BOOTY-BLASTING ROUTINES have become a tiresome fitness trope on social media. You know what we're talking about: The low- or no-weight, limited-movement clips that the fill up some workout influencers' entire timelines. There's a major focus on training the posterior to make it pop in a tight pair or pants of leggings, but there's not always a ton of information provided about the muscles that warrant so much attention, or why. For better fitness practice, you should know that the major muscles these types of workouts target are the glutes—and there's a whole lot more to training the glutes than looking good in a cheeky mirror selfie.Building a set of strong, healthy glutes should be in the sights of every type of exerciser, whether you're training to meet an aesthetic standard or you have major PR goals. Let's expand that, actually—strong, healthy glutes are good for everyone, from desk jockeys to grandparents. The massive muscles do a lot more than just fill out your favorite pair of jeans, so it pays to pay them individual attention in your training plan. The glutes serve as the engine for explosive, athletic movements needed to excel in sports. The muscles are also essential for proper posture and movement; without a functioning set of glutes, you're going to have a hard time doing much of anything with your body.
Let's circle back to those unfortunate workout clips from the top of this article. If you've dismissed targeted glute training as an endeavor solely to whip up a thirst trap photo following, you're missing the point (and you need to log off). Glute workouts are for guys, too. Here's what you need to know about this eminently important muscle group—and the best movements you can add to your training to make them big and strong.
What You Need to Know About Your Glutes
So how can you train your butt effectively, without wasting your time with the thousands of rear-focused routines that populate social media? Understanding more about the largest muscle group in your body is a good way to answer that question. Consider the glutes your body’s anchor. These massive and powerful muscles that constitute much of your backside are pertinent in nearly every day-to-day activity.
When most lifters think of the glutes, they usually just consider the gluteus maximus, the larger glute muscle that plays a major role in hip extension. There’s no denying that the glute max is incredibly important to think about and train, but there’s also the gluteus medius and minimus, also muscles deserving of our attention.
The glute medius’ anterior muscle fibers internally rotate the thigh and the posterior fiber play a role in leg abduction (moving your leg away from the midline of your body). The glute minimus works in synergy with the medius and plays an important role in supporting pelvic stability in the gait cycle.
When we consider the dynamic nature of the glutes and how important they are for performance and everyday life, it’s pretty easy to see why it’s important to train them as a whole. It’s also important to recognize that the glutes are part of the body’s core. Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. notes that the core is composed of the abs, obliques, lower back musculature, and glutes. "They all work as one and, if you want a truly strong core, they must work as one."
The glute exercises below vary greatly—and that's not an accident. You need to add some variety to your glute workouts in order to tackle the dynamic nature and different needs that the glute maximus, medius, and minimus have.
Why You Shouldn't Skip Glute Training
There's a real downside to neglecting your glutes, too. You'll want to keep the muscles firing—otherwise, you could wind up developing an issue that could 'kill' your butt.
Gluteal amnesia, otherwise known as "dead butt syndrome," might sound like a joke, but it's a real issue for folks who spend too much time sitting down without using their muscles as they're meant to be used. Firing, or contracting, the muscles becomes an issue, and that can lead to problems with your posture, changes to your walking gait, and lower back and knee pain (and even injury) as the rest of your lower body compensates.
So yeah, it's past time to give your glutes some extra TLC. Your pants will fit better, you'll get a spring in your step, and you might just get a little extra attention when you hit the town. Add the following moves to your workout routine for a better-looking, better-performing butt. Want a more dedicated plan? Try this 30-day butt workout challenge to start a new glute training habit.
Few exercises, when done correctly, isolate the glutes like the hip thrust. The movement is also that rare leg exercise that allows you to recover quickly for your next workout. Most leg exercises are multi-joint moves that can leave you sore for a day or two afterwards. But a properly done hip thrust isolates the glutes and can be done 3 to 4 times per week, depending on the rest of your training. The key to the hip thrust: Squeeze your glutes at the top of each rep actively, and keep your abs tight, too. Don't arch your back.
You're in the same position as the standard thrust to start—but it might be a good strategy to try this exercise with only your bodyweight to start. By working unilaterally (one leg at a time), you'll hone each leg at a time, working to correct any muscle imbalances between your legs. Once you've improved your form, think about adding a load.
There may not be a better move for pure, explosive hip extension than the kettlebell swing. Learn to do it right, and it has you pushing your hips (and butt) backwards every rep, then exploding forward and squeezing your glutes aggressively at the top of every rep. It's a powerful, explosive, and sudden move that trains hip extension and glute power and translates to sports and on-field explosion.
You'll still reap the benefits of the standard kettlebell swing—but you'll add an element of control that will force you to focus on creating force to power each rep, which won't allow you to use momentum as you might when you string together a series of swings. Use this variation when you want to pick up heavier weights.
The goblet squat is a great anterior loaded squat variation that nearly every lifter can tackle. For this reason, it’s a great movement for beginners that want to target their glutes with a squat variation that can be performed with minimal equipment.
The Cossack squat is a great unilateral lateral squat variation that tests your strength and mobility. This variation can be great for targeting the glutes because as you hit depth in this squat, the glutes are going to have to stabilize the pelvis then initiate extension to create a successful rep.
You'll work your lower body muscles, including the glutes, while breaking out of the sagittal plane of movement (front-to-back). By moving in the frontal plane (side-to-side), you'll introduce a new element to your training. This will pay off with everything from your performance in sports to the way you move in everyday life.
The basic Bulgarian split squat can be a great glute move. To focus it on the glutes, make sure your front shin is vertical to the ground and don't let our knee travel over your foot. If your knee travels forward, this becomes a more quad-powered movement. Focus on squeezing your glutes actively when you stand.
The classic split squat is a strong starter move to unilateral leg training, and it'll work your glutes in two ways. First off, your glutes will play a key role stabilizing your body when you're in the bottom position. Your glutes will also power you back up to standing. Make sure to keep your hips and shoulders square at the top, an underrated glute challenge.
This simple exercise can be much more effective than you might expect. The key here is to make the wall sit a position of work, not one of rest—so instead of relaxing into the wall, squeeze your glutes continuously to create constant tension.
You can add weight to make the move more effective, but before you grab a dumbbell, kettlebell, or plate, focus on hammering that constant tension first.
Your glutes work to extend your hips and play critical roles in squats and lunges. But they do something else, too, teaming with your abs and lower back muscles to stabilize you when you're doing rotational movements. Here, you'll use your glutes in all those fashions in a vicious advanced movement that'll wipe out your legs entirely.
By blending Bulgarian split squats and Bulgarian hip hinges, you assault your glutes in multiple ways. This hip hinge variation will challenge your glutes in particular in new ways, pushing you to attack a single glute with little relief.
The bottom of any split squat or lunge can be a position of rest, where your knee crashes to the ground. Or it can be a position of work, where you pause with your knee an inch from the ground. This latter option requires serious stabilization through your hamstrings, quads, and, yes, your glutes. You'll challenge that low-position stabilization in this series.
Remember: A key function of your glutes is driving your hips into extension. Doing that with power requires an even more controlled and aggressive glute contraction, especially when you also need to stabilize your entire body just to maintain balance. That balance and power is challenged on this hover to drive lunge move.
Force your glutes to stabilize in multiple directions while still driving your hips into extension in multiple directions with this series of rotational Cossacks. You're also going to need to calculate just the right amount of force in your glutes as you press back up fro each Cossack rep: Too much, and you'll rotate past the proper angle, too little, and you won't have enough power. All these changes will crush your glutes.
Yes, the initial move on here, the elevated, feet-close goblet squat, blasts your quads. But once you step off that elevation with quads already fatigued, it's your glutes and hamstrings that must carry you to the end in a vicious series that piles up reps.
Spend extra time in the bottom of the Bulgarian split squat, and add a pulse that'll get your glutes firing early in this Bulgarian variation. Your glutes will be burning after this one, especially if you're extra-intentional with the ending portion of the movement and really squeeze when you stand up.
Get extra depth on your Bulgarian split squats to force a greater stretch for your glutes at the bottom. That'll also leave you working that much harder to drive out from the bottom, a challenge for your entire legs. Squeeze hard at the top of every rep, to finish things off. You'll do all of that, then also play with tempos and create more time-under-tension for glutes and legs, in this series.
Get ready for 24 reps of Bulgarian split squat glute soreness! You'll play with a variety of tempos, pauses, and pulses in this split squat series, all increasing time-under-tension for your legs. And each pause and pulse makes things that much more challenging for you to stand up and get the aggressive hip extension that completes each rep. It means you'll have to be extra-intentional about squeezing your glutes, while under a serious rep load (24 reps a set).
One of the toughest parts of the standard Bulgarian split squat (and many of the other variations listed here) is working with a heavy load, since it challenges your balance and grip strength. This variation allows you to work with even heavier weights—which will help you build strength and muscle—by adding a stop between each rep. Make sure to focus on resetting your position and driving up powerfully on each rep.
The classic deadlift is a full-body move, but it also pummels the glutes as well. It's your glutes that serve as a key driving force in the movement, and if you don't squeeze your glutes hard at the top, you won't truly stand all the way up. Novice lifters sometimes substitute arching their back at the top of each rep, but make an effort to squeeze your glutes to get the most out of the movement.
This deadlift variation is great for taller lifters who might struggle with the standard version of the exercise because of their long legs. It also offers your glutes a challenge—in order to get into the sumo stance (legs wide, feet pointing out), you'll need to contract your glutes. Bonus: since you'll be working within a shorter range of motion, you might be able to pull heavier weights than with a conventional stance (once you master the form, of course).
The Romanian deadlift will hammer both your glutes and your hamstrings. Again, the key here is how you use the deadlift to drive into true hip extension. As you lower down, you should "feel" your hamstrings and glutes stretch. When you stand up, you must actively squeeze your glutes, driving your hips slightly forward. The eccentric portion of the movement should help you "feel" hamstrings and glutes, then you get to activate them during the concentric portion of the lift.
Standard RDLs with a barbell is a great way to work your glutes and hamstrings with as much load as possible, but you can focus in on the muscle and add a new element by grabbing a set of dumbbells and pausing. This will help to alleviate a common form issue too; sometimes, overeager lifters allow their hips to rise too fast, which can put stress on the lower back. Home in on your tempo and add a pause halfway through the lift to keep your hips in the right place.
The box variation of the squat is underrated for both leg and glute development. Lowering slowly to the box is key here, asking quads, glutes, and hamstrings to fire up eccentrically and maintain control the whole way down. This is also a great chance to work on opening your knees as you squat, and doing so occurs only when you squeeze your glutes, driving your hips into external rotation.
The classic back squat will help blast your quads, glutes, and hamstrings altogether. It's going to fire up your glutes more than you think, too, and it requires strong glutes. Additionally, the back squat forces you to lean your torso forward just slightly, a challenge that requires your glutes to come into play more than you may expect.
The single-leg deadlift works your glutes in two ways. First off, you're training your glutes much as you do when you do traditional deadlifts: You'll be squeezing them actively at the top of each rep on the side with your foot on the ground. You'll also be doing something else: Your glutes on both sides must stabilize in the "frontal" plane, keeping you from tipping from side to side. It's glute mayhem when done right.
Like the Romanian deadlift, the good morning targets your glutes and hamstrings by using your hip hinge. Here, however, the load is moved to the top of your shoulders—and that's where things get a little tricky. You need to make sure that the bar rests on your shoulders, not your neck; you could put your low back in a compromised position and open yourself up to injury if the bar is in the wrong spot. Also, it's important to avoid rounding your low back under load. When you do this move, start with low weight (even just the bar), and progress from there.
Like all squats, front squats will challenge your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. The front squat requires you to stay more upright through your torso, but it'll still require a ton of control through your glutes and core to do this. Make sure to battle to open your knees as you lower, and squeeze your glutes when you stand all the way up.
You've undoubtedly seen this move on Instagram, in part because it shows off a great shot of the backside. But that doesn't mean it doesn't work, too—the quad hip extension is all about the big glute squeeze at the top of the movement, according to Contreras.
You can do the move just about anywhere, too, making it an easy addition to any routine.
Get on all fours, with your spine aligned and back flat. Keep one leg firmly on the ground as you raise the other, turning your foot out slightly for an external hip rotation. Maintain your spine's alignment and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. After a moment, return your knee to the ground.
To add an extra element of difficulty to quadruped hip extensions, add a miniband for more resistance, or longer pauses to accentuate the squeeze at the top of the movement.
Another Instagram favorite, the Extended-Range, Side Lying Hip Extension gives the glutes even more range to work.
"This extended range of motion off of a bench allows for a greater stretch on the hips at the bottom of the movement," says Contreras. "The more a muscle is stretched under load the greater the potential hypertrophy (or muscle gain) stimulus."
Lie on a bench on your side with your knee bent, leaning on your elbow. Extend your other leg out beyond the bench. Contreras says to turn your extended foot inward for a hip internal rotation.
Raise your leg into abduction as high as you can, keeping the movement smooth and steady throughout.
Once you're comfortable with the move, Contreras suggests adding an ankle weight to up the challenge and kickstart even more muscle growth.
Patience is the name of the game with this sumo squat variation.
You're going to depend on tempo to maximize your work, which will ultimately allow your glutes to work even harder.
Hold a dumbbell at waist height. Stand with your feet slightly further than shoulder width and flare them out. Plant your weight firmly on your heels and lean your torso about 30 degrees forward, which Contreras suggests should be maintained throughout the set.
Bend your knees and squat down on a four count, keeping the slight torso lean constant as you hold the weight. You should reach the bottom of the movement on four, where you'll hold the squat position. Pause for a three count, squeezing your glutes, before standing back up to your starting point.
This lunge variation challenges you to keep your balance and maintain proper posture as you lunge backward. You're targeting your glute medius here, along with your abductors. Want more of a challenge? Add a pulse (once you can handle standard reps, of course).
If you want a round, hard butt, you can't skip this move. "Many gymgoers mistakenly label the cable kickback as a 'wussy exercise,' but that's a mistake," says Contreras. The movement zeroes in on the gluteus maximus, which is the muscle that creates the shape of your rear end.
Lower the arm of a cable machine so it's level with your ankle. Stand facing the machine with your feet hip-width apart. Put one foot through the cable handle. Keeping your chest lifted, use your glute to pull the foot with the cable directly behind you.
Don't let your back arch. Pause, and then slowly return your foot to the starting position. Do your reps with your weaker side before switching legs and performing the same number with your stronger side.
"The cable standing hip abduction hits your upper glutes muscles, which are often neglected by most guys," says Contreras. "The stronger they are, the stronger and more sculpted your backside."
Lower the arm of a cable machine so it's level with your ankle. Stand with one side closest to the cable machine and that foot just behind the cable. Loop your other foot through the handle, and use your glutes to pull that leg out to your side. Pause, and reverse the movement to the starting position.
Perform your reps with your weaker side before switching legs and performing the same number with your stronger side.
This exercise targets your hip abductors, primarily a muscle called the gluteus medius. This muscle assists your largest butt muscle—your gluteus maximus—in raising your thigh out to the side. It also rotates your thigh outward when your leg is straight, and inward when your hip is bent.
As the name suggests, think of a clamshell opening as you do the exercise. Your glute should do all the work, so keep the rest of your body completely still as you left and lower your leg.
Lie on your side with your knees bent 90 degrees and your heels together and in line with your butt. Open your knees as far as you can, without rotating your pelvis or back. Pause; return to the starting position.