Incorporating cardio exercises into your program to both develop the glutes and activate the booty before a heavy weights session is essential.
There’s no denying the fact that weight training is key when it comes to growing the glutes, but certain aerobic activities can help supplement the heavy lifting (plus give our joints a break!).
Today we’ll be looking at the benefits that performing cardio has on the glutes, along with which cardio machines best target the butt. Let’s get to it.
Glute activation entails a series of targeted moves designed to "activate" or get the buttocks muscles ready to perform. Many of us have jobs that require us to sit for long periods throughout the day. Putting the glutes in a stretched position and putting pressure on them throughout the day causes the glutes to become ‘inactive’ or ‘weak’.
It is therefore necessary to "awaken" the glutes before beginning workouts to get them ready to function with the weights you will be using.
Failure to do this may result in surrounding muscles (ie the quads and hamstrings) taking over from the job the glutes are supposed to be doing throughout our exercises. This means that 1- We aren’t effectively working the glutes and 2- We’re putting ourselves at risk of injury.
Cardio is a great way to activate our glutes, prepping us so that we’re ready to tackle heavy glute exercises such as hip thrusts and squats.
Before lifting weights, it is critical to perform a warm-up to prepare the muscles that will be worked.
That’s where cardio comes in. Cardio will increase the blood flow to the glutes, which will help deliver oxygen to the muscles and help with the removal of lactic acid. We’re basically priming our bodies ready for the heavier exercises.
Completing a thorough warm will also loosen up the joints and improve our flexibility ready for the workout. As glute training requires many exercises that place the glutes in a deep stretched position, having the flexibility to perform these exercises is a must.
Most cardio exercises activate the glutes to some degree; some more than others. In the latter sections, we’ll be covering the best cardio exercises that effectively target the glutes.
On top of glute activation and an effective warm-up strategy, performing glute-based cardio has the added benefit of calorie burning.
Cardio is a great tool to burn calories. If you’re trying to lose body fat, then cardio can help you do so. You see, to lose fat you need to be burning more calories than you consume daily (calorie deficit).
Calories in – Calories out = Net balance
If the net balance is negative, we’ll lose weight. And likewise, if the net balance is positive, we’ll gain weight.
To ensure a negative net balance during a fat loss phase, we should aim to increase the ‘Calories out’ side of the equation (ie. calories burned).
Performing regular glute-based cardio will burn through calories, whilst working on firming up the buttocks – happy days.
Performing cardio of some kind, regardless of whether it’s glute-based cardio or not, is always a good approach to any glute-building fitness program.
As we know, it’s lifting weights that will be the driving force of the majority of our glute growth. Performing glute-building exercises, targeting both the upper and lower glutes, multiple times a week, incorporating progressive overload and eating a muscle-building diet is the recipe for adding size to the butt.
But we need to have the stamina to perform these sessions, and that’s where the cardio comes in. You see, we need to have a decent level of endurance so that we can complete our glute workouts.
The last we want is to fail on a set of squats, not because our glutes can’t hack it – but because we’re knackered and our cardiovascular system couldn’t keep up. We want it to be the other way around so that our muscles fail before our endurance does – otherwise, we’ll never be able to take sets close enough to muscular failure to promote any sort of meaningful muscle gain.
If we can perform glute-based cardio, then even better. We can build our cardiovascular system, our glute strength and our glute endurance.
You may experience discomfort or delayed onset muscle soreness the day or two following a particularly strenuous glute workout. You can lessen the pain by doing lower body based cardio.
Doing so will increase blood circulation to that area, hastening the distribution of nutrients throughout the muscles, and shortening the recovery time.
Remember, the glutes aren’t built in the gym. Technically they’re broken down in the gym and rebuilt when you are resting. So being able to fully recover before your next glute workout is vital for continued progression.
A decent rule of thumb is to rest for two or three days between heavy glute workouts. However, this can differ from individual to individual and primarily depends on the exercises performed and the individual's level of workout expertise.
While many cardio machines target the glutes in some capacity, some do so more than others. If you’re looking to build muscle, lose fat, or sculpt the glutes, then cardio is a great low-impact option to add to your routine.
This is the number one best cardio machine for the glutes. Frequent stair stepping on a StairMaster not only heavily activates the glutes, but you’ll also be working the calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps, which in turn can promote fat loss and lean muscle development.
A study conducted in 2020 (3) looked at the most common strength and hypertrophy exercises for the glutes. They looked at all the popular exercises such as deadlifts (and variations), squats (and variations), hip thrusts and others. The exercise that came out on top in terms of glute activation was the step up! Simply stepping up onto a platform elicited more glute activation than the alternative exercises.
While more glute activation doesn’t always mean more muscle (other factors such as load ability etc come into play), the two have been linked (4).
It’s therefore safe to assume that the Stairmaster is an A-class exercise for working the glutes as it’s the very movement that came up triumphant in the glute activation study.
If you’re looking to get inventive and fancy a bit of a challenge, there are different ways to use the Stairmaster – you don’t have to stick to the normal step-up. Use variations like skipping steps, incorporating kickbacks, or side-stepping to help activate all 3 of the glute muscles.
Whilst performing the exercise, maintain a lofty stance and adjust your body, so you are slightly bent forward at the waist while standing tall. Squeeze your glutes and drive up via the sole of your front leg. Stay away from the urge to "drive" via your hind limbs.
The more quickly you ascend, the harder it is on your heart and lungs, but nothing good comes easy!
Exercise bikes are great since they focus solely on lower body strength. Your quads, calves, and glutes will all be called upon whilst cycling.
Because of the greater emphasis placed on the quadriceps during cycling, riders who wish to strengthen their glutes must actively work against the natural tendencies of the activity by shifting their body position somewhat by rising slightly from the saddle, repositioning their hips, and leaning forward.
Adjust the resistance to suit your current fitness level, and if you’re up for the challenge – sign up for one of the spin sessions at your local gym and feel the burn!
When used correctly, the treadmill is an effective choice to target the glutes. While walking or jogging at a slow place and on a flat surface doesn’t do much for the glutes, we can tweak how we use the machine to effectively train the glutes. Utilise the following tips to get the most glute-building benefits from the treadmill:
A great way to incorporate sprints into your training regime is with HIIT. Try sprinting for 15 seconds, followed by walking for 45-60 seconds. 10 rounds will have you dripping in sweat!
Otherwise known as the cross trainer, the elliptical machine is another great machine where the glutes are heavily involved throughout the movement.
The primary role of the glutes is hip extension, ie Increasing the angle between the hip and the thigh (the motion of moving the leg backwards behind our body). All the cardio machines we have mentioned in our list do this to some degree, and the elliptical machine is no exception.
To get the most out of the time spent on the elliptical machine, we’ll want to ensure that we’re working against some resistance. That way, the glutes will be working hard to extend the hip and move our legs backwards.
Choose a resistance that isn’t extremely difficult such that we’re only able to stay on it for a few minutes, but at the same time isn’t so easy that we can stay on it for hours.
For further glute benefits, opt for a stance that involves your hips being pushed back and your knees slightly bent.
Without a doubt, cardio is a great tool to activate, help strengthen and grow the glutes. Not only do the glutes benefit from cardio – the entire body does. Increasing cardiovascular endurance, burning calories and improving recovery are some of the few benefits you’ll get from performing regular cardio exercises.
While each of the cardio machines on our list our effective for activating and strengthening our glutes, our favourite, and at the top of our list, is the Stairmaster. The fact that studies have shown that the very movement involved in the Stairmaster has been found to have very high levels of glute activation provides a very good argument for why it should be considered one of the best cardio machines to build the glutes.
We hope we’ve been able to provide you with the answer you’ve been looking for with regard to the best cardio for the glutes. At the end of the day, arguably the most important aspect of any fitness program is adherence. For that reason, we would suggest opting for the cardio machine you most enjoy using – as if you don’t enjoy doing something, it’s not likely you’ll stick to it.