What if I told you that a strong, toned butt is the key to longevity? It’s true! Glute strength is a non-negotiable for injury prevention, functional movement, and maintaining proper posture, which all add up to healthier years. And while there’s no magic move for instant booty gains, there are rockstar butt exercises that will activate and grow ~well-rounded~ glutes.
“As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass and bone density, which can expose a body to injury and pain, but strength training as a whole is vital to mitigate the loss of lean mass,” says Leigh Taylor Weissman, CPT, a certified personal trainer and founder of the Leigh Taylor Method. “Having strong glutes further protects the body from injury and pain as its main job is to support and stabilize your hips, which control knee and ankle movement, as well as your entire trunk from neck to pelvis.”
What are the glute muscles, and how do you work them ?
Here’s a quick posterior primer: Your glutes include three distinct muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus is the largest and provides most of the shape of the buttocks, says Anjorin. It also keeps you upright when sitting and standing, and acts as the lower-body power generator allowing you to run, jump, squat and extend or rotate your leg outward and backwards.
Second in command is the gluteus medius, which sits between the gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus, and its main job is to stabilize the pelvis. It also promotes movement of the hip and upper leg including hip abduction, hip external rotation, and hip internal rotation, says Anjorin.
And, you guessed it, the gluteus minimus is the smallest and located right below the gluteus medius. “This muscle helps to produce several movements of the hips and legs including hip extension, hip internal rotation, and hip abduction,” adds Anjorin.
If you’re looking to make major booty gains, variety is key, says Anjorin. Yes, squats will always be a superstar, but incorporating new moves will help you hit all three to tighten, tone, and strengthen all the angles.
Now that you have the 411 on the muscles that make up your glutes and what they do, it’s time to get into specifics. The following are the 35 best butt exercises to try in your next workout. Add one into your lower-body days or string three of your favorite butt exercises together as a DIY glutes workout.
motion One – 1. Mini Band Kickback
Why it rocks: This is a great exercise to work the glutes in extension unilaterally, says Weissman. “By keeping the hips static and allowing the moving leg to extend away from the body and toward the ceiling, you’ll isolate the glute maximus and feel that burn.”
How to Do Motion:
Get on hands and knees, and put one end of the mini band around your right foot, positioning the other end on the left thigh, just above the knee.
1 – While keeping your abs tight, contract the glutes slowly, and kick the right leg back until it’s straight.
2 – At full extension, squeeze the glutes for an extra second. Carefully bring it back down. That’s 1 rep.
3 – Alternating Reverse Lunge
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. (Option to complete with bodyweight or hold dumbbells, as shown.)
- Inhale and step one leg back, lowering into a lunge by bending both knees about 90 degrees, keeping good posture, and abs engaged. Keep front knee tracking over or slightly in front of ankle.
- Exhale and with control, return to the starting position.
- Repeat with the other leg. That’s 1 rep.
4 – Bulgarian Split Squat
- Stand on right foot, with left knee bent and foot off the ground.
- Bend right knee, extending left leg down until knee is a few inches off the ground, keeping arms out in front of you for balance. (Feel free to use a block or ball as a marker of where knee should land.)
- Slowly return to start. That’s 1 rep. Complete all reps, then switch sides and repeat.
5- Clam Shell
- Lie on side, with legs stacked and knees bent at a 45-degree angle with mini resistance band looped above knees.
- Use top arm to keep you stable and keep hip bones stacked on top of one another.
- Engage core to stabilize spine and pelvis, keep feet touching, and raise upper knee as high as you can without shifting hips or pelvis. Keep your lower leg on the floor.
- Pause, and then return upper leg to the starting position on the ground. That’s 1 rep.
- Complete all reps, then switch sides and repeat.
6 – Step Up
- Stand facing a box, step, or stairs, and hold the dumbbells at sides.
- Place left foot on the bench, and keep right foot on the floor.
- Pushing through left foot, lift body up until you’re in a standing position at the top of the bench. Drive right knee up until it forms a 90-degree angle.
- Pause, then reverse the motion to return to start. That’s 1 rep. Complete all reps, then switch sides and repeat.
How To Build A Bigger Butt
If your goal is to grow your glutes, Weissman says there are three non-negotiable moves for a bigger booty: hip thrusts, Romanian deadlifts, and squats. “We want to prioritize [these three moves] as a means to grow the glutes because they are the ones we can load the most,” she explains.
The hip thrust is one of the few exercises where you can significantly load the glutes in the shortened position (when the glutes are contracted or squeezed), says juli. “Here you will mostly be targeting the middle glute max and some glute medius, especially if you are performing the exercises with external rotation (with your hips open and feet pointed heels in and toes out).”
Romanian deadlifts are another maximizing glute move because they’re a hip dominant exercise that will target the gluteus maximus and medius, explains juli. “Unlike the hip thrust, this exercise will largely hit the lower portion of your glutes, and work them in the lengthened position, when they are stretched.”
Lastly, the squat is another fantastic compound lift to load the lower glute max in the lengthen position as you move into the end range (the deep portion of the squat), says juli. “Pushing the hips back into flexion and letting the torso fold slightly will load more of those booty fibers as you bend the knees to get depth.”
Want to make butt exercises more effective? You must progressively overload (challenge yourself more) over time, juli says. Here are three ways to do that:
Load: Increase the weight. Volume: Increase the number of reps per set (volume). Time under tension: Increase the amount of time spent under the load and holding position.
Finally, if you want a bigger butt, you have to “eat for your goals,” says juli. “Strength training is number one, but without the diet to support the work your gains will be hard to achieve.” Prioritize eating protein after your lifts to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients to support muscle growth, she adds.