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Best Butt Workouts to Build Bigger & Stronger Glutes

Fire up those glutes!

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A shapely, gravity-defying butt. It’s up there with perfect abs. But not content with being the most curvaceous muscle in the body, the glutes also happen to be one the most important muscles too. So the goal of building a bigger butt and better abs (hello core!) is not so minor a pursuit, but the key to running faster, jumping higher, moving better, and staying injury-free.

The glutes, otherwise known as your butt, are the largest muscle group in the body and have some very important functions. They play a key role in moving the hips and thighs, and are the engines powering lower-body movements such as running, jumping, and stair climbing. The glutes also help keep the body correctly aligned, protecting against injury.1

Meet Your Glutes

The glutes consist of three major muscles.

  • Gluteus maximus makes up the most of your butt and is mostly responsible for its shape. Its function is hip extension (e.g.moving thigh backward) and abduction (moving thigh to the side), and rotating the hip outward.
  • Gluteus medius is on the sides of your hips, sits slighter higher than the other muscles, and gives some shape to the upper butt. It is responsible for hip extension, rotating the hip inward, and during movement helps to keep the pelvis stable.
  • Gluteus minimus, is also on the sides of your hips, but lower than the gluteus medius. It is deepest and smallest of the glute muscles, and performs a similar function as gluteus medius.

Why Strengthen Your Butt Muscles

Our chair-bound lifestyles mean weak glutes are par for the course. So much so, it’s even got a name (or two) – gluteal amnesia or “dead butt syndrome”. The extended periods of inactivity and pressure on our glutes from endless sitting leaves many of us with weak, flaccid, poorly functioning glute muscles and tight hip flexors.2

Being such an important player means that when the glutes are weak, it can throw your whole body out of whack and have far reaching effects. The muscles and joints around them step in to absorb the strain, which can lead to a plethora of problems, such as chronic low back pain, hamstring strains, ankle sprains, and knee injuries. And it can negatively affect athletic performance.34

So whether you want to build a bigger booty or a better-functioning body, the answer is the same. It’s time to step up and strengthen your glutes.

Types of Glute Exercises

A well-balanced routine should include different types of glute exercises, according to Bret Contreras, PhD, CSCS, a strength-and-conditioning coach also known as “The Glute Guy”.56

Butt exercises can be roughly dived into 3 categories.

Vertical Exercises

These exercises work the lower glutes more – e.g. squats and lunges.

Horizontal Exercises

Activate both the upper and lower glutes – e.g. hip thrusts and glute bridges

Illustration of how to do side plank with leg raise

Lateral Exercises

Work the upper glutes more by targeting the gluteus medius – e.g. side leg lifts and clamshells.


Include at least one movement from each category per workout to target your glutes from every angle (we’ve labelled each exercise). Also check out the butt workout, at the end.

Top 23

Best Butt Exercises

Most of the butt exercises below can be done with or without weights. You can also use resistance bands (aka booty bands) or even a stability ball to make some of the exercises harder, or perform more advanced variations (e.g. unilateral variations).

Before adding weights or otherwise making the exercise more challenging, make sure you can execute the exercise with perfect form to yield maximum results and prevent injury.

1 Squats

Targets: Quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors and lower back.

Equipment: Dumbbell or barbell

Type: Vertical

Squats are one of the best lower body exercises you can do and while they work your thighs and hamstrings effectively, they also give your glutes a great workout.

  • With dumbbells in your hands or barbell on your upper back, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes turned slightly outward.
  • Push your hips back, bend your knees and squat down as deeply as you can without rounding your lower back. Try to break parallel to maximize glute activation.
  • Stand back up and repeat. 

2 Deadlift

Targets: Hamstrings, glutes, traps, forearms, quads, calves, middle back, hip flexors and lower back.

Equipment: Dumbbells or barbell

Type: Vertical

Like squats before, deadlifts work a great many of your muscles but really hammer your glutes too.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes under a loaded barbell. Reach down and grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip.
  • Keeping your arms straight, drop your hips and lift your chest.
  • Drive your feet down into the floor and stand up – do not round your lower back. As the bar passes your knees, shove your hips forward and stand up straight.
  • Lower the bar and then repeat. 

3 Single leg deadlift

Targets: Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, ankles, and core.

Equipment: Dumbbells optional

Type: Vertical

Working one leg at a time means you can identify and fix left to right strength imbalances and also improve your balance and coordination.

  • Stand with your feet together and hands by your sides. Shift your weight over onto your left foot.
  • Lean forward from your hips and simultaneously extend your right leg out behind you for balance. Reach down and touch your left foot with your hands.
  • Stand back up and repeat.
  • Do the same number of repetitions on each leg.

Make it more challenging: Hold dumbbells or a medicine ball for a more challenging workout. 


4 Romanian deadlift

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and lower back.

Equipment: Dumbbells or barbell

Type: Vertical

A popular weightlifting exercise, Romanian deadlifts are a great way to develop your butt, lower back and hamstrings simultaneously.

  • With a barbell in your hands, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • Without further bending your legs, push your butt back, hinge forward from your hips and lower the bar down the front of your thighs to just below your knees.
  • Stand back up and repeat.

Do not allow your lower back to become rounded. 


5 Good mornings

Targets: Hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

Equipment: Barbell

Type: Vertical

So-called because they resemble a polite bow made in greeting, good mornings are a tough but effective way to work your glutes.

  • Rest and hold a barbell across your shoulders.
  • With your knees slightly bent, bend from your hips and, without rounding your lower back, lean forward as far as your flexibility allows.
  • Stand back up and repeat. 

6 Deficit reverse lunge

Targets: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, and forearms.

Equipment: Platform

Type: Vertical

Lunges are a great butt-building exercise and are made even better by a) going backward and b) increasing the range of movement by lunging off a step.

  • Stand on a 4-6-inch platform with your feet together and hands by your sides.
  • Step backward off the platform, bend your legs and lower your rear knee to lightly touch the floor.
  • Step back onto the platform and then do another repetition with the opposite leg.
  • Continue alternating sides for the duration of your set.

Make it more challenging: Hold dumbbells for a more demanding workout. 


7 High step-ups

Targets: Quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

Equipment: Knee-high step

Type: Vertical

Old school for sure but step-ups are a great way to work your glutes without placing excessive strain on your lower back.

  • Stand in front of a knee-high step. Leading with your left leg, place your foot on top of the step, push down through your heel and stand up on top of the platform.
  • Step down leading with the same leg and repeat.
  • On completion, change legs.

Make it more challenging: Hold dumbbells or increase the height of your step for a tougher workout. 


8 Glute bridge

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back and abs

Equipment: Bodyweight

Type: Horizontal

This exercise is a great way to wake up your glutes before moving on to more advanced horizontal glute exercises.

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor as close to your butt as possible. Push down through your heels and push your hips up toward the ceiling.
  • Lower your butt to the floor and repeat.

Make it more challenging: Hold a weight across your hips or use just one leg at a time (single leg glute bridge).


9 Donkey Kicks

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, and core.

Equipment: Mat

Type: Horizontal

Also called bent knee glute kick backs, this is another great home exercise, and a favorite in group exercise classes.

  • Kneel down and rest your elbows on the floor so your butt is higher than your shoulders.
  • Keeping your leg bent, push the heel of one foot up toward the ceiling.
  • Lower your knee back to the floor and repeat.
  • Do the same number of repetitions on each leg. 

Make it more challenging: Strap on an ankle weight for a more demanding workout or use a resistance band.


10 Stability ball hip thrust

Targets: Glutes, abs, hamstrings, hip flexors, and lower back.

Equipment: Stability ball

Type: Horizontal

The wobble inherent in stability ball training means your core gets a workout along with your butt when you do this exercise.

  • Lie on your stability ball so the ball supports your shoulders and head. Your shins should be vertical and your knees, hips and shoulders should be aligned.
  • Lower your butt to the floor and then push your hips back up.

Make it more challenging: Hold a weight on your lap for a more demanding workout. 


11 Stability ball leg curl

Targets: Hamstrings, glutes, lower back and abs.

Equipment: Cable machine (or resistance bands)

Type: Horizontal

Also known as supine hip extension/ leg curl (really rolls off the tongue) or SHELC, this stability ball exercise is a butt-kicker.

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight and heels resting on a stability ball.
  • Lift your hips off the floor and simultaneously bend your legs and roll the ball into your butt. At this point your weight should be supported on your feet and shoulders only.
  • Extend your legs and lower your butt back to the floor.  

Make it more challenging: Perform with one leg at a time.


12 Barbell hip thrust

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, groin, and lower back.

Equipment: Barbell

Type: Horizontal

If your glutes are strong enough to require additional overload/weight to challenge them, this is the exercise for you.

  • Sit on the floor with your upper back leaning against a sturdy exercise bench. Hold a barbell across your hips. Bend your legs and place your feet flat on the floor as close to your butt as possible.
  • Push down through your feet and thrust your hips up until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line.
  • Lower your butt back to the floor and repeat. 

13 Cable glute kickback

Targets: Glutes and hamstrings.

Equipment: Cable machine (or resistance bands)

Type: Horizontal

This exercise uses one of the most versatile exercise machines in the gym – the adjustable cable machine.

  • Put an ankle cuff around your lower leg and attach it to a low cable. Turn and face the cable machine and grab the machine for balance.
  • Keeping your leg straight, extend your hip to the rear as far as you can without arching your lower back.
  • Lower the weights and repeat.
  • Do the same number of reps on both legs. 

Variation: Use resistance bands if you don’t have access to a cable machine.


14 Cable pull-through

Targets: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.

Equipment: Cable machine (or resistance band)

Type: Horizontal

The cable pull-through is another cable exercise guaranteed to lift and strengthen even the weakest butt.

  • Fix a rope handle to a low pulley machine and stand astride it. Hold the handle in both hands at around groin-height. Take a couple of steps forward to tension the cable.
  • With slightly bent knees, hinge forward from your hips and reach through your legs.
  • Stand up straight, pulling the handle back though your legs.

Do not allow your lower back to round as this may lead to injury. 


15 Reverse hyper

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and abs.

Equipment: Flat bench

Type: Horizontal

Reverse hypers work the glutes in a slightly different way than the other butt exercises.

  • Lie on your front on an exercise bench with your legs straight and your toes resting on the floor. The edge of the bench should be level with your hips.
  • Grip the edge of the bench with your hands and lift your legs up so they are slightly above the level of your butt.
  • Lower your legs and repeat.

Make it more challenging: Hold a dumbbell between your feet for a more challenging workout. You can also do reverse hypers on a stability ball.


16 Dumbbell/ kettlebell swing

Targets: Glutes + total body exercise.

Equipment: Dumbbell or kettlebell

Type: Horizontal + Vertical

Swings are an explosive and fast-paced full body exercise that will torch calories and light up your glutes.

  • Hold your weight in both hands and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward from your hips to lower the weight between your knees.
  • Drive your hips foreword and use this momentum to swing the weight up to around head-height.
  • Lower the weight and repeat.

Do not round your lower back as this may lead to injury. 


17 45-degree back extension

Targets: Glutes, lower back, hamstrings, and abs.

Equipment: Roman chair

Type: Horizontal + Vertical

Also known as hyperextensions, this exercise uses a similar movement to Romanian deadlifts and good mornings but without the spinal loading.

  • Position yourself on the back extension machine so your hips are level with the top of the leg pad.
  • Keeping your knees slightly bent, lean down toward the floor as far as your flexibility allows.
  • Push your hips into the pad and lift your upper body until your shoulders, knees and hips form a straight line.

Make it more challenging: Increase the difficulty of this exercise by holding a weight behind your head or across your chest. 


18 Lateral band walk

Targets: Glutes

Equipment: Resistance band

Type: Lateral

This exercise works the outer aspect of your glutes – your gluteus medius and minimus.

  • Loop a short resistance band around your knees.
  • Take steps to the side while forcing your knees apart against the resistance offered by the band, keeping tension on the band throughout. Try to keep your upper body upright and as steady as possible.
  • Keep going until you feel your glutes begin to fatigue. 
  • Switch sides, and step to the other side.

19 Standing side leg raise

Targets: Glutes, outer thighs, and obliques.

Equipment: Resistance bands (optional)

Type: Lateral

A practical exercise you could do almost anywhere, side leg raises (also called hip abduction) target the glutes medius, thus shaping the sides and upper part of the butt.

  • Stand tall, with your toes facing forward and your hands resting on your hips (or hold onto the back of a chair for balance).
  • Engage your core and keeping your upper body as steady as possible, lift your right leg up to the side.
  • Pause briefly at the top, then lower leg back to staring position.
  • Complete all reps on one side, then change sides.

Make it more challenging: Loop a resistance band around your legs, strep on an ankle weight, or use a cable machine.


20 Side-lying leg raise

Targets: Glutes, outer thighs, abs and obliques.

Equipment: Mat

Type: Lateral

Similar to the standing leg raise, this floor exercise (also called side-lying hip abductions) also targets the sides of your glute muscles.

  • Lie on your side, with your legs straight and on top of each other. Rest your head on your bottom arm, and place your top hand on the floor in front of your chest to help keep you steady.
  • Bracing your abs and keeping your upper body steady, slowly raise your upper leg (until about 45 degrees).
  • Pause, then lower your leg to the starting position.

Make it more challenging: Add an ankle weight or resistance bands.


21 Fire hydrant

Targets: Glutes, outer thighs, hip flexors, groin, and lower back.

Equipment: Mat

Type: Lateral

This exercise with more than one funny name (it also goes by the name dirty dog), works your glutes, hips, and core, and is ideal for doing at home.

  • Kneel on all fours so your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly below your hips.
  • Keeping your knee bent, lift one leg up and out to the side.
  • Lower your leg and repeat.
  • Do the same number of repetitions on each leg. 

Make it more challenging: Place a dumbbell in the crease behind the knee of your working leg (as shown above) or wrap a resistance band around your legs above your knees.


22 Clam shell

Targets: Glutes, outer thighs, and hip flexors.

Equipment: Resistance bands (optional)

Type: Lateral

This Pilates move especially works your gluteus medius, and also strengthens your hips and thighs.

  • Lie on your side with your hips and knees bent 45 degrees and one leg on top of the other. Rest your head on your bottom arm.
  • Keeping your feet together, your core engaged, and without moving your upper body, raise your top knee as high as you can.
  • Pause, then return to the starting position.
  • Perform reps on one side, then switch sides.

23 Hill sprints

Not an obvious butt-blaster but sprinting uphill requires a lot of powerful hip extensions and that makes it an effective glute exercise.

Choose a short, steep hill and really focus on driving your legs back. Lean into the hill to maximize butt involvement. As well as being a great butt exercise, hill sprints are a supreme fat burner. 

Read more: Cardio butt workout to strengthen your glutes


At-Home, Butt Workout

All you need for this butt workout is a pair of dumbbells (one harder exercise variation requires resistance bands). Use sufficiently heavy weights so that you can only complete the desired number of reps.

Spend five to ten-minutes warming up with some light cardio and dynamic stretches before starting this or any other workout.

The Workout

You can perform this workout in one of two ways.

Classic strength workout: Perform all the sets (2 to 4 sets) of the first exercise, resting between sets. Then perform all the sets of the second exercise, and so on. Your glute muscles will experience greater localized fatigue with this workout, building greater size and strength.7

Circuit-style workout: Complete one set of each exercise, back-to-back like a circuit with little rest. Then repeat the sequence of seven exercises again. Do this sequence 2 to 4 times. This workout gets your heart rate up, has cardiovascular benefits, is completed faster, and burns more calories.8

Perform the exercises in the order listed.

  1. Supine hip bridges
  2. Sumo deadlifts
  3. Rear Lunges
  4. Kneeling hip extensions
  5. Side lying leg raises
  6. Dumbbell/ kettlebell swings 
  7. Reaching lunges

Complete 12 to 20 repetitions of each exercise, per set. 

The classic strength workout is best for maximum glute building and strengthening. However, the circuit-style workout burns more calories and is completed faster. Choose the workout that best suits your goals.

///

Here’s how to perform each of the exercises.

1 Glute Bridge

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings

  • Lie face up on the floor, with your legs bent and feet flat on the ground, with your heels close to your butt.
  • Push your heels down into the ground and drive your hips up so that your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Squeeze your glutes and keep those abs engaged so you don’t overextend your back.
  • Lower your hips back to the ground and repeat. 

Make it more difficult: Use just one leg at a time or add weight across your hips.


2 Sumo Deadlifts

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back

  • Place a kettlebell or dumbbell on its end between your feet and stand with your feet about one and a half shoulder-widths apart.
  • Bend your knees a little and lean forward from your hips to grasp the weight.
  • Keep your shins more or less vertical and your lower back arched. Push your knees outward.
  • Drive your hips forward and stand up straight.
  • Lower the weight back to the floor and repeat. 

Make it more difficult: Make this exercise even more glute-centric by standing on weight plates. This will increase the range of motion at your hips. 


3 Rear Lunges

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps

  • Stand with your feet together and your hands by your sides.
  • Take a large step to the rear, bend your legs and lower your rear knee to within an inch of the floor.
  • Step back up and in to the starting position and repeat on the opposite leg.
  • Continue to alternate legs for the duration of your set. 

Make it more difficult: Make this exercise more demanding by lunging off a four to six-inch platform (deficit reverse lunges) or holding weights in your hands. 


4 Donkey Kicks

Targets: Glutes

  • Kneel on all fours so your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips.
  • Keeping the angle of your leg constant, push the heel of your left foot up toward the ceiling without extending or twisting your spine.
  • Lower your knee back to the floor and repeat.
  • On completion, do the same number of repetitions on your other leg. 

Make it more difficult: Wear ankle weights or use a resistance band to make this exercise more demanding. 


5 Side-Lying Leg Raises

Targets: Glutes

  • Lie on your side with your hips square and your head resting on your outstretched arm. Place your uppermost arm on the floor in front of you for stability.
  • Lift your top leg up to around shoulder-height and then lower it back down.
  • Do not let your leg rest between reps but only touch down lightly.
  • On completion of your set, roll over and repeat. 

Make it more difficult: Wear ankle weights to make this exercise more demanding or place a short resistance band around your knees. 


6 Dumbbell/ Kettlebell Swings

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbell (or kettlebell) in both hands.
  • Bend your knees a little, push your hips back and lean forward so the weight is between your knees – do not round your lower back.
  • Drive your hips forward and swing the weight forward and up to around eye-height.
  • Swing the weight back down and repeat. 

Imagine you are doing a standing long jump rather than swinging a weight forward. This will ensure you use your glutes to maximum affect. 


7 Reaching Lunges

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps

The extra hip flexion from reaching forward, really works your glutes.

  • Stand with your feet together and your hands by your sides.
  • Step forward, bend your legs and lower your rear knee to the floor.
  • As you descend, simultaneously lean forward from your hips and touch the ground on either side of your leading foot.
  • Stand back up and repeat. 

Make sure you lean from the hips rather than rounding your lower back when performing this exercise.

Make it more difficult: Make this exercise more demanding by holding dumbbells. 

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