9 min read

Glute Exercises to Stand Up and Cheer For!

A solid set of glutes supports your body in crucial ways. Not only will it help you bring your A-game to the squat rack, but having strong glutes improves your posture, eases back and knee pain, and helps your body move comfortably and efficiently, all while kicking other muscle groups into gear and looking great in the process. We’ll show you what your glutes can do, why it’s so important to include glute exercises in your routine, and give some great tips for movements you can do both in the gym and at home!

Glutes: What’s Behind a Great Behind?

Did you know that the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle by volume in the body? Your glutes are not made for just sitting, either! Our butt muscles enable us to walk upright and help us stand up or jump from a seated position. And that’s not all by a long shot! But first, let’s take a closer look at how your butt is built.

The butt is made up of three muscles. The (large) gluteus maximus, the (medium) gluteus medius, and the (small) gluteus minimus. You can see the gluteus maximus when you stand sideways in front of a mirror. When viewed in profile, it curves outward and forms the largest part of the butt. The medius is almost completely underneath the gluteus maximus, and the gluteus minimus, in turn, is under the medius.

The gluteus maximus is mostly responsible for hip extension and stabilizing the thigh in extension and external rotation. It also keeps your pelvis from tilting forward. The gluteus medius, along with the small gluteal muscle, is primarily involved in abduction, or spreading your legs outward. The small gluteal muscles are also essential when walking. For example, they keep your pelvis from collapsing into your lifted leg.

As you can see, your butt muscles have many important tasks. So make sure you get enough exercise and supply your butt, just like any other muscle group, with enough protein with a balanced diet. If you’re on the go, you can always reach for one of our Protein Bars. They’re an ideal protein supplement to keep you going when you’re on the move.

A Cookie Dough flavored Protein Bar sits on a speckled gray plate on a green background. There are a few chocolate chip cookies sitting next to it.
©foodspring

Why Is It So Important to Have a Strong Butt?

Everyone benefits from working their glutes. Ever heard the expression “lazy butt”? Well, there’s actually some truth to it. Sitting in front of the computer or TV all day and driving from A to B actually makes your butt weaker, and as a result, other muscles compensate for its work. Your lower back, thighs, and other nearby muscles might become overdeveloped, and this incorrect distribution of work can cause strain, misalignment, injury, and pain. It’s also why many people find it difficult to properly target their glutes during a workout. When a muscle is not used or underused, it atrophies over time.

Weak glutes can also be a reason for poor posture. Sitting a lot shortens your hip flexors. As a result, your pelvis tilts forward and you may find yourself with an arched back. All good reasons to give your rear some extra attention!

Additionally, a well-trained butt increases your performance – both in everyday life and at the gym. For example, it helps you carry heavy boxes, climb stairs, or ride a bike. Even a sprinter or runner can benefit from glute exercises. The glutes are partly responsible for knee stability and take the strain off your knees when running. Bottom line: a strong butt can prevent back and knee pain!

A man of color seen from behind runs up concrete stairs towards the blue sky beyond.
©Thomas Tolstrup

Whether you lift barbells at the gym or use your own bodyweight at home, a toned butt can help you perform better, stand tall, and it looks great in the process. Especially for basic exercises like squats, deadlifts, or lunges, it’s important to engage your glutes as you move. Target them specifically with intensive glute workouts and you’ll have more power in the long run – no matter what type of exercise.

How Often Should You Work Your Glutes for Optimal Muscle Tone?

You can do a butt workout 2 to 3 times a week, depending on your fitness level. If you’re just starting out, it’s best to work your butt a maximum of 2 times a week. Once you get more comfortable, try upping to 3 times a week.

Keep in mind: Your muscles use your recovery days to get stronger, so you should make sure to take at least one day off between your workouts.

The most common mistakes to look out for when doing glute exercises

1. Too much cardio

Cardio training has lots of positive effects on your body. Besides improving your endurance, it strengthens your cardiovascular system and helps relieve stress. But remember: it’s not cardio that shapes your body, it’s strength training! So feel free to do cardio sessions as a supplement to your strength training, but don’t overdo it!

2. You’re only hitting one area

For a strong butt, it’s a good idea to also do exercises that stretch your hips. For example, basic exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges put stress on the gluteus maximus during hip flexion. When you stand back up during a squat, your butt works against the resistance to stretch your hip.

To work your glutes during hip extension as well, try exercises that load them while horizontal, like glute bridges and hip thrusts. When you extend your hips against resistance, you’re contracting those glutes and working at full speed. These exercises really come in handy when incorporated into your long-term workout plan!

You should also include exercises that involve abduction to also train the small gluteal muscles. And there you have it, a perfect training plan template for a butt workout that hits your glutes from all angles and in full range of motion! You can use this principle over and over again and swap the exercises for similar ones.

Last but not least, make sure to increase the difficulty over time. To make sure your workout plan is optimally geared to your long-term goals, take a look at these 7 principles of exercise.

A group of mixed-sex athletes in a line doing lunges as glute exercises. All stand with one leg forward
©PeopleImages

3. You’re not getting enough calories

A good glute workout aims to stimulate muscle growth. In order for that to happen, not only do you need a challenging workout, but also a balanced diet that provides you with enough energy, since muscles can’t grow in a calorie deficit. Individual calorie needs vary from person to person. Use our calorie charts as a starting point towards finding out what you need to reach your goals.

And if you’re looking for inspiration for healthy, balanced meals that taste delicious and keep you energized, check out our recipes.

find energizing recipes

4. Missing mind-muscle connection

The mind-muscle connection, the neural connection between your brain and the muscles you’d like to focus on, plays a big role when it comes to making the most of your movement. Since our butt tends to be lazy, it can’t hurt to activate it before a workout.

To “wake up” your glutes, exercises with your own body weight should do the trick. Concentrate on engaging your glutes throughout. But before you get going, spend at least 10 minutes warming up. Ready now?

For this first activation exercise, lie on your stomach with your legs straight behind you and the tops of your feet on the floor. Keep your head down. Lift one leg up and deliberately engage your glutes – especially at the top! Then lower your leg without touching the floor before lifting it again. Complete 20 reps per side.

Glute bridges are also fantastic for really waking up your butt. For a glute bridge, lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart and directly below your bent knees. Lift your pelvis toward the ceiling. Again, squeeze your butt at the top of the move! Be sure to consciously push up from your heels. Then lower your pelvis to just above the floor. Watch out: Don’t let it touch the floor! Repeat this movement 20 times. You should definitely be feeling the burn by now.

What Are the Best Butt Exercises for the Gym?

We’ve picked out a few moves for you that will help you get your butt in gear! These will cover the most important spots to hit. You can also add or substitute other exercises that follow the same movement pattern. Enjoy your workout!

Hip Thrust

A white woman in the gym does hip thrusts on a weight bench with a barbell loaded with weight plates.
©South_agency

The hip thrust is the perfect butt exercise for the gym. All you need is a bench and a weight. Beginners can also choose to start with their own body weight. Over time, you can add additional weight. The hip thrust primarily works your glute maximus and hamstring muscles. The quads also get in on the action, but aren’t utilized as much as they would be in a classic squat. The glute minimus also assists.

Position your shoulder blades on the bench with your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor. Turn your feet slightly outward as you do this. This V position allows the butt to be activated and worked even more. Place the weight on the crease of your hips. When you lift your hips, your thighs and shins should form a right angle at the knee. Squeeze that butt.

Then slowly lower your hips again. Always remember to keep your back straight and avoid arching your back. Keep your heels on the floor and stretch your hips to their full range of motion. Complete 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Deadlifts

A white woman in a gym stares into the fog-machine mist in front of her. She bends her body forward at tension, holding a loaded barbell and ready to do a deadlift.
©skynesher

The deadlift has several different variations. They all involve hip extension, work an entire chain of muscles, and totally deserve their place in your workout. This huge range makes it one of the best glute exercises. If you want to focus more on the back side, give the Romanian deadlift a try, since it puts less stress on the thighs. When you start the exercise, push your hips backwards, while your upper body bends forward. Keep your knees bent slightly. Return to an upright position. Complete 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Watch out: Choose a weight that challenges you but doesn’t overtax you! Correct form is crucial. When doing deadlifts, keep your back straight and guide the barbell along your thighs and shins.

Standing Hip Abduction

A white woman in blue sports gear does hip abductions with a resistance band in an indoor hallway.
©South_agency

Standing hip abduction trains the small gluteal muscles. This move can be done either using a resistance band or with a cable machine. If you opt for the machine, secure your ankle with an ankle strap. It’s probably best to hold on to a support bar. Stand straight with your knees slightly bent, then begin to extend your working leg away from you. Move slowly, being sure not to use momentum to get the rep out! Go for 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.

What Are Some of the Best Glute Exercises to Do at Home?

Not to worry, you can also challenge yourself and get an intense workout in the comfort of your own home. These three exercises will kick your butt. (We crack ourselves up sometimes.)

Glute Bridges

A white man performs a glute bridge with his right leg raised straight into the air.
©foodspring

Glute bridges aren’t just for warmups. With extra weight, they are an effective exercise on their own. Grab a water bottle or a weight and you’re ready to go! Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart. Place the weight on the crease of your hips. Make sure you keep your head flat on the mat. Pushing off from your heels, raise your hips up, keeping your weight steady. Tense all your muscles and slowly lower your pelvis back down without touching the floor.

Another way to make these more challenging is to do them with one leg. Lift one leg up and walk with your hips towards the ceiling on one leg. Push off from your heel and work with your whole body engaged. Do 3 sets of 15 reps per side.

Bulgarian Split Squats

A white woman does Bulgarian split squats using an outdoor bench to rest her back foot on.
©Vladimir Sukhachev

Bulgarian Split Squats are a variation of a classic lunge, and the movement’s not much different. What is different about the Bulgarian Split Squat is the starting position, though, with your back leg on an incline. Why this variation? Thanks to the elevation, you can go even deeper, which makes this intense variation a great body-weight exercise to add to the rotation! You can also increase the focus on your butt by moving your front leg further away from the raise.

Place your back foot on an elevation such as your couch, with your front knee bent at a right angle. Now lift and lower like in a classic lunge. Start by doing 10 reps per side. If it gets too easy, increase to 15 reps per side and maybe add water bottles as extra weight. Complete 3 sets of these, too.

Clamshell

A white woman in a pink sports bra and leggings does clamshells with a red resistance band. She looks at herself in the mirror to check her form.
©Nikolas_jkd

The name is a big hint to how these are done. Clamshells train the small gluteal muscles so they’re a great complement to other glute exercises. Lie on your side, with your legs bent at 45 degrees. Your upper leg should be exactly over the lower. Your feet will stay together the whole time. Raise your top knee as far as possible without moving the rest of the body. Then lower the knee again. Do 3 sets of this movement, with each set hitting 15 to 20 reps per leg. Tip: take a resistance band and place it around your knees. You’ll instantly bump up the intensity!

Summary

  • Your butt supports you in everyday life when walking, standing up, or jumping, and it tends to weaken when other muscle groups take over the work.
  • Strong glutes can prevent long-term injuries, strain, and pain.
  • Strength training strengthens your butt.
  • An effective butt workout works both in the gym and at home.
  • A balanced diet and sufficient protein intake support muscle growth.
Article sources
We at foodspring use only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Nicholas A. Cooper, Kelsey M. Scavo: Prevalence of gluteus medius weakness in people with chronic low back pain compared to healthy controls. In: European Spine Journal, 2016.

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00586-015-4027-6

  • Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis (2013): Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body. Victory Belt Publishing Inc.

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