Week 2 of the “Gain Muscle not Fat” Challenge has officially started!
If you are subscribed to the list, you already received your new workouts on Saturday evening (or morning, depending on where you are located). Today, I will explain some of the exercise challenges and provide modifications for home exercisers.
I am very grateful so many of you joined me in this program. I am able to push even harder during my workouts, as I am thinking of people spread all over the world, trying out my workouts!
If you would like to join us, you can do so any time. This program has no time limit and can be repeated as many times as you like.
The exercise challenges of this week target two areas of your body many people struggle to activate: The Latissimus dorsi and the Glutes. Whatever program you follow at the moment, adding in these two exercises will help you build a balanced physique and prevent many back injuries.
Hip Thrust Challenge to kick your butt
Today, I would like to start with one of the best exercises to shape your lower body and build stability: The Hip Thrust.
If there was only one exercise I would need to choose to target the glutes, it would be the Hip Thrust. In fact, this is not a glute isolation move, as many would think. Just as Squats, Deadlifts and Chest Press, this exercise is a compound movement.
This means that it activates your entire body and thus burns a lot of calories. The main focus might be the glutes but other muscles activated to keep your body stiff and stable are the core, hamstrings, upper back, quadriceps and lower back.
However, those are only the muscle groups assisting this movement, not the primary target. Thus, you should not feel this exercise working your lower back, as that indicates poor form.
Before I share my own tips for execution, please watch this video by sports scientist and glute expert Bret Contreras:
Tips to feel it in your glutes
- Bench height: The bench, chair or corner of your bed you are using should not be too high. Otherwise, you will experience much higher quadriceps activation. Sit down on the ground and lean back your upper back against the bench. If your shoulder blades are slightly above the bench, this should be the perfect height. If you can’t find a high enough bench, you can create elevation by stacking pillows on top of each other too.
- Feet position: Bret explains this in the video but feet positioning is key to feel this exercise in your glutes. Make sure your feet are hip width apart and slightly turned out. You can either push into the ground with your whole feet or go on your heels, whatever works best for you. I like to switch it up and do a set on heels and then the next one with my whole foot on the ground.
- Upper Body: Your upper body should be stiff while performing this exercise. You should not let your lower back arch at all but rather follow your hips movement. This will activate your entire core and strengthen your transverse abdominis. If you were looking for an exercise to tighten your midsection, you have found it!
- Breathing: Breathe in while you lower the weight/ your hips and try to feel a big stretch in your glutes. Then, while raising your hips with your glutes, breathe out forcefully and feel your core contract.
- Posterior pelvic tilt: There are many different variations to the hip thrust. Some perform them using an anterior pelvic tilt (lower back arched at the bottom) and don’t fully extend their hips at the top. I prefer to keep my neck up and look at my core. When I am at the top, I tuck my pelvis and tilt my pelvis, so that my rips and belly button come closer to each other. This movement is key to activate your abdominal muscles and prevent back injuries. If you were feeling the hip thrust in your lower back, chances are you were not using a posterior pelvic tilt at the top.
- Band around knees: I always use a resistance bands around my knees when performing the hip thrust. The hip thrust is, similar to a deadlift, a hip extension movement. Thus, it primarily targets the gluteus maximus, the biggest of the three glute muscles. Adding in the resistance band will activate the gluteus medius and minimus at the side of your hips. This is key to increase overall stability and prevent sciatica and back injuries.
- Don’t go too heavy: There are a lot of people going very heavy with this exercise. However, if you are a home exerciser, you are working out alone most of the time. Thus, there is no one to set up the weights for you and to examine your exercise form. If you go too heavy with this exercise, it can injure your back and hips, just like any other exercise. This is why I recommend sticking with moderate heavy weights in the 10-15 repetitions range and use this exercise as an extended glute warm up or burnout.
- Work on your single leg: The single-legged Hip Thrust is by far my favorite exercise of all times. This exercise is a functional movement. If you build strength using this exercise, you will experience improved performance in your daily activities, as well as sprinting, running, swimming or any other kind of sports. You can certainly add weight to this exercise as well but even the bodyweight version is enough to build glute strength.
- Hold at the top: The part of the movement where you extend your hips is the one with highest glute activation. Thus, if you are struggling to feel this exercise activate your glutes, simply hold the contraction at the top for 5 seconds before lowering down. If you are using bands, you can also abduct (push out) your knees while holding the top position. This will target your gluteus medius.
Tips for home exercisers
- If you don’t have a bench, use the corner of your bed or create elevation with pillows. You can also lean your back against a balance ball. The glute bridge is not a substitution for this exercise!
- As you probably don’t have a huge selection of weights, work on the bilateral variation first and then progress to single-legged hip thrusts. You can also elevate your heels by placing them on another bench or chair and further increase range of motion. The single-legged elevated feet hip thrust is an incredibly difficult exercise and targets your hamstrings too.
- Make sure to watch your form in the mirror. If you are doing the bodyweight variation, you can place one hand on your core and make sure to feel it contract and tuck your pelvis. You can also close your eyes and focus all your thoughts on using your glutes to raise your hips. This is a very effective trick to increase mind-muscle connection.
The Hip Thrust Challenge
Week 2 of the “Gain Muscle not Fat” Program starts with Lower Body Workout #2: Light weights and high repetitions.
Don’t get fooled by the term “light”. This workout should actually leave you sore the most as we will burn out the muscles by using higher repetitions. You should still use as much weight as you can to complete the repetitions with good form but feel the exercises.
In today’s challenge, we will perform 60 repetitions of Hip Thrusts, one-legged and bilateral variation.
I prefer to alternate the bilateral and unilateral version but you can also complete 60 repetitions on both legs first and then move on to the single-legged version.
You will perform 60 repetitions on each leg. If you can use weight, do it! But if you feel tired and you are not using good form anymore stop. If you can’t complete all 60 repetitions, that is okay! After all, this is a challenge and it should be your goal to be able to complete 60 repetitions in the future. This way, you will build strength and endurance at the same time.
You can either complete 60 repetitions in one set or take breaks in between. You can do 5 sets of 12 repetitions, 4 sets of 15, 3 sets of 20 or 2 sets of 30. Choose whatever fits your fitness level and have fun.
I will complete this challenge today and then add my time, weights and sets and repetitions I used. I encourage you to do the same and share your stats in the comments!
If you liked this challenge, please share it with others on your favorite social media platform.
Wish you all a wonderful second week of this challenge!