Written by: Brian Henneberg, Physiotherapist

In these SoMe-fitspo times, where posting pictures on social media, for its resilient, tight-lipped glutes, for inexplicable reasons has become immensely popular, and where it has become the norm to train glutes 5 days on week, it must be in place with a bale article.

I want to look at some of the most popular exercises for the buttocks, and at various research that can give us some great tips on how to optimize our ballet training.

Split squats and lunges

One of the exercises I myself am a big fan of is split squats. Especially split squats with the back foot raised so that one can get deep down, and the front foot far forward so that there is more stress on the back chain rather than the thigh is really bad. This exercise usually gives my buttocks and inner thighs such cruel beatings that I have a hard time recovering from the exercise before the next workout, despite the fact that I run the exercise frequently and therefore should be used to it.

If we look at the research on split squats, there is e.g. this study where 18 young well-trained women were put to do both split squats with the back foot raised; alm. squat and stiff leg deadlift while measuring muscle activity in buttocks and buttock muscles.

The measurements showed that the gluteus max was activated more than the buttock muscles in all 3 exercises. In squat, an activation of 40.3% of glutes was seen while the activation of the buttocks was only 24.4%. In split squats, the activation was 65.6% vs. 40.1%, and in stiff-legged deadlift, the activation rate was 40.5% for glutes, but only 29.9% for the buttocks.

Split squats also activated the hocks significantly more than stiff-legged deadlifts, and stiff-legged deadlifts activated the hocks significantly more than squats. Glutes were also activated significantly more in split squats than in stiff leg deadlift and squat, while there was not much difference in glute activation between stiff leg deadlift and squat.

Split squats and lunges

In addition, this study found a greater activation of the buttock muscle that sits out on the side of the hip, the gluteus medius, when participants ran the Bulgarian split squat, rather than the traditional back squat. This is probably due to the fact that the gluteus medius acts as a stabilizer of the hip, and there will of course be greater demands for stabilization when standing in the crotch position rather than normal. squat position.

The best 'bang for the buck' exercise therefore seems to be rear foot elevated split squats, which have a high degree of both gluteus med, gluteus max and hase activation.

Another unilateral exercise for the chassis is the lunges. In a study by Riemann et al. from 2012, it was found that the heavier you ran in the lungs, the more it became a glutes and buttock exercise, and less a thigh / quadriceps exercise. It was found that the requirements for hocks and glutes increase as the weight increases, while the requirements for quads remain largely the same. This can be interpreted as meaning that heavy lunges are a good butt and buttock exercise, while it is a less good quadriceps exercise. 

Cable kickbacks

If I have to come up with a good tip for cable kickbacks, then we can take as a starting point a study from May 2019, which showed that if you have to run cable kickbacks, where you stand slightly bent forward and lead a stretched leg backwards, then it gives more to the muscles on the inside of the thigh if you move the leg slightly obliquely behind the opposite leg (back extension + 10 gr adduction), while it gives most to the buttocks if you move the leg obliquely backwards, away from the opposite leg (back extension + 30 gr abduction).

In fact, muscle activation in the glutes was 30% higher when the leg was moved obliquely backwards, compared to when it was simply brought straight back. Approx. the same degree of extra activation was seen in the adductor muscles on the inside of the thigh when the leg was moved obliquely inwards.  


While hipthrusts, a few years ago, was called pelvic lift, and was mostly made by older women around physiotherapy clinics, today hipthrust has become an incredibly popular ball exercise, and with good reason.

Hipthrust is probably the closest we get to an isolation exercise for the buttocks, and even an isolation exercise where you can get improbably much weight on the bar.

But how effective is hipthrust really, compared to other exercises, and how to run your hipthrust most effectively? This has been investigated in a number of different studies.

In this study , one would e.g. test muscle activity in four different hipthrust variants:
1. Traditional barbell hipthrust
2. Pull hip thrust, which is the same as alm. hipthrust, with the addition that the participants were asked to imagine that they pulled their heels up in the direction of the buttocks while doing the exercise.
3. Rotation hip thrust, which is the same as alm. hipthrust, with the addition that participants were asked to set their feet slightly wider than normal, and focus on imagining the feet rotating outward.
4. Feet-away hip thrust. Like alm. hipthrust, with the difference that the feet are moved a foot width further away from the buttocks than usual.


The study showed that both glute max and glute med, were clearly activated most by rotation hip thrust, while the buttocks were activated most by feet-away hip thrust. In fact, muscle activity in glute max was approached 90% of max during rotation hip thrust, despite the relatively low weight used in the study (40% of 1RM).

Rotation hip thrust thus seems to be a more effective exercise than traditional hipthrust if you want to maximize the activity in your glutes, while the buttocks get more thrashing if you move your feet slightly away from the buttocks.

You can see the full results of the survey here .

In another study , one would investigate which of the following 3 exercises activated the buttocks most effectively: Deadlift, hipthrust or deadlift with a so-called hexbar. It was found that hipthrust was the most effective exercise, especially at the top of the movement where the hip is completely stretched. Deadlift, on the other hand, was most effective in hitting the muscles in the buttocks.

And in this study, one would test whether glutes were activated most in hipthrust or in squat. They rode with weights that were so heavy that the participants could take approx. 10 reps. Here, it was found that hipthrust was more effective than squat in terms of muscle activation in both the upper part of the glutes (69.5% vs. 29.4% activation) and the lower part (86.8% vs. 45.4%).


Personally, I have never really had exercises in my programs where the primary purpose has been to train the glutes. Glutes has, as always, just 'been' there, and has been trained through exercises where I actually thought of other muscles like the ones I primarily wanted to train: squats (quads), deadlifts (backs) and stiff-legged deadlifts (hocks). Despite this massive anti-focus on glutes, I still managed to build pretty impressive glutes.

The squat is probably the main one responsible for my resilient balls, but how do you really run your squat if you want to focus on balls?

A study by Caterisano et al. showed greater muscle activation by deeper squats than partial squats. More specifically, a glutes activation of 16.92% was found for partial squats, 28% for squats for parallel, and 35% for squats during parallel.


Something similar was seen in Bryanton 2012 . Here it was found that the deeper the squat becomes (90-105 gr flexion in the knee vs. 30-60 gr), the greater the requirements for both quads, hocks and glutes. The study also showed that squats for parallel (90 °), increase the demands on the hocks and glutes as the weight increases, while the requirements for quads remain largely the same. So we see the same picture as with lunges: The heavier the squat gets, the more it becomes a butt and butt exercise, and the less it becomes a quad exercise.

In another study by Marchetti et al. the greatest activation of glutes was found at parallel, and the same was done in this study.

If you want to use squat as a bale builder, then you probably need to go down around parallel to get the greatest effect.

The inside of the thigh

If we are to include the inner thigh in our considerations, then the absolute largest muscle here is the
adductor magnus. It acts primarily as an inward guide of the leg, and in addition, it can also rotate the thigh. The lower part of the muscle, which attaches all the way down to the knee, can also lead the leg slightly backwards, but this is not a function of the adductor magnus, which there is usually no special focus on when we talk about training the inner thighs. Here it is most often the insertion of the thighs that is used as an exercise, e.g. the adduction machine or adduction in a cable rack.

A recent study , however, shows that this way of training the largest of the inner thigh muscles is likely to have failed.

The inside of the thigh

In the study, the muscle activity in adductor magnus was measured in 12 participants in 8 different movements: hip flexion / flexion, posterior extension of the hip / extension, inward / outward rotation of the thigh, inward insertion / adduction of the thigh, and adduction of the thigh with 0 °, 45 ° and 90 ° bend in the hip.

The results showed that both the upper and lower part of the adductor magnus were clearly most activated when the leg was moved backwards (100% activation), while the activation rate was only about 38% (lower part) and 59% (upper part) during insertion of the thighs . It became even worse for inward insertion when the hip was bent 90 ° (as it is, for example, when sitting in an adduction machine). Here, muscle activation was all the way down to about 15%.


If we gather together in all the studies, we get the following tips for ballet training:

  • Run your squat to parallel for maximum glute activation
  • Run rear foot elevated bulgarian split squats with front foot far forward, to hit gluteus max and gluteus with
  • Run both of the above exercises heavily, to increase the stress on the back chain
  • Run cable kickbacks with an abduction twist (30 degrees obliquely backwards, away from the opposite leg, for maximum glute activation)
  • Run the hipthrust with your feet slightly wider than normal, and focus on imagining your feet rotating outward. Also, place your feet as close to your buttocks as possible to eliminate the hocks, and focus on getting all the way up in the lockout.

If you also want tight inner thighs, the studies offer the following tips:

  • Drop the adduction machine and instead do split squats and cable kickbacks with an adduction twist (sloping backwards, 10 degrees towards the opposite leg, to stress the inner thigh more)


Disclaimer: Now many of the recommendations in this article are based on measurements of muscle activity. However, there is not necessarily a direct link between muscle growth and muscle activation. But we know, after all, that the best way to achieve muscle growth is by having a high muscle activation + high load and sustained load (high effective volume or prolonged effective hour under tension). We can get a large and sustained load through training with heavy weights or training to exhaustion, in several hard sets, while we can just use measurements of muscle activity to get an idea of ​​which exercises can potentially be most effective if we run them right (large and sustained load). You can read more about this here .

If you also want nice hocks and thigh basses, then you can throw yourself over the article:



https: //www.ncbi.nlm.

https: //www.ncbi.nlm 12173958 . gov / pubmed / 28151780

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