When I say bikini competition glutes, I mean the kind that deserve to win, not the loose, jiggly ones I see scoring trophies at amateur level competitions these days. Do you want glutes that look tight while you’re walking onstage or do you want to jiggle around up there until you’re fully flexed? Because I’m still seeing a lot of leg- dominant lower body training being done with typical “accepted” bikini competition prep approaches, and consequentially a lot of sloppy glutes (and cellulite) at the competitions. Sorry to be blunt, but its true. The glutes can be made to look great in photos, since most of the shots we see online are with the competitors fully into their poses and with their legs strategically crossed to hide the cellulite, but it’s a completely different story when you’re at the competition watching live…with movement. Here are some key things I think most amateur level bikini competitors need to focus more on in and out of the gym to get those soft yet still firm glutes the pro’s and top amateurs have:
1) Focus on HEAVY glute training instead of light weight, unstable training. Why on earth would anyone train what is supposed to be the largest, strongest muscle group in the body with light weights and in an unstable position (bosu ball)? A little high rep iso-lateral glute work is fine at the end of a good workout or at home between workouts, but the emphasis needs to be on exercises where the body is in a stable environment so you can maximize loading of the targeted muscles. We’ll work on your tightrope walking skills/stabilization later…for now we need to make you look good. Ditch the bosu ball, cut back on the butt blaster machine/cable work and load a bar with at least 115lbs for some weighted hip thrusts and glute bridges. Add some weight to your leg presses, and go deeper if you can. Limit glute isolation work that isn’t heavy to about 3 sets per lower body workout, and focus the rest of the session on heavier training with both legs working together, in a stable position.
2) Squat and Squat DEEP! But with good form. I’m seeing a lot of fear of the squat rack with bikini competitors. I haven’t quite figured this one out, considering how important glutes are for these girls and how great a proper deep squat is for developing the glutes. I mostly see endless walking lunges, step up variations, combination exercises/metabolic work and tons of cardio. This can work fine for those genetically blessed and already 90% ready to hit the stage (aka most high level bikini competitors even before they hire a coach), but most girls I see can benefit from taking the time to master the squat. That said, there is no irreplaceable exercise for someone not looking to reach their genetic potential of muscularity (aka bikini competitors), so I do in some cases opt for machines or split squats/lunges if the client isn’t close to being proficient at squatting deep. So what I’m seeing with deep squats is (among other things) a loss of pelvic stabilization at the bottom of the lift. In other words, the pelvis tucks under (posterior tilt), which rounds the lower back and takes the load off the glutes and hamstrings. This also puts a lot of strain on the lower back and puts more load on the quads.
Next time you squat, have someone get video of you and take a look at your pelvis/lower back at the bottom position. It should stay slightly arched throughout the entire movement. If not, try squatting with just your bodyweight standing beside a mirror. See if you can squat deep with no added weight without losing pelvic stabilization. If you can’t…and you actually tried hard, you have a mobility/stability issue that will probably take more work to correct than its worth (or than you have time for) considering your job as a bikini competitor is not specifically to squat. Move on to split squats/lunges and machine based training (but still go deep), unless you don’t mind hiring a coach who REALLY knows how to get you squatting correctly. If you can squat properly with no added weight, try your next set with weight, but less than you were lifting when you shot the video. Keep adjusting the weight until you find the right amount where you’re being challenged but are still able to keep your pelvis neutral. Keep an eye on your form during future squatting sessions and don’t be afraid to reduce weight as needed…this will not only help your glutes but it will also keep you from getting those over-developed quads you DON’T need for bikini competition.
3) Frequent glute training. If you’re not overdoing things already with excessive high intensity work (HIIT, Plyos, etc), you should be able to work your glutes 3 times a week. I usually go with twice a week on lower body days and then as competition time nears I’ll often up it to three times a week, with one of them being a glute only workout (with some inevitable hamstring involvement). I’ll often do this along with interval work such as sprints or stairs so there is no overlap in lower body breakdown/recovery. All we need here is one or two really good glute exercises, just a few sets total. It shouldn’t take much if you’re going heavy like you should be.
4) Don’t overdo cardio!! Cardio can be helpful in getting that last bit of stubborn bodyfat off, but you don’t really need or want to be that lean for bikini to begin with. So the marathon cardio sessions won’t really be necessary or helpful. And they can actually make things worse by causing your body to adapt muscle fibers for endurance rather than strength/muscle gain. So you can actually lose muscle if you overdo cardio. It also depletes glycogen from your muscles which you need for your training, and to keep the glutes and other muscles looking full and tight. You need to offset that depletion with more food or you won’t be doing very well with your training. Remember, this is not a contest on who can get the skinniest…you need to eat to train to look good. Over dieting and overdoing cardio can both put a damper on this goal.
5) EAT CARBS!! Yes, you actually do need to eat some carbs if you want full, tight glutes. Remember, this is supposed to be the largest, most powerful muscle group in the entire body. It has a LOT of room to store glycogen and water. If you deplete carbs too much, your glutes will be flat and soft, making you think you need more cardio/less food, which will just compound the problem. Sure, you can always fill them out later with a carb refeed/load, but since we’re talking about developing an area, I’m going to write in the context of NOT being in a dieting/immediate pre-contest phase. You should be routinely eating enough carbs to keep the muscles “fed”, but not so many calories (yes, calories still matter…they help determine how you utilize protein/carbs/fat…aka storage vs burning) that you put on too much bodyfat. I’d give a ballpark number to shoot for, but it really depends on so many variables that there is no way I could get it right without having all the info I need. I’ll just say that most novice competitors I’ve consulted with think 150g a day is high carb. Its not.
These are just a few of the more important things to consider doing differently if you’re following the current en-vogue methods of bikini competition prep and glute training. Every competitor is different and there are certainly some I would keep far away from a squat rack, give extra cardio, and go easy on the carbs with, etc. That’s the minority though…most people who think they fall into that category just need more prep time and more consistency with their diet and training.
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