For all of you out there looking to grow those glutes while keeping your cardiovascular health in mind, there are some great ways to achieve both. However, if you are not careful, the wrong kind of cardio can prevent you from reaching your booty building goals!
Worst comes first. For some of you, this information might come as a shock and a bit of a disappointment. For others, you might be just a couple of minutes away from discovering your excuse for getting out your next cardio session.
- Running. When it comes to running, more specifically running for extended periods of time, your body can burn a ton of calories. Some of you might be thinking GREAT! Well, not for those booty gains! Your glutes are a muscle, and just like any other muscle in the body, if you want them to grow you have to make sure that they have the fuel that the need in order to grow. If you burn all of your fuel running, there is nothing left to fuel muscle growth. That is one of the reasons that most distance runners, especially at the top level, are extremely thin. Additionally, running can be extremely difficult on your knees making it more difficult to perform exercises such as lunges and squats which are hard hitters in the glute game. So, for those of you who hate running, there is one more reason to steer clear. For those of you that love to run high mileage, I hope you are okay with potentially looking like a frog wearing pants.
- Recumbent Bike. The recumbent bike is another one of the heart healthy options. Unfortunately, it is not always so goody for the booty. Again, many people use this as a calorie burner which is great. When it comes to exercise, I am happy that anyone is doing anything! Something is always better than nothing here. However, like with running, if you abuse it you could literally lose it. Another ASSumption that many people make it that if it works their legs, then it works their butt…not completely accurate. In order to fully engage your backside, you need to be able to fully extended (straighten out) your hips. The issue when it comes to relying on a recumbent bike to provide you with gluteus maximus results is that the recumbent bike does not allow your body to come anywhere near full hip extension. Your body is an extremely efficient machine, so it is only going to do the bare minimum required to meet the demands placed upon it. If your glutes do not need to show up at work to get the job done, then they won’t. In order to grow your glutes, you need to work them and work them hard!
- High Intensity Steady State Cardio. This one ties into what I touched on briefly with the previous two but it applies to any and all forms of cardio. High intensity steady state cardio (HISS Cardio) essentially means that you are working your cardiovascular system at a relatively high and relatively constant percentage of its’s maximal capacity for a relatively long period of time (let’s just assume that means anything longer than 20 minutes for the purposes of this blog). Again, training in this manner, regardless of the specific form cardio; step mill, running, biking or anything else you can think of can make it very hard to increase or even maintain your glute size. The main reason for this is the fact that your body requires a tremendous amount of energy to be provided at a rapid rate in order to work at that pace. The primary source of fuel for HISS cardio is glucose, both from your blood stream (“blood sugar”) as well as from your muscles (glycogen). The muscle glycogen storage levels have a dramatic impact on a muscles ability to grow as well as assist with giving it a larger, rounder, fuller look. So, if your goal is to have a substantial set of glutes, then you may not want to spend too much time focusing on burning calories.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at five of your butt’s best buddies when it comes to cardio. As we work out way through the list you will notice that, in my opinion, interval training is going to be your best bet at reaping the cardiovascular benefits of exercise while preserving the muscle tissue that you have… aka… save datazzz! However, the options that I have selected also promote movements that are conducive to glute activation and ultimately glute growth.
- Incline Sprint Intervals. Arguably one of the best forms of cardio for your entire posterior chain, hill sprint intervals are an excellent option for improving tone and size in your calves, hamstrings and definitely your glutes. There is the opportunity for maximal hip extension against resistance (the steeper the incline, the greater the resistance) which at spirit is essentially resistance training…almost. Additionally, when you perform shorter, more intense intervals allow you to work your heart and your rear without blazing through all of you fuel stores, allowing you to conserve those glycogen stores that I discussed earlier. One final point to consider when it comes to incline running is that it is actually much better for your knee health than running on a flat surface or downhill.
- Versa Climber Intervals. Again, the same rules apply here. When utilized appropriately the versa climber can prove exceptionally good at providing a good glute burn. For those of you who have no idea what a versa climber is, if you google it, most of you will quickly recognize it. Just like with incline sprints you can get full hip extension when using the versa climber. Versa climbers also have manually adjustable resistance so you can definitely incorporate this one into your resistance training program
- Row Ergometer Intervals. Anyone who has ever performed an all-out 500 meter sprint on the row ergometer already knows exactly how hard the one can fry your cheeks. The cool this about the row ergometer is that it is a compound movement meaning that there Is movement at more than one joint when you perform it. When I think of the most fundamental muscle building movements for muscle, my mind always goes directly to the compound movements. In my opinion, for the lower body, compound movements such as the squat and the deadlift are the most effective glute building exercises. Movement at both the knee and hip joints during these sorts of exercises allows for large amounts of weight to be moved, which is an important component of muscle growth. Also, the squat and the deadlift can activate and utilize not just your entire gluteal structure, but also recruit surrounding musculature that enhances the strong, firm lower body look. The row ergometer allows us to mimic those movements to a certain degree. When you add the fact that the rower is an exercise which allows us to increase the amount of resistance that we experience by increasing effort, you can see why this is a worthwhile investment of time and energy.
- Spin Bike Intervals. Spin class! Hold on, not so fast. Although this option is on my bests list, there is some consideration to be had. In order for spin bike INTERVALS to be truly booty beneficial you should be doing to things. One, implementing periods of high resistance. Two, implementing a standing position if not constantly, fairly often. Now, I do not mean that there is no benefit to be found if you are not doing those two things, but in regards to building you butt, I would suggest them.
- Step Mill Intervals. My fifth and final form of butt plus cardio is the step mill. Just as with the above options, intervals may be the best method of implementation! Also, in order to maximize the impact that the step mill can have on your glutes, I would recommend that you focus on fully squeezing you back side with each step (full hip extension) and I would also suggest skipping steps (climb 2 steps at a time). This will again, more closely mimic other excellent glute building exercises such as lunges, glute kickbacks, etc.
I hope that you all gained either new insight, new knowledge or new food for thought
By: Vic M.
B.S. Exercise Science, NSCA-CSCS Certified