Want stronger glutes? A Pilates expert shares her top three exercises for beginners

If you're looking for an alternative to squats and heavy weights, but still want a burn, then this is it...

A woman performing Pilates workout doing the glute bridge exercise
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Squats may be king when it comes to strengthening our glutes but you don’t need to do them (unless you’re a powerlifter). In fact, you can still get an effective workout without shifting a ton of weight at all, as you’ll soon find out with this three-move Pilates workout. It fires up all three glute muscles through small, repetitive movements and all that’s required is your body weight. Although, if you want to challenge yourself further, go grab a light resistance band.

Many of us work our glutes purely for aesthetical purposes, but strengthening them is essential for everyday activities. "These include walking, running, and climbing stairs, but they also contribute to improved athletic performance and help to reduce the risk of injury," says Lotty Campbell Bird, a Pilates and barre instructor, and founder of The Collective Fitness Studio based in the Cotswolds. "They're also an essential part of having good posture as strengthening your glutes helps distribute weight more evenly throughout the body."

If you're ready to give your glutes the TLC they deserve, grab a yoga mat, your gym water bottle and give Lotty's three-move workout a go...

1. Glute bridge

Pilates glute workout: teacher performing glute bridges

(Image credit: The Collective Fitness Studio)

Benefits: Helps to strengthen the gluteal muscles and hamstrings as well as improving core stability and increasing mobility in the pelvis and spine. It's not just popular in Pilates, but strength training too.

How to:

  • Lie on your back with your hands by your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor a hip width apart
  • Engage your glute muscles by squeezing them and then push down evenly through the balls and heels of your foot as you gently press your lower back into an imprinted position
  • Start to raise your hips and then your spine, rolling up one vertebra at a time until there is a straight line running from your knees to shoulders
  • Hold for 10 seconds whilst keeping your glues engaged
  • Slowly roll back down to return to your starting position.

Reps/sets: 3 rounds of 8-10 reps

2. Clamshell

Pilates glute workout: teacher performing clamshell exercise

(Image credit: The Collective Fitness Studio)

Benefits: Clamshells strengthen the muscles in the outer things and outer glutes, as well as working on pelvic stability. You can perform with just your bodyweight or, if you want to challenge yourself further, you can place a light resistance band just above the knees.

How to:

  • Lie on your side with your hips and shoulders in a straight line and stacked on top of one another
  • Bend your knees so that your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to your body
  • Place your elbow directly underneath your shoulder with your forearm and fingertips pointing forward (your top hand can rest on your hip to help encourage stability)
  • Ensure your neck stays long and draw your shoulders away from your ears.  
  • Keeping your big toes together, slowly raise and rotate your leg in the hip socket to open the top knee
  • Open the knee only as far as you can go without disturbing the alignment of your hips (this may only be a small movement)
  • Then slowly and with control bring your knee back to the start position

Reps/sets: 3 rounds 10-12 reps on each side

3. Side lying leg circles

Pilates glute workout: teacher performing side leg raises

(Image credit: The Collective Fitness Studio)

Benefit: These will work the inner and outer thigh muscles, the outer glute medius muscles and will also help strengthen the obliques.  

How to:

  • Align yourself along the back edge of your mat to help ensure that your body is in a perfectly straight line
  • Stack your shoulders, hips and ankles and point your toes with them facing forward
  • Extend your bottom arm and rest your head on top of the upper part of your arm, whilst gently placing your top hand slightly in front of your body to aid stability. 
  • Keep your hips stacked and both of your legs in parallel as you point your top foot and raise it a couple of inches
  • Slowly begin drawing circles in one direction before changing to circle the opposite way (think of making your circles no bigger than a teacup saucer) 

Sets/reps: 3 rounds of 10 circles in one direction and 10 in the other direction, per side

Fancy more Pilate-style workouts? Here's another no-equipment glute workout to try (so you can alternate between the two), or why not give Lotty's three-move core workout a go? It's perfect for beginners and will leave your mid-section on fire.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.