Building enviable glutes is not only aesthetically desirable, but it's also vital for a well-functioning body. After all, your glutes are the largest muscles in your body. The glutes help power the movements you do every day, from walking, rising from sitting, climbing stairs, and stabilizing the rest of your body.
Trainer Nicole Winhoffer will be the first to tell you that she'd choose leg day over arm day any day. So when we had questions about the best moves to target your bum, we knew just who to call. Winhoffer visited us at Byrdie HQ to show us three secret weapon moves for shaping, toning, and lifting your rear.
We also spoke to iFit trainer Mecayla Froerer for her tips on the best exercises for strong, firm glutes. "You can get a great workout in with bodyweight alone," she says. Here are a few exercises Froerer recommends to consider adding to your at-home workout routine:
- Squat and deadlift variations
- Glute bridge or raises
- Abductions and kickbacks
"If you want to take the intensity up, you can always add extra resistance by using a loop band (mini band) or holding a dumbbell or kettlebell," adds Froerer. Try working your glutes two to three times per week along with other body parts. Remember to continue challenging yourself with increased resistance. "This will take time to develop, and adherence to consistency with progressive overload and a proper nutrition plan will be critical," says Froerer.
Don't neglect the rest of your leg muscles either, especially the hamstrings (back of your thighs), which tend to be weaker in most people than the quadriceps (front of your thighs). "When both the glutes and hamstrings are developed, you will see the coveted “glute-ham tie in.” The best way to improve your glute-ham tie in is to strengthen your glutes, strengthen your hamstrings, and get leaner," advises Froerer.
Read on for our trainers' top 15 glute exercises.
Looking to target the upper area of your bum? "This is really good to lift the top muscle of the butt called the [gluteus] medius," says Winhoffer. "That's the one that gives you the shelf you can rest your margarita on top of." Since this move requires side to side motion, it gives your obliques a great workout, too.
- Start on your knees with your arms at your sides.
- Lift your left knee so it's parallel to the floor, and then kick your leg out to the side, straightening the knee.
- Bend that knee back, and return it knee to center.
- Repeat on the opposite side. Lift the opposite knee. Kick that leg out to straighten. Then bend that leg back, and return your knees to center. Repeat for three sets of 30 reps.
This comprehensive move challenges not only your backside but your legs and core as well. "The reason why we put our hands out is so that we rely just on the legs and butt to do the work," Winhoffer explains. "We're not just using our arms for balance."
- Start on your knees with your arms at your sides. Step your right leg to the side so that your toes face outward and your knee is rotated outward as well. As you do this, bring both hands out in front of you or on your head.
- Step your left foot to the side so that it mirrors the right.
- Keeping your hips level with your knees, place the right knee back on the ground. Bring your left knee to the ground, and meet the right in a kneeling stance. Drop your arms and repeat. Do so for three sets of 30 reps.
When it comes to butts, we're all going for that perfectly round shape. That's what this move is for. "This hits the butt at all angles because our asses are circles," says Winhoffer. "You can't just do one movement and hit one part of the circle; the circle is a sphere." This "beetle" focuses on the smaller muscles of the butt at all angles, which we don't naturally target in everyday life.
- Start on all fours. Take your right leg and bend it to hip level. As you do that, place your arms slightly to the left to counteract your right knee as it lifts off the floor.
- You’ll proceed to straighten your leg out at three levels: high, then bend, middle, then bend, and low. After that, you'll return to all fours.
- Repeat on the other side by placing your hands slightly to the right and lifting your left leg so that it’s bent and parallel to the floor. Straighten the leg at a high level, then bend, middle, then bend, low, then return to center. Repeat for three sets of 30 reps.
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Single leg glute bridges hit your glutes and hip flexors while also activating your core. "This is a great exercise to strengthen the posterior chain muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and abs. This is also a good option for those who want to work the lower body, but minimize pressure on the lower back and avoid joint discomfort," says Froerer.
- Lie on an exercise mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Raise one leg off the floor, pointing toward the ceiling. This is the starting position.
- Perform the exercise by pushing down through your other heel, raising your hips until they are in a straight line with your torso. Pause here for a count of one.
- Lower to the start position.
- Try 15 reps for one set before changing legs. Repeat for three sets.
Chair pose is a full-body strengthening movement that works your glutes through an isometric hold. This means that your muscles will be working overtime to hold you in one place. "When performed properly, chair pose can provide total-body benefits. The mini squat stance helps to strengthen and tone the quads and glutes while tightening the core. Arms up overhead and in line with the upper body will also aid in opening up the shoulders and chest to improve breathing," says Froerer.
- Stand with your feet together.
- Inhale and reach your arms toward the ceiling, palms facing.
- Exhale, bending your knees and shifting your hips back and down as if you’re going to sit on a chair.
- Hold the pose and take five slow, deep breaths.
- Inhale and rise, then exhale your arms back down to your sides. Repeat five times.
Goblet squats are an excellent squat variation that targets your glutes working along with your quadriceps. You'll also feel this move in your hamstrings, shoulders, and arms.
"Squats are a functional exercise that can be seen in day-to-day movement. The goblet squat kicks things up a notch by introducing weight to the exercise. Targeted muscles for a goblet squat include the quads, glutes, calves, core, and grip strength from holding the weight," says Froerer.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding a kettlebell or dumbbell to your chest. This is the start position.
- Hinge your hips back and squat down, keeping a slight arch in your back.
- Continue to lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Pause here for a count of one.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times for three sets.
"Walking lunges not only increase lower body strength, but help to improve range of motion, flexibility in the hips and hamstrings, and enhance balance and posture," Foerer explains. Walking lunges help you build functional strength in your glutes while they work with your hamstrings and quadriceps. You'll feel this move in your calves and core as well.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides or in front of your chest. Stand tall with your chest up and core braced. Step forward with the left foot to start.
- Lower your right knee towards the floor, and your left knee bent. Push through your left heel to rise and step forward with your right foot.
- Now your left knee will lower, and your right knee will bend. Continue alternating legs.
- Try 10 reps per leg for three sets.
Work your hamstrings and glutes double time with the Romanian deadlift. Your lower back and abs will also feel the burn with this move.
"This is a great exercise to strengthen the muscles of the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae (back), and abductors. When performed correctly, the Romanian deadlift can help enhance daily movement and reduce the risk of back injury by strengthening the muscles of the lower body. Please pay special attention to movement patterns throughout this exercise by focusing on form throughout each rep," says Froerer.
- Stand tall with your core brace. Hold a barbell or a pair of dumbbells in front of your thighs.
- Keep your core tight, your spine neutral, bend your knees slightly, and hinge your hips back. Keep the weight close to your thighs, sliding down toward your ankles. When you feel a contraction in the back of your legs, slowly rise back to standing.
Take the regular lunge and add a loop band, and you've got a challenging exercise that will target your glutes, quads, abs, and calves. "Lunges are a great exercise to strengthen the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, as well as the back and core muscles. Lunges also help improve balance, coordination and strengthen joint support. Adding a band to the lunge increases the resistance of the movement, thus enhancing overall results," Froerer advises.
- Stand with a loop band around your thighs. Step forward with your right leg and slowly lower yourself until your right knee is bent about 90 degrees and your left knee is almost to the floor. Keep your core upright and braced.
- Pause here, then push off your left foot to return to standing.
- Step forward with your right leg to repeat on the other side. Continue to switch sides.
- Try 10 reps on each side, alternating sides. Do three sets.
Build your glutes up and out with this lateral movement that also strengthens your hips and core. "Squats are a functional exercise that can be seen in day-to-day movement. The goblet squat kicks things up a notch by introducing weight to the exercise. Targeted muscles for a goblet squat include the quads, glutes, calves, core, and grip strength from holding the weight," says Froerer.
- Stand holding onto a sturdy object with a loop band around your lower legs.
- Slowly lift your outside leg up to the side.
- Pause and slowly return your leg to starting position.
- Repeat the movement for 15 reps, then switch sides. Try three sets.
"Banded monster walks are a great exercise to light up the core while strengthening the hip and glute muscles. In addition to lighting up the muscles, this exercise will also challenge both balance and coordination, help minimize the chance of developing knee-joint injuries, and firm up the booty," explains Froerer.
After a few reps of the monster walk, your glutes will be on fire! Try to keep low as you can to really get the most out of this movement.
- Place a loop band around your thighs. Separate your feet to shoulder-width and slightly bend your knees. Keep your chest up and core braced.
- Slowly step diagonally forward and to the side with the right foot. Your stance should be wider than shoulder-width.
- Pause, then repeat with the left foot. Alternate sides, and then work your way back to where you started by walking backward, reversing the movement.
- Try 15 steps per side for three sets.
"This is a great lower body conditioning exercise as it lights up the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Step-ups will help not only to tone the lower body but will help improve lower body stamina and endurance for day-to-day activities such as stair climbing, walking, and running," says Froerer.
This functional movement can be performed with bodyweight or use kettlebells or dumbbells to increase the difficulty. You can also adjust this exercise's intensity using a higher or lower step and moving more slowly or quickly. You'll work all of your leg muscles with your glutes and core with step-ups
- Place a bench or step in front of you and stand facing it with a pair of dumbbells. Brace your core and look straight ahead.
- Bring your right knee up to step up onto the bench. Push through your right heel and bring yourself up into a standing position on the bench, balancing with your left foot.
- Slowly lower yourself to the ground and switch legs to repeat.
- Try three sets of 10 reps.
Band kickbacks are an excellent glute isolation exercise that is especially beneficial for exhausting the muscle before or after heavier exercises like squats or lunges. Froerer adds, "Banded kickbacks help sculpt and tone the gluteal muscles. While standing upright and kicking back with one foot planted on the ground, you will also challenge your balance and stability."
- Slip a loop band around your ankles. Stand tall in front of a wall for balance or place your hands on your hips. Keep a flat back and brace your core.
- While balancing on your left foot, move your right foot up and back. Pause at the top of the movement, then slowly bring the foot down. Do not let your right foot touch the ground before repeating.
- After performing all reps on one side, switch to the other side.
"Split squats are a lower-body focused exercise targeting the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. This is a great exercise to improve stability, develop unilateral strength, and enhance joint stability to minimize the risk of injury," advises Froerer.
Split squats are different from lunges because they emphasize the front leg—so more resistance. You'll definitely feel this. To progress, add weights such as a barbell on your back or dumbbells at your sides.
- Brace your core while holding weights at your sides or holding your arms in front of you or on your hips.
- Step forward with your right foot, keeping your left foot behind you. Lower your left knee towards the ground. Push up with your front right leg. Maintain the split stance and do not bring legs together until all reps are completed on one leg.
- Switch sides and perform the movement with the left leg in front.
- Try 10 reps for three sets.
Warrior I is a glute-focused move borrowed from yoga. "This movement pattern helps strengthen the body from head to toe and aids in balance and stability. Warrior I opens up the chest to promote circulation and improved airflow. This is a great exercise to energize the body and stretch out all limbs," says Froerer.
This is the perfect exercise to end a glute workout because it exhausts the muscle for better results while providing a nice stretch. You'll also feel this in your hamstrings, quads, shoulder, back, and abs.
- Stand on your mat and exhale as you step your left foot 3 to 4 feet behind you. Keep your heels in line with each other and point your left foot slightly to the left. Your body should face forward.
- Inhale and reach your arms toward the sky, palms facing in.
- Exhale and bend your right knee, lowering your thigh parallel to the floor. Your knee should line up over your ankle.
- Hold the pose for five slow, full breaths.
- Inhale and straighten your front leg. Exhale and step your feet together. Switch sides.
- Try five sets of five breaths per side.