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Are Glute Isolation Exercises Necessary For Growth?

Some people train their glutes to get them to grow but is it necessary to target them if your goals are athletic performance or just want to build some useful real-world strength? Here’s what you want to know. 

For size, athletic performance, and strength that’s useful in daily life, compound lower body exercises that heavily target the glutes are the best option. For optimal size gains adding some isolation work is useful. Strong glutes are important for performance and injury prevention. 

Let’s go into why this is the case and what is best for your situation.

Is Training Glutes Necessary?

If training any body part is necessary depends on what your needs/goals are. Everyone has different goals but there are some common ones. 

The most common goals people have is to have bigger arms or glutes specifically or to perform better in their respective sports. Do you have to train your glutes to reach either of those goals? 

The glutes are in the middle of the body and are also the strongest muscle in most people. It’s a muscle you use for almost any movement than involves the lower body and is very important for athletic performance but also daily life. And for many women, it’s very important for aesthetics as well. 

In the modern world, most people have a job where they sit down most of the time or maybe stand or walk a little bit. That isn’t enough of a workout for your glutes. Especially sitting for long periods is very bad for the glutes. Sitting isn’t something humans were doing much of in our past so the body isn’t adapted to it. Weak glutes leads to bad athletic performance, less strength in daily life but can also lead to back problems. 

That’s why working out your glutes is important for everyone, not only if you want to grow your bum. 

Image of a woman doing lunges

Suggested: How many sets of glutes per week is optimal for growth?

Since the glutes are so central, most lower body exercises and cardio exercises will also train the glutes to some degree. However, cardio exercises like running or an eliptical aren’t quite enough on their own. It’s a good idea to add some specific exercises just for the glutes. For most cases, exercises that target the, lower body in general maybe with a slight focus on the glutes is the best. The glutes work together with the hamstrings and often the quads so doing exercises that target everything at the same time is the best option for most people. 

These exercises that use more than one muscle at a time are called compound exercises. For most people that want to build strength and performance, this type of exercise is great because your body works as a system. There are very few sports and movements that use the glutes in isolation so working out the muscles around them will yield much better results. 

Isolation exercises are exercises that only target a single muscle. Compound exercises use more muscles in a single movement. That means they use more muscle mass and you can move more weight with them. This helps your body work as a system and also helps strengthen all the smaller muscles around the joints.

That’s for athletic performance and general strength. However, many people want to have bigger glutes for aesthetic reasons. This changes things a little bit (but not too much, the biggest changes would be in the amount of sets, reps and resistance to focus more on size than strength and endurance). 

To get bigger glutes, it’s absolutely necessary to put quite a lot of time and effort into working them out. The glutes are large and strong muscles and need quite a lot of resistance and repetitions to get them to grow. For strength, heavy low repetition weightlifting with compound movements is very effective. 

For growth you want to still do those exercises but add on some that really specifically target the glutes and use high repetitions with lighter resistance. It’s very difficult to completely isolate the glute muscles since you’ll almost always use them in combination with the quads and/or hamstrings but there are exercises that are putting most of the stress on the glutes like; hip thrust, glute bridge, kickback and donkey kicks. 

To get bigger glutes, doing some direct isolation exercises (or as close as possible to isolation) on top of your compound exercises will help quite a lot. Especially if you want them to grow faster in comparison to the rest of your legs.

Is Training Glutes Useful In The Real World? 

Image of a woman measuring her glutes

So if you want bigger glutes or better athletic performance, the best way to get them is to train them obviously. But what about normal people? You go to the gym to be in better shape and have some real world strength but don’t care about athletic performance or how big your legs are. Is glute training useful for you? 

The glutes of most people that don’t train them are surprisingly weak. Although they’re still one of the strongest muscles in the body, for many people with sitting jobs they are much weaker than they should be. Strong glutes just makes it easier to do so many things like walking up the stairs, standing up, jumping, and other daily movements. Almost anything that involves your lower body will require some glute activation. The glutes also have a role to play in backspin and injury prevention which should be enough by itself to take their strength seriously. 

It’s not necessary to start training your glutes obsessively like you’re an instagram model but doing some heavy lower body exercises once or twice a week is a good target. 

Most people should just do compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges and good mornings to train the lower body and the glutes. Most of those exercises are possible to modify to target the glutes more by focussing pushing up through your heels. 

HOWEVER; if you’re working out for the first time and your glutes are very weak, those exercises are likely too much for you and it’s better to start with the more glute focused exercises like glute bridges and donkey kicks. People that are completely new to working out and have a sitting job often have trouble engaging their glutes properly and those focussed exercises will help you ‘find’ the glutes and strengthens them so you can do the other exercises later. Also, the compound exercises mentioned above have a higher injury risk especially if you’re new and don’t have a coach that can show you exactly how to do them. 

Once you can do the larger compound movements like squats, those will be a better option to build real world strength since those use more muscles at the same time so your body learns to work as a single unit which is how you move in real life.