How To Progressive Overload For Glutes

For this article, we interviewed personal trainer and physical therapist Clyde Staley, PT, DPT, CSCS. Clyde is a Doctorate of Physical Therapy and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, he has over 6 years of experience training athletes and clients to increase hypertrophy and perform their best in their sport.

Having strong glutes is key for maintaining a well-rounded physique, maximizing strength for big lifts, improving athletic performance, and preventing injuries.

To break plateaus and achieve consistent glute gains, progressive overload must be applied.  Progressive overload requires you to gradually increase the difficulty of training to progressively make gains.

How do you progressiver overload glutes?

Progressive overload for the glutes is built on the foundation of compound lower body movements, such as squats and deadlifts, with support of accessory, isolation movements. Progressive overload for the glutes requires athletes to increase the intensity, sets, reps, and training days, or to decrease rest intervals between sets.

The principle of progressive overload can be applied for any muscle group or any training goal, as the foundational principles remain the same: gradually increase the demand on the muscles, and they will experience greater training adaptations.

Key takeaways for progressive overloading the glutes:

  • Prioritize heavy compound movements, including squats and deadlifts
  • Incorporate isolation movements, such as single-leg bridges, kickbacks, and abductions, as accessories
  • Gradually increase training volume by manipulating exercise intensity, frequency, number of sets, number of reps, and rest breaks
  • Allow for proper recovery to prevent overtraining, burnout, and injury

Types of Heavy Compound Movements for Glutes

The most important component of a glute-based training program includes compound exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges. Compound exercises provide the most demand for the glutes, which leads to greater training adaptations.

While compound exercises challenge more muscles than just the glutes, they also provide the greatest amount of load for the glutes. They require the glutes to work harder to overcome the resistance.

Compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, and lunges. There are many different variations of these movements that provide substantial challenges for the glutes; therefore, lead to the greatest level of size and strength improvements.

Different variations of the three key compound exercises for glute strength are provided below:

Squat VariationsDeadlift VariationsLunge Variations
Barbell Back SquatBarbell Conventional DeadliftBarbell Lunges
Barbell Front SquatBarbell RDLDumbbell Lunges
Dumbbell Goblet SquatStiff-Leg DeadliftSplit Squats
Zercher SquatsTrap Bar DeadliftLateral Lunges
Single-Leg SquatsSingle Leg RDLJump Lunges

Each variation provided above requires substantial glute strength and power to perform. These types of exercises should be the staple of a glute-based training program.

Types of Glute Isolation Exercises

Glute isolation exercises can and should also be included, but they should be viewed as accessories to the main compound exercises. Isolation exercises target the glutes directly, but don’t provide as much load as compound movements.

Isolation exercises should be performed after the compound movements to provide optimal energy and fuel for the highly beneficial compound lifts.

Isolation exercises for the glutes are often one-joint exercises that target the glutes specifically.

The glutes can be divided into the hip extensors (the gluteus maximus) and the hip abductors (gluteus medius). Isolation exercises that target these specific muscle groups can be found below:

Hip Extensors (Gluteus Maximus)Hip Abductors (Gluteus Medius)
Glute bridgesSide-lying leg raises
Hip ThrustsAbduction machine
Pull ThroughsSide Planks
Donkey KicksFire Hydrants
KickbacksLateral Steps or Step Ups

Isolation exercises are typically performed in higher rep ranges since they are typically less demanding than compound movements; however, they can be performed in lower rep ranges if the goal is to improve the strength and hypertrophy of the glutes.

Applying Progressive Overload Principles to the Glutes

Progressive overload is a gradual increase in the workload of a training program. With compound and isolation exercises, the key to progressive overload is to gradually increase the demands of training over time.

Progressive overload can occur in a multitude of different ways, including:

  • Increasing the number of reps performed per set
  • Increasing the number of sets performed
  • Increasing the frequency of training days
  • Increasing exercise intensity
  • Reducing the rest intervals between sets
  • Incorporating tempo reps and prolonged isometric holds

These parameters should be adjusted regularly in a training program to prevent plateaus and overload the glutes. Performing the same level of difficulty will reduce the level of positive training adaptations.

When to Progressive Overload the Glutes

There are several different times when progressive overload is encouraged. In many cases, scheduled, structured, progressive overload is built into a training program using a principle called periodization.

Periodization refers to the cycling of various exercise parameters in a training program

  • Linear periodization involves gradually increasing exercise intensity over time during training, without manipulating other parameters such as the number of sets and reps.
  • Nonlinear periodization involves adjusting multiple exercise parameters in a controlled, cyclical manner. This usually includes increasing intensity while decreasing the number of reps, but can include other parameters of training.

For those that do not adhere to specific, periodized training programs, below is a list of signs it’s time to adjust your training parameters:

  • You complete the last rep of a set and decide you could have performed an additional 1-3 reps with good technique and minimal difficulty
  • You complete the last set of an exercise and decide you could have performed an additional set with good technique and minimal difficulty
  • The intensity (weight, level of resistance, etc.) of the exercise you’re performing is not enough to challenge you anymore (ex. RPE of <6-7 on a 0-10 modified Borg RPE scale)
  • You find yourself zoning out during a set of an exercise because the intensity isn’t enough to keep you focused
  • You find you don’t have to concentrate on exercise form for each rep of a set
  • You leave a training session feeling like you could have done more, or that you could repeat the same workout the next day without difficulty
  • You test your one rep max or another reassessment of your goals and find that you’ve made little to no progress since the last time you assessed your goals

If you notice any of these signs, it is probably a good time to adjust the exercises you’re doing or the parameters in which you’re doing them.

How Much Overload Is Too Much?

Progressive overload should be performed gradually. Unless the program is a nonlinear periodization program designed by a qualified professional, the individual should only adjust one parameter at a time.

This can include adjusting the number of reps for the next workout, or increasing the intensity or duration of the exercise performed for the next session, but not both.

For most programs, the exercise intensity is the first and primary parameter to be adjusted. Typically, an athlete should not increase their training intensity by more than 5-10% per session.

For example, if an athlete is performing 3 sets of 10 reps of a barbell back squat at 200 pounds and decides to increase the intensity for the next session, the level of increase should be limited to no more than 10-20 pounds. 

Progressing too much too soon can lead to overtraining, burnout, and injury. Signs of too much progressive overload training for the glutes include:

  • Excessive soreness in the glute muscles or other muscles of the legs
  • Discomfort with sitting down (especially on firm surfaces)
  • Decreased strength, endurance, or other indicators of athletic performance
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Decreased desire to train
  • Difficulty concentrating due to excessive fatigue or soreness
  • Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), worsening of muscle soreness after 48-72 hours of completing the training session.

How to Recover From Progressive Overload

Recovery is essential to continue progressive overloading of any muscle group, and the glutes are no exception. Proper recovery includes taking rest and recovery days from training, eating enough calories and protein, drinking enough water, and getting at least 8 hours of sleep.

To progressive overload the glutes properly, the muscles need to perform at their best in every training session. This is not possible if we emphasize training too much and don’t focus enough on proper recovery.

Taking days off from training allows the glutes to recover properly, giving them time for the inflammatory and repair/growth processes to occur efficiently.

Consuming adequate calories and protein for the individual’s body type and training goals is also essential for ensuring the body has the fuel to carry out the healing and repair/growth processes.

Water provides the blood the viscosity to carry out its role in training and recovery, and the brain the fluid necessary to function properly and concentrate to the fullest.

Sleep is the time when all of our recovery and healing processes occur; numerous studies show that less than 8 hours of sleep per night has a detrimental effect on muscle performance and recovery.

Prioritizing adequate rest, food, hydration, and sleep are critical to progressive overloading the glutes properly and preventing setbacks in training.