Bodypart Of The Year Award (2017) goes to…. glutes! Everyone wants round glutes and strong legs. We picked three must-do exercises to achieve that look.
Like all kinds of squat, a sumo squat is a compound exercise which targets more than one muscle group. It will mostly hit your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, but also targets the inner thighs – making it a great all-round leg and bum builder! You can do them with a barbell across your back, or in the Smith machine, or with a kettlebell or dumbbell held in front of you.
In a normal squat, your feet will be roughly hip width and your toes turned slightly out. To do a sumo squat (sometimes called a plie squat), your feet will be much wider and your toes turned out more. This brings the adductors into the equation. Sit back and down, bending at your knees and hips, and think about pressing your knees out so they don’t collapse inwards. From the bottom of the move, press through your heels and squeeze your glutes to rise back up to standing.
Add some weight by using a Smith machine (this will be safer and more stable than using a free barbell), or hold a single dumbbell or kettlebell between your legs. If the dumbbell touches the floor when you are at the bottom of the sumo squat, stand on bumper plates or two similar solid surfaces to give the dumbbell extra room.
WEIGHTED HIP THRUST
One of the best exercises for your glutes and hamstrings is a hip thrust. Add some weight and you will definitely start building glutes of steel! You’ll need a bench and a weight (a loaded barbell, weight plate, or dumbbell).
First set up the position without weight so you understand how the move works. Sit on the floor by the side of the bench, with your shoulders and upper back against the seat of the bench. Move your feet towards your bum, keeping them hip width and toes pointed forward. Now push up on your feet, so your upper back is resting on the bench and your knees are at a right angle.
You want your body to be flat and parallel to the ground, and your shins to be vertical. From here, dip your bum to the ground (your back will come off the bench, but you will still be leaning against it) and drive up to that top position, squeezing your glutes hard. It’s called a hip thrust for a reason! Aim to get your body parallel to the ground, and think about pushing your hips through at the top.
When you are ready to add weight, you can either place a weight plate or dumbbell on your lap, or use a barbell. Put large-diameter plates on the bar (no matter what actual weight you are using), as you need the bar to have clear space under it. Sit on the floor with your back against the bench, and roll the bar over your outstretched legs until it is in your lap (a bar pad makes this more comfy!) Get your legs and feet into position, then drive up as before.
This exercise will feel tough, so don’t add too much weight at first.
BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
Any good leg session needs some single legged work. We debated the merits of a backwards stepping lunge, or a walking lunge – both would be great additions to your leg workout. But everyone should know how to Bulgarian split squat.
You can do these on a bench, holding dumbbells or weight plates by your side (or with a fixed bar across your back). But our favourite way to Bulgarian split squat is using the Smith machine – it brings a whole new level of squeeze to the glutes.
This exercise works all the leg muscles, plus the hip flexors and glutes, but will target your quads and glutes. You’ll feel it the next day!
Set up a bench behind the Smith machine, and place your back foot on the top of the bench (you can either have your toes on the bench or the flat of the top of your foot – whatever feels best). The front foot will be forward, but not too much. To check the distance, perform a lunge (without the bar). At the bottom of the lunge, both knees should be at a right angle or less.
Now put a bit of weight on the Smith (remember this is a single legged exercise, so you won’t need as much weight as a squat). Step under the bar, set up your back foot on the bench and your front foot forward and in line with your hip, and then unrack the bar. Lunge down slowly, pause slightly at the bottom, and squeeze to drive up. Aim for 8-10 on each side, then do the other side.
What’s your favourite leg and glute exercise?
About the Author:
Nicola Joyce has been writing for (and about) sport, fitness, nutrition and healthy living since 2004. She’s also a keen sportswoman: her background is in endurance sport but she now competes as a natural bodybuilder, most recently winning a world title with the INBF. When she’s not writing content, she can be found blogging. Follow her here