When you think about runners, the kind of body type that probably automatically comes to mind is slender and thin, and you may not imagine them having many curves. But Michael Olzinski, MSc, Purplepatch endurance coach and Equinox run coach, wants you to rethink that stereotype, because running regularly is actually one of the most effective ways to strengthen your glute muscles and build your booty.
"The glutes control a tremendous amount of movement or stabilization of movement in the body and around the pelvis," Mike told POPSUGAR. "It's pretty well-known that the entire glute complex is the largest and most powerful group of muscles in the body, and to complement that, running can be the of the most complex and explosive exercises to trigger that function of the glutes."
It may not be a widely known fact, but "the glutes are likely the most important muscle group in proper running." They are what extend the hips, control rotation at the hip socket, and stabilize you "during a free-falling motion" (which is basically what running is). In short, your butt is more than something pretty to look at (or something juicy to grab) — it's the very thing that helps your body powerfully soar through the air and quickly move from one place to the next. So the more you train it to do this kind of movement, the bigger it will get.
Before you decide to run a 5K every single morning, though, in an attempt to build a booty, Mike wants you to know this: "Not all running would lead to muscle degradation and then growth (or hypertrophy), just like every strength exercise would not induce that response. We can figure that out by doing some very balanced and power-driven single-leg exercises that you might see in a sprinter's program."
So if you want to switch up your cardio game to match your glute goals, opt in for a sprinting or interval workout rather than a long-distance, LISS-focused run. Unfortunately, Mike says he sees the majority of people training for endurance "and not the power-based sprinter style." This "will never really trigger hypertrophy in the hips, nor anywhere, for that matter."
"If you want to develop your glutes through running, you first need to have a base of strength and balance," Mike explained. "Then you would take on some very explosive drills and intervals." He suggests you focus on "high-powered uphill running with short intervals and high rest."
Here's a workout Mike laid out: do eight reps of a 30-second sprint on a six to eight percent incline on the treadmill and take a two-minute rest in between each rep. "You should be heavily out of breath by the end of the 30 seconds."
Additionally, Mike recommends doing "explosive running drills" on turf or even a track. "Working on exploding from the ground is a great way to develop power in the glutes," he said. Start in a low lunge, then "sprint as fast as you can for 15 strides, making each stride as fast and as powerful as you can." Rest for 60 seconds between each set.
"Lastly, a great idea is to integrate one day of real plyometric training," said Mike. He's not talking about the kind of plyometrics you do in a group fitness class. "A real sprinter-specific plyometric session would require some very intense jumping and bounding movements with lower rep counts and lots of rest for achieving maximal power," he described. The point is to do these intervals as fast and hard as you can, so that your body absolutely needs the rest in between.
However, this doesn't mean you should completely throw in the towel when it comes to weightlifting, which is what nearly all trainers recommend if you're trying to grow your glutes. If you want to fire on all cylinders and really go for those booty gains, reserve your cardio sessions for sprinting and intervals and continue to strength train your lower body separately. You'll see your butt double in size in no time.
Model credit: @greicesanto