By Sarah Finley
The glutes are one of the key muscles that help us perform better when it comes to fitness. The stronger they are the faster we can run, or the longer distances we can cycle.
Claire Davis, a fitness consultant and one half of The Midlife Mentors, says that when it comes to strengthening the glutes, choosing the best exercise machines and the using them for the right exercises is incredibly important, as you want to "isolate the glutes (and inside thighs) without hitting the quads repetitively."
It's also possible to compliment those moves with specific pieces of gym equipment that specifically target and tone the glutes.
Below we highlight four of the best items of fitness equipment to do just that, along with exercises that can be performed on them and the toning benefits for the glutes.
1. The exercise bike
The best exercise bikes provide a great workout, with the flexibility to change your speed and - crucially - isolate certain areas of the body and most importantly give you a great workout. Mandy Wong, a PT and owner of Flex Fit says the uphill climb and jumps are both great ways to isolate the glutes on the bike.
For the uphill climb turn the resistance up so the pedals feel sticky and you can either increase it over a certain time frame or just stick to one level of resistance. Mandy explains: "Hands should remain on the handles and hips should stay back to avoid rocking back and forth. This is a great exercise because not only does it get the heart rate going, it also isolates the glutes."
For jumps on the bike, she explains: "This is where you stand up and sit back down as you cycle - squeeze your glutes as you alternate between the movement. The benefit for this one is that it’s a fun and varied workout. The sit/stand/jump ratio can be determined by the beat of the music."
Thomas Davis, professional triathlete for INCUS Performance also recommends low cadence cycling, to really get into the glutes: "Try riding at a low pedaling speed with the gear much harder than usual, and really focus on pushing through the glutes.
"Start with a session like 3 x 5 minutes of low cadence with 5 minutes of easy cycling [between rounds], then build that to 3 x 10 minutes over a number of weeks."
You could also sign-up to one of the best fitness apps designed to be used with stationary bikes, such as Peloton or Zwift, to maximize your sessions.
However you choose to use it, train on the bike three to five times a week and Wong says you'll start to see the glutes firm up and get stronger within a month.
2. The treadmill
If you own one of the best home treadmills or regularly hit the running machine in the gym, there are various ways you can use it to target your glutes.
The simplest way is running at an incline. Adjusting the machine so it's set at an incline rather than flat helps to engage your posterior chain muscles (the ones that run down the back of the body). These include the glutes as well as the hamstrings, upper and lower back muscles, and shoulders. Try starting at an incline of 3% and working towards 10% over time.
However, the treadmill doesn't just have to be for running - you can also use it for specific exercises that isolate the glutes and legs. These include the treadmill push and bear crawl, as recommend by Wong.
These two exercises should be done with the treadmill turned off, with the aim of moving the belt through your own force. Some treadmill belts don’t move when the treadmill is turned off, so do test whether the belt on your machine moves before starting the exercises.
The treadmill push works by moving the belt manually with your legs. Wong explains: "Hold on to the dashboard of the treadmill with both hands and your arms slightly bent. Keeping your head up and back flat, drive the belt with your legs. This should feel like pushing a prowler (a sled-like resistance device) down a track."
To maximize the burn in your glutes, Wong says to drive the belt from your heels. Alternatively, to work the muscles in your thighs, stay on your tip toes as you drive the belt.
Meanwhile, bear crawls can be tough enough on a steady surface, but this version on a treadmill will push your glutes to burning point.
"Facing away from the machine, get yourself into a push-up position. With your hands on the floor, feet on the belt and core engaged, begin to drive the belt by bringing one of your knees towards your chest," Wong explains.
"Alternate between sides for the duration of this exercise. This exercise not only give your legs and glutes a good workout but it also challenges your core and shoulders too, making it a great full-body exercise."
3. The abductor machine
If you want to completely isolate the glutes, the abductor is a key machine you should factor into your workout. The machine has two leg pads, which are designed to be pushed inwards or outwards (depending on which side your knees go), allowing you to attack the glutes.
Davis says the key is to get your positioning right: "You want to slightly hold yourself hovering over the seat. Push the leg pads out to the side while pushing down slightly with the heels. Slow this move down and return to the start position but don’t let the weight stacks hit. This keeps the glutes under tension."
She recommends starting light with the weight in order to maintain good form, and build over time. Do three sets of 20 reps three times a week and you'll start to see results in a couple of weeks.
4. The hex bar
A hex bar is a specialist barbell shaped like a hexagon, which can then have weights added to it. They offer a great way to do a variation on the classic deadlift - already a great glutes move.
Davis advises starting with a low weight, as the bar itself is already pretty heavy.
For a great glute workout, she says: "Bend down and reach for the handles either side. As you rise, drive through the heels, keeping the chest up and open and the back straight. Squeeze the glutes at the top. As you lower set your bum back and down like you are sitting on a chair remembering not to bow at the torso."
As with all exercises, form is everything. "This is really good for the glutes, inner thighs and hamstrings - but it’s all in the positioning," says Davis. "Activating through the heels will prevent the too much tension in the quads."
For more on form and other deadlift variations, see our comprehensive guide on how to deadlift properly with barbells.
Davis recommends completing 3 sets of 12, once a week, but as progress you could start to add more weight on, doing one set of 8, then drop the weight - 2 sets of 12. Then weight back on - one set of 8. Pyramid sets.
She says you will start to see greater firmness and strength within four weeks and the "more powerfully the glutes can be activated, the better endurance we will have for other exercise and sport."
Sarah is a freelance journalist who writes about fitness and wellbeing for the BBC, Woman&Home and Tech Radar. During lockdown she found her love of running outside again and now attempts to run around 50 miles a month. When it comes to other fitness, she loves a sweaty cardio session – although since she’s been working out from home she’s sure her downstairs neighbors aren’t too happy about it. She also loves to challenge herself - and has signed up to do hiking holidays, intense bootcamps and last year she went on her dream activity holiday: paddle boarding around deserted islands in Croatia. On her rest days, she loves to recover with a simple yoga flow session – the perfect antidote to her active fitness schedule.
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