Glute Exercises for Mass

Written by Justine Albert / For Models Observer
NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer; Owner/Operator/Director of Just Dance by Justine Albert of Vandergrift, PA; NPC and IFPA Pro Figure Competitor

The Great Gluteus Maximus!

The gluteus maximus! An often neglected yet oh so important muscle group that can truly “make it or break it” for any figure or physique competitor. So why do so many competitors ignore their rump?? Well let’s discuss…..Reason #1: If you can’t see it, it’s not there! Same reason so many people neglect working on their lats and posterior delts!! They are not the first thing you notice when you look in the mirror every day. I work with so many clients and competitors who are obsessed with their pecs, abs and shoulders. They forget that your “back side” is even there! Reason #2: Ever heard the phrase, “Oh my God, Leg Day!” Ya, leg day is painful, right?? And how to you work your glutes??? With lower body exercises obviously, which means if one neglects leg day, one neglects glutes too!

My legs and glutes have always been a strong point for me. I am not only a NPC and IFPA Pro Figure Competitor, but I am also a dancer. I have been dancing since age 2 with intensive studies in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, pointe and hip hop. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Seton Hill University in Dance and I am the owner/director/operator of Just Dance by Justine, enrolling 260 students ages 2 through 18. Being a dancer has allowed me to always keep my lower body tight and toned. Being a track and field athlete through high school and college also aided in that as well! However, ‘tight and toned” is only one part of building the world’s greatest glutes! There is only one way to get that size and fullness that constitutes killer glutes…..SQUATS, SQUATS, SQUATS! Not half squats, not light squats, not “girlie squats”. No…deep, controlled, heavy, true squats! Nothing, not a single thing, builds the glutes like time in the squat rack.

Deep Squats..not quarter reps!

Ah the quarter reppers….you’ve all seen them, everyone gym has one. You know, the dude who loads up the bar with about 300 more pounds than he should be and bends his knees about 3 inches and calls it a squat! No…this is not the key to developing a full lower body! Along with figure competitions, I am also a power lifter. We do a lot of training with box squats. (that means you touch your entire buttox to the box!) Yes, now that is a true squat! That will build power, strength and size! It’s that full range of motion, plus the control of your movement (especially the negative part of the lit) that will give you the results you desire!

I just can’t squat…its bad for my knees!

Oh c’mon! This is a favorite of mine…the perfect excuse to get yourself out of a killer leg work out without feeling guilty, right?? Not! If you are squatting correctly, your knees shouldn’t be hurting! (with the exception of someone who truly does have an injury!) In my experiences with clients and fellow competitors, pain from squatting comes from either improper form or over training. If you have a balanced training program where you are giving your body time to heal and grow properly and executing perfect form no matter what, you shouldn’t be experiencing pain from squats. Other than that oh so familiar burn of LEG DAY that us crazy people LOVE!

Get off the inner/outer thigh machines!

I see so many people (especially women) in the gym spending 20 minutes straight on these two machines! It kills me! Ok…if you want to get a few sets in here and there because it makes your inner thighs feel tights that’s fine! But if you are a figure, physique or body competitor of any kind get off the machines and into the rack!

Yes, there are a few assisted exercises that can help mold glutes too!

Yes, there are other exercises I add in besides squats to give my glutes an extra kick in the butt (no pun intended!). A few of my favorites are hyper extensions, straight leg dead lifts, lunges and lying hamstring curls. I also hit the hack squat machine here and there. When performing these assisted exercises I usually do 3 sets of 12-25 reps. Every movement is controlled and focused. I close my eyes and imagine that muscle under the skin and what it looks like as it moves the weight. Always focus on the negative! The eccentric movement builds muscle!

Hyper Extensions: I hook my heels in and clench a 25 or 35 pound plate to my chest and grind them out! Squeezing my glutes at the top and controlling the whole way down to a full stretch. If done correctly, these should bring tears to your eyes!

Straight leg dead lifts: I do this exercise with both barbells and dumbbells, mixing it up from week to week. The important thing to remember is to keep your knees completely straight and your back flat! Stick your butt back and allow your hamstrings to stretch to their fullest capability without causing them pain. Everyone’s level of flexibility is different so if you are more flexible you will be able to go deeper. For an individual with less flexibility, work within your range of motion! Don’t over-stretch the muscle or compensate your form to go too deep! Hold at the bottom of the stretch for a second and bring the weight up slow. I try to imagine that my arms aren’t even there…the weight is being controlled by my hamstrings and glutes. Don’t use your arms! It’s not a curl!

Lying curl machine: I don’t do a ton of machine work but these can really get those deep cuts in your hammies! I prefer sticking to slightly higher reps with this machine, but still keep the weight as heavy as I can with correct form and control. I usually do 3 sets of 20-25 reps.

Lunges: Walking lunges, standing lunges, just do some lunges! Even without weight! More than anything I have found they help so much with ankle stability and balance! I will do a few sets back and forth across the gym just with my body weight sometimes.

Oh…and then there’s that hack squat machine!: My gym has a hack squat machine that is so devastating that I actually start counting reps in Spanish to get my mind off the pain! I barely put any weight on it and do 3 to 4 sets of 25! The range of motion on it destroys my legs! Keeping your toes slightly pointed outward and driving with your heels puts the emphasis on your glutes! Remember that whole thing about ‘full range of motion” though! Don’t cheat the squat! A leg press can also work in this same way, but I honestly do not do a lot with the leg press machine. I have found that squatting alone and this bit of other assisted work is plenty for the development I want!

A Typical Leg Day for Me?

Since I also train for power lifting, I have to be careful to not over train! Especially with legs. This is difficult for me because of my dance studio too! Everything I do revolves around legs! I used to train legs twice a week. Now with my power lifting work outs, I only do hypertrophy leg work once a week because my other leg work out consists of working on maxing, power and speed. However, for someone training for a competition, I recommend two days of hypertrophy work! Here is what my two day split consisted of before I started power lifting.

Day 1:
Quad Extensions :3-4 sets of 12-15
Barbell squats: 4 sets of 12-20
Walking Lunges: 2 sets length of gym
Seated Calf Raises: 2-3 sets of 20
Donkey calf raises: 2-3 sets of 20
Lying hamstring curls: 3 sets of 15-20

Day 2:
Lying hamstring curls: 3 sets of 15-20
Hack squats: 3-4 sets of 15-20
Hyper extensions: 3 sets of 15-20
Straight Leg Dead Lift: 3 sets of 12-15

* Throw in traditional dead lifts instead of hack squats for a change of pace! Only if you are trained in proper dead lifting form!

What’s the Scoop on Dead Lifts to Build Glutes?

I never dead lifted with any substantial weight until I started powerlifting. Let me tell you I have noticed a significant change in my overall size everywhere from deadlifting! My hamstrings and glutes are popping like crazy! BUT, my mid- section is also widening….which isn’t necessarily golden for a figure or physique competitor. A wide mid-section can take away from the V-taper that judges look for. Another issue with deadlifting….if done incorrectly it can be extremely dangerous and cause injuries to your back, knees and hips, or pretty much any body part! The technique is so important, so I strongly suggest you work with a professional strength and conditioning coach if you choose to use deadlifts as part of your mass building routine for glutes. If this isn’t something you are interested in, skip the deadlifting!

How Heavy Should I Go to Build Mass?

There is something empowering about standing underneath weight that nearly doubles your body and controlling its every movement. With that said….I love to lift heavy!! However, FORM AND TECHNIQUE ALWAYS COME FIRST!! This is a problem I have especially with my female clients…”I am afraid to bulk up!” Bulking up takes more than just lifting heavy weight. Eating more calories than you are burning, plus making sure those calories are coming from the correct sources at the correct timing in correlation with work outs is a major part in putting on muscle mass. I am not a dietitian or nutritionist but I have been working with nutrition and diet plans as a personal trainer for many years and also studied dietetics for three years of college, so I have a great background on the subject! I usually suggest 1.5 to 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight (take your body weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 for kg) Carbohydrate intake differs so much from person to person. Depending on your muscle mass, body weight, activity level…I truly believe it is difficult to put a number on how many grams of carbs a person needs daily. However, it is important to get those carbohydrates (especially ones with a higher GI number) in immediately following a weight training session.

So as you can see, many factors play a part in building mass. So don’t be afraid of getting too big by putting some weight on that bar! But as I said, form is first! Never, ever, ever execute an exercise with a weight that you cannot control with correct form. Doing it heavier will not make you stronger or cause hypertrophy unless you are performing with the proper technique. Let your increases with weight happen over time as you grow and get stronger! As your form is perfected and you build strength, increase the weight accordingly. If you are trained athlete, don’t measure the difficulty of a weight by your soreness or fatigue following a work out. Being extremely conditioned, you will not necessarily feel that “soreness”, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t get enough work in! Your body is just responds differently than a novice! The best way to track your progress and gains is to keep a log of your work outs. That way you can look back and see if your weights went up, especially in an exercise like squats! If you are performing 20 reps with a certain weight and feel like you could do 20 more, it is probably time to add some weight! However, if you are unsure of how much your increases should be and when to make them, seek help from a trainer! That is what we are here for! And as always, never squat or perform any exercise with heavy weight unless you have a trained spotter with you! Safety first!

What Other Aspects of My Life Will Help with Building My Glutes?

I won’t go into too much detail because I have already in previous sections! When training for a competition, or just training to be in shape in general, your work doesn’t stop when you leave the gym. It is a lifestyle that continues at home, at work, at the mall, at the bar…everywhere! You are an athlete and your body expects to be treated as such! Proper diet is #1!! Gains in the gym start in the kitchen! You can train 24/7 and not see a single change if you aren’t eating properly! Second aspect, get enough rest! I mean rest from the weight room and rest in your bedroom! Allowing your body to heal properly will also allow it to grow properly! This might mean heading home from a night out with friends a little early, or saying no to that second beer. But making these healthy choices is worth the gains you will see in your physique. Live healthy and grow! Once you have made the decision to stick with your healthy choices, you will feel so proud and motivated that the sacrifice won’t even be second thought anymore.

My Last Words of Advice

Set reachable goals, train accordingly, never give up, and those goals will be in the palm of your hand in no time! Good luck and get them glutes rockin!

Justine Albert
I train clients one-on-one, I run a Boot Camp program, write individualized diet plans, contest prep diets and contest routines. For information on any of my programs contact me at 724-882-7347 or email

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Justine Albert

Justine Albert