Training the glutes isn't just for those who are looking to turn heads in their favorite pair of pants. A well-rounded backside is a characteristic of a strong, functional human.
The glutes are responsible for keeping us upright and stabilizing the pelvis and lower leg. The glutes also play a major role in walking, running, jumping, and many other athletic movements.
Whether you’re trying to build that bubble butt, be the strongest in the gym, or simply move better … you've gotta grow those glutes!
Let’s take a look at the anatomy of the glutes, a few of the best glute exercises to grow them, and some pointers on how to train your glutes the right way.
What Are The Glutes?
Most people think the glutes are your butt. Well, they are right. However, it’s not just one muscle. Your glutes are actually a group of muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
Each of these muscles work together to extend, abduct (move away from the midline of your body), and rotate your legs externally and internally. The glutes are the main driving force for movements like sprinting, jumping, lateral movement, and changing directions.
Here’s what each of the muscles in your glutes are specifically responsible for:
Gluteus Maximus - Hip extension, external rotation, and abduction (moving away from the midline of your body).
Gluteus Minimus - Hip abduction (moving away from the midline of your body), internal rotation, and stabilization of the pelvis.
Gluteus Medius - Hip abduction (moving away from the midline of your body), internal rotation, and stabilization of the pelvis.
The gluteus maximus is the largest of the 3 muscles and sits on top of the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. It’s actually one of the largest, most powerful muscles in the human body and makes up the majority of your butt. Your gluteus maximus is an important part of overall movement and posture.
Now, just because the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are smaller and lay beneath your gluteus maximus doesn't mean that they lack importance.
The gluteus medius and minimus play major roles in the stabilization of your pelvis, rotation of your legs, and lateral movements. Plus, they can really help “shape” the backside, if you know what I mean.
I know that was a lot of information, but the big takeaway is that the main actions of the glutes are hip extension, abduction, rotation, and stabilization of the pelvis.
First and foremost, if you want to add some more bounce to the ounce … you gotta focus on your glute maximus and movements that extend your hips. Now that we have the anatomy lesson out of the way, let's take a look at some of the best glute exercises you can do.
The Best Glute Exercises For Bigger Glutes
So … which exercises hit the glutes the most? Well, here are 8 glute exercises that you should for sure be doing.
Before we start though, it’s important to note that every person has different anatomy. What this means is that the leverages are different for each person. The exercises that work best for one person may not work best for another.
Work each of these into your routine as you go and see which exercises target your glutes the best for you!
1. Hip Thrust
The hip thrust is one of the best exercises for isolating the gluteus maximus and loading them heavy without putting stress on your lower back.
Sit on the floor, so your upper back is resting against a sturdy pad, bench, or box. Next, bend your legs and place your feet flat on the ground. Rest and hold a barbell across your hips, wrapping it with a bar pad or towel if it's uncomfortable.
From here, drive your hips into the bar and toward the ceiling. Use your glutes to generate the movement and squeeze them at the top. At the top of the rep, your shoulders, hips, and knees should be inline.
Lower your butt back to the ground and repeat this movement for reps.
2. Barbell Back Squat
The back squat is a lower body movement that targets the glutes through a large range of motion. The back squat also has a ton of carryover to everyday life. This makes it a great exercise for building muscle mass and strength in your glutes and lower body.
Start by setting up in a squat rack with the barbell across your upper back. Un-rack the barbell and take a few steps back from the rack. Set up a stance that is shoulder-width or slightly wider apart, with your toes angled outward slightly. This is your starting position for the squat.
Take a deep breath and brace your core. Next, push your hips back, while simultaneously bending at your knees to descend into a squat. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, if not past that point ... then pause.
Drive through your legs and extend your hips to stand up with the bar, exhaling at the top. Repeat this movement for reps.
3. Sumo Deadlift
Both the conventional deadlift and the sumo deadlift will work your glutes and virtually your entire body. The sumo deadlift, however, puts your hips into external rotation which places an emphasis on all your glute muscles.
Step up to a loaded barbell with a wide stance and your toes turned 45 degrees outward. From here, sink into your hips until you can grab the bar with both hands in a narrow grip. Make sure to keep your chest high and core tight throughout this movement!
Take a deep breath in, then push into the floor through your legs and drive your hips forward until your body is fully upright. Exhale at the top and slowly reverse this movement to bring the loaded barbell back to the floor. Repeat this for reps.
4. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian deadlift has a short range of motion, but can be super beneficial for building big and strong glutes. You'll get a great stretch in your hamstrings and glutes which allows for tension throughout the entire movement.
You can even increase the amount of tension on the glutes specifically by anchoring a band behind you and placing it around your waistline.
Grab a barbell with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Stand upright and rest the barbell in front of your thighs. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and create a slight bend in the knees. This is your starting position.
Hinge forward at your hips to push them behind you and lower the weight in front of your legs. Lower the weight as far as you can without rounding your lower back. When you can go no lower, squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward to stand up straight. Repeat this for reps.
You can use dumbbells or kettlebells to perform this exercise as well.
5. Walking Lunges
Walking lunges are a great overall lower body movement that can really fire up your glutes. Walking lunges force you to stabilize unilaterally and target your glutes through a full range of motion.
Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your feet together. Next, take a step forward and plant your foot firmly on the ground. From here, allow your front knee to bend over your toes while your back knee drops straight down to the ground.
Drive through the floor with your front foot as you lift your back leg forward to meet your forward foot in a standing position. Repeat this by alternating between legs for a set number of reps.
Don't forget to give yourself plenty of room to keep lunging forward!
6. Back Extension with Glute Bias
The name "back extension" or "hyperextension" may throw you off a little bit on a list of the best exercises for your glutes. However, I promise you it’s a staple in top-level glute training.
The back extension itself is an amazing exercise for the entire backside of your body. With a few tweaks to the technique, it can be an even better glute builder.
Set up in a 45-degree hyperextension machine or GHD with your feet anchored and torso roughly perpendicular to your legs. Keep your feet rotated slightly outward as well. Your hip crease should be just above the top of the bench/pad.
To emphasize your glutes, round your upper back and maintain that position throughout. Start by hinging forward at your hips slowly to let your upper body fall forward. When you've gone as far as you can comfortably, squeeze your glutes to draw your upper body upward again.
Squeeze your glutes hard at the top of the movement and repeat this movement for reps.
7. High Box Step-Up
Step-ups are a great unilateral lower body exercise. When you increase the box height, you put your gluteus maximus in a stretched position. This makes the high box step-up an incredible glute workout for building muscle in your glutes.
Stand directly in front of a plyometric box or bench that is at or slightly above knee height. Step one foot up to the box/bench, being sure that your whole foot is stable on the box/bench.
Shift your weight onto your working leg as you drive through your heel and engage your glute to step up onto the box. Squeeze your glute as you stand upright and bring your other leg upward to stand on the box/bench.
Reverse this movement by bringing the same leg back to the ground, controlling your body weight with the opposite leg. Bring your other foot back to the floor and repeat this with your opposite leg. Repeat this for reps as you alternate between legs.
8. Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise that has become infamous for how brutal it can be on the legs and glutes.
Set up a knee-high bench or box and grab a pair of dumbbells to hold in each hand. Start by creating a slight bend in your knees and bringing one of your legs behind you to place the top of your foot on the bench or box. Your legs should be spaced enough to allow you to comfortably squat down without placing too much weight on your rear foot.
Bend your legs and lower your rear knee down without touching the ground. Lean forward slightly to maximize glute activation and sink into your hips. From here, drive through your front leg to stand upright. Repeat this for reps before switching legs and going again.
Additional Tips for Training Your Glutes
Other than the exercises themselves, there are a lot of other things you can do to optimize your glute gains. Combine these principles with the exercises I just gave you, and results will be right around the corner!
Stick to the Basics
Social media is an economy based on attention. Everyone wants to grab more attention and eyeballs by touting their "new top-secret glute burner." The truth is, the most effective glute exercises have been around for ages and are popular for a reason: they work.
Not that all of them are bad ... but in the world of strength training and muscle building, the tried-and-true exercises are generally the way to go. Compound movements, like squats and deadlifts, have been staples for anyone in pursuit of filling out their jeans.
Don't get too fancy!
Play With Your Rep Ranges
Your glutes are made up of both type 1 (slow-twitch) and type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers. These different fibers respond differently to loads and rep ranges.
Slow-twitch fibers respond best to high reps and moderate to low loads, while fast-twitch fibers respond best to lower reps and higher loads. To maximize your glute training, use a broad range of reps and loads to fully train your glutes.
Don’t Skip Out On Single Leg Training
Single-leg, or unilateral training, forces you to stabilize a bit more than most bilateral exercises. If you remember from the brief anatomy lesson earlier, the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are major stabilizers of the pelvis.
Unilateral work is great at forcing those stabilizers to fire up. On top of that, unilateral training can help create a well-balanced physique and improve muscle imbalances. This doesn't just go for your glutes either!
Dial in Your Nutrition
We've all heard “You'll never outwork a bad diet.” This isn't just true for fat loss ... this is also extremely important when it comes to packing on muscle.
If your goal is to build bigger and stronger glutes, you need to take your nutrition seriously. I would personally argue that your nutrition accounts for 70-80% of the results you see from your training.
Looking For More Glute Exercises or Help?
If you're working to build a backside worth writing a song about, becoming a better athlete, or simply feeling better and moving better ... you have to try these 8 glute exercises.
If you're looking for more glute exercises, I've got you covered there too! My recommendation is to utilize a tool like the 1st Phorm App.
With the 1st Phorm App, you don't just get exercises and workout programs to help you reach your health and fitness goals ... you also get professional help with your nutrition. That's right, you get your very own certified advisor who is there to help you, teach you, and hold you accountable to earning the best results possible.
I say “earning” because it’s no magic pill or formula. Your goals are still going to take work … and a lot of it. But I know you’ve got this, and we’re here to help. Just download the 1st Phorm App and get started working toward your health and fitness goals today!
If you need any more help, or have questions, don't hesitate to reach out to us. Give our team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stphorm.com anytime!ABOUT THE AUTHOR