If you spend any amount of time in social media, then you have undoubtedly been bombarded with the latest and greatest tips from Instagram celebrities touting the keys to developing the best glutes possible.  While the aesthetic goals drive most of the desire, there is functional needs as well.  Hip extension is an important action in daily activities (standing, stepping and walking) and sporting actions (running, sprint-running and jumping).  Though several different exercises exists, a comprehensive understanding of which exercises best target the gluteus maximus (Gmax) and the magnitude of muscular excitation associated with each exercise is yet to be established which can account for the myriad of mixed recommendations floating on the Internet today.

In a study conducted by Paul Macadam and Erin H. Fesser out of the Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand, they sought to describe the electromyographic (EMG) excitation of the Gmax during body weight exercises that utilize hip extension.

The following were the key findings of the study.

In rank order from highest EMG value to lowest, these exercises were:

Front plank with hip extension (106% MVIC) maximum voluntary isometric contraction, 

Gluteal squeeze (81%MVIC),

Side plank abduction with dominant leg on top (73%MVIC),

Side plank abduction with dominant leg on bottom (71%MVIC),

Single limb squat (71%MVIC).

The practical applications of the findings should lead trainers and coaches to understand that:

Unilateral exercises produced higher EMG values compared to the bilateral version of the same exercise

Females exhibited greater EMG excitation than males in all hip extension exercises

Verbal and tactile cues increase Gmax EMG excitation, while bracing and drawing-in the abdominal also increase excitation levels

Hip extension exercises performed in greater degrees/angles of hip flexion, hip abduction or hip external rotation result in higher measured EMG excitation levels.

And that the front plank with hip extension, gluteal squeeze, side plank with abduction and a single leg squat should be prioritized to ensure best activation of the gluteus maximus.


So before you rely on the latest and greatest Instagram celebrities advice take a moment and implement what you learned here to help your clients optimize their own given gluteus maximus potential. 


Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2019 Feb;14(1):14-31.