“Most people think that it’s only men who fancy women with well-developed butts, but women too admire men with nicely toned glutes, not the jelly-ish type of glute, if you know what I mean,” Martin Obonyo tells me as he racks the load onto the squat machine.
This is today's last set of the 41-year-old heavily built fitness instructor's squat workout. He is now ready for his day job as the manager of the BornFit Gym in Nairobi.
He wasn’t necessarily working his legs but his butt on this day.
But you had to be keen to realise that he was butt-bursting. Otherwise, it might have easily passed for a regular leg workout session.
‘Jelly-ish glutes’ is a term Obonyo coined to refer to butts that have never experienced any form of fitness duress ending up packing fats and effectively turning flabby.
In his 15-year career as a fitness instructor, Obonyo has observed a misconception amongst men, a myth, as he calls it. This myth – ‘only women should do glutes.’
Numerous misconceptions surround glute exercises, leading to a majority of men making workout mistakes that undermine their overall results.
It can be challenging to separate fact from fiction, from misconceptions about who stands to benefit more from butt strengthening to debates over the most effective exercise and rep ranges.
This explains why when a topic on glute strengthening comes up, one might immediately picture a woman doing squats, lunges, or the popular hip thrust, which is well-liked by women.
But Obonyo says he is tired of this cliché that only women should engage in glute workouts, stating that the notion is just as mistaken as the claim that bicep exercises are exclusively a man’s thing.
The three gluteal muscles are important, not just from an aesthetic but also from a functional point of view.
“That’s a myth, a lie. Men should exercise their glutes the same as women. Men need to understand working out their glutes will aid their masculine posture. And if you are into sports, developed glutes will improve your functionality, making you stronger, run faster, jump high, improve acceleration, dynamics, and overall motion agility.”
The fitness benefits
But even if you are not an athlete and neither is having the kind of butt that gets women ogling, you still shouldn't overlook working out your glutes.
“When you hear of people complaining of lower back pains, this implies their glutes are weak, that’s why there is that strain. What this implies is that they are prone to injuries. Toned glutes also protect knees from wearing out and becoming weak from supporting body weight. This is why I highly recommend hitting your glutes twice a week.”
Female instructor and bodybuilder Myra Denousse concurs.
“Men should work out their glutes because stronger glutes mean stronger lower back and good posture,” the 46-year-old affirms.
But how did the glutes myths come about? Obonyo has a theory.
“What fuels this myth is lack of knowledge. The glute is a muscle, but most men don’t seem to think so because it appears softer. But no matter how intensely a man trains his butt, it can never bulk up to appear as that of a woman. This is always the worry of most men, hence the myth.”
He alleviates men's fears noting that because there are hormones at play, their butts can never look the same as women's just by engaging in glute-strengthening exercises.
“Men have testosterone, women have estrogen, a reproductive hormone. Because it's women who reproduce, they tend to retain most of their fats in the lower body, which is why they widen their lower body once they hit puberty. Because of testosterone hormones, men tend to be bigger on the upper body.”
For the rare cases where some men appear to have as big butts as those women, the coach says it’s majorly occasioned by hormonal imbalance.
“For men to have those kinds of wobbling glutes that most definitely rival those of women, there are two things: hormonal imbalance and lack of glute strengthening because that’s a muscle that needs training. Wobbling glutes, or jelly-ish glutes, as I like to call them, are basically fat deposits. Fat is flabby, muscle is firm,” Obonyo states.
The gluteal group of muscle that make up the buttock area consist of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
The gluteus maximus is the superficial and largest of the three, making the bulk of the shape and form of the butt and hip.
The glute ranks as the largest muscle in human anatomy, which Obonyo says is reason enough why it cannot be ignored.
Glutes are involved in most mobile activities, such as walking, sitting, standing, or even simply picking up a dropped pen from the office floor.
So, what are the best glute exercises?
“I recommend four major exercises, but I should emphasise that these very workouts are the same that work out other areas of the leg. But to target glutes, then the range of motion, the position and depth changes.”
The first exercise is the barbell back squat.
“Most people think this exercise only targets the quads, but should you go parallel to deeper as your range of motion, then the glutes will be activated, becoming the primary target with quad secondary,” he says.
Dumbbell walking lunges also work wonders.
“Again, most people think it targets the quad, but walking lunges is one of the best workouts to target glute. To activate the glutes, the range of motion should be wide, and one has to go deeper, the knee almost kissing the ground,” Obonyo emphasises.
Leg press also makes up the list.
“This is another only perceived as a quad workout. But it comes with how you position your body. To focus on the glutes, your legs must be higher and wider on the leg press machine so that the glutes become the primary target and the hamstring secondary. Also, you have to go deeper, almost your thighs touching your chest, to effectively activate the glutes.”
The hip thrust.
“This is an exercise that most men avoid, arguing that it is more feminine. But like I said, the glute is a muscle, and this exercise effectively activates the glute. This, for me, is non-negotiable. Every time you do your leg workout, you must incorporate hip thrust.”