There is a general misconception that sculpting a toned, built-up backside is an endeavour undertaken but those who want to Get a big butt in order to look good in tight-fitting leisurewear. But incorporating the best glute exercises into your next workout will help you build a stronger platform for lifting heavier weights and ensure you have the muscles to become a faster cyclist, better runner or simply stay injury free for longer. And you'll look better in jeans.
You see, the gluteus maximus (better known as your glutes) is often regarded as one of the strongest muscle groups in the body, as it plays a starring role in walking, running, climbing and simply standing up. Weak glutes can often lead to lower back pain, hip tightness and aching hamstrings in regular exercisers, as those peripheral groups end up working harder to take up the slack during a workout.
Focussing on the best glute exercises will help first expose the weaknesses and then gradually work to improve this area, leading to greater performance in future lower body workouts, but also carving a butt to die for in the process. It’s win-win situation whichever way you look at it.
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How to perform the best glute exercises
The list of exercises below are designed to be sprinkled in to an existing lower body workout, or you can hand-pick a number of your favourites to create a bespoke booty day that will work the glute muscles hard. Bear in mind that you don’t want to be doing this more than twice a week, as creating an overall body plan is far more beneficial than merely working on your butt and it is possible to overwork the muscle group in question, leading to slow or poor results.
We’ve also picked the best glute exercises for the widest range of fitness levels, starting with absolute beginners and suggesting ways to make these harder for those more advanced workout fans. With that in mind, there is also a mix of exercises that can be performed with bodyweight only, while others will require some specialist home gym equipment, such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells… or a gym membership.
Make a note of the form mentioned in each exercise guide and focus on contracting the glutes effectively, rather than lifting lots of weight or rushing reps. It is far more beneficial to create a good mind/muscle connection with your booty than to steam into a really heavy squat, for example, as this nearly always leads to injury.
Best glute exercises
1. Kick-back (15 reps each leg)
Equipment required: None
Place a mat on the floor or find a forgiving surface and get into a kneeling position with the palms of your hands pressed into the floor underneath your chest. Keep your back nice and flat and raise a leg behind you and up into the air, ensuring the hips remain level and toes are pointing to the ceiling. The thigh should be parallel to the floor when you pause at the top of the move where you should aim to squeeze that glute as tight as possible before slowly returning to the start position and swapping legs. Make this move more challenging by incorporating a resistance band. Wrap it under the sole of your foot and hold the other end in your hand before kicking backwards.
2. Glute bridge (15 reps)
Equipment required: None
Lay on your back and bend you legs with soles of your feet press into your floor. Keep your arms by your sides and palms facing the ground. From here, simultaneously squeeze your glutes together and lift your hips off the floor until there is a nice straight line running from your knees to shoulders. Hold this position for a second, remembering to keep the glutes engaged throughout and slowly lower to complete one rep. Adding a small resistance band or specialist booty band around the thighs makes this a move a lot harder, as it encourages the user to push outward with the knees, forcing the glutes to contract harder.
3. Dumbbell squat (8-12 reps)
Equipment required: 1 x dumbbell
Grab a dumbbell (this also works with a kettlebell or any heavy object) and hold it at the weighted end, placing the weight in the palms of both hands and holding it out in front- often referred to as a goblet grip. Keep your shoulders pinned back and don’t let them round forward, now position the feet hip-width apart and begin the squat. This requires a straight back, shoulders pinned back and chest high before hinging at the hip and slowly lowering your butt towards the floor. Pause at the lowest comfortable position of this move of the move, squeeze your glutes and drive through your heels back to the start position. Some will find it difficult to enter a deep squat, but the deeper you can comfortably lower, the better the results.
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4. Resistance band lateral walk (6-8 reps)
Equipment required: Resistance or booty band
A resistance band is one of the cheapest but supremely effective tools in shaping the perfect booty, as it helps place more emphasis on the glutes, rather than letting the quads or hamstring take over. For this move, you should place the band around your thighs, just above the knee (you might need to tie the band to create tension if it has a large aperture). From here, get into a quarter or shallow squat position, hold your hands together in front of your body and take three large steps to your right, remaining in the quarter squat position throughout. Repeat on the left, remembering to keep the glutes activated. That’s one rep.
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5. Barbell squat (8-12 reps)
Equipment required: Barbell, weights, rack
Beginners should start practicing their squat form with a light dumbbell (as listed above) or a light bar, focussing on technique, rather than reps or weight. When mastered, this move is the ultimate glute workout, throwing additional benefits towards the hamstrings and quads. With the bar across your shoulders, step backwards out of the rack and stand with feet hip-width part (or slightly less). Again, hinge at the hips, pressing your butt backwards but keeping the chest high and shoulders engaged while lowering until thighs are parallel with the ground. Pause at the bottom, squeeze the glutes and drive through your heels to the top of the move.
6. Barbell hip thruster (8-12 reps)
Equipment required: Barbell, weights, bench
Many personal trainers favour this as the ultimate glute exercise over a squat because it is simpler and has fewer potential injury pitfalls than a poorly performed barbell squat. Begin by practicing with a lightly weighted barbell and place it on the floor in front of you. Grab a typical weights bench and sit with your back against it (side on). Now ensure your shoulders are pressed into the padded section of the bench, soles of the feet pressed into the floor. Roll the barbell over your legs and seat it in your lap on your hip bones, ensuring it remains square and nicely balanced. Use your hands to steady the bar before driving upwards through your heels, contracting the glutes throughout and ensuring the shins remain vertical. Pause at the top (when the back is horizontal to the ground) before lowering a few inches and repeating the move. If the shins start moving backwards or forwards excessively during the thrust, its means you are losing focus on the glutes and using quads and hamstrings instead. So avoid fast reps, concentrate on contracting your butt muscles and ensure the range of motion is fairly shallow. It should be around the same as the glute bridge mentioned above.
T3's how-to exercise guides
- How to squat right: the barbell back squat is the best exercise for a toned butt and strong legs
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- How to do barbell rows the right way: why bent over rows are great to build big back and strong arms
- How to do thrusters: this squat variant is a leg day staple AND a one-move full body exercise
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