Want BIG, STRONG GLUTES?! Lunge uphill.
The lunge is without a doubt one of the best exercises we can do to increase lean muscle tissue, prevent injuries and optimize lower body strength. It’s a powerful movement, involving hints of both the squat and hinge movement patterns, and of course the lunge, which are all critical elements to any successful program.
Lunges also help strengthen asymmetries, due to the unilateral nature of the movement and are incredibly versatile with their ability to engage so many muscles during the lunge, such as the glutes, quads, hamstrings, hips and calves. Add in some weight, and we also get the added benefit of actively engaging our upper body, by placing the body in a strong anatomical position (chest opened, shoulders back and down), while getting some much needed grip strengthening as well.
The glutes aren’t just one of the main aesthetically pleasing areas of the body, they also help strengthen a wide range of movement patterns, promote better performance, and are a key contributor in injury prevention, longevity and vitality. And did I mentioned, they add at least 10 sexy points to anyone that has a well sculpted derriere.
But let’s get back on the true focus of this article, building the backside into a thing of beauty.
For all the reasons above (especially the added sexy points) the lunge is one of my favourite do-anywhere movements, especially when it comes to building a big, muscular, strong butt.
“Up the hill we go…”
I love me some hills. Hill sprints, hill runs, hill views, the movie, “The hills have eyes“, the show, “Beverly Hills 90210” and yes, hill workouts. For one, hills are a safe space for ballistic power movements,- one of the best types of movement patterns one can do for rapid strength development, lean muscle hypertrophy and time efficient fat burning.
The consistent incline that hills provide not only make every rep gradually harder, due to constant gravity induced progressive overload, but also allows us to work at an incredibly high intensity without over straining ourselves, thanks to the natural incline slowing us down, preventing over zealous movement patterns.
As much as I love new fresh glute building exercises like (hip thrusters, quadruped hip extension and glute bridges), good old fashion lunges, especially uphill, are tough to match.
“Light Weight Baby”
The key to building truly strong, powerful, healthy looking glutes you can bounce a dime off of, is to maximize the load. Make the lunge hard. Very hard. Grab something heavy, hold it, and lunge.
Simple. Basic. Proven. Results. Just ask 8 time Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman (videoed above).
What constitutes heavy!?
50+ lb kettlebells or dumbbells for women and 85+ lb dumbbells or kettlebells for men are a great weight to embark on for your heavy sets. These weights are of course speaking to those who lift consistently and with intensity, and have a decent baseline of strength. This weight isn’t for Jimmy’s first workout. Regardless, wherever you’re at in terms of strength, lift a weight that provides enough tension and stress, that lunging for more than 8 reps is not an option.
Along with big heavy hill lunges, we also attack high volume lunges too in this workout, with a lighter load, but accumulating a ton of metabolic stress thanks to the high volume being achieved.
Lunges = Mr. Versatile
Lunges are also incredibly versatile. In the videos below, you will see what our ‘Hill Lunge workout’ consisted of, highlighting the diversity of positions and ways we can crush the glutes to the point where the grandkids will one day look up and realize, “Damn, grandma has a butt on her!” … or in my case, “Damn, grandpa’s got some glutes of steel!”
The key to any quality muscle building program is to incorporate a ton of tension (heavy force), a ton of stress (volume + tension) and a lot of diversity and enjoyment into the program. This is why outdoor training, with a variety of techniques, should be used more often; it breaks up the monotony, provides us with some much needed vitamin D, and enhances the glute building experience.
Types of lunges:
- Contralateral (weight in opposite hand of forward leg)
- SA Overhead Contralateral lunge
- Traditional Lunge w/ weighted vest
- front racked
- Ipsilateral (weight on same side as forward leg)
- Army lunges (constant tension reps)
A well performed lunge starts with good feet and ankle positioning and stability. One of the first cues I focus on with my clients is thinking about the action taking place. This is referred to as the mind-muscle connection. Think about pushing your front foot into the ground, think about the midline of the foot engaged with the surface, actively engage with the inner side of the foot (navicular) being cemented to the ground. Think about proper knee position, glute engagement and a strong push-off. Without conscious engagement and mindfulness, we have no chance of optimizing the muscle building potential.
Secondly, I cue the lunge strides to be performed right around hip width. I often see clients, coaches and individuals alike lunge with their feet directly underneath their hips. I don’t like this, as I see way too much instability.
Stationary lunges and isometrics are best suited initially for those with truly poor balance. This would be a smarter place to start before taking on this workout.
When targeting the glutes and hamstrings, the lunge should be performed with a long stride. Too short of a stride takes emphasis away from the glutes, and puts it right onto the quads.
Thirdly, the lunge involves solid hip hinge mechanics. When we stay too upright through our torso, we lose the ability to hinge (pushing our hips back) to the degree we’re seeking. I suggest a slight forward bend while lunging – with a straight up and down torso during the actual lunge sequence, allowing for a stronger back position, better hinge mechanics through the hips, and a greater emphasis on the posterior chain, which we are highlighting in this article.
In terms of generating true activation through the glutes and hamstrings, the back leg foot should have a raised heel, and the toes should be pushing into the ground for greater glute engagement and a stronger push off (more balance). Your front foot is planted securely into the ground to such a degree, that it helps pulls the back leg forward, either to standing or into the a consistent walking motion.
You want to make sure your abs are tight and engaged throughout the movement. We do this by hollowing out our core and pulling the bottom of the rib cage down. I frequently provide my clients the cueing of ‘tight but relaxed’. This means we should feel the muscles working; they should be flexed and engaged, but not to the point of causing overwhelming tension throughout the body.
My kickboxing coach and I use the same phrasing in terms of generating more power, through the act of being relaxed but engaged. The more relaxed I am throwing a punch or kick, the more power I generate, ironically. This occurs as my arm, shoulder, hips, and legs whip with incredible force and ease, compared to locking up parts of my body full of tightness and tension, losing that explosive powerful whip that creates the fluidity and force in my strikes.
Now that you have the formula, the techniques, and the methods, the only thing that stands in your way of building an eye popping backside are a hill and some weights. Go outside, have some fun, lift heavy, get plenty of reps in, and build some powerful, strong, big glutes.