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The best butt workout for your glutes

The best butt workout for your glutes
WESTEND61/GETTY IMAGES

Step aside squats; there are plenty of other butt workouts that are better for isolating the glutes. Don’t get us wrong, squats aren’t an inherently bad exercise. They are excellent for your quads, the front thigh muscles of your legs, and your back muscles, too. Squats improve the overall strength of the lower body, and the movement also allows you to maintain tension in your glute muscles. (Your glutes are three muscles that make up your butt: the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus.)

But the classic squat move might present a few challenges and shortcomings, especially if your goal is to work on your butt. For some people, squats put too much stress on the knees and back. And to get the most glute activation out of a squat, you need to know how to squat correctly. Your butt must be lower than parallel with the floor – a range of motion not everyone can achieve. Squats focus on going up and down. In everyday life, however, we also move side to side. So, it’s important to target other muscles that are part of the glutes to move well.

Squats should just be one tool in your arsenal for glute growth. Here are other glute exercises that experts recommend implementing into your butt workouts.

Bodyweight deadlifts

Bodyweight deadlifts
COURTESY KELLEY VARGO, MS, MPH, CSCS

Five different strength training experts say deadlifts are one of the best butt exercises. Plus, there are tons of different variations of this movement. Kelly Vargo, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and an instructor for the department of exercise and nutrition sciences at George Washington University, recommends a traditional deadlift. “This exercise is a home run for the posterior chain as it recruits the core, hamstring and glute muscles,” Vargo says.

How to do a deadlift:

  1. Start this exercise in a neutral position standing with feet together, core engaged, shoulders relaxed, and a slight bend in the knees.
  2. The next step is to hinge at the hips and begin to bend forward. It is important to keep the shoulders back, almost retracted to counteract the tendency to round the shoulders forward, which is harmful to the back. Slowly continue to bend forward, keeping the hands close to the front of the legs and pushing the hips backward. There should be tension building in the hamstrings.
  3. Continue to bend forward until your shoulders start to round or until you get to the floor. Slowly extend the body and hips back into a neutral position.

Kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell deadlifts

Kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell deadlifts
COURTESY HENRY HALSE

For more challenging butt workouts, add some weight to your favourite moves. Although squats and deadlifts may look similar, they target different muscles, according to personal trainer Henry Halse. “The deadlift involves your hips more because you’re lifting the weight off the ground and standing up with it,” Halse says. “The biggest hip muscles are your glutes.”

How to do a kettlebell, barbell, or dumbbell deadlift:

  1. Start with the weight on the ground between your feet. Stick your butt back and arch your lower back as you go down to grab it.
  2. Grab the weight with both hands and lift by driving through your heels.
  3. Then, stand up tall before lowering the weight back to the ground.

Bodyweight Romanian deadlifts

Bodyweight Romanian deadlifts
COURTESY DR LEADA MALEK

Sports physical therapist Leada Malek says that Romanian deadlifts use all the glutes and hamstrings to help protect your back and perform the movement well. If you work on your technique and activate your core, you’ll see awesome results with this movement. Make this movement easier by stopping halfway to parallel, Malek recommends.

How to do a Romanian deadlift:

  1. Make sure to select the appropriate resistance band for your current ability, then place the band under your feet and stand with a slight bend in the knees and feet a comfortable hip-width apart.
  2. Grip the band with your knuckles facing outwards. Hands should be slightly less than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Push the hips backward and maintain a neutral or straight spine as you hinge down, stopping just before parallel with the ground.
  4. Keep the core engaged as you initiate from the glutes and extend the hips to stand back up.

Dumbell or kettlebell Romanian deadlifts

Dumbell or kettlebell Romanian deadlifts
COURTESY JEREMY ETHIER

Kettlebell or dumbbell Romanian deadlifts are a more hip-dominant exercise than the squat, according to kinesiologist Jeremy Ethier. That means the move favours the glutes more and enables you to apply more stress to the glutes in a slightly different way than other butt workout exercises. The movement provides an excellent glute stretch, too.

How to do a dumbbell Romanian deadlift:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Brace your core by preparing as if someone were about to punch your gut.
  2. Next, hinge over at the hips by pushing your hips back like you’re ‘closing a car door with your butt’ and lower the dumbbells. Keep your knees just slightly bent and your back flat as you come down.
  3. Once the dumbbells reach about shin level (or as low as you can while still keeping a flat back), squeeze your glutes and thrust your hips forward to stand straight up again.

Glute bridges

Glute bridges
COURTESY JEREMY ETHIER

Glute bridges are another popular butt move with exercise experts. Ethier likes them because a study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that they are more effective for glutes growth than the traditional squat. “It’s also a great alternative to squats for the glutes since it enables you to provide a ton of work onto the glutes in a manner that’s very easy on the knees and back,” Ethier says.

How to do a glute bridge:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, and your core braced. Without arching your lower back, squeeze your butt muscles to get them engaged.
  2. Then, lift up while keeping your glutes contracted.
  3. At the top, squeeze your glutes as hard as possible for about 5 seconds before coming back down and repeating.
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Single leg glute bridges

Single leg glute bridges
COURTESY HENRY HALSE

Take glute bridges to the next level and turn them into a glute isolate exercise by performing this move with one leg, Halse recommends. “Since you’re lying on the ground, you don’t have to concentrate on anything other than squeezing your butt,” he says. “Plus, you don’t need to get your quads and hamstrings involved.” Make it even tougher by holding a weight like a dumbbell in your lap.

How to do a single leg glute bridge:

  1. Lie on your back with both feet flat on the ground, 15cm from your butt.
  2. Lift one leg straight into the air.
  3. Press through the heel of the foot that’s on the ground and lift your hips up as high as you can. That’s one rep.

Lunges

Lunges
COURTESY KELLEY VARGO, MS, MPH, CSCS

Good butt workouts are incomplete without some form of a lunge: this move is transformative, which is just one reason to make it a staple in your glutes workouts. There are many different variations, but the traditional lunge is worth doing, according to Vargo. “Lunges fire up the legs, strengthen the core, promote balance, and recruit the glute muscles,” she says. “These exercises are a win-win for shaping legs and glutes.”

How to do a lunge:

  1. Start in a neutral position standing with feet together, core engaged and shoulders relaxed.
  2. Step forward with the right foot.
  3. As the right foot lands on the ground, simultaneously bend both the right and left knees. Lower your centre of gravity until your back left knee gently touches the ground. Ensure you are in an upright posture with the core engaged and shoulders relaxed.
  4. At this point, press off the floor with the right, front foot, raising the centre of gravity and bringing the right foot back next to the left foot into the original starting position. Repeat with the left foot stepping forward.

Lateral lunges

Lateral lunges
COURTESY HENRY HALSE

Always try to include a lateral movement in your butt workouts because the glutes are responsible for not only forward and back motions of the leg, but side to side motions, too, according to Halse. Not only is the lateral lunge his favourite exercise, but it’s a quick workout move that can transform your body.

How to do a lateral lunge:

  1. Hold a weight down in front of your legs with both hands.
  2. Step out to one side, stick your butt back, and reach the weight down towards the ground.
  3. Then, stand back up and step your feet together. Alternate legs on each rep.

 

 

Reverse lunges

Reverse lunges
COURTESY KELLEY VARGO, MS, MPH, CSCS

Hone in on your butt without putting tons of stress on the knees and lower back with this exercise. Plus, if you choose to squat, this is a great complimentary movement as it better activates the glutes and hamstrings, Ethier says. Make sure to focus on your form to avoid exercise injury.

How to do a reverse lunge:

  1. If you like, hold a pair of dumbbells at your side.
  2. Take a long step back and bring your back knee towards the ground until it just about touches the ground. Avoid rounding your back as you do so and keep your front shin vertical over your front foot.
  3. Then, push through the heel of your front foot to rise back up to the starting position. You should feel your glute of the front leg work as you do so. Repeat with the other leg.

Need a little cardiovascular workout? Try this at-home HIIT workout.

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