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by Katie Hoehn September 03, 2022 7 min read

What do you think the biggest muscle group in your body is? Take some time to really think about it.

Is it your chest muscles? No.

Is it your quad muscles? Wrong again.

It's your glutes! In fact, not only are the muscles in your glutes the largest, but they are also some of the most important muscles in your body.

That's great news for all the ladies out there who love training glutes ... keep it up! For everybody else, you may want to consider training your glutes more often.

Whatever your reason may be for wanting to learn some new glute exercises ... just know that you are doing much more for your overall health than you may think by training glutes.

In this article, I'll explain everything you need to know about your glutes and 5 of my favorite exercises to help you build a big, strong butt.

Glute Function and Anatomy

Like I mentioned above, your glutes are the biggest muscles in your body. On top of that, they are involved in almost EVERY movement you perform day to day.

Basically, anytime you sit, stand, walk, squat, bend over, climb, and so much more ... you are using your glutes.

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Why? Because the glutes are the major mover of your posterior chain (aka all the muscles on the backside of your body). Their main job is to help your hips extend and rotate.

Your glutes are actually made up of 3 different muscles:

• Gluteus maximus
• Gluteus medius
• Gluteus minimus

Gluteus Maximus

When most people hear the word glute or butt, they are likely thinking of the gluteus maximus. The gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in your glutes and is what gives your butt its shape. This muscle originates at the back of your pelvis and is attached to the top of your femur.

Gluteus Medius

The gluteus medius is another huge muscle in your glutes too. If you were to put your hands on your hips, your gluteus medius starts right about where you would rest your thumbs. Similar to the gluteus maximus, the gluteus minimus is attached at your femur and pelvis. This muscle helps abduct your leg away from the midline of the body. It also helps stabilize your legs and pelvis when you walk or run.

Gluteus Minimus

The smallest of the muscles, the gluteus medius, sits right behind the gluteus medius. Its insertion points are in the same spots as the gluteus medius, as well as at the top of the femur at the hip joint. It connects in front of where the medius connects. Because of this, it plays a role in supporting the stability of your pelvis. The gluteus medius and minimus work together to also help your walking pattern.

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Like I said earlier … Your glutes serve a purpose. Not only do they help support your daily movement and posture, but they are also responsible for explosive movements in training.

Strengthening your glutes will improve foundational movements like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses.

Warm Up: Glute Activation

Just like any other time you workout, you will want to make sure you start with a proper warm up. When we sit for long periods of time, the muscles along the posterior chain are relaxed.

This can cause the hip flexors to tighten and pull your upper body forward. This is one of the biggest culprits of bad posture.

When it comes to exercising the glutes and getting a full range of motion, it's helpful to do some activation exercises. This allows you to loosen the hip flexors and activate your glutes. That way, other muscles, like your quadriceps, don’t overpower any movements during training.

Complete 10-20 reps of each of these activation exercises. Do 2 sets for each of these exercises...

Side Lying Hip Extension (Leg lift)

1. Lay on your side with a neutral spine. Keep your hips, knees and legs in a straight line.
2. Bend your bottom leg back for stability, like a kickstand on a bike.
3. Keeping it as straight as possible, raise your top leg up about 45 degrees and slowly lower it back down.
4. Complete your reps on one side, then flip to the other side and repeat.

Clamshells

1. Lay on your side with your legs stacked and knees bent at 45-degree angles. Your feet should stay glued together.
2. Use your top arm for support and rest your head on your lower arm. Be sure that your hips are stacked on top of one another.
3. Keeping your feet together and glued to the floor, slowly raise your top knee towards the ceiling. Your hips should open up like a clamshell. You should feel like you're sitting criss-cross "applesauce" on your side.
4. With both feet still together, slowly lower your knee back to lay on top of your other knee.
5. Repeat this for reps on both sides of your body.

Donkey Kicks

1. Start in the tabletop position on all 4's. Your hands should be placed under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure to keep your core tight and your spine neutral throughout the movement.
2. Shift a little bit of weight to your right side as you kick your left leg behind you and towards the ceiling. Make sure this movement is slow and controlled and you have a 90 degree bend in your knee.
3. Squeeze your left glute as you kick your leg back as far as you can.
4. Return your left leg to its starting position and repeat this process by alternating sides for reps.

Exercises

Now it’s time to get to work! You can mix these exercises in with your current routine or choose 3-4 from below and complete 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps.

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Barbell Hip Press

We'll start with my favorite: barbell hip presses! Many of you may know of these as "hip thrusters". For this exercise, you'll need a barbell.

1. Rest your upper back on a bench and sit on the ground with your legs extended. Your barbell should have some weight on either side, and be placed directly in front of your feet.
2. Grab the barbell and roll it over your legs until it meets your hips.
3. With the barbell at your hips, drive your knees up, and place your feet flat on the ground. You should still be in a seated position with your back on the bench.
4. From here, grab hold of the barbell directly outside of your hips. Thrust the barbell towards the ceiling with your hips, bringing them off the ground. Your upper back should still be rested on the bench.
5. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to get the barbell to the top of the movement. Your body should form a natural bridge.
6. Slowly bring your hips and the barbell back to the floor while keeping your back on the bench and your feet planted in place.

Goblet Squat

For this exercise, you'll want to grab a dumbbell. I always recommend starting lighter and slowly increasing your weight from there.

Make sure to keep your chest and torso upright throughout the whole movement.

1. Grab the head of the dumbbell with both hands. Your palms should be facing upwards to support the head, and your fingers should wrap around it. Bring the dumbbell close to your body and at chest height.
2. Place your feet shoulder width apart and descend into a full squat. Make sure to keep your elbows in between your knees.
3. Squeeze your glutes and push through your heels to return to a standing position.
4. Repeat this for reps.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

This is another one of my favorites because it's super simple and effective.

Before you start with this exercise, make sure to keep your back flat and spine neutral the whole time. If you feel a lot of stress in your lower back, you may need to lower the weight or adjust your form.

1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and relax your arms to let the weight naturally rest on your quads/hips.
2. Pull your shoulders down and back to engage your upper back. You should be able to feel your lats and upper-back squeeze.
3. From here, and with a slight bend in your knees, slowly lean your body forward while pushing your hips behind you. At the same time, lower the dumbbells along the front-side of your legs. If you're doing it correctly, it should feel like you're stretching your hamstrings (because you are).
4. When you can no longer stretch your hamstrings and the dumbbells make it to mid-shin height ... start drawing your hips back in, dragging the dumbbells back up, and raising your body back to an upright position.
5. Repeat this for reps.

Lateral Lunge

1. Stand upright and let your arms fall to your sides with a dumbbell in each hand.
2. Step out to one side to widen your stance and slowly lower your hips to the ground, while keeping your opposite leg straight.
3. When you can't lower any further, push through your bent leg, squeezing your glutes to return to your widened stance.
4. From here, bring your leg back inwards to return to a normal stance.
5. Repeat this for reps, alternating between each side of your body.

Curtsy Lunge

1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart holding dumbbells in each hand. Let your arms rest at your sides.
2. Shift your weight to your right foot, then bring your left leg back to place your left foot directly behind your right foot.
3. Slowly begin to lower your hips and bend your right knee to get into a lunge. Keep your chest upright throughout the lunge.
4. Pushing through your right heel, lift yourself out of the lunge and return back to your original stance.
5. Repeat this for reps, alternating between each leg.

Stretch It Out

As soon as you're done with your workout, and any workout for that matter ... make sure to stretch!

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Hitting some stretches after you're done training can help reduce your risk of injury and maintain mobility. My favorite stretches include a seated figure-four stretch, prone knee hugs and pigeon pose.

Plus, if you're really trying to strengthen or grow your glutes ... staying consistent with mobility work can help you with achieving an increased range of motion through a lot of these exercises!

It's Not All About Exercise

Most people think that you build muscle when you workout. The truth is, it's the exact opposite! These glute exercises aren't actually building muscle in your glutes ... they are breaking down muscle in your glutes.

It's what you're doing with the other 23 hours of your day that matters most for building muscle. You have to give your body the nutrition, and proper rest it needs in order to repair the muscle, and build new muscle.

If you're just getting started, hitting a plateau, or just struggling to see results in general ... Reach out to us! Our full staff of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches is always happy to help anyway possible. For more resources to help you earn results and maintain them long term, download the 1st Phorm App!

Inside the app you'll get access to 1 on 1 coaching, workout plans catered to your goals, nutrition tracking and advice, and so much more! 

Katie Hoehn
Katie Hoehn

Katie Hoehn is a Registered Dietitian, and MyTransPHORMation Advisor at 1st Phorm.