Your gluteus, or glutes, is one of the largest and strongest muscle groups in your body.
Regarded as the powerhouse of your body, this trio of muscles not only contributes to a well-rounded, aesthetic physique but also fuels our everyday movements and the explosive power required in various sports.
In this article, we will delve into the 15 best glute exercises to build, sculpt, and strengthen your glute muscles.
Glute Muscle Anatomy
To best train your glute muscles, you need to have a basic understanding of them. Therefore, let’s take a quick look at the glutes’ anatomy before delving into the glute exercises.
Your glutes are a muscle group consisting of three muscles on each side (in each buttock).
They are, in order of size:
- Gluteus Maximus
- Gluteus Medius
- Gluteus Minimus
Gluteus maximus is the largest of the three and the largest muscle in the entire body.
Gluteus medius is about 40% the size of gluteus maximus, and gluteus minimus is around 15%.1
All three muscles originate from your pelvis and insert into various locations on your thigh bone.
The main function of the glutes is to keep us erect. That is, to keep us standing on our feet without toppling over.
The main muscle keeping us upright is the gluteus maximus. It is also one of our strongest hip extensor muscles and is one of the prime movers in running, jumping, and strength training exercises like the squat and deadlift.
The gluteus medius and minimus are partly covered by the gluteus maximus and are located more to the sides. They stabilize our pelvis when we stand on one foot or do single-leg exercises and movements like walking, running, and climbing a stair. They can also lift our legs out to the sides.
It should be noted that the functions of these muscles are not black-and-white: All three glute muscles have wide, fan-shaped origins, and depending on the exercise and direction of force, there can be quite a lot of overlap in which muscles (and which muscle fibers within the muscles) are working.
Because the gluteus maximus is the largest and strongest of the gluteal muscles, it makes sense to prioritize this muscle in your training if your goal is big, strong glutes.
However, the gluteus medius and minimus are also worked in many of the same exercises, and we will also look into exercises aimed specifically at these muscles.
Now, let’s get into the best exercises for training your glutes.
1. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian deadlift is one of the best and most popular glute exercises. Compared to the conventional deadlift, the Romanian deadlift is a hip hinge exercise where you keep your legs almost completely straight.
The Romanian deadlift enables a long range of motion where your muscles are stretched at the heaviest point of the lift, two factors that are beneficial for muscle growth.3
Make the most of this exercise by starting with light weights and focusing on proper form and muscle contact. To further focus on and challenge your glutes and hamstrings, consider using lifting straps to aid your grip.
How to Do Romanian Deadlifts
- Get into the starting position by deadlifting a barbell off the floor, or by unracking it from a barbell rack.
- Inhale, brace your core slightly, and lean forward by hinging in your hips. Keep your knees almost completely extended.
- Lean forward as far as possible without rounding your back. You don’t have to touch the barbell to the floor, although it is OK if you do.
- Reverse the movement and return to the starting position. Exhale on the way up.
- Take another breath, and repeat for reps.
2. Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat is another excellent glute exercise. It works all parts of your glutes: the gluteus maximus is the primary muscle that extends your hip, while the gluteus medius and minimus work hard to keep your pelvis stabilized in the single-leg position.
The Bulgarian split squat enables you to use fairly heavy loads and through a long range of motion. The main drawbacks is that you might require some practice to get the balance right, plus the fact that you will have to do twice the number of sets – once for each leg.
If you don’t like the idea of placing a barbell across your shoulders while doing a balancing act, you can use dumbbells instead. They are easier to let go of if you find yourself losing balance or are tired after your set.
How to Do Bulgarian Split Squats
- Stand with your back turned against a bench, which should be at about knee height. Stand about one long step in front of the bench.
- Place one foot on the bench behind you.
- Inhale, look forward, and squat down with control until right before the knee of the back leg touches the floor.
- Reverse the movement and extend your front leg again, while exhaling.
- Inhale at the top and repeat for reps.
The classic barbell back squat is one of the most popular strength training exercises in the world and an excellent exercise for your glutes.
This is probably because deep squats stretch your glutes while under load.
The barbell squat is a compound movement that, in addition to your glutes, is also effective for working your quads and adductors.
How to Squat with Proper Form
- Place the bar on your upper back. Inhale and brace your core slightly, and unrack the bar.
- Take two steps back, and adjust your foot position.
- Squat as deep as possible with good technique.
- With control, stop and reverse the movement, extending your hips and legs again.
- Exhale on the way up or exchange air in the top position.
- Inhale and repeat for reps.
4. Leg Press
Similar to the squat, the leg press works your glute muscles in hip extension.
For optimal glute muscle growth, it is probably a good idea to go deep in the leg press as well, so prioritize depth and form over weight.
The leg press works your quads, glutes, and adductors, but by placing your feet high on the footplate, you can shift even more of the work to your glutes.5
How to Leg Press
- Adjust the machine so that you only need to extend your legs slightly to be able to release the weights. Adjust the safety pins so that they catch the weight if you are unable to lift it.
- Place your feet on the platform, about shoulder-width apart.
- Inhale and lower the weight by bending your legs.
- Lower the weight as deep as possible without rounding your back and while keeping your glutes on the seat.
- Press the weight back up again as you exhale.
5. Step Up
The step-up is perhaps not all too common in strength training programs, but research shows that it is one of the exercises with the highest glute activation.6
Being performed on one leg at a time, the step-up is another exercise that challenges your gluteus minimus and medius in hip stabilization while still performing hip extension for your gluteus maximus.
After getting accustomed to this exercise, you can increase the resistance by holding weights in your hand or even across your shoulders. Because training at long muscle lengths seems to be beneficial for the glutes, it is probably a good idea to use a fairly high box, mimicking the hip position of a deep squat.
Keep in mind that the eccentric phase (the lowering phase) is important to maximize muscle growth, so don’t just plop down from the box: lower yourself slowly and with control so that you can feel your glute working.7
How to Do Step Ups
- Stand in front of a chair, bench or something else that you can step up on.
- Place your foot on the chair.
- Lightly brace your core, and step up until your leg is straight.
- Lower yourself in a controlled motion.
- You can keep your foot at the chair, and repeat for reps.
6. Barbell Lunge
The barbell lunge is another great glute exercise that incorporates both hip extension and hip abduction, working all three gluteus muscles simultaneously.
If you opt for doing lunges in place, you can experiment with stepping forward (like in the gif above) or backward, and see which feels better and gives you the best glute muscle contact.
How to Do Barbell Lunges
- Take a big step forward and sink as deep as possible in a lunge position, without hitting the knee of the back leg in the floor.
- Return to the starting position by pushing yourself back with the front leg.
7. Hip Thrust
The hip thrust has sailed up as one of the most popular glute exercises in the last decade, and according to research, it is better than traditional exercises like squats and deadlifts for activating your glutes.8 9
Your glutes are worked in hip extension in the hip thrust, with your gluteus maximus taking the brunt of the work.
This is an exercise where you can handle quite a lot of weight when you’re accustomed to the exercise. To avoid pain from the heavy barbell, place a folded towel, yoga mat, or something similar between the bar and your pubic bone.
How to Do Hip Thrust
- Sit on the floor with your back against a sturdy bench.
- Roll the barbell up over your thighs, until it is placed over your hips.
- Place your feet on the floor, about shoulder-width apart, with bent knees.
- Place your hands on the bar to stabilize it.
- Push the bar towards the ceiling by extending your hips. Your knees should form a ~90 degree angle at the top.
- Lower the weight and repeat for reps.
8. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
The single-leg Romanian deadlift offers a great way to train your glute muscles without using heavy weight. This can be useful in a rehabilitation phase or when doing leg workouts at home.
Your gluteus maximus is worked in hip extension in this exercise, while your gluteus medius and minimus have to work to maintain hip stability because of the single-leg position.
How to Do Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
- Stand upright and hold the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
- Brace your core, and lift one leg off the ground.
- Keep the back straight and start to lean forward by hinging at the hips. Lower until you feel a stretch in the standing leg’s hamstring. Make sure to keep your hips still, you don’t want the side with your lifted leg to start rotating upwards.
- Return to the starting position. Finish all your reps on one side first, and then repeat on the other leg.
9. Single-Leg Hip Thrust
The single-leg hip thrust is another exercise combining work for all three of your glute muscles.
A benefit of the single-leg variant over the regular, two-legged hip thrust is that you can work your glutes using much lighter weights. That makes this a good exercise for working out at home or when you don’t have access to or want to use heavy weights.
To make the range of motion even longer and make the exercise heavier, try also placing your feet on an elevation. This can make the exercise hard enough that your body weight alone is enough resistance.
How to Do Single-Leg Hip Thrusts
- Lean your back against a chair, sofa, bench, or whatever furniture you have at hand.
- Place one feet on the floor and lift the other leg.
- Push your hips towards the ceiling, using your glute muscle in the leg that touches the floor. The working leg should form a ~90-degree angle at the top position.
- Lower the hips and repeat for reps.
10. Glute Bridge
The glute bridge is a variation of the hip thrust where you are lying directly on the floor instead of placing your back against a bench or box.
Because of the change in angle, you will target your upper glute muscle fibers a bit more. However, it will also shorten the range of motion and make using a barbell for resistance a bit more difficult as it will tend to roll toward you.
Still, the glute bridge offers a way to work your glutes even if you have no equipment available.
How to Do Glute Bridges
- Lie down with your feet on the floor.
- Tuck the pelvis in to properly activate the glutes.
- Push your hips towards the ceiling by using your glutes, until your body forms a straight line from head to knees.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top.
- Reverse the movement, and repeat for reps.
11. Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Like the glute bridge, the single-leg glute bridge is an exercise that requires no equipment, but in this variation, you work one leg at a time. This makes the exercise significantly harder and also challenges your stabilizing glute muscles, such as the gluteus minimus and medius.
Still, if you want to make this exercise harder, I suggest you follow the advice for the single-leg hip thrust and elevate either one or both of your torso and feet.
How to Do One-Legged Glute Bridges
- Lie down with one foot on the floor, one leg extended.
- Tuck the pelvis in to activate the glutes properly.
- Push your hips towards the ceiling by using the glute muscle in the bent leg until your body forms a straight line from head to foot.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top.
- Reverse the movement, and repeat for reps.
12. Dumbbell Frog Pump
The dumbbell frog pump is another exercise using a minimum of equipment.
You can either do regular frog pumps without any weight at all, but in order to avoid doing an excessive amount of reps (especially if you have some training experience), I suggest you add a heavy dumbbell for weight.
Still, it’s a good butt exercise to keep in your arsenal for home dumbbell workouts.
How to Do Dumbbell Frog Pumps
- Lie on your back and bring the soles of your feet together into a frog position, try to bring your feet as close to your butt as possible. Place a dumbbell on your hips.
- Make sure to keep your core activated, and the lower back and shoulders pressed down on the floor before starting the movement.
- Press your feet down into the floor and squeeze your glutes to thrust your hips upwards.
- Pause at the top and then reverse the movement. Make sure to do the entire movement slowly and controlled.
13. Banded Side Kicks
After mostly looking at exercises that work your glutes in hip extension, let’s look at two hip abduction exercises that primarily work your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
Hip abduction is when you move your legs apart, out to the sides. One exercise for this is the side kick, for which you can use a resistance mini band.
Since you are standing on one leg, you’ll work your hip abductors on both sides of your hip, but isometrically (static) on one side and dynamically (moving) on the other.
Again, this is an exercise that requires a minimum of equipment, and that can easily be performed at home if you’ve got a resistance band.
How to Do Banded Side Kicks
- Place an elastic band around your ankles. Hold on to something with your hands for balance.
- Stand on one leg, while bringing your other leg as far out to the side as possible.
- Bring the leg back in while resisting the band.
14. Hip Abduction Machine
The machine hip abduction is another exercise for your smaller glute muscles.
Compared to the band-resisted side kick, the hip abduction machine lets you choose resistance more freely, and you can work both sides dynamically at the same time.
You can also do hip abductions against a resistance band if you have access to one.
How to Do Hip Abductions
- Adjust the machine to the appropriate settings, sit down, and grip the handles.
- Push the pads out by moving your legs apart as far as possible.
- Return with control to the starting position.
15. Kettlebell Swing
Let’s finish off this list with a personal favorite of mine: the kettlebell swing.
The kettlebell swing works your posterior chain: your glutes, lower back, hamstrings, and trapezius, to name a few.
A benefit of the kettlebell swing is that you only need a single kettlebell to get a good workout in. This makes it a great exercise for working out your glutes (or other muscles) at home.
How to Do Kettlebell Swings
- Place a kettlebell on the ground, about one or two feet in front of you.
- Take a wide stance, lean forward and grip the kettlebell.
- Brace your core slightly, and swing the kettlebell back between your legs, while inhaling.
- Swing the kettlebell forward by extending your hip, while exhaling.
- Try to swing the kettlebell to about chest height.
- Repeat for reps and put the kettlebell back on the ground when you’re finished.
How Many Glute Exercises Should You Do?
How many glute exercises you should do depends on how much time you want to invest, and how important it is to get optimal glute muscle development compared to “just” good glute development.
Let’s look at three different fitness goals, each one more ambitious, with the first one being a minimalist approach with a lot of bang for your buck, the next one being the middle-ground, and the last one aiming for optimal glute development.
The Minimalist Approach
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time doing different exercises and want the most butt bang for your training buck, I suggest you pick just one or two of the best exercises for your gluteus maximus and train them hard.
Exactly which will be the best glute exercises for you will depend on your anatomy and personal preference, but my recommendation is to go for one of the first seven exercises listed above.
The Slightly Less Minimalist Approach
If you want to invest a little more time in your glute training, I suggest you do at least two different types of glute exercises: one where the direction of force is vertical relative to your standing position and one where the direction of force is horizontal.
- Vertical: Romanian deadlift, Bulgarian split squat, squat, leg press, step up, lunges.
- Horizontal: Hip thrust, single-leg hip thrust, glute bridge, single-leg glute bridge, dumbbell frog pumps.
With this approach, you’re still focusing on the gluteus maximus, the biggest glute muscle, along with any muscle fibers in the glute medius and minimus that aids in hip extension. But (butt?), you’re working the muscles slightly differently because of the change in the loading direction.
Don’t get me wrong: the glutes extend your hip and don’t care if you’re standing up or lying down, but the muscle fibers will be under peak resistance at slightly different lengths, which might stimulate additional growth.
Optimal Glute Growth Approach
If optimal glute muscle growth is your goal, I suggest you incorporate several different exercises into your glute workout routine:
- A squat-type movement. Examples: squat, leg press.
- A hip hinge. Examples: Romanian deadlift, stiff-leg deadlift, kettlebell swing.
- A hip thrust. Examples: hip thrust, glute bridge, single-leg hip thrust, single-leg glute bridge.
- A single-leg squat or lunge. Examples: Bulgarian split squat, step up, barbell lunge, walking lunge.
- A hip abduction. Examples: banded side kick, hip abduction machine, hip abduction against band.
This is how we structure our glute workout in the StrengthLog app.
By combining all these different exercises and movements, you will work all of your glute muscle fibers, in each of the three gluteus muscles, and in different directions and at different muscle lengths. Together, they should effectively stimulate muscle growth in your entire butt.
You don’t have to do all of the exercises in a single glute workout. It works equally well to spread them out during the training week and work them into your other workouts, for instance, if you are doing an upper/lower split or full-body workouts.
How Many Sets and Reps Should You Do of Each Glute Exercise?
Depending on if muscle hypertrophy or strength gain is your number one priority, you should adjust the weights you use and how many reps you do per set accordingly.
While there is considerable overlap between the two, here is how each goal is generally best achieved:
- Strength is best gained from heavy weights and a low rep range, around 1–6 reps per set.
- Muscle growth is best attained from medium weights and a moderate-to-high rep range, around 6–15 reps per set or up to 20 reps per set.
If your goal is improved athletic performance and stronger glutes, gravitating towards the lower rep range for a majority of your sets is probably a good idea, while you can use a higher rep range if you’re mostly interested in glute muscle growth.
Alternatively, you can mix both high and low reps, like we do in our glute training program.
The number of sets you do of each exercise has a large effect on your muscle growth and strength gain, where more sets lead to greater gains, up to at least ten sets per muscle per week for beginners.10
It is likely that experienced lifters and bodybuilders benefit from even higher training volumes, perhaps up to 15 to 20 sets of glute training per week.
The Best Glute Workouts for Muscle & Strength Gains
Don’t want to design your own glute workouts?
Then follow one of ours!
Below are some of our most popular workouts and training programs for bigger, stronger glutes.
They are all available in our free workout log app, although some workouts require a premium subscription.
- StrengthLog’s Glute Workout
- Glutes and Hamstrings Workout
- Dumbbell Bootybuilding
- Home Leg Workout With Dumbbells
Glute Hypertrophy Training Program:
- Thicc. 5x/week. An intermediate-level training program for building great legs and glutes. Six weeks of training with three lower body workouts per week for maximum gains, plus two upper body maintenance sessions.
- StrengthLog’s Glute Training Program. 2x/week. If you like big butts and you cannot lie, this training program is for you. It consists of two hard workouts per week that cover all the muscle fibers of your glutes and that will rocket your booty to new heights of strength and size.
To download our app StrengthLog and follow these workouts and training programs, use the buttons below.
I hope you learned something from this list of the best glute exercises, and wish you good luck with your glute training!
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- J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Oct;33(10):2595-2601. Comparison Between Back Squat, Romanian Deadlift, and Barbell Hip Thrust for Leg and Hip Muscle Activities During Hip Extension.
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- J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jul;22(4):1059-65. Analysis of muscle activation during different leg press exercises at submaximum effort levels.
- J Sports Sci Med. 2020 Mar; 19(1): 195–203. Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review.
- J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Sep;31(9):2599-2608. Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.
- PLoS One. 2021 Mar 29;16(3):e0249307. A comprehensive biomechanical analysis of the barbell hip thrust.
- J Appl Biomech. 2015 Dec;31(6):452-8. A Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis Electromyographic Activity in the Back Squat and Barbell Hip Thrust Exercises.
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