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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Are You Training Your Glutes the Wrong Way?

Are You Training Your Glutes the Wrong Way?

Reading Time: 5 minutes 15 seconds


DATE: 2024-02-22

Ask your clients what areas of their bodies they like the least and their butt is likely on the list. Some people think that their bottom is too flat or they complain that it sags. Others simply want a bigger or more well-rounded booty, like many of today’s hottest celebs.

Certainly, having them do glute exercises can help get them the backside they desire. But making this workout as effective as possible means also working with them to avoid some rather common glute training mistakes. 

Here we share seven of those mistakes, also providing ways to keep clients from making these errors. Before we get into them, let’s first discuss why training the glute muscle group is so important—other than creating a butt that makes them smile every time they look in the mirror.

The Importance of Glute Muscle Training

Our glute muscles make it possible to sit and stand upright. They do this by stabilizing the pelvis, giving us better balance. The glutes also play a key role in movement. More specifically, they help move the hips by assisting with hip abduction and adduction, along with supporting internal and external rotation of the thigh. 

Without the glutes, we wouldn’t be able to walk, jump, or climb stairs. It’s also difficult to perform these everyday actions with weak glute muscles. Glute weakness can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Research further suggests that individuals who are obese may have less glute strength. If your client has knee pain or pain in the hips, they may have weak glutes. Poor glute strength can also show up in the form of pain in the lower back.

Another reason clients should build muscle strength in the glutes is that this aids in better weight loss. The gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in the body. Muscle uses more energy than fat, even when at rest. So, building the largest muscle maximizes this effect, resulting in greater fat loss.

7 Common Glute Training Mistakes

When working the glutes, avoiding training mistakes can help clients get the most from their exercise program. Some of these mistakes can also be behind glutes that aren’t growing despite working out. Here are seven common glute training mistakes to look for, as well as ways to correct them.

#1: Trying to Achieve Glute Muscle Growth with Cardio Alone

Many cardio workouts claim to create a better-looking or firmer butt. During the session, the instructor tells attendees to put more power into their kickback so they “feel the burn” in their glutes. This sends a message that you can build glute muscles with cardio alone.

Yes, they might feel muscle soreness in their glutes after a cardio workout. But if a client wants to create a stronger, bigger backside, strength training is required. Help them understand this so they don’t mistakenly believe that cardio exercise is enough to build the butt they want.

#2: Not Training All the Gluteal Muscles

We often talk about the glutes as if we are referring to one single muscle. So, if a client does one glute exercise, they may think that they’re good.

To keep them from making this mistake, explain that the glutes are actually a muscle group. When training then, they want to make sure they hit each individual muscle:

  • gluteus maximus – the biggest and most superficial muscle, giving the butt its shape; supports hip extension and thigh abduction, also aiding in thigh adduction and external rotation

  • gluteus medius – sits under the gluteus maximus; helps the thigh internally rotate and abduct at the hip joint

  • gluteus minimus – the deepest gluteal muscle, and also the smallest; helps the gluteus medius with thigh internal rotation and abduction

Performing isolation exercises that target all three muscles provides a more complete glute workout. At the same time, keep in mind that you can’t isolate each glute muscle completely. One reason is that they often work together. Plus, many movements use a variety of additional muscles, such as leg exercises that also work the hamstrings.

That said, some exercises target one glute muscle more than the others. Research indicates that the best movements to target the gluteus maximus include the split squat, step-up, deadlift, and barbell hip thrust. 

Another study reveals that the single-leg bridge, side-lying hip abduction, and lateral step-up are great for working the gluteus medius. To work the gluteus minimus, include exercises such as the single-leg bridge and single-leg squat. All these together can help your client develop strong glutes. 

#3: Using Poor Form During Glute Exercises

Poor form increases injury risk. It also means that your client may not be effectively targeting their glute muscles. Watching them closely when they are performing glute exercises can help prevent form issues.

Here are a few to look for:

  • When doing the donkey kick, make sure they don’t let their lower back sag. If it does, have them square their hips and engage their core.

  • When doing a lunge, watch that their front knee does not extend past their toes. Not only does this reduce the stress on the glutes, but it is also harder on the knees.

  • When doing a fire hydrant, look for hip rotation. If you see this, have them square their hips, keeping them aligned with their shoulders.

#4: Not Promoting Glute Activation During the Warm-Up

Muscle activation involves getting a specific muscle to contract and “turn on.” This strengthens the connection between the muscle and nervous system, leading to optimal muscle contraction. 

The best time to work on activation during exercise is the warm-up. Have the client perform glute activation drills at the beginning of the workout. Exercises that can help promote activation include the glute bridge, resistance band squat, and lateral band walk.

#5: Using the Wrong Amount of Resistance During Glute Training

This common glute training mistake can go either way. Some clients may not use enough resistance. Others may use too much.

Performing a strength assessment can help determine what type of resistance your client should use when working the glutes. For example, if their lower back arches during an overhead squat assessment, this could be a sign that they need to build up the strength in their glutes (along with their hip flexor muscles, lower back, and abs).

#6: Never Varying Their Glute Workout

Some people perform the same glute exercises at each workout. They do a squat exercise, hip thrusts, and finish off with the glute kickback. While these are all good movements for the glute region, changing things up from time to time works the muscles in different ways. It also helps keep the body from adapting to the same old workout session.

When is it time to change their routine? One sign is if they’ve hit a plateau. This is a good time to switch things up. Another time is if they’re getting bored with their training. Adding more variety can help keep them motivated.

#7: Overtraining the Glute Muscles

You can overdo it with glute exercise. If you overwork your glutes, they can become tight, leading to pain in the lower back or leg. This tightness can also negatively affect posture, making it hard to walk or stand up straight.

The best way to avoid overtraining the glutes is with a diversified exercise plan. Have them work these muscles twice a week with several days in between each training session. This gives the glutes time to fully recover before being stressed again.

Sample Strong Glutes Workout

Building muscle and strength in the glutes is essential. To build strength and muscle, it’s important to focus on compound and accessory exercises.

Compound exercises will target more than one muscle group at once. This allows you to lift heavier to develop true size and strength. Accessory exercises will isolate the glutes. This keeps the tension primarily on the glutes.

Need help putting together an effective glutes workout? Try this glute-focused workout:

Glute Warm-up

Glute Bridges: Lie on your back with feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Lift your hips off the ground to form a straight line from knees to shoulders.

2 sets x 15-20 reps

Lateral Band Walks: Place a resistance band just above your knees. Start with feet shoulder-width apart. Step to the side while maintaining tension in the band.

2 sets x 10 steps each direction

Donkey Kicks: Start on all fours. Lift one leg up behind you, keeping your knee bent at 90 degrees. Lift until your thigh is in line with your body.

2 sets x 15 reps each leg

Fire Hydrants: Begin on all fours. Lift one leg away from the body, keeping the knee bent at 90 degrees. Raise your leg to the side as high as possible without shifting your hips.

2 sets x 15 reps each leg

Glute Strength Training Workout

Adjust each exercise as needed for your ability.

Hip Thrusts

Place your upper back against a bench. Roll a barbell over your hips. Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor. Thrust your hips up, lifting the barbell. Squeeze your glutes at the top before lowering down.

  • Set 1 x 65% of 1RM x 10 reps

  • Set 2 x 70% of 1RM x 8 reps

  • Set 3 x 75% of 1RM x 8 reps

  • Set 4 x 80% of 1RM x 6 reps

Rest up to 3 minutes between sets.

Romanian Deadlifts

Hold a barbell or dumbbells in front of your thighs. Hinge at the hips and lower the weights towards the ground. Keep a slight bend in the knees. Squeeze the glutes to return to the starting position.

  • Set 1 x 65% of 1RM x 10 reps

  • Set 2 x 70% of 1RM x 8 reps

  • Set 3 x 75% of 1RM x 8 reps

  • Set 4 x 80% of 1RM x 6 reps

Rest for up to 3 minutes between sets.


Stand with feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Begin to squat by bending at the knees and hips, keeping your chest up and back straight. Squat down as low as you can comfortably go, then push through your heels to return to the starting position.

  • Set 1 x 60% of 1RM x 10 reps

  • Set 2 x 65% of 1RM x 10 reps

  • Set 3 x 70% of 1RM x 8 reps

  • Set 4 x 75% of 1RM x 8 reps

Rest up to 3 minutes between sets.

Bulgarian Split Squats

Place your back foot on a bench and one foot in front of the bench “lunge length”. Lower your body straight down. Keep your front foot flat and back straight. Push up through the front heel to return to the start.

  • Set 1 x moderate intensity x 8 reps each

  • Set 2 x moderate intensity x 8 reps each

  • Set 3 x moderate intensity x 8 reps each

Rest for 1-2 minutes between sets.

Cable Kickbacks

Attach an ankle cuff to a low cable pulley and to your ankle. Face the machine, holding onto it for support. Kick your attached leg straight back without swinging. Squeeze your glute at the top.

  • Set 1 x moderate intensity x 12 reps each

  • Set 2 x moderate intensity x 10 reps each

  • Set 3 x moderate intensity x 8 reps each 

Rest for 1 minute between sets.

Cooldown Stretch

Pigeon Pose: Begin in a push-up position, then bring one leg under your body. Your knee should be near the same-side wrist. Extend the other leg behind you. Lower your hips to the ground. Feel the stretch in the glutes.

2 sets x 20 seconds each side

Seated Glute Stretch: Sit on the floor with both legs extended out in front. Cross one leg over the other. Place your foot flat on the floor. Embrace your knee with the opposite arm and twist your torso for a deep glute stretch.

2 sets x 20 seconds each side

Build Your Expertise: Become a Glute Specialist

You can establish your expertise in glute training by becoming an ISSA Certified Glute Specialist. This course covers the latest glute trends, teaches you how to assess a client’s glute strength, and discusses some of the most common glute dysfunctions. With this certification, you may soon find that you are the most sought-after personal trainer for clients with glute goals.

Featured Course

ISSA | Glute Specialist

The ISSA Glute Training Specialist Course teaches trainers the science behind building better glutes and how to focus on these muscle groups to give clients the best results. You'll learn how to unlock the hips, create better programming, and deliver envious results. You'll master the art of developing a superior posterior and be the go-to glute expert!


Fenato, R.R., Araujo, A.C.F. & Guimarães, A.T.B. Comparison of gluteus medius strength between individuals with obesity and normal-weight individuals: a cross-sectional study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 22, 584 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-021-04470-8

Neto, W. K., Soares, E. G., Vieira, T. L., Aguiar, R., Chola, T. A., Sampaio, V. L., & Gama, E. F. (2020). Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 19(1), 195–203.

Moore, D., Semciw, A. I., & Pizzari, T. (2020). A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW AND META-ANALYSIS OF COMMON THERAPEUTIC EXERCISES THAT GENERATE HIGHEST MUSCLE ACTIVITY IN THE GLUTEUS MEDIUS AND GLUTEUS MINIMUS SEGMENTS. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 15(6), 856–881. https://doi.org/10.26603/ijspt20200856

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