Aside from improving your physical appearance, the glutes are the biggest muscles in your body and can have a wide range of benefits in your everyday life and athletic ability.
As a personal trainer, I’ve compiled a list of the nine best exercises you should incorporate into your workout routine to grow your glutes, regardless of your fitness objective, whether it is size, power, or strength.
- Glute anatomy consists of three parts: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus, all working together to provide hip stability and maintain a good posture.
- The best exercises that maximize glute activation include Bulgarian split squats, hip extension, hip thrusts, and glute bridge.
- Glute muscles can help you enhance your athletic performance, improve stability and balance, alleviate back pain, and prevent injury.
- If you want to tone up your glutes, follow a clean diet with enough protein or include one of the protein powders.
What is the Primary Function of the Glute Muscles?
The primary function of the glute muscles is hip extension, hip external rotation, stability around the hip, and hip abduction.
Hip extension - The gluteus maximus (the largest muscle in your buttocks), the posterior head of the adductor magnus, and the hamstring provide the action needed for a hip extension for daily activities like walking, running, rising from a seat, or jumping .
Internal and external rotation of the hips - Helps move the legs outwards with external rotation or inward to bring in the sense of internal rotation.
Stability - Our gluteus maximus and gluteus medius are vital to enable us to move easily. It helps maintain balance and stability in our pelvis .
Hip adduction/abduction - The gluteus medius is the primary mover in hip abduction or the displacement of your leg outwards away from the body’s midline.
The gluteus maximus also helps abduct the hip with the upper muscle fibers while the lower fiber keeps them close together (hip adduction).
9 Best Glute Exercises
1. Standing Hip Extension
Performing a standing hip extension can easily be included in your regular workout routine, and you’ll quickly be able to see the benefits and growth they give you.
Here’s how to perform standing hip extensions correctly:
- Start with standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Then, hold your right foot firmly on the ground, and exert pressure through it while keeping the back straight.
- Slowly return your leg to starting position and repeat.
2. Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise for training the glutes and can increase strength and tone in the lower body.
Great for building balance, the Bulgarian split squat works muscles that are often neglected as it's a one-leg movement.
Also, since the knee is less involved as a traditional squat, it can prevent future knee pain and reduce joint damage .
To begin the exercise, you'll need to:
- Stand a few steps away from a bench or chair with knees bent and feet pointed outward at hip-width apart.
- Then, place one foot back on the bench and hold yourself up with the opposite side leg.
- Slowly lower your body by bending both knees until both knees are at a 90-degree angle before pushing back up again.
3. Barbell Hip Thrust
If glute development is your aim, incorporating barbell hip thrusts into your glute workouts should be a priority.
Barbell hip thrusts are ideal for targeting the gluteus maximus muscle (the largest of the three gluteal muscles) .
To perform barbell hip thrusts:
- Position your back against a bench with your shoulder blades near the edge.
- Place a padded barbell across your hip crease (lower stomach area).
- Next, engage your core muscles and drive through heels to lift your hips high until there is a full extension in the hips.
- Hold for a second before slowly lowering to complete one repetition as you reach full extension.
4. Barbell Glute Bridge
The barbell glute bridge is another exercise to incorporate into your glute training; it strengthens and targets all the glute muscles to make you more powerful and balanced.
To perform the barbell glute bridge:
- Lie flat on your back, get a barbell (with appropriate weight), roll it, and let it set just above your hipbones.
- Bend your knees 90 degrees and plant them firmly.
- Drive through the heels to lift your hips off the ground while squeezing your glutes as hard as possible.
- Drive through the heel to keep good form while holding your body in one straight line from shoulders to knees.
- Lower slowly and repeat to feel the targeted sensation in your glutes.
5. Sumo Squat
Sumo squats engage multiple muscles in the posterior chain – from the hamstrings to the calves and glutes.
It also makes for an excellent functional strength exercise that can help improve balance and stability .
This powerful lower-body movement requires you to:
- Widen your stance with your toes pointed outward, and inhale as you sit back into a deep squat position.
- Exhale while returning to the starting position.
“As one of the “big three” powerlifts, squats are a surefire way to strengthen your lower body and core. To further challenge yourself, try widening your stance to perform a sumo squat instead. This variation can add variety to your lower body strength training routine.”
- Chelsea Evers, Journalist and Certified Personal Trainer
6. Side Lunge
Side lunges are an efficient way to condition your glutes and improve overall leg strength.
When done correctly, they target multiple muscle groups throughout your lower body, including your glutes, and maximize caloric burn during a workout .
They are easy to perform, all you have to do is:
- Start by standing with feet hip-width apart, then step your left foot out wide.
- Bend at the same time until the knee of that leg is at a 90-degree angle.
- Return to the starting position, perform one set, and switch to your right leg.
Read More: Side Lunges Stretch
7. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian Deadlift, RDL for short, is an excellent exercise for fast and effective activation of the muscles in the glutes and can be done with any weight equipment. RDL is also one of the best deadlift alternative.
RDL variations are easily customizable to fit any strength level or skill level.
To perform RDLs, you should:
- Place your desired weight equipment in front of you and stand with your knees slightly bent.
- Lifting the weight off the ground to about your upper thighs with your back straight and hinging at your hips to move it up towards the body.
- Tighten your glutes, keep your arms close to your sides, and lower the weight somewhere between your knees and toes until you feel an almost stretching sensation in your hamstrings as you exercise.
- Shift your hips forward and squeeze your glutes to return to standing straight.
- Pause for one to three seconds at the top.
- Repeat until you reach the desired reps.
Squats recruit the major muscles involved in lower body strength.
This makes squats one of the most efficient exercises for developing muscle strength in your glutes and core.
To do squats correctly, you must:
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and toes slightly facing outwards.
- Bend at the hips, using your core to keep your back straight, and then begin by sitting back in your heels as you lower yourself down.
- Begin slowly rising back up once you have reached a comfortable depth. Utilize the same form you used down as you push through your midfoot and perform a full lockout of muscles at the top of the movement.
- Repeat for desired reps.
Kickbacks are a great way to activate the muscles surrounding the hip joint, including the glutes, making them work harder as you extend your leg to the back.
As with any exercise form, proper form and technique are key, so take the time to learn it before beginning your kickback rep.
To properly perform kickbacks, you must:
- Standing on both feet facing forward, flex your hips so that your hips are pushed forward slightly.
- Quickly swing one foot back and then the other in the same situation. Keep your hips forward for balance and maintain focus on whichever leg you plan to do the kickback with.
What Are the Benefits of Glute Exercises?
The benefits of glute exercises are enhanced performance, prevented injury, and improved stability.
1. Prevent injury and relieve pain
Sitting for extended periods can cause weak glute muscles, leading to serious issues such as back pain and knee injuries.
Strengthening our glutes is essential not only for upper body support but also to stabilize the spine, pelvis, and legs - preventing a myriad of postural problems from arising.
2. Improve Posture
Strong glute muscles are essential for proper body posture – they provide your spine with the necessary support and stabilize your pelvis to maintain a healthy alignment.
This segment stability in lower back regions leads to improved lumbar health.
3. Enhance Athletic Performance
Having well-functioning glutes can lead to incredible improvements in your day-to-day activities and boost athletic performance.
The benefits of strong glutes are significant since they form the base for an impressive upper-body foundation that will exponentially improve your athletic performance.
How Often Should Glute Exercises Be Done?
Glute exercises should be done at least once to two a week on non-consecutive days, depending on the intensity level, to allow your body to repair and build muscle.
Can I Bulk Up My Glutes?
Yes, you can bulk up your glutes by being on a calorie surplus and performing exercises like squats, hip thrusts, glute bridges, and lunges.
Do I Need to Lift Heavy to Grow Glutes?
No, you do not need to lift heavy to grow your glutes; performing bodyweight exercises like squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, and lunges allows you to tone up and grow your glutes.
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