Bret Contreras has become known in the strength and conditioning industry as the Glute Guy because of his expertise in helping clients develop strong, shapely glutes. In 2015, he earned his PhD in sport science from the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, where he studied under biomechanics expert John Cronin. Contreras has conducted numerous electromyography experiments in his research.
As the former owner of Lifts Studio in Scottsdale, Arizona, Contreras worked closely with hundreds of clients ranging from sedentary people to elite athletes, and he invented a glute-strengthening machine called the Hip Thruster. He currently trains figure competitors, writes programs for clients from all over the world, and consults for various professional sport teams. He is the author of the bestselling book Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy and co-author of Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body.
Contreras is a distinguished lecturer in strength and conditioning, presenting at many conferences throughout the world, including those hosted by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He is the cofounder of Strength & Conditioning Research Review and founder of Strong by Bret. He is a peer-reviewed author with over 40 published studies and regular contributor to well-known industry publications including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Flex, Muscle & Fitness, Oxygen, Shape, and FitnessRX for Women. Oxygen magazine voted him the Glute Expert in their 2010 Glutes edition and Men’s Health listed his “Glute Lab” as a Top 20 Gym in the United States in 2016.
In this episode, we dive into glute development exercises, functional vs body-part split training, the hip thrust, horizontal and vertical resistance training, and more.
Bret Contreras has been obsessed with glutes for over 20 years. He started working out as a kid because he didn’t want to get bullied, and he wanted to get girls. When he realized girls were into guys with good looking butts and his was non-existent, he started obsessing on glutes. Contreras read every strength and conditioning magazine trying to figure out how to build bigger, stronger glutes. He even got his PhD in Sports Science in 2015 just to be able to answer his own questions, conducting his own research appropriately. Contreras never had intentions on becoming a research professor, he’s just glutes obsessed. 🍑
“You have to rely on anecdotes. That’s why coaches talk to other coaches and why athletes talk to other athletes. You don’t just go by research, research is important, but I’m so sick of coaches that don’t respect researchers, and researchers that don’t respect anecdotes. They’re both wrong. We have knowledge out there and we can gain it through a lot of ways.” — Bret Contreras
- Lifting light weights can build big muscles as lifting heavy weights — Contreras learned through anecdotes and his own experiments that light weights can help build big butts. The same concept doesn’t apply to strength though, you need heavy weights to get stronger (for more info on building muscle check out episode 289 with Brad Schoenfeld).
- Glute development exercises — Contreras is the inventor of the hip thruster, which is his favorite glute development exercise. His programs always include at least 2 of 3 of:
- Front to back resistance — Horizontal/anteroposterior movements such as hip thrusts, reverse hyper, romanian deadlifts and walking lunges.
- Up down resistance — Vertical movements such as squats, lunges
- Rotational resistance — Lateral rotation exercises such as standing cable hip abduction and bent over hip abduction.
- Ground Force 360 — Contreras’ favorite rotational exercises machine is not available for commercial use yet. It’s a clinical lab machine only for now, called Ground Force 360, which stimulates and stabilizes the body’s inner rotational axis.
- Functional vs body-part split training—Functional training is much more trendy now, and only split-body training is not great, but it has its benefits. Contreras likes a mix of functional and body-part split training best. He gives his athletes 10 minutes at the end of every workout to add whatever they like, knowing it’s not enough time to destroy themselves. He also avoids too much tricep or bicep work, which can the joints achy.
- Train your glutes 3 days a week! — Contreras recommends you train your glutes 3 days a week, which is a concept he received from Nathalia Melo, a Brazilian bikini athlete, who won 2012 Olympia Ms. Bikini.
- Glute work for crossfitters—Since crossfit athletes already have a huge load of workouts on their plate, Contreras recommends incorporating specifically these few exercises for glute development: Glute bridges, hip thrusts, frog jumps, and back extensions. He even a wrote an article called Who Thinks CrossFit Needs A Glute WoD?
- Different curves and range of motion — Every exercise has a purpose. Recent studies showed that hip thrusts help improve acceleration, and front squats help improve vertical jump. They also showed heavy hip thrusts alone didn’t improve sprinting performance.
- Don’t push too hard— Contreras doesn’t push his athletes too hard with heavy weights, he goes by feel, making sure his athletes get a good feel and control of their muscles and movements.
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