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What is the Best Glute Exercise?

Updated on March 13, 2012

Straight Leg Pullbacks

To develop the gluteus maximus and the upper portion of the hamstring muscles, most bodybuilders do squats and lunges. However, most of the results are seen in the hamstrings since most individuals do not go deep enough to tax the glutes. The glutes go into action mainly when there is maximum flexion in the hip joint. It gets scarcely any work when the leg is almost straight and in line with the body. Thus many athletes, including bodybuilders, suffer from "jigglybuns".

To remedy this situation you can do straight leg pull-backs, an excellent exercise for the gluteus maximus when done correctly.


Major Muscles Involved

In the hip joint the major muscles are the gluteus maximus and upper hamstrings. The gluteus maximus is a very large, fleshy muscle at the back of the hip. It originates on the crest of the ilium, the sacrum near the ilium, the fascia of the lumbar area, and the sides of the coccyx. It inserts on a broad line about 4 inches high on the posterior side of the femur and the iliotibial tract of the fascia lata. The hamstring muscle group is composed of three muscles: biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semi-membranosus. The biceps femoris is the largest muscle of the hamstring group and has two heads. At the upper end the long head is attached to the ischium bone of the pelvic girdle. The short head is attached to the middle and central area of the femur. At the lower end the biceps femoris is attached to the upper tibia and head of the fibula bones of the shin. The tendon of insertion forms the lateral hamstring.

Two sets of muscles are involved in the lumbar spine: a deep spinal group and a superficial spinal group. The superficial group is collectively known as the erector spinae muscle group, which consists of four separate but intertwined muscles. The muscles are the iliocostalis thoracis, iliocostalis lum-borum, longissimus dorsi and spinalis dorsi.

The deep spinal muscle group is comprised of the intertransversarii, interspinalis, rotatores and multifidus muscles, which are very small and run in pairs. These muscles join the transverse and spinous processes of adjacent vertebrae. Most often they attach only to the vertebrae next to them but some may extend over 2-3 vertebrae. They play an important role in holding the vertebrae and disks in place as well as moving the spine.

Muscle Action

In this exercise you perform hip joint extension and slight spinal hyperextension. In extension you bring your leg from a position in front of your body down and back until it is in line with the body. When the leg goes behind your body you have hyperextension (arching) of the back, in which your shoulders remain in place but your pelvic girdle rotates into a forward tilt position.

Sports Uses

Hip joint extension is very important in all running and jumping events. Thus, this exercise is a must for anyone engaged in basketball, volleyball, tennis, racquetball, baseball, soft-ball, football and soccer. The hip joint extension also plays an important role in karate and other martial arts, especially in the side and backward kicks.

Without hip joint extension it would be impossible to lift weights off the floor. This action is needed in the deadlift and squat in powerlifting and especially in the snatch and clean and jerk events in weightlifting. Bodybuilders need this action to develop and define the upper posterior thigh and buttock muscles.


Put a cuff around the ankle and loop the cuff ring onto a low pulley cable. Stand facing the pulley with the leg to be exercised close to the pulley and the cable taut. Take a good step back with the other leg. Hold onto the framework of the pulley apparatus and bend forward slightly. Straighten both legs but lock the leg to be exercised in the extended position.

Hold the leg locked and pull it back until the leg is in line with and slightly beyond the line of the upper body. Return the leg to the initial position, relax and then repeat. When heavy weights are used, inhale and hold your breath as you pull the leg back and exhale as you return the leg to the starting position.

It is imperative that you keep the leg fully extended when you pull it backward. If you bend the knee you will be using knee joint flexion to pull the foot back, which takes away from the force needed for the gluteus maximus to work. When you lock the leg to keep it straight, you should strongly contract the quadriceps.


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