If you are looking to build a more sculpted and toned butt, you will need to add a variety of compound exercises, banded movements and isolation techniques into your routines. Other than a perkier posterior, there are many extra benefits to strengthening your gluteal muscles.
Health benefits of training your glutes.
- Reduce back pain - Strengthening the glutes allow them to actively support your body during daily activities and resistance exercises. This takes stress away from your spine and lower back which is vital for preventing back pain and tension.
- Better posture - Working at a desk every day and other sedentary activities promote tight hip flexors which puts the pelvis into an anterior pelvic tilt (the pelvis tilted forward). This creates more of a curve to the lumbar spine (lower vertebrae). A simple fix in most cases is to activate the gluteals and stretch the hip flexors, thus reducing lumbar lordosis and enhancing the spine's position.
- Reduce injury risk - Simple hip abduction exercises such as clamshells, lateral walks and single leg glute bridges will improve stability through the hips which reduce injury risk standing, moving laterally or in dynnamic exercises. The use of a glute band significantly increases glute medius and minimus activation.
What are the muscles of the gluteals?
The gluteals are made up of three main muscles; the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. To add shape and size to your butt, it is important to target all of these areas using a range of movements and training equipment.
Gluteus Maximus - This is the largest of the areas and one of the largest and most powerful muscles in your body. It mainly contributes to hip extension which pulls the leg backwards and is built best using hip extension exercises. An example of this would be when you drive your hips off the ground from the bottom of a hip thrust so that your thighs and spine are in one line or 180 degrees. Another example of hip extension which uses the gluteus maximus, is as you rise upwards in a back squat. Building the gluteus maximus gives shape to the lower, middle and upper portion of the booty.
Gluteus Medius - This is the middle sized gluteal muscle found in between your gluteus maximus and the gluteus minimus. It is a main mover in hip abduction, internal & external rotation. Additionally it provides side-to-side stability and aids the glute minimus in single-leg hip stability. Building it gives shape to the side and upper portion of your butt.
Gluteus Minimus - This the smallest and deepest part of your glutes which produces hip abduction when your leg is straight and also aids rotation of the thigh inwards and outwards. It is found slightly in front of the glute medius and contributes to a very similar role. It is best targeted with straight legged and bent legged abduction exercises. Building it will add extra fullness to achieving a rounder and toned booty.
Compound and isolation glutes exercises
Here we have compiled the best exercises for adding glutes size and strength. To add serious muscle mass, you need to perform big compound exercises to stress the maximum amount of muscle fibres, and isolation exercises which will add further shape to specific areas of your butt. The aim here is muscle hypertrophy (muscle gain) and achieving the two primary mechanisms for hypertrophy, which are mechanical tension and metabolic stress from these two types of lifting techniques.
What are compound exercises?
These are lifts which work multiple muscle groups such as squats, lunges and deadlifts. More muscle groups used, allow more poundage to be lifted which stimulates the maximum amount of muscle fibres. This ultimately leads to more muscle growth. It is best to complete compound exercises at the start of your sessions when you are fresh.
What are isolation exercises?
These are exercises which stimulate just one muscle group in an effort to focus on a specific area. An example would be cable abductions, which pinpoint the gluteus medius in an effort to sculpt the sides of the buttocks. As these moves require less energy, it is best to include these nearer the end of your workouts, after compound lifts.
10 Exercises for Bigger & Stronger Glutes
1. Banded Glute Bridge
Banded glute bridges are amazing for activating those glute muscles. It's the OG of booty movements and we love how you can progressively overload using heavier glute bands, such as the L3 X-treme band. A banded glute bridge targets all three of your glutes (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus) and also defines your hamstrings. Just remember to squeeze that peach when you get to the top. Sometimes we like to add a few pulses at the top for an extra challenge. You can increase your reps to fire your glutes up.
Deadlifts are so versatile and a great exercise to add to any leg day. We love a Romanian deadlift because it is hands down, one of the best hip-hinge exercises to target, build and strengthen your glutes and hamstrings and can be performed with weights or a long resistance band as shown below. The Sumo deadlift is also one to to add to your routine, the wide stance promotes greater glutes engagement than a conventional stance and the body position allows the heaviest weight to be potentially lifted compared to other deadlift variations. Deadlifts are a staple compound legs exercise which should be included in every glute building training plan.
3. Hip Thrusts
Hip thrusts help promote huge strength and size in the glutes when executed correctly. Make sure to place the loaded bar in your hip crease. We recommend using our Lets Train barbell pad to protect your hips when using heavier weights. Sit with your upper back against the edge of a bench that's parallel to you. Roll the loaded barbell into the crease of your hips and position your feet at shoulder width with the feet slightly externally rotated (turned out). Once the barbell is secure, drive your feet into the floor and push your hips up until your legs are at 90 degrees and SQUEEZE your glutes. It's important to note that the distance the feet are away from your butt, changes which muscle groups are recruited. If the feet are too close to the butt then the quadriceps will be dominant. if the feet are too far away, the hamstrings will take over. To keep the glutes dominant, ensure a 90 degree angle is shown at the top of each rep. Try completing 4 sets of 10 reps nearer the start of your next session.
4. Abduction / Hip abductors
Abductions can be done with glute bands, dumbbells, cables or on abduction machine. These will effectively shape the gluteus medius, creating a shelf at the top and sides of your booty. This accentuates the 'round shape' and makes your waist look even smaller. So if you want to grow the side of your booty, add glutes abduction exercises into your routine. Try out our heavy duty ankle straps with cable abductions for a comfortable and effective accessory to your workout.
5. Cable Pull-Through
The cable pull-through can be used to promote hypertrophy in your posterior leg and hip muscles, and as a regression (more basic) movement for those with back issues. If you feel discomfort in Romanian deadlifts or kettlebell swings, try the cable pull-through as an alternative. Due to the load being directly behind the athlete, there is less stress on the lower back making for a safer option. Try focusing on the stretch between your legs, and the squeeze of your glutes every rep. Doing this one slowly with greater time under tension, is a winning booty sculpting move!
6. Bulgarian Split Squats
Using single leg (unilateral) exercises should not be neglected in a structured training plan. Split squats build stability in the hips as well as huge amounts of mass in the gluteus maximus. Not an exercise for the faint hearted we agree, but a game-changer for intermediate and advanced athletes. These can be performed holding two dumbbells, with a barbell or using bodyweight as shown in the pictures below.
A simple but highly effective exercise, clamshells using a glute band pinpoint the glutes medius and minimus which adds shape and tone to the sides of your gluteals. The clamshell exercise keeps the hips under significant tension through a very small, controlled movement. The abduction should be held for 1-2 seconds each rep to get the maximum benefits. Try using clamshells to pre-activate your glutes or as a great finisher exercise. We recommend using a L1 glute band if a beginner, or a L2 glute band for higher levels.
8. Goblet Squats
This one is a favourite and here's why; gobet squats can be performed with a dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball. This movement requires you to hold the weight in front of your chest so that your hands are positioned as if you're holding onto a goblet. Performing these correctly will give your entire body a workout due to the position of the resistance/weight. It is also an ideal exercise for improving your butt muscles conditioning; as the weight position naturally drops your hips low into each rep, stimulating the legs and hips through the exercise's full range of motion.
Grow your side booty and protect your lower back by using a variety of banded abductions in a standing position. The aim for this exercise is to hold a strong half squat position with the glute band placed just above your knees, on the thighs. Keep a tight core and drive your knees out against the band tension. Hold for a split second and repeat. Try adding these after completing a set of squats, for a serious peach burner!
This is a favourite amongst our athletes for a variety of reasons. Kickbacks are great for growth, toning and shaping, and can be performed using a glute band, cable machine or using weights. The key with targeting the glutes here, is to tighten the abs and lower back so that when the leg is kicked backward, the lower back does not arch inward. If you use a band to complete this awesome booty move; anchor the band under one knee to prevent it slipping up the stationary leg.
If you stick to a variety of exercises which consistently challenge all of the gluteals, you will undoubtedly see great results. It's also important to note that glutes cannot be build overnight. It takes consistency and progressive overload to achieve larger and rounder glutes. This means gradually increasing the weight, reps or frequency in your gym sessions. Remember that properly activating your glutes with a band before a workout, helps to reach results much quicker as the glutes are fired up and more dominant during legs movements.
We can't wait to see your results! Take a look at our glutes and other training plans by following the link here.