric portion of the lift until your butt nearly touches the ground before returning to the top. To make this exercise even more difficult, make the eccentric a slow 5 seconds down. These are also great as a warm up to get the glutes firing before squats, and deadlifts.