Are Your Glutes Stopping You?
Fitness expert Dan John explains how to train your glutes for maximum results

February 27, 2015

On a recent vacation, I sat by the pool with a good friend. She confided that she was having a tough time getting in shape and losing weight even though she works out. I gave her a simple assessment right by the pool. Holding both her hands in mine, I told her to squat down between her legs. She couldn’t do it. When she tried to stand up, she had to lean forward—fold forward, really—as I pulled her hands.

We sat down on our lounge chairs again, and I explained that she had one big problem—and she was sitting on it. The glutes are the engines of the human body. Ignoring them leads to more than just a saggy bottom. Weak glutes mean less power, speed, calorie burn, and strength. Plus, the weaker they are, the older you’ll feel. A bum backside stalls results and can hinder your hard work at the gym.

Now, if your normal fitness routine involves a bunch of deep and heavy squats, farmer walks, and deadlifts, your glutes are probably just fine. But for the majority of people, our backsides aren’t as strong as they could—or should—be. That’s because we no longer remember how to squat and we’re not training our glutes hard enough.

Master the Squat
I see a lot of guys squatting on their legs like an accordion. But a true squat is done when your body goes between your legs. To understand what I’m talking about, perform a body-weight squat the same way you always do it. Then perform the following two squat variations. Did you feel the difference? I bet you went deeper and sat taller when performing the variations. Do a couple reps of each one before your workouts to prime the correct pattern.

1. Potato Sack Squat 
I call this the Potato Sack Squat because it’s the same motion you would use when gently placing a heavy sack on the floor. Stand tall and hold a light dumbbell in your hands with your arms straight down. Your hands should be inside your thighs. Now, squat down while pushing your thighs apart with your hands, then your forearms, and then your upper arms. The skin-on-skin contact not only helps you “find space” between your legs to perform the movement, but it also builds trust in your body to slide straight down instead of tracking forward on top of your legs.

2. Goblet Squat
I came up with this exercise years ago when attempting to teach a deep, authentic squat to 65 14-year-old athletes. Cup the end of a dumbbell with both hands and hold it vertically in front of your chest. Now, squat. As you lower down, use your right elbow to push out your right knee, and your left elbow to push out your left knee. Keep your chest tall. Congrats, you’re in a deep squat.

Train Your Glutes
Once you’ve learned how to properly squat, it’s time to put it to practice. I like the following quick workouts. They don’t require a lot of time or equipment, but they’ll hit your glutes and give you a total-body workout all at once.

 Glute Ladder

Combine squats with Proper Pushups in a descending ladder drill. The Proper Pushup comes from Gym Jones in Salt Lake City, Utah. Perform a normal pushup, but when your chest touches the floor you’ll extend your hands out to your sides so that your arms form a “T” with your body.

DO THIS: Perform 10 goblet squats followed immediately by 10 Proper Pushups. Next, perform 9 goblet squats followed by 9 Proper Pushups. Continue to decrease the number of reps by one each round until you perform only one rep of each exercise.

10 reps: Goblet Squats/10 reps: Proper Pushups
9 reps:  Goblet Squats/ 9 reps: Proper Pushups
8 reps: Goblet Squats/ 8 reps: Proper Pushups
7 reps: Goblet Squats/ 7 reps: Proper Pushups
6 reps: Goblet Squats/ 6 reps: Proper Pushups
5 reps: Goblet Squats/ 5 reps: Proper Pushups
4 reps: Goblet Squats/ 4 reps: Proper Pushups
3 reps: Goblet Squats/ 3 reps: Proper Pushups
2 reps: Goblet Squats/ 2 reps: Proper Pushups
1 rep: Goblet Squat/ 1 rep: Proper Pushup