Even if you’re doing well at loving and appreciating 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 your butt to better resemble the size and shape 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. And, the good news is that there are some really effective exercises that target your backside to do just that.
But, we didn’t want just 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 14 best butt-sculpting moves to give you the strong and perky backside you’ve always wanted.
Meet the Expert
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, 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 gradually progress the amount of targeted exercise you do 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 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 shape 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 butt shape. For example, 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,” Quimbo says. Lastly, to round out the V-shape 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, Polzak 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 to 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.
- Then, 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 top leg facing forward (as opposed to turning out the leg), and don’t let it come down completely and rest on your lower leg at the bottom of the movement.
- Do 16 reps, and then pulse it 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.
Squats With Lateral Raises
- Stand tall with your feet resting parallel and hip-width apart.
- Lower into a deep squat, sending your hips back toward the ground behind you.
- As you return to the top, lift your leg out to the side with a flexed foot.
- Repeat 16 times on one leg, and then switch sides.
- 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.
For an added challenge, pulse up and down at the bottom of your last plié for 10 counts.
- Find a countertop or chair.
- Stand bent over with a flat back, legs stacked under your hips, and your right forearm resting on the chair with the shoulder directly over the elbow.
- Place your left hand on your hip.
- With your foot flexed, lift the left leg up to hip height.
- Then, keeping your leg at the same height, send it straight back behind you.
- Lower your left leg and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.
- Then, at the last rep, pulse your left leg up and down at hip height 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.
- Then, take another step with your left foot, bringing your feet back to hip-width apart.
- Do 10 to 12 steps, and then head back with 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.
“You can use a chair as a reference for depth or for safety and support,” Quimbo says.
Ballet Leg Lifts
- Hold onto that 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 opposite hand on your right hip to help stabilize.
- 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, and then switch legs.
- 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 (exceeding 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.
All-Fours Lateral Raises
- Get in 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 the switch sides.