While there’s certainly a lot to love about heavy lifting, there are times when going heavy (or lifting any weights at all) might not be possible:
- You’re traveling and there’s limited equipment at the hotel gym, or you can’t even get to a gym for a workout.
- You’re on a restricted training program while you recover from an injury or surgery.
- You’re a beginner and aren’t quite ready for heavier loads.
These are just a few examples. For those times when you may need to back off from heavy training or may not have equipment available, today I want to share some of my favorite bodyweight glute exercises that deliver the biggest bang for your buck.
While squats and lunges are the exercises that most often come to mind when talking about lower body strength, I want to highlight five others that are often overlooked, or that you may have never tried before.
- Hip Abduction (Clams and Dirty Dogs)
- Glute Bridge (Double and Single Leg)
- Skates (Slow or Explosive)
These lower body exercises can also complement upper body bodyweight or weighted skills you may already be doing, such as push-ups, pull-ups, rows, and presses.
We are talking bodyweight skills here, so you will be working in a higher rep range than you might use with weighted glute exercise. If you’re just starting out with these exercises I recommend beginning with three sets of 15 repetitions. You can add more sets and/or reps later, depending on your fitness level or how much time you have.
The learning curve for each of these skills is very small, which makes them great for all fitness levels. However, before you try them, please read the notes and watch each video so that you don’t miss important cues.
1. FROG LIFTS
Lay face down and extend your arms over your head or by your sides. Bend your legs like a frog and put the bottoms of your feet together. Keeping your feet together, press them toward the ceiling contracting your glutes, then bring them back down. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
2. HIP ABDUCTION (Clams/Dirty Dogs)
Clams are done in a side-lying position. Bend your legs and keep your heels in line with your back. Raise the top knee (abducting the hip) like a clam, while keeping your feet together. This is a small movement. Keep your core engaged to prevent your body from tilting backward as you raise the top knee. Once you feel the glute contract, bring your knee back down. Repeat for the desired number of reps, then switch sides.
Dirty Dogs are another small movement, similar to clams but done in quadruped position (on all fours). While maintaining a flat back, brace your core and raise one knee out to the side, like a dog might do to a fire hydrant. Complete the desired number of reps, then switch sides.
Begin on all fours as described above for Dirty Dogs, then extend one leg out to your side. Maintaining a flat back, lift the straight leg off the ground and “draw” an arch like a rainbow from one side to the other, until your foot touches the ground on the outside of your other leg. Tap the ground and retrace the movement, back to the starting position. Complete the desired number of reps, then switch sides.
4. GLUTE BRIDGES (Double and Single Leg)
Lay on your back, bend your knees to 90 degrees, and place your feet flat on the ground close to your glutes, as if you were going to do crunches.
For Double Leg Glute Bridges, you will keep both feet on the ground. Contract your glutes to raise your hips toward the ceiling as high as your hip flexibility allows without hyperextending your low back. Maintain a tight core and continue to contract the glutes at the top of the bridge. Hold for a second, then lower your hips back to the ground. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
For Single Leg Glute Bridges, keep one leg bent with foot on the ground. Extend the other leg, pointing your heel toward the ceiling. While holding the straight leg up, contract your glutes to raise your the hips toward the ceiling as high as your hip flexibility allows without hyperextending your low back. Maintain a tight core and continue to contact the glutes at the top of the bridge. Hold for a second, then lower your hips back to the ground. Complete the desired number of reps, then switch legs.
5. SKATES (Slow/Explosive)
Begin both, slow and explosive Skates by standing upright, with your feet about shoulder-width apart. The working leg will remain planted while you cross the other leg behind and past the working leg, into a lunge.
To perform slow and controlled skates, take a step back and behind the working leg into a lunge, then return to starting position. Complete the desired number of reps, then switch legs.
To perform explosive skates (like a speed skater), hop onto your working leg as you kick your other leg behind it into a lunge, then “explode” off of the working leg onto the other leg to repeat the movement on the other side. Alternate each leg quickly for the desired number of repetitions. Rest and repeat for desired number of sets.
Staying consistent with your training when you’ve got limited equipment or lifting restrictions can be hard if you’re not sure what to do. Let us help!
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