The Aesthetic Pharmacist
It’s fair to say social media LOVES glute selfies. And I think its great that so many people are proud of their rear view and want to celebrate it on Wednesdays. As part of this celebration I thought I’d share with you why I love the booty so much, and some tips on how you can help bring out the best in yours.
For me the booty is more than just a cute accessory. My background is performance sport (track and field) where we are taught that the difference between a great athlete and the BEST athletes is their ability to fire up and use their glutes when it matters. Glutes are potentially the most powerful muscle group. But despite this a lot of people tend to naturally favour hip flexors: If this is the case, when we load up the weight and put ourselves under pressure our bodies often revert back to what it feels safest with and fires up quads and back to take the load.
I was a prime example of this. I had real problems firing my glutes. As it turned out I couldn’t fire them due to an old injury I sustained as teenager (a pelvis upslip and sacral backward rotation which meant it couldn’t move! Which in turn meant my glutes could not fire). Once my fantastic Physiotherapist identified this she was able to correct it, but then started the long journey of learning to activate my glutes and strengthen them to regain balance and function.
So for years as a track athlete I had been reverting to quads and back to take the load because my glutes were not doing their job. For performance athletes (rugby, football, track and field etc) this is something to be mindful of when squatting, olympic lifting or deadlifting: The point of olympic lifts for these athletes is to practice a triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles that replicates many movements in explosive sports, helping to develop power (i.e. vertical jump height, up tall running, horizontal acceleration etc.). But athletes can be tempted to overload the bar at the expense of correct technique; often leading to quad and back dominated lifts and loosing the posterior chain activation required for maximal power development.
For aesthetic athletes, where developing and presenting a visible balance of the muscle groups is key to success, taking care to make sure you are not quad and back dominant in your lifts is incredibly important. If this isn’t recognised the quads risk becoming overly developed and the waist can appear thicker.
In all honesty training for aesthetics started off back in 2014 as part of my rehab. Development of my posterior chain was one of my main aims because this was key for me. And it paid off: Overall British and UK National Bikini Champ 2014 and IFBB Pro Bikini, as well as 9th in Europe in the Masters 60m sprint in 2016. I couldn’t have achieved that without the work I put into my glutes and hamstrings.
So what are my top tips for developing glutes and hamstrings?
1) Leave your ego at the door
Regardless of why you are training your glutes (for aesthetics or for performance) my number 1 tip is to leave your ego at the door of the gym: Strip it back and use a weight that allows you to develop perfect technique. Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect; PERFECT practice makes perfect. Once you are sure you are executing the correct movement patterns AND can consciously feel your glutes and hamstrings firing up, then is the time to start to progress the weight. My simple rule of thumb for deadlift for example is that if I can feel the load in my back its too heavy! Yes I can lift much heavier if I involve my back and quads more…but the purpose of my training to hit my personal goals isn’t to lift the biggest weight at all costs, its to develop my glutes and hamstrings. So the lift technique reflects that.
Remember; success requires discipline, and discipline is being able to sacrifice what you want now for what you want most. Sure I want to look awesome on my social media by lifting a huge weight…but what I want MOST is to develop my weak areas.
2) Glutes aren’t just for Hump Day
Hit them hard twice a week, and activate them on a third day. This goes for any muscle group for maximal muscle hypertrophy (Schoenfeld, Ogborn, Krieger, Sports Med 2016)
3) Recovery, Recovery, Recovery.
Training makes our bodies adapt and grow, right? Well, actually it’s RECOVERY from training where we adapt and grow. My advice is to take your recovery as seriously as you take your training.
Remember these three keys to recovery: nutrition, sleep and stress levels
There so much information out there about nutrition and recovery, more than I can sum up here. But ensuring you eat to fuel muscular adaptations and health is a huge part of getting the best out of your training. The right quality, quantity and timing of foods make a difference. More on this in future articles. Also important for recovery is getting into regular sleeping patterns and taking steps to minimise stress as much as possible.
Example glute/ham workout:
There are SO MANY isolation exercises! And variety is the key, working your glutes across different planes. I mix them up across different sessions and I’m always learning and adapting. Below is an outline example of how I might structure a session. Future articles coming soon will go into individual exercises in more detail so stay tuned! You call also follow me for more training ideas as I prepare for my next international competition. And be sure to contact me for details on how you can attend my workshops where you can find out first hand how to train and recover like a Pro.
Phase One: Warm up and Activation
Warmup jog 5mins, stretch/mobility 15mins.
Walking glute activation drills (6 x 10mtrs)
Foam roller wall squats (2x10)
Back squats (light weight!) (2x10)
Phase Two: Multi-Joint Lifts
Deadlifts (4 sets of 6) superset box jumps (4)
Walking lunges (3x8) superset split jumps (6)
Phase Three: Isolation (all 10-15 reps x3)
Glute hyper-extensions (feet turned out)
Glute bridge superset Stiff Leg Deadlift
Glute kickbacks with resistance bands
By Ruth Dales
Facebook: Ruth Marie Dales IFBB Pro International Athlete and Fitness Model
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