50-day butt challenge, influencer programmes, squat challenges, YouTube guides – you’ve tried the lot but still lack the results you deserve.
Don’t worry! While it probably seems like you’ve done everything possible – there’s a lot of garbage out there on the internet and it’s hard to filter through the rubbish to get to the real talk., you’ve likely just been following the wrong advice.
We’ve got you. Today we’ll cover why your glutes are not growing and provide actionable steps you can take to kick-start your glute-building journey.
It may not boil down to 1 thing that you’re doing wrong that’s stopping glute growth, it could be a number of different things. If you address each of the items on our list you’ll start noticing glute gains in no time!
Now, this is probably the number 1 most important factor that people get wrong or overlook when it comes to building muscle (glutes included!).
To build muscle you need to be eating more calories than you burn on a daily basis. And if you fail to do so, then you won’t build muscle – it’s that simple.
You could optimise every area of your workout, but if you don’t eat enough calories then you’ll be preventing yourself from building muscle, studies have confirmed this.
When you think about it, makes sense. Muscle isn’t going to magically appear; it needs the energy from calories to aid with the muscle building process.
If you’re working out but struggling to put on any muscle, it’s likely you’re not eating in a calorie surplus (eating more than you burn daily). We would suggest upper your calorie intake by 200 each week until you start gaining.
To take a more sophisticated approach we would suggest tracking your calories. This way you can work out exactly how much you need to be eating to build muscle and minimise fat gain. Check out our article ‘How many calories do I need to build muscle’ for an in-depth breakdown on how to work out the calories you require to start gaining muscle.
The most important macronutrient when it comes to building muscle is Protein. Sure carbohydrates and fats are important too, but protein is king in the muscle building world.
The body is constantly in a state of protein turnover. Old proteins are recycled out (Muscle protein breakdown) and new proteins are built (Muscle protein synthesis).
Muscles increase in size when Muscle protein synthesis exceeds Muscle protein breakdown, resulting in a positive net protein balance.
For our protein sources, it’s important to opt for a ‘Complete protein’ source. Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids. 11 of these are ‘non-essential’ and can be created by the body, and 9 of these are ‘essential’ (EAA) and can’t be created by the body so need to be consumed in our diet.
Animal products such as beef, chicken, pork, lamb, milk, yoghurt, whey protein etc are sources of complete protein – so if you eat a carnivore diet then you’ll be eating complete protein sources. On the other hand, if you’re eating a Vegan diet it’s a good idea to vary your protein sources as many vegan proteins are ‘in-complete’ (they’re low in at least 1 of the 9 EAA) so varying the sources can help ensure you’re getting the right amount of amino acids.
Research has found that to maximise muscle protein synthesis and thus build muscle we need to be consuming between 0.7-1g of protein per LB of body weight (1.6-2.2g per KG).
Again, the best way to make sure that you’re eating enough protein to build muscle is by tracking your foods on an app such as MyFitnessPal. Even if you do it just for a couple of weeks to gain an understanding of how much protein is in the foods you’re eating, it’s a worthwhile endeavour.
Progressive overload is the most important training principle that you need to know in order to build muscle.
Simply put, it means that you need to be progressively challenging your body by introducing new stimuli each week to force the body to grow.
You see, our body is an adaptive force. When you first start working out your body will adapt by growing bigger and stronger to be able to comfortably handle the workload you placed it under. If you don’t continue to increase the intensity of your workouts, then the body sees no reason to continue to change and thus remains the same.
There are several ways to apply progressive overload to our training, including:
Each of these is a form of progressive overload, but arguably the most important one when it comes to building muscle is ‘Increasing the resistance’ – if we can get stronger in a given rep, then it’s likely we’re going to get bigger.
To apply this principle pick a weight that you can do 10-12 reps with for 3-4 sets. Once you hit 12 reps in every set, it’s time to increase the weight. When you’ve increased the weight you’ll probably only be able to perform say 12,11,10,10 reps – and this is completely normal. Stick at the weight for several weeks/months until you can hit 12 reps in each set, then increase the weight again.
Once we’ve got our diet sorted it’s time to fix our training. We often hear people complain that their glutes aren’t growing, and when we ask them what exercises they’re doing they tell us they have been doing banded sidewalks and clam exercises.
While these do have their place in a workout regime, we shouldn’t be prioritising them.
Let’s revisit the glute anatomy quickly.
As you can see from the diagram above, the glute maximas is the largest muscle in the glute region and makes up most of the shape of the butt.
It therefore makes sense that our workout’s primary focus should be on working and growing the glute maximas.
The role of the maximas is glute extension ie. Increasing the angle between the hip and the thigh bone, think coming out of the bottom of a squat, or stepping up the stairs. So logically we need to prioritise exercises that perform this movement.
Secondly, it’s important to learn that 70% of our workout needs to focus on ‘Compound’ exercises leaving 30% of the workout for isolation exercises. If you’re new to the game, you may not be familiar with these terms. Simply put, compound exercises recruit more than one muscle group whereas isolation exercises do as the name suggests and isolate one muscle group.
For example, the bench press is a compound exercise whereas triceps extensions are an isolation exercise.
The reason we should focus our efforts on compound exercises is that these are the real mass builders. We can recruit a large number of muscle fibres and work them through the full range of motion creating the muscle tension required to build muscle.
Secondly, compound exercises are ideal for applying progressive overload. We can handle bigger weights and we can add resistance as we get stronger. The same can’t be said for the banded sidewalks and clam exercise examples from earlier.
There’s no denying that compound exercises are difficult. But nothing worth having comes easy, right?
For this reason, you should perform compound exercises at the start of the workout when you are fresh and have the most energy, leaving the smaller isolation exercises to the back end of the workout.
Isolation glute exercises include: Seated abduction, Clams, Banded sidewalks, Donkey kicks.
Lastly, we have recovery. If you’re someone who believes muscles are built in the gym, then you’re sadly mistaken.
Muscles are broken down in the gym, and then rebuilt when you’re resting.
The SRA curve explains this brilliantly well.
The red line indicates the Stimulus (workout). The Blue line indicates the Recovery and the Purple line indicates the Adaptation as a result of the stimulus.
If you decide to work out again too soon then you run the risk of not allowing enough time for the SRA curve to complete, preventing the all-important adaptation part of the process. As a result, your progress could look something like the following.
And in reality, you may not be progressing at all, you could be heading in the opposite direction.
As a rule of thumb, training a muscle group twice a week is considered optimum for muscle growth and research shows this to be more beneficial than once a week.
Training glutes twice a week allows for 2-3 days of rest in between sessions, which should allow enough time to complete the SRA curve.
And there we have it. We hope that after reading this article you’re now optimistic about your glute training and now know that growing the glutes is definitely possible, you’ve probably just been following the wrong advice.
Work your way through the items we’ve listed, and fix the things you’ve been doing wrong. If you address each of the items we’ve talked through then you’re all set to add some size to the butt.
You’ll never again have to say the words ‘Why are my glutes not growing!?’ – enjoy!