It’s Monday and you’ve already come up with a huge win for the week; you got up early to go to the gym. You’re not Arnold, but you’ve been to the gym before and you know that Monday means chest day; it’s pretty much an international holiday, right? But who decided you have to bench on Monday? Or any day! The beautiful thing about the gym is that you can do whatever you want (as long as you’re safe and considerate of others)! So why not try something new this morning and work out your butt? It’s really a great idea, let me tell you why.

For those of you who didn’t already know, your butt is actually the biggest muscle group in your body, comprised of the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and the gluteus maximus. This means that you should be training it! And not just to get the boys or girls to do a double-take. Functionally, your glutes have a lot of responsibilities and if you neglect them, you’re going to have a bad time in general and an even harder time being an athlete. Let’s go through just a few of those responsibilities here.

1.    Your glutes are the primary movers in hip extension. What’s that you ask? When your hip angle (between your trunk and your leg) opens up. Ninety-nine percent of people utilize this movement pattern every single day; it’s called walking. Any walking or running you do is going to be initiated by hip extension and if your glutes are weak other muscles (specifically your lower back and hamstrings) will have to compensate and that’s when you start to feel tightness, aches and pains. Nobody wants that.

2.    Your glutes also externally rotate the leg; if running and walking are extension patterns in the sagittal plane of motion (moving forward and backward) external rotation is what allows you to take a step in the frontal plane (moving side to side). The point is. That without your butt you don’t move very well.

So now that you know why you need to workout more than just your quads and hammies on leg day, and also that leg day can and should happen more than once every two months, how do you do it? I want to share with you some of the best booty building exercises around starting with the king of them all; the hip thrust.

Now I know, everyone says that if you want to build your butt you need to hit your squats and get your weight up. However, according to Bret Contreras, PhD, CSCS, an EMG study that compared muscle activation in the glutes between squats and hip thrusts yielded some interesting results (you can see those results broken down here and the actual study here). Hip thrusts are where you put a bar across your hips and push it up by squeezing your glutes and hamstrings. It can be uncomfortable sometimes in more ways than one and maybe draw some strange looks but it’s worth it, here’s why.

To make a long story short, when you are in the concentric portion of the squat (the part where you stand up to complete the rep) maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) of the glutes is at between 80-120%, the highest it will get during this movement overall, the mean activation of the glutes (over the entire squat) is only at about 50-70% because the glutes are fairly inactive during the majority of the movement. Now, in the hip thrust MVC of the glutes can reach between 120-200% and mean activation is typically around 100%. So…do your hip thrusts, but don’t leave your squats out to dry either; they’re still important, just not as much as you may have thought when it comes to the booty.

Your glutes are the biggest muscle group in your body. Skipping leg day isn’t doing you any favors, even if your goals don’t revolve around a rounder backside. Functionally, the glutes provide a foundation along with the core for all athletic movement. So, go on, the awkward eye contact is okay, have some fun and build those buns!