Even if you already love and appreciate your body no matter what size or shape it is (because your beautiful body deserves that love!), there still might be certain areas you’re looking to tone up or strengthen. It might be your arms, or your core, or, for many, your butt. Whether you’d like it to better resemble the size and shape of J.Lo’s, Serena Williams’, Kim Kardashian’s, or anyone else’s, for that matter, there’s no shame in wanting to firm up, plump up, perk up, or tone up your butt. The good news is that there are some really effective exercises that target your backside.
But we didn’t just want the basic squats we’re always told to do. We wanted a bunch of options—especially unique powerhouse moves—to help us effectively sculpt and tone like never before. So we called up a few of our favorite professional trainers to help us design a plan to get a bigger, perkier, and stronger butt.
Keep scrolling to learn the 13 best butt-sculpting moves to give you the strong and perky backside you’ve always wanted with how-to videos from from fitness trainer Traci Copeland.
Meet the Expert
- Xavier Quimbo is a strength lead for the Fybr app, which offers expert advice on fitness, nutrition, and wellness.
- Jen Polzak McCombs is an ACE-certified personal trainer, a medical exercise specialist, and the director of fitness at Asphalt Green.
- Tracey Mallett is a certified personal trainer, best-selling author, and the founder of the BootyBarre workout.
Safety and Precautions
In general, our experts share that these butt-sculpting moves should be safe for everyone. However, if you have any lower-body or back injuries, you should consult your doctor, your physical therapist, or a certified personal trainer before attempting the moves. And, across the board, if you experience any pain or discomfort during an exercise, stop immediately.
Be sure to progress the amount of targeted exercise you do gradually to try to prevent excessive soreness and injury. For example, try just two or three exercises the first day, then give yourself a day or two off. Add one additional exercise to your routine at a time, taking rest days in between as needed.
To try to prevent lower-back strain, focus on consciously engaging your glutes and core during each movement, and use proper posture and form. Avoid rounding your back. Lastly, when using weights, always wear proper footwear, like supportive training shoes.
Our experts say it’s a myth that a particular exercise will sculpt everyone’s butt the same way and with the same results. Just as our bodies are all unique, so, too, are the shapes of our butts. For example, some of us have more of a square-shaped butt, while others’ are more round. Then there are heart-shaped butts and V-shaped butts. And while all of the exercises included here will provide bum-firming and strengthening benefits, according to our experts, you can actually tailor your butt-sculpting workouts to your particular butt shape.
Square and heart shapes both benefit from lifting the butt. “The best exercises to perk up the heart shape and round it out a bit are lateral movements that attack the gluteus medius, which sits higher, closer to your waist,” Quimbo says. This muscle can be targeted with some of the side-lying exercises and those with lateral movements. People with square-shaped butts also benefit from targeting the waist, which Quimbo says you can do by adding rotation. “When you add rotation to your lunges and legwork, you’re working your waist as well, which [can] help to trim down the love-handle area. Two of my favorite exercises are a forward lunge with rotation and a curtsy lunge. Other than hitting your butt, these will target your waist, abs, obliques, and lower back as well,” Quimbo says.
“With the round shape, the goal is just to maintain the shape with a great overall program,” says Quimbo. Lastly, to round out the V-shaped butt, you need to fire up that gluteus maximus (the posterior glute muscles that give your butt a little more lift and pop). Quimbo suggests exercises that also focus on hip range of motion, which can tone and plump up the outer parts of the bum.
Meanwhile, McCombs reminds us that you can’t target fat in a specific area; you can only strengthen and grow the muscles in that area, which can create a more trimmed appearance. “More often, your muscles will hypertrophy, or grow in size, if you target one muscle,” she says. “This can give a slimming or trimming effect if tied in with nutrition and a full-body exercise routine that puts you in a caloric deficit.”
Lunges With Rotation
- Hold a dumbbell right in front of your chest with outstretched arms.
- Do a forward lunge, dropping deep into a 90-degree bend in both legs and keeping your front knee aligned with your front ankle.
- Rotate your trunk and the dumbbell in the direction of your front leg. For example, if your right leg is in front, rotate your body 90 degrees to the right.
- Do 12 reps on one leg before switching sides.
- Cross your left leg behind your right at about a 45-degree angle, and perform a lunge. Make sure to keep your knee of the front leg stacked over your front ankle as well to avoid knee pain and injury.
- Come back to neutral, and repeat.
- Once you’ve done 12 reps on one side, switch legs.
Side-Lying Leg Lifts
- Lie on one side, with your bottom leg bent and your head resting on your ear.
- Lift and lower your extended top leg. Make sure you keep that leg facing forward (as opposed to turning out the leg), and don’t let it come down completely to rest on your lower leg at the bottom of the movement.
- Do 16 reps, and then pulse that same top leg a few inches off the ground for another 16 reps.
- Switch sides.
As you get stronger, use a light ankle weight or a resistance loop band between your ankles to increase the resistance.
- Do a forward lunge with the right leg, and then return to standing.
- Move your right foot out into a lateral lunge (your left leg will be straight in this lunge), and then return to standing.
- Move your right leg back into a reverse lunge.
- Do 10 to 12 rounds on each leg.
“Try not to rest in between lunges, but move fluidly straight through the lunge matrix,” Quimbo says.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, and externally rotate your legs at the hips so your toes are turned out, like in second position in ballet.
- Lower into a deep bend in your knees, and then straighten your legs to stand up again.
- Do 10 to 12 reps.
Standing Side Kicks
- Find a countertop or chair.
- Stand and bend over with a flat back, your legs stacked under your hips, your forearms resting on the countertop, and your shoulders directly over your elbows.
- With your foot flexed, lift the left leg up and out to the side to hip height.
- Then, keeping your leg at hip level, send it straight back behind you.
- Repeat, moving the leg to the side and back behind you for 10 to 12 reps. Make sure to keep your leg at hip level throughout the entire exercise.
- At the last rep, keep your leg out to the side and pulse your left leg up and down for 10 counts.
- Repeat on the other side.
Lateral Resistance Walks
- Place a resistance loop band around your ankles. Quimbo says you should feel tension in the band when standing with feet hip-width apart.
- Stand tall, engage your abs, and take a controlled step out to the side with your right leg. Make sure to also press the knees out to the sides so that they stay stacked over the ankle, and avoid letting them buckle in towards each other. This increases the gluteus medius activation and helps prevent knee pain and injury.
- Take a step in the same direction with your left leg, bringing your feet back to hip-width apart.
- Do 10 to 12 steps, and then head back in the opposite direction, with your left leg leading.
- Balance on your right leg, with your left leg lifted off the ground in front of you.
- Keep your arms extended in front of your body for a counterbalance, and squat deep on your balancing leg, keeping your abs engaged and your back straight. “Make sure to initiate the movement by moving your hips back to really get into that butt muscle,” explains Quimbo.
- Do 10 to 12 reps on each leg.
Ballet Leg Lifts
- Hold onto a chair and use it for balance.
- Stand facing the chair, with your legs externally rotated from the hips and feet turned out.
- Engage your abs, and press your shoulders down and back.
- Place your left forearm on the chair, with your right hand on your right hip to help stabilize you.
- Keep your left leg slightly bent as you lift the right leg behind your body to just below hip height. Mallett notes that you will have to pitch your body forward slightly to reach that height. Just don’t let go of your form in doing so.
- Lift your leg up and down with control for 10 to 12 reps. Try not to rest your working leg on the ground at the bottom of the movement.
- Then, maintain the same position, but bend your working leg into an attitude position (knee lifted with a 45- to 90-degree bend).
- Do 10 to 12 reps in attitude, then switch legs and repeat the routine.
- Stand with your chest up and open, shoulders rolled down and back, core engaged, and feet hip-width apart.
- Hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand as you squat down and up, always coming to a 90-degree bend in the legs.
- Do 12 reps.
- Open your stance so that your feet are slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Hold a heavy weight at your chest as you squat as low as you can (past a 90-degree bend) while keeping your feet flat on the floor. “By going past a 90-degree bend in your knee, you get that extra gluteus maximus activation,” Quimbo says. He also stresses the importance of keeping your posture upright in this movement.
- Do 12 reps.
- Stand facing a chair, with a small ball behind the back of one knee.
- Pitch your body forward from the hips into a flat-back position, with your forearms resting on the chair.
- With a small bend in your supporting leg, lift your working leg up so it’s level with your hips, with your knee bent to hold the ball in place.
- Flex your foot, squeeze the ball, and pulse your leg up and down 16 times.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
All-Fours Lateral Raises
- Get into a tabletop position on all fours, hands directly under shoulders, and knees directly under hips.
- Maintaining the bend in your leg, lift one knee up to the side to bring your leg level with your hips.
- With control, lower it down again without setting your knee back on the ground.
- Do 16 reps, and then switch sides.
Why is it important to have strong glutes?
Strong glutes can help prevent injuries, improve posture, balance, and increase your athletic ability. Studies have also shown that strong glutes lead to decreased lower back pain.
How often should you do glute exercises?
You should aim for glute training two to three times a week—there's no need to do them everyday. Studies have shown that training a body part twice a week was best for hypertrophy (aka increased muscle size) rather than one day a week.
Jeong UC, Sim JH, Kim CY, Hwang-Bo G, Nam CW. The effects of gluteus muscle strengthening exercise and lumbar stabilization exercise on lumbar muscle strength and balance in chronic low back pain patients. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(12):3813-3816.
Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Effects of resistance training frequency on measures of muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2016;46(11):1689-1697.