Who doesn’t want a nice butt? Something strong, fit, and well-rounded to fill out your trousers? In addition to the obvious aesthetic appeal of well-developed glutes, there are tonnes of health, athletic, and functional fitness benefits. These include the metabolic boost that comes from large muscle groups, reduced risk of injury when active or just participating in life, better balance, improved back support, and better mobility and agility. Don’t just sit on it – work those glutes and snag all of these amazing perks that just keep giving.
Before we jump into our guide on how to quickly, effectively, and safely build your glutes, let’s take a second to define what they are and what they do.
The term ‘glutes’ refers to a set of three muscles in the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the human body and the outermost of the three; the gluteus medius, slightly smaller and located underneath the gluteus maximus; and the gluteus minimus, located deep inside the buttocks, underneath the gluteus minimus. While all three of these muscles are activated differently, we think of them as a synergistic group that works together to allow for hip extension (standing up, climbing stairs, and running), hip abduction (stepping to the side), hip rotation, pelvic stabilisation for proper lower back-, hip-, and knee function, and are responsible for back and postural support as well as force absorption and generation.
Studio Society has compiled a list of our 10 favourite glute exercises for size, strength, and activation. Getting that butt that turns heads takes time and effort, and there’s no single exercise that will do it all. Well-rounded development requires a combination of compound movements, isolation exercises, and a variety of rep ranges and tempos. You can consult with a personal trainer to help you determine the absolute best combination for your unique situation.
Activation exercises or movements are all about preparing the muscles for physical exertion. They typically comprise short isolation exercises that increase blood flow to specific muscles, waking them up for more demanding exercises to follow. Activation exercises can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. Even just a few minutes of activation movements during your warm-up session can drastically improve the quality and enjoyment of the rest of your workout.
Band Lateral Walks
Equipment needed: Resistance band
Place a resistance band around your thighs, just above the knees. Start in a half-squat position, feet shoulder-width apart. Maintain this position as you step laterally to one side, then follow with the other foot so you return to the original stance width. Keep tension on the band and your knees aligned over your toes. Step in the opposite direction and repeat.
Equipment needed: Resistance band and gym mat
Lie on your side with legs bent at a 90-degree angle and a resistance band around your thighs. Stack your feet and hips. Keep your feet touching as you lift your top knee towards the ceiling, creating a clamshell-like opening. Lower back down with control. Repeat on both sides.
Equipment needed: Gym mat
Lie on your back with feet flat and shoulder-width apart, knees bent. Your arms should be at your sides, palms facing down. Press through your heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips towards the ceiling. At the top, your body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees. Lower back down and repeat.
All four of the exercises listed below will help you achieve hypertrophy (muscle growth) in the glutes. You’ll notice that they all involve lifting weights through a full range of motion, allowing the muscles to stretch and contract fully.
Equipment needed: Barbell
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place a barbell on your upper back, as you would during a squat. Keeping a slight bend in your knees, hinge at the hips and lower your upper body forward until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Engage your glutes and hamstrings to reverse the motion, returning to the starting position.
Equipment needed: Barbell
Start with feet shoulder-width apart, close to a barbell. Hinge at the hips and knees to grasp the bar with both hands. Your grip can be overhand or mixed. Keep your back flat and chest up. Engage your core and lift the bar by fully extending your hips and knees. At the top, shoulders should be back and hips fully extended. Lower the bar back down by hinging at the hips and bending the knees.
Barbell Hip Thrusts
Equipment needed: Barbell and bench
Sit on the floor with a bench behind you and a barbell across your hips. Make sure that the bench is on a non-slip mat or secure against a wall or other heavy equipment. Roll the barbell over your legs and lean your upper back against the bench. The feet should be flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and drive your hips upward, lifting the barbell. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top. Lower back down, barely touching the floor, and repeat.
Equipment needed: Barbell or kettlebell
Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed outward. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of you with both hands. Keep your back straight and chest up as you lower into a squat, pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Your knees should follow the direction of your toes. Drive back up to the starting position, pushing through your heels. Repeat.
These unilateral-focus exercises (one side of the body at a time) are great for developing muscle strength and endurance. They allow for a greater load to be placed on individual muscles while at the same time requiring core and pelvic stability that will improve your balance and ability to perform day-to-day tasks such as standing up and climbing stairs.
Bulgarian Split Squats
Equipment needed: Gym bench
Stand facing away from a bench, about two feet away. Place one foot behind you on the bench and the other foot flat on the floor in front. Lower into a lunge, ensuring your front knee stays above the ankle. Push through the heel of the front foot to return to the starting position. Keep your chest up and back straight throughout. Perform sets for both legs.
Single-leg Romanian Deadlifts
Equipment needed: Dumbbell
Stand on one leg, holding a dumbbell in the opposite hand. Keep a slight bend in the standing knee. Hinge at the hips to lower the dumbbell towards the ground while extending the free leg behind you. Keep your back flat and core engaged. Return to the starting position by driving your hips forward. Repeat on both sides.
Equipment needed: Dumbbells and stepping box
Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Stand in front of a sturdy bench or platform. Place one foot firmly on the bench. Push through the heel of the elevated foot, stepping up onto the bench. Bring the other foot up to join it. Step back down to the starting position and repeat. Perform sets for both legs. This is a great option for beginners as it doesn’t require as much strength to get your form right as the other two options in this list.
Safely working out your glutes
Your glutes are responsible for enabling a lot of the movements required to get through the day, and while strong and healthy glutes make this easier and more comfortable, sore or injured glutes (or even worse, an injured back) can make getting around or even standing up near impossible. Combining our list of 10 best glute exercises with our tips on performing them safely can help you achieve your goals without putting yourself on the sidelines or in the ER.
1. Don’t skip the warm-up
Attempting to deadlift 130 kg after a long day at the office without a warm-up or activation movements is a great way of guaranteeing you won’t be hitting the gym for a couple of weeks. Coaches and personal trainers insist on warm-ups for a reason: they increase blood and oxygen flow to our muscles and activate and prime the connections between nerves and muscles, allowing us to safely move and lift weights that are likely to injure unprepared muscles.
2. Be humble with the weights
We get it! It’s fun to find your one-rep max on the deadlift. We all want to know how thick we can stack the plates on the barbell and still complete a squat. What we want you to get is that, quite frankly, there’s no better way of injuring yourself in the gym than by overdoing it with the weights. Even if your glutes can handle the 80 kg of weight on your shoulders when doing Good Mornings, your back probably can’t. Unless you are an experienced weightlifter or genuinely in exceptional physical form, we cannot stress enough how important it is to use weights that you are comfortable lifting. Don’t overdo it. The weight always wins!
3. Find your form
Good form throughout the entire range of motion is about more than just getting the best muscle growth results. Good form also keeps our joints aligned, helping to prevent injury. It’s easy to imagine how poor deadlift form, even if the weight is correct, can throw out a back. Asking for help or critique on your form is in no way, shape, or form embarrassing or a gym no-no. Even professional lifters and athletes will ask for advice when going at a new exercise. Don’t be too proud to ask for help if you’re unsure about your form. You’ll see better results and reduce the risk of injury.
Hit your strength and fitness goals with Studio Society
If you’re on the hunt for a bigger, stronger, and more well-rounded bottom, look no further than Studio Society. Our newly opened strength studio has everything you could possibly need to hit any sort of fitness goal, including state-of-the-art equipment, a buzzing and energetic vibe, a supportive and fast-growing community of fitness enthusiasts, and a team of skilled and experienced personal trainers.
If pumping iron isn’t your thing, take a look at our myriad of group classes hosted in the most technologically advanced studios in the UK. We’ve got something for everyone, regardless of age, gender, or physical fitness level.
Feel free to reach out to Studio Society at email@example.com to find out how we can help you reinvent yourself, build confidence, and join the most vibrant fitness community in London.