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Here’s a typical FFP (fit people problem). Upper body shredded? Check! Abs defined? Check! Glutes? Need work, lots of work.
Welcome to the world of FPP, a place with which Jamie Eason Middleton has become very familiar since the birth of her son, August, more than a year and half ago. Carrying around her ever-growing “butterball” (Middleton’s term) for the last year and a half had slingshot her upper body back into prime form, but her lower half has not been such a cakewalk.
A difficult C-section had left Middleton with several puncture wounds from misplaced epidural needles, the telltale lower abdominal “smile,” and 23 pounds of extra water from post-surgery edema. Though she quickly lost the water upon returning home, the trauma to her core was such that training hard and heavy (such as she needs to do with her hardgaining lower body) was several months away.
As a new mom, and chronically short on time, Middleton had to change up her training, distilling her routine from a one-bodypart-per-day schedule to upper- and lower-body workouts. Because her upper body was faring well, it was only afforded one day, while her lower body commandeered three days of its own, plus a day of plyometric training. On two of those three days, Middleton specifically singled out her glutes, which, of all the muscles in her lower body, was the one group she has historically had trouble bringing up.
“To grow my glutes, I really need to go to the ‘big’ gym and lift heavy,” she says. “I’ve always been a hardgainer when it comes to glutes, and I need to push pretty heavy weights to make that happen.”
In any glute-grow program, Middleton insists there must be hip thrusts and bridges. “Squats and lunges are great, of course, but exercises like those in which the glutes are the primary movers are totally necessary,” she says.
Jamie Eason Middleton’s Weekly Workout Split
Day 1 Total leg workout
Day 2 Upper body
Day 3 Off
Day 4 Quads & glutes
Day 5 Plyometrics*
Day 6 Hamstrings & glutes
Day 7 Off
*Plyometric workouts are 15 to 20 minutes long and consist of total-body moves, such as jump squats, speedskaters and burpees.
Setup: Stand straight with hands on hips, feet about one foot apart.
Move: Step forward with your right leg, planting it on the floor so that the knee joint forms a 90-degree angle. The knee of your extended trailing leg should float just off the floor. Push up through your right heel, using muscles in your leg until you are standing erect, feet together again. Step forward with the other foot and repeat.
Tip: Keep a natural arch in your back; avoid bending at the waist.
Setup: Grasp a chair (or barre) for balance. With feet spread approximately hip width, lightly angle toes outward. Rise up onto the balls of your feet.
Move: While staying up on your toes, bend your knees in the direction of the toes as you descend into a squat position. Using your lower-body muscle, rise to extended position. Drop onto your heels and then repeat the entire sequence.
Make it harder! Try lowering into your squat position without holding onto a chair for support.
Bench Barbell Squat
Setup: Stand at the end of a bench with your toes forward and balance a barbell across your upper back and traps. Draw your shoulders back and tighten your abs.
Move: Kick your hips back and squat down until you’re sitting lightly on the bench. Plant your heels and push hard to stand back up, keeping your back straight and your shoulders back.
Tip: Focusing on the “up” portion of this move is where you really get the glute recruitment, so really press through your heels and squeeze hard on the way up.
Dumbbell Hip Thrust
Setup: Position your upper back and shoulders across the broad side of a flat bench and space your feet about shoulder-width apart on the floor, knees bent. Hold a dumbbell in the crook of your hips and steady it with both hands.
Move: Press your hips up toward the ceiling, driving through your heels and keeping your back straight. When your hips come level with your knees and shoulders, squeeze hard before lowering again.
Tip: Want to make your glutes work extra hard? Try using a small resistance band loop for your bridges and hip thrusts. Wrap it around your thighs just above the knee and press outward with your legs to create tension in your outer hip. Maintain this tension as you do the exercise, thereby targeting the gluteus medius and burning about 10 reps in.
Single-Legged Deadlift/Split-Squat Combo
Setup: Stand in front of a flat bench and hold a set of dumbbells at your sides, shoulders down and back. Extend one leg behind you and place it laces down on the bench.
Move: Hinge at the hips and maintain a flat back as you fold forward and reach the weights toward the floor. When your torso is parallel to the ground, reverse the move and return to the start. You also can bend your standing knee and squat down as low as you can without your heel peeling off the floor, then extend your leg and return to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: To help maintain balance, focus on something several feet in front of you on the floor and square your shoulders.
Lateral Bench Step-Up
Setup: Stand next to a flat bench and hold a set of dumbbells at your sides, shoulders down and back, and abs tight.
Move: Step up onto the bench with the foot that is closest, then extend your leg to stand up on top of it. Reverse the move to return to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Don’t rush this move; be slow and controlled on the way up as well as on the way down.
Setup: Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms along your sides and lift your chin off your chest.
Move: Press your hips up toward the ceiling, keeping your knees in line with your toes. When your body makes a straight line from your hips to your knees, squeeze your glutes and lower almost back to the start, then go right into the next rep.
Tip: Play with the position of your feet to change the emphasis on the glutes. Set One: Place them wide apart. Set Two: Move them in close. Set Three: Place them close together.
For more on Jamie Eason Middleton, read our Q&A with her.