A steel-forged booty looks good on everyone. What’s more, smart glute training is a key component of any solid exercise program. Without focusing on your glutes, you might not be able to really maximize your big lifts like deadlifts and squats. Powerful, engaged glutes have a strong correlation with posterior chain strength and overall athletic performance.
Progressively overloading weighted movements is a great way to get stronger. But strength, power, and functional fitness athletes can also integrate non-weighted glute exercises and expect many of the same benefits without demanding so much from your recovery.
This article will teach you about 10 highly effective bodyweight glute exercises. You’ll also learn how to integrate these moves into your programming, strategies for maximizing the effectiveness of bodyweight training, and why non-weighted glute training might be what your training routine is missing.
Best Bodyweight Glute Exercises
- Quadruped Hip Extension
- Quadruped Hip Circle
- Side-Lying Leg Lift
- Clam Shell
- Mini-Band Walk
- Glute Bridge
- Hip Thrust
- Split Squat
- Lateral Lunge
Quadruped Hip Extension
Sometimes called glute kickbacks, quadruped hip extensions are good for increasing glute muscle activity compared to other non-weighted movements. This exercise can easily be performed without load, and is often done in higher repetition ranges, with isometric holds, and/or against light manual resistance from mini bands for added tension.
Benefits of the Quadruped Hip Extension
- Target your glutes specifically without adding pressure or compression to your spine.
- Activate your glutes unilaterally to reduce muscular or strength asymmetries.
- Strengthen your glutes while training your body to keep your hips “square” during unilateral movement.
How To Do the Quadruped Hip Extension
Set up on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Maintaining your knee at a 90 degree angle, slowly raise your right leg so that you’re kicking your heel back and up behind you. Maintain a neutral spine and try not to sway to one side or another throughout the movement. Repeat for the same number of reps on the opposite side.
Quadruped Hip Circle
Quadruped hip circles can be done in both directions per leg, offering the added bonus of hip mobility training and glute activation. This exercise is often found in glute activation/warm up segments and is performed in a slow and controlled manner.
Benefits of the Quadruped Hip Circle
- Improve hip mobility.
- Increase and strengthen your end ranges of motion.
- Strengthen your glutes in multiple planes of motion.
How To Do the Quadruped Hip Circle
Start in quadruped position, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. With your weight transferred evenly between your hands and your left knee and toes, raise your right leg off the ground. Maintaining a 90 degree bend in your knee, kick your right leg up and back.
Once you’ve reached your full range of motion, trace a circle outward with your knee until your leg — still at a 90 degree bend — travels toward your shoulder, back down your body and to the ground under your hip. Repeat on the opposite side.
Side Lying Leg Lift
Side-lying leg lifts target the gluteus medius and are helpful at developing hip stabilization and support. In addition, this exercise can be done against resistance bands or against manual resistance.
Benefits of the Side-Lying Leg Lift
- Improve your hip stabilization, which translates into more efficiency under heavy loads.
- Target and strengthen your gluteus medius.
- Train your body to move in the frontal plane of motion.
How to Do the Side-Lying Leg Lift
Lie on your left side with your left arm either pillowed under your head or out on the ground in front of you. Rest one leg on top of the other with a soft bend in the knees.
Squeeze your right glute to slowly raise your right leg toward the ceiling. Pause at the top and then lower your leg under control. Complete your reps and repeat on the other side.
Clam shells are a more beginner-friendly version of the side lying leg lift. The simple adjustment of bending your knees reduces torque at the hips, making the movement more accessible to new trainees, those recovering from injury, or if you’re just looking for an easy hip warm-up.
Benefits of the Clam Shell
- Strengthen your hips and gluteus medius.
- Improve your pelvic stabilization without requiring a full range of motion from your entire lower body.
How to Do the Clam Shell
With your knees bent at 90 degrees, lie on your left side. Squeeze your right glute to raise your right thigh toward the ceiling. Lower back down with slow control. Finish your reps slowly and repeat on the other side.
Mini-band walks, or monster walks, are commonly seen in glute activation warm-ups. If you happen to have access to a resistance band, walks can add some dynamic movement to your warm-up and get you primed for power.
Benefits of the Mini-Band Walk
- Warm up the entire lower body and midsection.
- Incorporate lateral movement into your training, which will make you stronger and more athletic overall.
- Target and strengthen your glutes while dynamically moving your entire body.
How to Do the Mini-Band Walk
Secure a mini-band around your thighs or your calves — whichever works for your body and the type of band you have. Assume an athletic stance (upright torso with a slight hinge in the hips and soft knees). Take slow and deliberate sidesteps. Adjust your stride so that it’s long enough to incur resistance from the band but short enough that you’re in control and not hopping.
Glute bridges are helpful for increasing strength and muscle endurance of the glutes. In addition to tempo training and isometric holds, glute bridges can be done against band tension for added challenge. You can also perform the bridge one leg at a time to seriously ante up your training stimulus.
Benefits of the Glute Bridge
- Target your glutes for improved strength, stability, and endurance.
- Improve overall athleticism by strengthening your glutes without dramatically increasing your recovery needs.
- Carryover strength benefits directly to squats and deadlifts.
How to Do the Glute Bridge
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet firmly planted. Keep your lower back flush against the ground. Press your heels into the ground and squeeze your glutes, lifting your hips and lower back off the floor. Contract your glutes and hamstrings until you reach your end range of motion, extending your hips as fully as you can. Lower with control, reset, and repeat.
While producing similar benefits to glute bridges, hip raises — or hip thrusts — are performed with your back braced on a bench rather than lying on the ground. This variation increases the range of motion available to you, making it a bit more challenging.
Benefits of the Hip Thrust
- Increase hip flexion by using a bench to increase the range of motion.
- Perfect your form using this bodyweight version, so that if you choose to perform weighted hip thrusts, you will move much more efficiently.
How to Do the Hip Thrust
Settle your mid-upper back on a bench with your knees bent and feet planted firmly on the ground in front of you. Experiment with foot position so that your knees are bent to a 90-degree angle at the top of each rep.
Start with your hips bent and near to the ground. When ready, engage your glutes and hamstrings and raise your hips to full extension, keeping your back firmly on the bench. Lower with control and repeat.
Lunges might seem like a strictly leg day affair, but this dynamic exercise is about more than just quad development. Lunges will help you develop glutes that aren’t only strong, but can endure both high-rep and high-intensity sessions.
Benefits of the Lunge
- Develop strength and endurance in your glutes simultaneously.
- Reduce muscular and strength asymmetries with unilateral training.
- Improve full-body coordination and stability.
How to Do the Lunge
Stand with your torso upright, shoulders relaxed, and feet about hip width apart. Keep your shoulders square and take a step forward, slightly farther than your normal stride would be. When your front foot contacts the ground, sink down into a lunge until your back knee is a few inches off the ground. Both legs should reach about 90 degree angles, with your front knee tracking above your toes. Come back to standing and take your next step. Repeat.
Split squats are heavy hitters when it comes to strength development. During this powerhouse move, the glutes work to stabilize the hips and knee, as well as aid in extension of the hip.
Benefits of the Split Squat
- Improve lower body mobility.
- Increase glute strength at your end ranges of motion.
- Address movement, muscular, and strength asymmetries.
How to Do the Split Squat
Set your feet up as if you were about to perform a lunge. Make sure your front knee will track over your toes without spilling over. Your back knee should be able to form a roughly 90 degree angle while gently touching the ground during the descent. You can widen your feet slightly if you need more balance.
Sink into your lunge with an upright torso, but keep your feet planted and in the same position throughout your entire set. Most of the tension should be in your front leg. Switch sides when you’re done with your reps and repeat.
Lateral lunges are excellent to have in your arsenal when you’re looking to reduce imbalances and make yourself more resilient against injury. They’ll challenge your glutes and help you become more stable in potentially vulnerable positions.
Benefits of the Lateral Lunges
- Reduce muscular and strength asymmetries.
- Increase strength and mobility in the frontal plane.
- Improve resilience against injury.
How to Do the Lateral Lunge
Stand tall with your torso upright and your feet about hip width. Step your left foot out to the side and find a distance at which you can sink back into your hip and lunge completely to your left. You’ll want to keep both heels on the ground and straighten your right leg.
Keep your torso as upright as you can throughout the movement and really let your glutes do the work. You can alternate sides if you’re comfortable with your footing, or you can do one side at a time if balance is still difficult for you.
Benefits Of Bodyweight Glute Training
When you can activate your glutes by squatting and deadlifting, it’s easy to argue that you don’t need bodyweight training for your glutes. Yet there are specific benefits to working with just your body weight — and yes, it will help you lift heavier when you do go back to your barbell.
Focus on Form
You might normally rush to load your body with weight — an understandable temptation. But in the course of regular training, it can be easy to neglect the smaller movements that teach you impeccable form.
With bodyweight moves, you can train your body on how to properly activate your glutes during big lifts. Bodyweight glute exercises engage your glutes without the distraction of external load, making you stronger while laying the foundation you need for powerful squats and heavy deadlifts.
Improve Glute Strength
As part of your regular programming, you generally want to stress your muscles under the mechanical load of weights. However, it’s also beneficial to provide your body with stimuli that don’t involve heavy load.
With bodyweight glute exercises, you can target your glutes without leg strength is a limiting factor (as in the squat, for example). You can also work on getting stronger without needing to recover from an intense training session. That way, you can work in more volume without compromising recovery.
Increase Hip Strength and Mobility
Isolating your glutes with bodyweight work can also help increase hip strength and mobility. Bodyweight exercises that may seem remedial at a glance, such as clam shells or lateral walks, often challenge the glutes in acute ranges of motion that you don’t perform under the barbell. This makes load-less glute training highly applicable to zoning in on the muscle’s more detailed functions.
How to Train Glutes Without Weights
When you’re training with bodyweight only, you sometimes need to get creative with making sure you’re working hard enough to be effective — without boring yourself with endless reps. Check out these six strategies for training your glutes without weights, each of which you can use with pretty much any exercise.
Isometric training is when the muscle is contracting and working against tension yet not producing joint flexion or extension. Movements like wall sits, planks, and glute bridge holds all require isometric strength and control. Isometrics can help to increase muscle firing patterns, help an athlete learn to engage and feel proper muscle activation, and make certain exercises more challenging.
Tempo training can be done to increase time under tension, enhance muscle coordination and control, and help attack weak areas within the full range of motion. It can be applied to nearly every exercise and requires no additional loading.
Mini-bands and/or resistance bands can be used to add tension to a movement and also help muscular firing patterns to maximize glute engagement. Exercises like hip raises and glute bridges can be done while wearing a mini-band to further place demands upon the glutes.
High Volume Training
Increased repetitions and total sets can help to take a standard non-weighted glute exercise to the next level. Exercise like lunges, hip raises, and glute bridges all can be done for higher volumes (for example, up to 100 walking lunges for time).
Note that some exercises done in higher volumes may also stress the hamstrings and quadriceps just as much as the glutes, so pay close attention to your body while testing the waters with lots of reps.
Single-legged variations allow a lifter to distribute more loading to one glute than the other without needing to increase tension via external loads. Unilateral exercises, which can also be paired with tempos, bands, and isometrics, are a great way to increase muscle hypertrophy, endurance, and address asymmetries.
Manual resistance training can be one way to increase tension and “loading” on movements like clam shells, quadruped hip extension, and lying leg raises without the usage of weights. It allows a lifter (and their partner) to work against one another to create increased tension that can be adjusted based on fatigue levels to fully fatigue a muscle and inspire muscle growth.
How to Program Bodyweight Glute Exercises
Fortunately, implementing some calisthenics into your training regime isn’t as complicated as it may look. While hypertrophy work might need a delicate touch in terms of programming, the rules of bodyweight training are pretty straightforward.
Make sure you’re performing your most taxing exercises first for safety reasons — unless you’re using these moves to warm up. For example, feel free to use a few sets of bodyweight split squats to help prime your glutes for loaded squats. But if you’re going to do tempo training with split squats — which is more intense — you might choose to program them after any big loaded movement.
Further, avoid hitting absolute failure on early sets of bodyweight work. If you’ve ever done an AMRAP set of push-ups or crunches, you know how tough it is to even think about doing any more work after. Keep yourself shy of failure by a rep or two until you’re finishing your session to ensure a high quality of work throughout.
More Glute Gains
Whether you’re looking to make your glutes stronger for aesthetic reasons, forge a more powerful body, or both, bodyweight glute movements are extremely helpful. Check out these glute training articles if you want to bring your glute game to the next level.
- 14 Best Glute Exercises For Size, Strength, and Activation
- Are You Leaving Glute Gains On The Table? Try This Two-Move Finisher
- Better Glutes, Better Pulls: How Powerlifters Should Approach Posterior Training
Featured Image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock