If you're not giving your ass a workout, you're just wasting your time. Unlike the abs and biceps, the oft-overlooked glute muscles are the nuclear power plants that fuel your performance in all walks of life. Strong glutes mean you have a strong foundation—and better yet, you don't need to become a carb-deprived teetotaler to achieve them.
Your butt consists of three major muscles: the glute maximum, glute medius, and glute minimus. Together, they abduct the hip (allow you to move side to side), extend the hip (pull the thigh behind you), and internally and externally rotate the hip. Strong glutes also equate to better athletic performance—faster, more explosive movements—and decrease your risk of injury. You know what doesn't? Toned arms and sculpted pecs.
It takes hard work, however, to chisel a derriere that would inspire Michelangelo. When we sit for extended periods, whether it's at our desk or during our morning commute, your butt muscles eventually stop firing as effectively as they should. Lazy glutes lead to tight hip flexors, the culprit behind many nagging lower back, knee, and groin injuries. That's why we asked Jason Harnden, a Dallas-based resistance training specialist, to share a simple 30-minute workout that'll set your ass ablaze—um, in a good way.
"One of the best features of this routine is that it's fully scaleable," he says. "These exercises can be performed with body weight or a broad array of equipment including dumbbells, kettlebells, tubing, or cable-based selectorized machines." Translation: No need to lift heavy loads to see results. All you need is a resistance band and the willingness to skip South Park tonight. Harnden suggests doing three sets of these seven movements, spending about 60 seconds on each exercise.
Exercise 1: Wide Stance Dumbbell or Kettlebell Squats
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then slide each foot six to eight inches wider. Begin the motion of a squat by pulling your hips back while simultaneously leaning forward at the torso. The key: Maintain an arch in your lower back. As you lean forward, elevate your sternum. "The simple rule I recite is: Backside and chest out. Stick it all out," says Harnden. For more resistance, hold a single dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands between your legs.
Exercise 2: Slider Reverse Lunges
Start with both feet together, one foot on a slider or towel (if you're on a hard surface floor). Start by pushing the foot on the slider backwards while keeping the leg straight. As the slider moves back, your torso will hinge at your hip. Lean forward until you have a perfect 45- to 60-degree angle from your head to your trail leg. Keep an eye on the foot of the lead leg; the heel of the lead leg should never raise off the floor. Keeping the trail leg straight and in line with your hinged torso will allow the spine to maintain a neutral position, thus avoiding hyperextension.
Exercise 3: Narrow Stance Dumbbell/Kettlebell Romanian Dead Lift
Begin with your feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in both hands. Slowly pull your hips backward while hinging slightly. The two most important points: Keep an arch in your lower back and retract your shoulders (basically, pinch your shoulder blades together). The ability—or lack thereof—to maintain the arch in your lower back should determine how deep you lower the weight. Your knees should remain in a slightly bent position and not move throughout the movement.
Exercise 4: Reverse Trunk Flexion (Reverse Crunch)
Begin the exercise while lying on your back on a bench or on the floor. Anchor your upper body to the floor or the bench by reaching behind your head and holding on to a heavy object. Keep your knees bent and slowly roll your pelvis off the bench in an attempt to bring your belly button to your chin, then slowly lower your pelvis back down to the bench or floor until you can feel your tailbone touch and repeat.
Exercise 5: Lying Hip Thrusts
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent 90 degrees. Push your heels into the floor, driving your pelvis toward the ceiling until there's a straight line from your knee to your shoulder and repeat. To make it harder, start from an elevated position using a stability ball or a bench.
Exercise 6: Standing PowerBand Kickbacks
Loop a large band over a big, heavy object, or close the band in a door to anchor it into position at chest height. Place one foot in the band and the opposite foot on the floor about two feet behind the foot in the band. Lean slightly forward and kick the secured foot down and back. Return to the starting position.
Exercise 7: Traveling Hip Abduction
Loop a resistance band around both ankles. Stand with your feet apart about 18 inches and pull one foot about six more inches apart. Begin to walk laterally—traveling increments of six inches with each step—while maintaining the 18-inch gap between your feet. Determine a fixed distance to travel (say, 15 feet). When you reach that distance, do the exact same thing in other direction.