As a long-time fitness enthusiast deeply passionate about at-home exercise and the transformative power of calisthenics, I’ve dedicated years to exploring and mastering the most effective exercises for every muscle group.
Today, I’m pumped to share my insights on a topic that resonates with many: sculpting powerful, well-defined glutes. For a long time, glutes and posterior chain muscles were a weak point for you, but with long-term targeting exercise routines, I was able to turn them into one of the highlights of my physique.
Whether you’re aiming for strength, mass, or simply looking to enhance your physique, the journey to achieving your best lower-body physique begins with understanding the best glute exercises tailored for everyone. This includes variations for women and men, exercises suited for mass, and options for those limited to home workouts.
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Best Glute Exercises for Everyone
Well-defined glutes not only look great; they’re crucial for overall body strength, posture, and athletic performance. Regularly practicing the best glute workouts offers numerous benefits, from improved support for your back to enhanced power in your legs.
My journey in fitness and calisthenics has taught me the undeniable value of incorporating targeted glute exercises into my workout regimen. The benefits are far-reaching, from bolstering lower back support to amplifying the power and stability of your legs. Let’s dive deeper into the exercises that stand as the pillars of effective glute training.
Squats: The Foundation of Glute Development
Squats are universally loved for their effectiveness in building lower body strength. They primarily engage the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, providing a solid foundation for muscular growth and endurance. To elevate the standard squat, consider integrating these variations into your routine:
- Sumo Squats: With a wider stance, sumo squats place more emphasis on the glutes and inner thighs. This variation challenges your balance and flexibility, offering a unique twist to the conventional squat.
- Goblet Squats: Holding a kettlebell or dumbbell close to your chest during a squat not only adds weight but also improves your squatting posture. Goblet squats are fantastic for beginners and seasoned athletes alike, focusing on the glutes and quads.
- Jump Squats: Incorporating a plyometric element, jump squats are a high-intensity variation that boosts cardiovascular health and explosive power. They’re particularly effective for engaging the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your glutes, leading to improved muscular power.
Hip Thrusts: Targeted Glute Activation
Hip thrusts stand out for their exceptional ability to isolate and engage the glutes. Whether performed with or without weights, they’re a must-have in your glute-building arsenal. For optimal effectiveness, pay close attention to your form:
- Positioning: Your shoulders should rest on a bench or stable surface, with feet planted firmly on the ground. This setup ensures maximum engagement of the glutes throughout the exercise.
- Execution: Focus on driving through your heels and thrusting your hips upward, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your knees at the top of the movement. Squeezing your glutes at the peak of the thrust is key to activating those muscle fibers fully.
Deadlifts: Strengthening the Posterior Chain
Deadlifts and deadlift alternatives are revered for their comprehensive engagement of the posterior chain, which includes the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and core. Both conventional and sumo deadlifts offer unique benefits:
- Conventional Deadlifts: This classic variation emphasizes the lower back and hamstrings, with significant engagement of the glutes as you lift the weight from the ground. It’s essential for developing overall posterior chain strength.
- Sumo Deadlifts: By adopting a wider stance, sumo deadlifts shift the focus more towards the glutes and inner thighs. This variation can be particularly beneficial for those looking to target their glutes more directly.
Remember, consistency and proper form are key to reaping the full benefits of these exercises. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced athlete, integrating these foundational glute exercises into your routine will pave the way for a stronger, more resilient body.
Best Glute Exercises for Women and Men
The journey to sculpting strong, well-defined glutes doesn’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. While certain foundational exercises prove beneficial across the board, fine-tuning your regimen to incorporate gender-specific variations can significantly enhance your results, catering to distinct aesthetic and functional goals.
For Women: Shaping and Toning
Many women aim for a balanced, rounded posterior that complements their natural figure, along with toned thighs that signify strength without bulkiness. Achieving this involves focusing on exercises that target the glutes from various angles while also engaging the surrounding muscles for a cohesive lower body workout.
- Hip Thrusts: A staple for glute development, hip thrusts, especially when performed with bands or weights, can isolate and build the glute muscles, contributing to that sought-after round shape.
- Cable Kickbacks: This exercise specifically targets the gluteus maximus, providing the lift and definition essential for a rounded butt. Its versatility allows for resistance adjustments, making it suitable for progressive overload.
- Bulgarian Split Squats: By elevating one leg, this squat variation not only intensifies the work on the glutes but also engages the thighs and core, promoting balance and coordination. It’s excellent for sculpting and strengthening the lower body with a focus on aesthetics.
Incorporating these exercises into your routine, perhaps with higher repetitions and moderate weights, can lead to a sculpted, toned appearance that many women desire, without sacrificing strength or functionality.
For Men: Building Mass and Strength
Men often prioritize increasing muscle mass and strength in their lower bodies, aiming for a powerful, athletic build. This requires engaging in workouts that stimulate muscle growth and endurance through heavier lifting and compound movements.
- Heavy Squats: The quintessential lower-body exercise, squats target not just the glutes but also the quads, hamstrings, and core. Variations like the back squat and front squat allow for significant weight to be used, encouraging mass and strength development.
- Heavy Deadlifts: Deadlifts are among the best glute exercises for men as they are critical for building a strong posterior chain, including hamstrings and lower back. They support functional strength that translates into everyday activities.
- Walking Lunges: Whether performed with body weight or added resistance, lunges are excellent for engaging the entire lower body. They can be tailored to focus more on the glutes, especially through variations like the walking lunge or reverse lunge, promoting muscular hypertrophy and symmetry.
If you’re looking for the best butt exercises for men, focus on these compound movements with progressive overload in mind—gradually increasing the weight and intensity—to see significant gains in both size and power.
Tailoring your glute exercises based on gender considerations can lead to more personalized and effective outcomes. Women looking to shape and tone may find success with targeted movements that emphasize muscle definition and aesthetics. In contrast, men aiming for mass and strength could benefit from heavier, compound exercises that build foundational power.
Best Glute Exercises for Mass
Building mass in the glutes, or any muscle group for that matter, is a nuanced process that extends beyond the foundational trifecta of squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts.
While these exercises form the cornerstone of effective hypertrophy training, diversifying your workout regimen is key to achieving comprehensive muscle development and avoiding plateaus. Here’s a deeper dive into additional exercises and techniques that can significantly contribute to your mass-building goals, emphasizing progressive overload and volume.
1. Step-Ups with Dumbbells
Step-ups, especially when performed with dumbbells, add a significant load to your glutes and the entire lower body.
This exercise not only aids in building mass but also improves balance and unilateral strength, which is crucial for overall muscle symmetry and functionality. By increasing the height of the step or the weight of the dumbbells over time, you can ensure continuous progress.
2. Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)
Although traditional deadlifts are a staple for glute development, Romanian Deadlifts offer a unique variation that places more emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes.
The movement involves a hinge at the hips with less bend in the knees than conventional deadlifts, which allows for a deeper stretch and engagement of the glute muscles. Gradually increasing the weight used in RDLs can significantly contribute to hypertrophy.
3. Glute Bridge Variations
Beyond the standard glute bridge, incorporating single-leg glute bridges or elevated glute bridges (feet or shoulders elevated) can introduce new challenges to your workout.
These variations not only isolate the glutes further but also engage the core and lower back, contributing to a stronger posterior chain. Using resistance bands or adding weights can enhance the intensity of these exercises.
4. Weighted Lunges
Lunges are a versatile exercise that target the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. By adding weights, either with dumbbells, a barbell, or a kettlebell, you can significantly increase the challenge to your muscles.
Variations like reverse lunges, lateral lunges, and walking lunges can help target the glutes from different angles, promoting balanced muscle growth.
5. Cable Pull Throughs
Cable pull-throughs are excellent for targeting the posterior chain, including the glutes, with a focus on hip extension.
This exercise helps in reinforcing the hinge movement pattern, which is essential for glute activation and development. Adjusting the cable weight allows for consistent progression in strength and muscle size.
6. Bulgarian Split Squats with Weights
This exercise takes the traditional squat to a new level by introducing an element of balance and unilateral training, which can highlight and correct imbalances between the legs. Holding dumbbells or placing a barbell on your back while performing Bulgarian split squats can increase the intensity, making it an effective exercise for building glute mass.
Progressive Overload and Volume
Achieving glute hypertrophy—the physiological process that results in muscle growth and synthesis—involves more than just adding exercises to your routine; it’s about how you perform them.
Progressive overload, the gradual increase of stress placed upon the muscles, can be achieved by increasing the weight, the volume (reps and sets), or the intensity of the exercises. Incorporating a mix of these strategies over time ensures continuous growth and adaptation of the glutes.
Focusing on volume, aim for higher reps and sets with moderate to heavy weights, ensuring you’re pushing your muscles to fatigue within a range conducive to hypertrophy, typically 8-12 reps for 3-5 sets. Rest periods should allow for recovery but not complete relaxation, usually between 60 to 120 seconds, to maintain the intensity of the workout.
By expanding your workout repertoire with these exercises and adhering to principles of progressive overload and volume, you can accelerate your progress towards building glute mass. Remember, consistency, proper nutrition, and adequate recovery are equally important to support your hypertrophy goals.
Best Glute Exercises at Home
Not everyone has access to a gym, but that shouldn’t stop you from working on your glutes. Here are some of the best glute exercises at home:
1. Fire Hydrants
Fire hydrants are excellent for isolating and targeting the side glutes (gluteus medius and minimus). This exercise not only helps in sculpting a rounder butt but also improves hip mobility and stability.
To perform a fire hydrant, get on all fours, keeping your knees hip-width apart. Lift one leg to the side, keeping the knee bent at a 90-degree angle, then lower it back to the starting position. For added resistance, loop a resistance band around your thighs just above your knees.
2. Donkey Kicks
Another fantastic exercise to activate the glutes is the donkey kick. Starting on all fours, flex one foot and lift that leg behind you, keeping your knee bent, as if you’re trying to push the ceiling with your heel.
This movement focuses on the gluteus maximus and helps in achieving that lifted and toned rear look. Incorporate resistance bands or ankle weights to increase the challenge as you progress.
3. Bulgarian Split Squats
Even without weights, Bulgarian split squats are highly effective for targeting the glutes, as well as the hamstrings and quads.
Place one foot behind you on a chair or bench and squat down through the leg that’s planted on the ground, ensuring your knee doesn’t go beyond your toes. This exercise not only builds muscle but also tests your balance and coordination, making it a multifaceted addition to your home workout.
4. Curtsy Lunges
Curtsy lunges add a dynamic twist to traditional lunges, focusing more on the gluteus medius and helping to sculpt the outer thighs and glutes for that desired round shape.
To perform a curtsy lunge, step one leg behind you at an angle, as if performing a curtsy, then lunge, keeping your front knee aligned with your toes. This variation challenges your muscles in a new way, promoting balanced muscle development.
5. Squat Pulses
Squat pulses are a variation of the traditional squat that involves staying in the squat position and making small, pulsing movements.
This constant tension increases the time your muscles are under strain, which can lead to improved muscle endurance and growth in the glute area. It’s an excellent exercise for building a round butt, and it’s a simple yet effective way to intensify your squat routine without needing any equipment.
6. Bear Plank Leg Lifts
Combining core stabilization with glute activation, bear plank leg lifts are performed by getting into a bear plank position—on all fours with knees slightly off the ground.
From this position, extend one leg straight back and up, focusing on squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement. This exercise not only targets the glutes but also engages the entire core, making it a powerful full-body movement.
Glute and Quad Workout
Achieving a balanced and powerful lower body requires a strategic approach that targets both the glutes and quadriceps. These two muscle groups are fundamental for a range of movements, including walking, running, and jumping, and they play a pivotal role in stabilizing the hips and knees.
To create a well-rounded glute and quad workout, incorporate a variety of exercises that challenge these muscles from different angles and through various ranges of motion. Here’s how to expand your routine to ensure comprehensive lower-body development.
Squat Variations for Glutes and Quads
- Box Squats: By squatting to a box or bench, you ensure consistent depth while also focusing on the activation of the glutes and quads as you push back to a standing position. This variation can help improve your regular squat technique and depth.
- Pistol Squats: This advanced single-leg squat variation not only targets the quads and glutes but also challenges your balance and coordination, making it a great functional exercise for lower body strength.
Lunges for Dynamic Lower Body Work
- Walking Lunges: Incorporate walking lunges to dynamically engage the quads and glutes while also improving balance and functional movement. This variation allows for a continuous movement pattern, increasing the cardiovascular component of your workout.
- Bulgarian Split Squats: By elevating the rear foot on a bench or step, you increase the load on the front leg, intensely targeting the quads and glutes. This exercise also tests your balance and stability, providing a comprehensive lower body challenge.
Compound Movements for Maximum Engagement
- Deadlift Variations: Incorporating different types of deadlifts, such as the Romanian deadlift, targets the glutes and hamstrings while engaging the quads during the lift. This variation emphasizes the posterior chain but still benefits quad development.
- Thrusters: A combination of a front squat and overhead press, thrusters are a potent compound exercise that targets the quads and glutes while also engaging the upper body and core, making it a full-body movement.
Plyometric Exercises for Power
- Jump Squats: Adding an explosive element to the traditional squat, jump squats increase power and strength in the quads and glutes. This exercise also improves your explosive power, beneficial for sports and athletic activities.
- Box Jumps: By performing box jumps, you engage both the quads and glutes in an explosive movement that improves power, coordination, and agility. Start with a lower height and progressively increase as you become more comfortable and stronger.
Stabilization and Mobility Work
- Goblet Squats: Holding a kettlebell or dumbbell close to your chest during squats not only adds weight but improves your squatting posture and depth, engaging the quads and glutes more effectively.
- Step-Ups: Using a bench or step, step-ups target the quads and glutes while also involving the core and improving balance. This exercise mimics everyday movements, making it functional and practical.
Closing Thoughts: Mastering the Best Glute Exercises
Incorporating the best glute exercises into your routine is not just about achieving the best booty; it’s about building a foundation of strength that benefits your entire body and enhances your performance in a wide range of activities.
By incorporating squats, hip thrusts, and deadlifts into your workout regimen, you’re not only working towards a more sculpted posterior but also improving your posture, athletic performance, and protection against injuries.
Whether at home or in the gym, regardless of your gender, focusing on your glutes can lead to significant improvements in your physical health and confidence. Remember, consistency is key, and by integrating these exercises into your regular fitness routine, you’ll be on your way to stronger, more defined glutes.
For a more in-depth and personalized tutorial on building the glutes of your dreams, consider booking a free 30-minute consultation with one of Gymless’ qualified personal trainers.
Disclaimer: Before you jump into any new workout routine, like the one discussed above, first consult with your doctor or healthcare expert. Especially if you have any health issues, are pregnant, just had surgery, or haven’t been very active lately, getting a thumbs up from a professional can help you avoid injuries. Remember, the content on this blog is for general info and is not meant to replace advice from your physician.
Liam Hunt, M.A., is a writer and fitness enthusiast with a background in endurance cycling as well as competitive ice hockey, CrossFit, powerlifting, and bodybuilding. He is certified in Exercise Theory and Resistance Training from the Nova Scotia Fitness Association (NFSA).