Strength Training
Posted by: Amanda Capritto on
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The 3 Absolute Best Exercises to Build Your Glutes

Don’t lie — you want a nice butt. We’re not judging! (Who doesn’t want a backside that turns heads?). In your pursuit of a perky bum, you’ve probably spent countless hours performing squats and donkey kicks. While those exercises definitely have their place, they won’t help you build your bottom as quickly or as effectively as these three glute-boosting exercises.

1. Barbell Hip Thrusts

Variations: Dumbbell hip thrusts, kettlebell hip thrust, single-leg hip thrust, banded hip thrust (mini band around knees)

Why this is one of the best exercises for your glutes: Hip thrusts aggressively target the gluteus maximus (upper glute muscles) and gluteus medius (lower glute muscle) and recruit the hamstrings as secondary movers, making this one of the most effective exercises for your backside.

How to do barbell hip thrusts:

  1. Set up a bench, chair, box or other sturdy, flat object against a wall. The platform should be about knee-high.
  2. Place your barbell about two feet in front of the platform. Sit down with your upper back against the platform and roll the barbell over your legs to your hips (you should use weight plates that allow for a few inches of space between the barbell and your thighs when sitting). Use a bar pad for comfort.
  3. Plant your feet firmly, placing them close to your glutes.
  4. Drive through the heels to send your hips upward. Achieve a bridge position (thighs parallel to the ground) by fully extending your hips. Take care not to overextend your lower back.
  5. With control, lower your hips until they hover one to two inches above the ground. Start your next from this position. The idea is to maintain tension instead of lowering all the way to the ground.

2. Barbell Bulgarian Split Squats

Variations: Suitcase (dumbbell) Bulgarian split squats, Goblet (kettlebell) Bulgarian split squats, bodyweight Bulgarian split squats, traditional split squats, reverse lunges

Why this is one of the best exercises for your glutes: Bulgarian split squats offset your bodyweight onto one leg and reduce muscle recruitment from the lower back. The elevation challenges the eccentric strength of your glutes on the working leg and allows you to access more depth than regular squats or lunges.

How to do Bulgarian split squats:

  1. Set up a bench, chair, box or other sturdy, flat object against a wall. The platform should be about knee-high.
  2. Stand two to three feet in front of the platform, facing away from it.
  3. Extend your right leg behind you and place the top of your foot on the platform. Square and align your hips and shoulders.
  4. Brace your core and descend until your right thigh becomes parallel with the ground. Avoid leaning too far forward.
  5. Maintain your weight throughout your foot (don’t shift onto your toes or roll onto the outsides of your feet).
  6. Drive through the heel to return to standing.

3. Barbell Sumo Deadlift

Variations: Kettlebell or dumbbell sumo deadlift

Why this is one of the best exercises for your glutes: Thanks to the wide stance, external rotation of the hips and shortened range of motion, sumo deadlifts aggressively target the glutes (specifically the gluteus medius), hamstrings and the upper, inner thigh.

How to do sumo deadlifts:

  1. Load a barbell with a challenging weight. Many lifters are able to move more weight on sumo deadlifts versus conventional, so keep that in mind.
  2. Stand in front of the barbell with your feet in a wide stance. Position them far enough apart so that your elbows stay inside your knees when you descend. Point your toes outward slightly.
  3. Hinge backward at the hips (send your butt back) and bend your knees to grasp the bar. Your grip should be neutral and comfortable.
  4. Drive through your heels to pull the weight off of the ground, locking your knees and hips out simultaneously. Fully extend your hips at the top.
  5. To descend, hinge at the hips and then bend the knees to return the weight to the ground.