Not all bum exercises are born equal. And look, we’re busy people, so if we can get the most bang for our buck and get our derrieres as toned as possible in the shortest space of time, we’re in. So we asked some of the top trainers to share their favorite moves that both strengthen and lift your glutes.
You’ll be pleased to hear that their advice was not all about doing squats—though they’re good to do, too. Squats are a great exercise for toning your lower body, but just make sure you also include exercises that specifically target your glutes. “Most people instantly say squats are the best glute exercise, but I would disagree,” says Third Space elite trainer Andy Vincent. “It’s not an exercise everyone can do, and it’s not an exercise that many people can feel their glutes working. Being able to create a mind-muscle connection is important for developing any muscle in the body.”
A sedentary lifestyle can cause your glute muscles to forget how to work (a phenomenon called gluteal amnesia), which means the other surrounding muscles have to pick up the slack. This can affect your posture and a lot more, since the glutes (maximus, medius, and minimus) make up the largest muscle group in the body. The following moves will activate and fire up your glutes—so not only will they power your gym sessions more effectively, but they’ll work better throughout the day.
Keep scrolling to see 10 bum exercises to lift and strengthen your glutes.
Meet the Expert
Safety and Precautions
Before you start any exercise program, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor to make sure this type of strengthening program is right for you. This is especially important if you have a chronic health condition, such as high blood pressure, back or joint pain, or a hernia. In addition, if you are pregnant, it’s a good idea to make sure exercising is safe for you.
You may also need to make modifications to the exercises if you don’t have the strength to perform them correctly. For example, the kettlebell swings must be done with proper form to avoid injury. “While kettlebell swings often look relatively easy, the movement is often done incorrectly and can cause pain in the lower back and incorrect muscle engagement,” says Ma. The key is to keep the kettlebell weight low until you have your form perfected.
With all the exercises, start slow with lower weight, and work your way up as your form and strength improves.
For beginners, a glute bridge is the best place to start. “It’s easy to set up and easy to do. All you need to do is work with different tempos while doing the exercise—or hold at the top to make those muscle fibers twitch,” says Buchanan.
- Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor under your knees.
- Draw your abs in, pull your tailbone underneath you, and lift your hips off the floor.
- Slowly lower to the ground, and repeat.
- To make it more difficult, once your glutes are in the air, you can lift one foot off the floor and pull that knee into your chest, making sure to keep your abs engaged and your pelvis tucked in so your hips stay level.
- Repeat on the other leg.
- Perform 15 repetitions on each side.
Once you get used to the move, you can try adding weight by holding a plate across your stomach and using your hips and glutes to drive the bar off the ground, keeping it steady with your hands.
The hip thrust targets the gluteus maximus (the biggest of all the glutes) and is the only exercise to fully load the glutes—meaning that to execute the exercise, you’re solely using your glutes.
- To set up, you need a bench, barbell, and ideally Olympic plates, as they are round and make setup easier.
- Sit tall on the floor, with your shoulder blades above the edge of the bench, feet hip-width apart.
- Roll the barbell (with pad) so that it is positioned in the hip crease and is centered to your body.
- Extend your hips up so that you come parallel to the ground. Keep your chin tucked into your chest throughout the lift.
- Pause for two seconds, squeezing the glutes, before coming down.
- Perform two to three sets of 15.
“One of my go-to exercises would be the ballistic kettlebell swing. If you lack in glute development, you can generally benefit from strengthening the entire posterior chain (lower back, hamstrings, and glutes),” says Ma. “In order to do this exercise correctly, one must learn to hip hinge properly and encourage efficient glute activation.”
- Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, with the kettlebell in front on the ground.
- Bend at the waist (hip hinge), brace your midsection, and grab the kettlebell handle with both hands.
- Lift the kettlebell off the ground and allow it to travel between your legs. Bend your knees slightly in order to load the glutes and hamstrings without rounding your back.
- Thrust your hips forward until you stand straight and your glutes are fully contracted at the top. The kettlebell will propel into the air—up to chest height—from the momentum.
- Allow the kettlebell to descend back down between your legs, and move with the weight back into the hip-hinge position, with knees slightly bent, as you create a pendulum effect.
- Repeat 15 times.
“If you’re not familiar with the hip hinge, practice the movement before attempting the KB swing,” says Ma. “Your hips and glutes should be doing the work during this move, not your arms. You should always be balanced throughout the move.”
Dumbbell Goblet Squat
“This exercise works the glutes, quads, and hamstrings,” says Mazzucco.
- Stand with your feet slightly farther than shoulder-width apart.
- Hold a dumbbell in a vertical position, and bend your legs to assume a squat position.
- Push your hips back and try to squat until your legs are parallel to the ground.
- Your feet should be flat on the ground, and make sure your elbows are tucked in.
- Repeat 15 times.
Walking Lunges With Weights
Lunges are a great exercise for strengthening your entire lower body—especially if you add in some resistance. Mazzucco says this exercise works your glutes, calves, and hamstrings.
- Stand up straight, with your shoulders back and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Step forward with your right leg, and bend the knee.
- Make sure your knee is parallel to the ground, while your left leg is slightly bent.
- Your right knee should not go past your toes.
- Hold for a few seconds, and return to your standing position.
- Repeat three sets of 15 on each leg.
This exercise not only strengthens your glutes, but also works your core and lower back, says Mazzucco.
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand.
- Slightly bend the right knee.
- Lean the hips forward while your other leg extends straight behind you.
- Lower the torso until you are parallel to the floor and in a “T” shape.
- Return to the starting position and alternate legs.
- Repeat 15 times on each side.
Lateral Band Walk
Resistance bands are a great tool to help strengthen your lower body. “This exercise targets the gluteus medius muscles,” says Mazzucco.
- Place a resistance band around your knees or ankles.
- Make sure your toes are pointing forward, and stand in a semi-squat position.
- Take one large step to the right while keeping your butt back and your knees slightly bent.
- Continue the side-stepping motion for 10–15 seconds or until you have run out of room in your exercise space.
- Move back to the center, and then move out to the left.
- Repeat this side-stepping motion five times in each direction.
This exercise also uses a resistance band to target your gluteus maximus. “This can help sculpt and strengthen your butt,” says Mazzucco.
- Place a resistance band around your knees, and start on all fours.
- Keep your back straight, and lift one leg up to the side as high as it can go.
- Make sure not to shift your torso to the side as you are lifting your leg.
- Repeat with the other leg.
- Do 15 repetitions on each side.
Bulgarian Split Squats
In addition to the glutes, this exercise strengthens your entire lower body, including quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings.
- Stand in front of a chair, with your feet hip-width apart.
- Pick up your right foot, and place it on the chair behind you. Your toes should be touching the edge of the bench, while your ankle is pointing up toward the ceiling.
- Bend the left knee, and go down into a squat position.
- Allow your right knee and ankle to bend as you move down.
- Your left knee should be aligned with your left toes.
- Go back to a standing position, and alternate legs.
- Repeat 15 times on each side.
“This exercise targets the gluteus maximus and smaller glute muscles, including the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius,” says Mazzucco.
- Strap on ankle weights to each ankle.
- Get down on all fours, and keep your back straight. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders.
- Lift your right knee behind you until your right thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Keep lifting your leg until the sole of your foot is facing the ceiling. Make sure your hips do not turn to one side.
- Return to the starting position, and switch legs.
- Do four sets of 15 kicks for each leg.