The stair climber is usually the first machine we jump on when we want to give our glutes a boost. But there are actually a number of ways to target your booty muscles with the other cardio machines in your gym—and it may even benefit you to change it up. “Glutes are difficult to train because they can ‘turn off’ for a variety of reasons,” explains Lauren Lobert, PT, DPT, OMPT, CSC. Your quadriceps or thigh muscles will become the dominant force as we overuse them. Often times we feel [that] we are doing glute exercises—such as lunges and squats—but our glutes are not activating like they should be.” So, it’s good to keep your routine varied to ensure you’re zoning in on all the muscles that make up your glutes. Here’s how to use cardio machines to target your glutes.
Simply running on a treadmill won’t do much for your backside, according to Lobert. It doesn’t provide the resistance required to push those muscles. However, when you pick up the pace on an incline you’ll definitely start to see results, according to fitness trainer Miriam Amselem. She suggests gradually walking on a 12 to 15 percent incline, building your way up to a jog and eventually, a run.
Another tactic is to actually turn the machine off. Amselem explains that when you have to push the belt with only your feet, you’ll work double-time to get it moving. For even more intensity, turn to the side and add a side squat. “This move equates to really working all three of your leg and glute muscles at the same time because nothing is better than walking squats to strengthen this area,” she adds.
Put it in reverse to target your glutes on the elliptical machine. Instead of just pedaling your feet forward, add in some backward intervals. Amselem says that it’s worth it for an effective go-to glute move. Stepping backward requires you to specifically use these hard-to-work muscles. You’ll also engage your core as you work to stay balanced moving backward.
Much like the treadmill, increasing the incline will also pile on the pressure to your backend. Rocky Snyder, certified strength and conditioning specialist, adds that if you’re using the elliptical to target your glutes, then you should make the resistance so difficult that you can only complete a one-minute cycle before rest. While these challenging intervals will push you to your limit, you’ll really engage your below-the-belt muscles and you’ll be rewarded with visible results.
The stair climber is the OG machine to target your glutes. But Lobert says that too many people mindlessly step without practicing proper form, making their workout less effective. “Focus on pushing up through your heel on your front leg, not launching yourself up with your back leg. Think of putting your belly over your thigh and pushing through your heel, squeezing your glutes at the top to ensure you have the right posture,” she shares.
According to Snyder, another mistake that lovers of the stair climber make is holding onto the handles. While sure, they’re there, he says that their purpose is merely for balance and emergencies, not for constant use. “The purpose of the [machine] is to mimic climbing stairs. Nobody climbs stairs by reaching their arms out and leaning forward,” he explains. “Stay tall and take big steps. Get the hips to experience as much flexion and extension as possible, while maintaining balance over the steps.”
If you’re up for a challenge, work multi-directionally on the machine, as well. Take turns side-stepping facing in both directions to target your glute muscles from a different angle. Feel free to hold onto the rails for this until you’re more comfortable. You can also try skipping a step to target the deeper glute muscles and make your workout more difficult.
The rowing machine is often left out of the lower-body conversation, but it shouldn’t be. It’s actually meant to mainly target the legs—if you’re doing it right. “Every time you drive the legs back and then lean back, you engage your glute muscle[s],” she says. “The key is the drive, which starts with the feet and legs and goes all the way through to the glutes area.” Always be sure to push through your legs more than you pull with your arms to really hone in on this area.
Think you can’t target your glutes on an indoor cycling bike, since you’re sitting down? Amselem says to think again. In fact, one of the best moves to improve your muscles back-there is called ‘isolation cycling,’ where you increase the tension on your bike to 12 to 14, while standing. In other words, your body will be in a complete squat over the bike, with only your legs moving. As you pedal slowly, you’ll tone and strengthen your glute muscles. Turn up the torque—and ride it out!