9 Best Upper Glute Workouts (Secret to Firm & Toned Booty)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: March 11, 2024
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The upper glute muscles play a crucial role in essential movements such as walking, running, and jumping.

As a professional fitness coach for a decade, many clients approach me with lower back or knee pain, often unaware of the potential benefits of glute exercises in stabilizing the hips and lower back, improving balance, and reducing discomfort in these areas.

Selecting the proper upper glute exercise for your routine can be challenging, which is why I have compiled a list of gluteus medius exercises that have proven to be highly effective for my clients over the past ten years.

Quick Summary

  • To develop firm and toned upper glutes, incorporate exercises like glute bridges, curtsy squats, and sumo squats into your workout routine.
  • Key exercises like the glute bridge and barbell hip thrust are emphasized for their effectiveness in targeting the upper glute muscles.
  • According to the study found on the National Institute of Health website, consistent upper glute workouts 2-3 times per week can significantly benefit overall health and fitness.
  • In my view, a combination of these targeted exercises, when performed consistently, can significantly enhance upper glute strength and aesthetics.

The Best Exercises for Your Upper Glute Workout

A person working out her upper glute workout at home

In my training sessions, I always recommend that my clients pick four or five of these exercises for their glute day, tailoring the number of reps and sets to their individual fitness levels.

Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is excellent for building strength and muscle growth.

Start using your body weight; you can add weights or resistance bands for stretching and mobility workouts because it will add difficulty as you get stronger.

Follow these steps:

  • Lie on your back, bending your knees so your feet are flat on the ground.
  • Place your arms at your sides, palms facing down.
  • With your core engaged, squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips toward the ceiling.
  • Briefly hold at the top of the movement.
  • Lower back to the start.

Also Read: 9 Best Glute Exercises

Curtsy Squat

A woman doing a curtsy squat

Curtsy squats will target the glute, quad, and inner thigh muscles.

Follow these steps:

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  • Take a big step back and behind your other foot with your right leg, crossing it behind your other leg.
  • Lower into a squat position.
  • Don’t go past your toes with your front knee; your back knee should hover above the ground.
  • Hold briefly, then push through your left heel and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side, stepping back with your left leg and curtsying behind your right leg.
  • Alternate between sides for the desired number of reps.

Sumo Squat

Sumo squats work the upper glutes and several other muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and lower back.

Follow these steps:

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing outwards at a 45-degree angle.
  • Rest your hands on your hips or hold a kettlebell at chest height in front of you.
  • Bend your knees, keeping your chest up and your core engaged, and lower into a squat position, keeping your weight in your heels.
  • Ensure your knees track over your toes and your hips sink below parallel.
  • Hold for a moment, then push through your heels to return to the start.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Making small changes in your stance, your foot angle, and the depth of your squat can help promote greater glute activation.”

- Katey Davidson, Certified Personal Trainer

Lateral Lunge

A woman working out with lateral lunges at home

Lunges are great bodyweight exercises that you can add weight to for increased difficulty. The lateral lunge will promote mobility and flexibility in the hips.

Follow these steps:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, placing your hands on your hips.
  • Take a wide step to the right, keeping your left foot planted.
  • Bend your right knee, push your hips back, and lower into a lunge position.
  • Keep your left leg straight and your left foot flat on the ground.
  • Hold a moment, then push through your right heel to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side, stepping to the left with your left foot and lunging to the left.
  • Alternate between sides for the desired number of reps.

Also Read: How To Do A Curtsy Lunge

Barbell Hip Thrust

This hip thrust uses weight and is one of the best upper glute exercises to build strength and size.

Follow these steps:

  • Begin by sitting on the ground with your back against a bench or elevated surface and your knees bent.
  • Place a padded barbell across your lap and hold it in place with both hands.
  • Roll the bar down your legs until it is resting on your hips.
  • Keep your feet flat on the ground.
  • Lift your hips upward until your shoulders are in line with your knees.
  • Hold for a few seconds before lowering back down to start.

Related: Best Hip Thrust Machine: Grow Your Glutes

Dumbbell Front Squat

A woman in the gym doing dumbbell front squats

Where many squats use just your body weight, this squat variation uses dumbbells, requiring greater activation of the core and glutes.

Follow these steps:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height.
  • Bend your elbows, keeping them locked close to the body.
  • Keep the dumbbells above the elbows at all times.
  • Lower yourself into a squat position by bending your knees and pushing your hips back.
  • Keep your chest up and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
  • Push through your heels until you are back at the start.

Sumo Deadlift

This exercise targets every muscle group, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles. A neutral spine and glute engagement are essential for this exercise.

Follow these steps:

  • Start in a standing position with feet slightly wider than shoulder width and a barbell in front of you.
  • Your toes should point outward at a 45-degree angle.
  • Place your hands inside your legs and use an overhand or mixed grip on the barbell.
  • Brace your core muscles and push your hips back while keeping your chest up.
  • Drive through your heels to lift the bar off the ground, keeping it close to your body.
  • Straighten your legs and hips at the top of the movement.
  • Lower the bar and repeat.

Bulgarian Split Squat

A person doing bulgarian split squats

In my experience as a personal trainer, I've found that Bulgarian split squats are excellent for building strength and stability in the upper glutes, while also improving balance and flexibility in my clients.

Follow these steps:

  • Begin by standing with your back to a bench or elevated surface.
  • Place the top of one of your feet on the bench behind you and step forward with your other foot until you are in a lunge position.
  • Lower your body by bending your knees.
  • Keep your front knee above your ankle.
  • Continue lowering until your back knee is just above the ground, then push back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  • Switch to the other leg.

Single Leg Hip Thrust

From my personal training experience, this is an excellent bodyweight exercise I often recommend for strengthening and toning the upper glutes, as well as improving balance and stability.

Remember to engage your core and squeeze your glutes at the top of each rep.

Follow these steps:

  • Begin by sitting on the ground with your shoulder blades against a bench or elevated surface and your knees bent.
  • Lift one leg off the ground and extend it straight out in front of you.
  • Place the foot of your extended leg flat on the floor.
  • Pushing through your heel, lift your hips towards the ceiling.
  • Aim for a straight line from your shoulders to your knee.
  • Hold for a few seconds before lowering back down to the starting position.

Other Effective Exercises  to Target the Glutes

Dummbell Romanian Deadlifts

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is a strength exercise focusing on the hamstrings and glutes.

Holding dumbbells in front of your thighs, hinge at the hips, keeping your back straight, and lower the weights towards the ground. Slightly bend your knees, then extend your hips to return to standing.

Banded Walk

The banded walk is a lower body exercise where a resistance band is placed around the thighs or ankles.

You perform lateral steps, maintaining tension in the band, which activates the gluteus medius and minimus.

This exercise improves hip stability, strengthens the glutes, and enhances lower body muscular endurance.

Side Leg Lifts

Side leg lifts are a simple yet effective exercise targeting the hip abductors, particularly the gluteus medius and minimus.

Performed by lying on one side and lifting the upper leg towards the ceiling while keeping it straight, they enhance hip stability, tone the outer thighs, and strengthen the glutes.

Gluteal Anatomy

A graphic of the anatomy of glutes

There are three gluteal muscles: the maximus, minimus, and medius.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the medius makes up the upper glute anatomy [1].

  • Glute Maximus: Responsible for movements like hip extension, lateral thigh rotation and abduction, and proper posture.
  • Glute Minimus: It also works to aid hip abduction.
  • Glute Medius: The glute medius is the primary hip abductor, and it keeps your pelvis stable during movements like running and walking.

Also Read: Gluteus Maximus Exercises

Benefits of Working These Muscles

The gluteus medius is the muscle of the upper glute area and is the primary hip abductor.

According to the NIH, the gluteus medius plays a role in stabilizing the pelvis and internal and external hip joint rotation [2].

According to a study by the National Institute of Health, strengthening the upper buttock muscles with consistent upper glute workouts 2-3 times per week can benefit overall health and fitness [3].

Strong glutes can:

  • Reduce injury risk
  • Support better balance
  • Increase stability
  • Improve Posture
  • Enhance athletic performance
  • Increase calorie burn


How Do You Isolate Your Upper Glutes?

You isolate your upper glute by doing exercises like bridges, squats, lunges, and hip thrusts. Additionally, quadruped exercises on your hands and knees work several muscles, including the glutes.

How Long Should a Glute Workout Be?

How long a glute workout should be is directly related to the session’s intensity. High-intensity training can be effective in 10 minutes; otherwise, a session of 15–20 minutes is typical for body part-specific workouts.

What Exercise Has the Highest Glute Activation?

The exercise with the highest glute activation is the barbell hip thrust, as it specifically targets the gluteus maximus, providing maximum engagement and strength development in the gluteal muscles compared to other common exercises.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538193/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557509/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4713798/
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About The Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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