Everybody wants a nice butt. Bodybuilders need a well-developed posterior to bring a complete package to the stage, powerlifters have to have strong glutes to lock out heavy pulls or squats, and pretty much everyone wants to look good in jeans.
Glute training has risen to prominence in the fitness world, but many mainstream exercises and workouts are inherently flawed. Building a rock-solid booty takes a bit more finesse than yet another set of unweighted kickbacks.
If you want to train your butt properly, you’ve come to the right place. Here are five workouts that have been fine-tuned to guarantee glute gains.
Best Glute Workouts
- Best Glute Workout for Beginners
- Best Glute Workout for Hypertrophy
- Best Glute Workout for Strength
- Best Glute Workout for Sport
- Best Glute Workout for Endurance
Beginner glute workouts should focus on building baseline skill, strength, and endurance in hip extension, abduction, and external rotation. You can get there via hip stability drills, single-leg and bilateral bridges, hinges, and squatting. Medium-to-high rep counts are your friend here.
Bilateral bridges, hinges, and squatting patterns are the bread and butter of developing the glutes. In order to get there, early focus should be placed on mastering technique, preventing unilateral differences in skill or strength, and improving hip stability. Since these exercises will become staples for any number of glute workouts, building a strong foundation is critical.
- Single-Leg Glute Bridge — 2 x 12 repetitions per leg.
- Assisted Split Squat — 3 x 15 repetitions per leg.
- Goblet Squat — 3 x 10
- Landmine Romanian Deadlift — 3 x 10
Coach’s Tip: Beginners often have trouble with activating their glutes properly. If you’re new to training your butt, take your time to find the contraction properly. Glute work should be felt in the glutes, not in the lower back or hamstrings.
Training the glutes for hypertrophy places an emphasis on heavier load and higher volume bilateral and unilateral versions of the bridge, hinge, and squatting patterns. Machine or cable work is a great way to stabilize the range of motion so your limiting factor is glute fatigue, not stability in the hip or spine.
Using a leg press to train the squatting pattern, straps for grip on dumbbell or barbell moves, and using machines for burnout are great ways to maximize results over the course of a workout. A mix of all modalities – barbells, dumbbells, and machines — is useful, and can be rotated to keep training fun and stimulating.
- Romanian Deadlift — 3 x 8
- Leg Press — 3 x 8 – 10
- Bulgarian Split Squat — 3 x 12 repetitions per leg.
- Machine Hip Thrust — 3 x as many repetitions as possible (AMRAP).
- Back Extension — 2 x 15
In order to strengthen the glutes, training in heavier rep ranges with exercises that force integration of skill and muscle function is your best option. Pepper in a few machine exercises to top off the session once fatigue begins to accumulate and your glutes will be stronger in no time.
Working with free weights like the barbell or dumbbells is the best way to combine strength, skill, and function. Choosing a barbell or dumbbell version of the squat or hinge to primarily focus on while rotating through other methods of challenging the remaining patterns is a great tool for training with long-term progress in mind.
- Barbell Squat — 3 x 5
- Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift — 3 x 8 – 10
- Bulgarian Split Squat — 3 x 8 – 10
- Machine Hip Thrust — 3 x AMRAP.
Coach’s Tip: To maximize strength in the glutes, focus on a quick turnaround from the eccentric (lowering) phase to the concentric (lifting). A controlled eccentric into a quick, aggressive contraction is great for developing muscle strength.
An athletic training style for the glutes should emphasize strength, explosiveness, and durability. This means that a focus on plyometric drills, strength training, and stability to cap the session is a good rule of thumb if you’re looking to improve the physical characteristics that are most relevant to your sport.
It’s also important that any glute training for sport performance not interfere with sport practice itself. In fact, a good glute program should enhance the skills you practice on the track or field.
Training for sport is about training for a specific outcome. Oftentimes, the overall feel of a sport-specific workout is very different from pure strength or hypertrophy. Strict adherence to rest periods, perfect technique for every repetition, and knowing how to “stimulate” but not “obliterate” the glutes is paramount.
- Box Jump — 10 x 3
- High Bar Squat — 3 x 6 – 8
- Contralateral Single-Leg RDL — 2 x 10 repetitions per leg.
- Ipsilateral Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat — 2 x 10 repetitions per leg.
- Single-Leg Glute Bridge — 2 x 12 repetitions per leg.
Coach’s Tip: You can make slight technical adjustments to your form if you’re doing glute work for sport performance. If working on one leg, your posture and position can be tweaked to mirror how you land, cross, or tackle.
Glute endurance helps provide sustained benefits for everyday life. When the glutes are weak, easily fatigued, or technically undeveloped, it’s easy to fall back on other muscles or joints to perform the tasks that the glutes simply are not able to handle.
Using glute workouts to reinforce gait cycle mechanics (walking or sprinting), cardiovascular endurance training, and hip stability can help prevent real-life scenarios from causing unnecessary fatigue.
Long walks, hiking, or standing for extended periods of time can all challenge the endurance of the glutes. Choosing exercises that mimic and overload those patterns can reinforce proper mechanics when these real-life challenges occur, and also help build a solid foundation of glute development in the process.
- Reverse Lunge into Sprinter Pose — 2 x 10 repetitions per leg.
- Tempo 1 and ¼ Goblet Squat — 2 x 12
- Step Up — 3 x 12 repetitions per leg.
- Staggered-Stance Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift — 3 x 15 repetitions per leg.
- Glute Bridge — 2 x 20
- Stair Climbs — 10 minutes.
Coach’s Tip: Breathing is key for navigating endurance workouts. To get through high-rep sets with (relative) ease, maintain a controlled and consistent breathing pattern.
Anatomy of the Glutes
Developing an understanding of glute anatomy will help reinforce why certain exercises or their variations are such staples in optimal glute training. Since gym time is valuable, you should probably have a working knowledge of glute anatomy. Understanding the behavior of the muscle you’re targeting can prevent you from wasting time on exercises that don’t stimulate the glutes to a meaningful extent.
The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the three glute muscles – it can be found layered deep (physically underneath) the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus. It’s main role is to stabilize and abduct the hip, such as in lateral lunges.
The gluteus medius is the second smallest of the glute muscles and can be found along the upper lateral side of the hip. While the gluteus medius can serve as a hip abductor muscle, it functionally provides most of its benefits through lateral hip stability in all manner of squats and hinges.
The gluteus maximus muscle is the largest, most superficial of the glute muscles and is the major player when it comes to developing the strength or aesthetics of the glutes. The gluteus maximus is a very powerful hip extensor muscle, and thus is trained most effectively in exercises that move the hip from a flexed to extended position.
Benefits of Glute Training
Given the unique layout and function of each gluteal muscle, many different benefits arise from a well-rounded glute training program. Improved aesthetics, hip, knee, and spinal stability, and maximal power development are added incentives for training the glutes.
As it is the largest glute muscle, and thus most impactful on your physique, prioritizing the gluteus maximus in your workouts is a surefire way to create the best bang-for-your-buck program.
Exercises that prioritize hip extension (with progressive sets, repetitions, or load) are going to help build a strong and shapely backside.
Hip, Knee, and Spinal Stability
Single-leg exercises or dynamic movement patterns directly challenge the gluteus medius. There is a shared responsibility of stabilizing the hip, knee, and spine from a few different muscle groups, and as the strength or coordination of the gluteus medius improves so too does its ability to contribute to stability.
Maximal Strength and Power Output
The glutes are among the prime movers in nearly every explosive strength or power exercise. While cleans, snatches, and sprinting are all tools to train the glutes, you can get more bang for your buck and develop serious power along the way with more direct glute movements.
How to Program Glute Workouts
Glute workouts benefit from getting the most out of every exercise from a fatigue management standpoint. Big hip extension exercises, especially when performed with the barbell, can be tiring. Understanding how to manipulate exercise order, challenging different ranges of motion, and workout frequency can all optimize your glute gains.
Train Largest to Smallest
Tackle exercises that require the greatest amount of skill, coordination, or load first. Many of these exercises — such as squats, deadlifts, or leg presses — will be heavily fatiguing because of how much load they can require. The safest and most effective way to train is in the order of biggest movement patterns or loading schemes to smallest.
Challenge All Ranges of Motion
Certain exercises challenge the glutes to a greater degree at the beginning or end of the range of motion. A clever way to maximally fatigue the glutes is to arrange the order of your exercises so you’re always challenging the muscle at a different point.
For example, the leg press or squat is often the hardest on the glutes at the bottom and easier towards the top. However, a 45 degree back extension is usually easiest at the bottom and most difficult at the top.
By strategically placing exercises like the squat or leg press early in the workout when the glutes are the freshest, exercises such as the back extension or good morning can still be trained effectively later.
It’s important to hit the glutes with decent frequency. Prioritizing the bigger glute exercises such as barbell squats, deadlifts, and leg presses twice a week is great, but complementing those sessions with another day of lighter isolation work is even better.
This can be in the form of single-leg or machine exercises with more conservative loading parameters to make sure you’re recovered enough for the next big leg day. In fact, a low-intensity session itself might even help speed up recovery in general.
How to Warm Up for Glute Workouts
Glute warm-ups should prime the muscle for work but also wake up the other muscle groups responsible for working synergistically in hip extension. This means incorporating exercises and drills that promote increased stability and alignment of the trunk and limbs.
Things like single-leg bridges or hinges, split squats, or some light cable kickbacks before your big lifts or during early sets can help keep your movement locked in for the whole session.
The Big Picture
You might want a strong butt to help you lift heavier weights. On the other hand, you may just want to build a posterior that grabs attention. Either way, to truly develop your glutes, you need to give equal attention back to your training.
Luckily, the right program can do a lot of the heavy lifting on your journey to crafting an iron backside. With a bit of anatomical expertise and a healthy amount of sweat, you can go get the glutes you’ve always wanted.
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