Who doesn’t want buns of steel? Nobody, that’s who. So if you want a great butt, you can stop looking because today we’re going to show you exactly how to tone your butt. No, we’re not talking about using the “Butt Blaster” machine…
You’re going to discover the absolute best exercises to sculpt your booty to perky posterior perfection, without having to pay for Brazilian Butt lift surgery (yes, it exists). So if getting the gluteus you’ve always wanted sounds interesting to you – read on!
Before we start, let’s talk about the exercises you don’t want to do. The basic rule is: if it’s on a machine, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. The best exercises are typically going to be compound exercises with weights, cable exercises or bodyweight exercises.
To make things easier, we’re going to give you the workout up front and then show you how to do it underneath. Without further ado…
And if you want to print this workout out:
So, now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to booty-burning business. First things first, a little secret: if you want to workout your butt really well, before you dive in to the main exercises, you need to make sure your glutes are going to be fully engaged… and the best way to do that? Fire up your glutes before you hit the workout. This is also known as glute activation, or simply as we like to call it: warming up your butt. Now you may be wondering why we need to do this first. Aside from helping to prevent injuries, there’s another reason: thanks to the good old 9-5 spent sitting on our tush, most people have weak glutes, tight hip flexors and tight hamstrings, which means if they dive straight into the exercises they don’t target their glutes, but rather other muscles like the thighs (quadriceps in the front, adductors on the inside and hamstrings at the back).
We love sexy, defined thighs as much as you do, but unless you activate your glutes first you won’t be hitting that butt as effectively as you could be. So if you want to see a true booty transformation remember to start by getting those glutes fired up. And if you’re wondering: yes, these exercises will give you amazing thighs too!
Did you know: “Glutes” actually refers to 3 muscles: the gluteus minimus, the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body and also one of your most powerful muscles. It’s function is essentially to keep your trunk upright and do things like stand up, walk, run, climb stuff. So thank your booty for being so awesome!
Now, let’s get on to how to actually do this workout.
Before you start on any of the exercises make sure you’ve done a 3 – 5 minute warm up first – jogging on the spot, jump-rope, etc. We’ve talked about how important it is to warm-up, so get that blood pumping.
Glute Activating Exercises
Before we get into the mechanics of these glute activation exercises, let’s go into a little more detail about why we’re doing this. Earlier we told you that activation is about helping to prevent injury by warming up your tush – all that’s true and there’s another reason: to build glute awareness. With these activation exercises you want to focus on making a stronger mind-body (or should that be a mind-booty) connection with what it feels like to contract your glutes when you’re doing the later exercises. This is important because in those exercises it’s easy to use stronger muscles like your thighs instead of targeting your butt, which means that even though you’re doing the exercise, you wont get as near as good results. So keep your focus on that booty! And by the way, these activation exercises are also great for your butt – so it’s a two-for-one deal.
Remember when you’re doing this exercise to get a really good contraction in the glutes. When you squeeze your butt, imagine that you want to crack a walnut between the cheeks – some people also find it helps to think: “glutes, glutes, glutes” or “butt, butt, butt”. It may sound a bit strange, but it’s just a way to focus your awareness on the muscles you want to work and strengthen that mind-body connection. In fact, that’s something you’ll want to do with all the glute exercises.
Is the vanilla Glute Bridge too easy? Switch it up with one of these variations which increase the difficulty:
- Marching Glute Bridge - Weighted Glute Bridge - Single Leg Glute Bridge
So you can see that the hip thrust is almost identical to the glute bridge, except it has a much greater range of motion (ROM) and requires more force to complete the movement – which means it’s an awesome exercise for getting a great butt. Again, if the standard version is too easy, then switch it up to a more difficult variation, but remember to make sure you maintain good form – you really want to squeeze those glutes at the top of the movement and avoid contracting the lower back.
- Weighted Hip Thrust - Single Leg Hip Thrust
With both the Glute Bridge and the Hip Thrust, beginners should almost always start with the vanilla version and then build up to the more difficult versions; the single-leg versions are more difficult to do (while maintaining correct form) because they require more core stabilization.
Quadruped Hip Extension
Even though it looks simple, you get tremendous glute activation with this exercise (even more than with squats according to a study done by the American Council on Exercise). Make sure you keep your core engaged and don’t arch your back. For a more challenging version, you can get a partner to apply resistance to your foot of the leg pushing upward.
Lying Side Clam
This exercise targets the gluteus medius and is usually quite easy to do, so really focus on the quality of the move. To make this exercise more give more bang for your buck, squeeze your glutes 3 – 6 times in the open clam position.
Lying Hip Abduction
A common mistake people make when doing this exercise is raising the leg too high, so you want a maximum angle of about 45 degrees otherwise you not target the correct muscles (due to the physiology of the hip joint). To make this exercise more difficult, you can do the dumbbell lying hip abduction variation which will make it harder.
The bird dog is a great exercise for increasing core stability and shoulder strength as well as targeting those glutes. When you’re in the ‘flying position’ make sure you get a good contraction on your glute muscles, but be careful not to twist or drop your back – you want to form a straight line from fingers to toes. The other common mistake people make when doing this exercise is overextending the leg, again keep your body as flat as possible – if it helps imagine you’re forming a tabletop.
Main Glute Workout
Okay, that’s the glute activation done! By now you should feel like you’ve thoroughly warmed up your butt muscles, that’s because those exercises are great for getting a great butt in and of themselves. Now we’re going to take it further, the next exercises are really going to give your glutes a good workout. In fact, it’s these exercises (along with the hip thrusts from earlier) that are the mainstay of building a beautiful butt – so make sure you do them! Remember, the whole point of doing the glute activation earlier was so that when it came to doing these exercises you would mainly be targeting your butt rather than thighs (even though they will also get a good workout too), so keep your focus on getting a good contraction on your butt muscles when doing these.
If you want to get a sexy butt and beautiful legs then squats are going to be your new best friend. If you’re looking for bang-for-buck potential then look no further: squats are one of the only exercises which will work 75% of your muscles – they’re like a full body workout! So with that in mind, we’re going to do three variations of the squat to really hit the glutes from many different angles.
The squat is a fantastic exercise, but it’s important to get your form right and the video above gives a good outline on how to do it correctly. If you want to make it more challenging you can add some weight (either a kettlebell, a single dumbbell or a pair of dumbbells):
One important point to note is when you come up from the squat you want to squeeze your glutes but don’t over arch your back. Make sure you pay attention to your form, because squats give you so much bang for your buck that it’s definitely worth getting your form as good as possible, especially before you start adding heavier weight.
Studies have shown that the wide squat gets a lot more glute activation than the narrow squat, and since you’re reading this to get a sexier butt, that’s why we’re doing them. You can also do more challenging variations by holding two dumbbells on your shoulders or using a barbell as you would for a weighted squat (and for that, it’s best to 1. have a spotter and 2. use a squat rack).
Bulgarian Split Squat
This is a fantastic exercise for glute and leg muscle definition and development. If it’s too challenging for you, then you can support yourself with your hand (on a chair for example) until you build up the strength to do it unassisted – if that’s too challenging then try out the split squat until you get more strength in your legs. If you want to make it more challenging, you can add in some dumbbells.
High Step Up
The video above is a good explanation of the mechanics of the exercise; one thing to remember: you don’t want to push off too much with the leg which stays on the floor, in other words do most of the work with the stepping leg. To make it more challenging you can increase the height – the higher the step the more it works your butt:
And a nice addition to this is adding the reverse lunge on the downward movement as shown below:
We really like adding the reverse lunge, because it simply means you get more bang for your booty and that’s what it’s all about!
Last exercise! The deadlifts are great for targeting your hamstrings and glutes – start off with the standard deadlift (2 legs) if you’re just beginning and as you build up strength you can move on to the single-leg version. If you’re doing the single-leg version, make sure you do both legs and with either versions make sure you get a good squeeze in your glutes.
Cool Down & Stretches
By now, your butt should feel like it’s had a very good workout, so finish off with a 3 – 5 minute cool down. Now is also a great time to do some stretches to improve flexibility, posture and glute activation when you come back to this workout the next time!
The stretches you need to do are determined by the position of your pelvis. If your butt sticks out (anterior tilt), then you’ll need to stretch your hip flexors because they’re probably too tight. Those of us who have desk-bound jobs are more likely to have tight hip flexors because sitting all day puts them in a shortened, active position which essentially means we’re at greater risk of tight hip flexors (which is part of the reason we’re trying standing desks now). If however, you have weak hip flexors (i.e. swayback) you’ll need to be strengthen them. As always, check with a professional first.
Hip Flexor Stretch
You can also stretch your quadriceps together with the hip flexor (iliopsoas muscles) with the following modification:
Note: for the above stretch, we highly recommend using the foam pad for you knee because trying it without (like we did the first time) was NOT fun.
This next stretch is for your piriformis.
That’s the stretching done! Remember to do each stretch on both sides and most importantly make sure you stretch safely.
Engage Those Glutes Whenever You Can
So that’s the end of the core glute exercises, but if you want to take it to the next level and really strengthen that mind-body connection then bring glute activation to your everyday life. We know that the glutes are used when you walk, run, sit and walk up the stairs (or climb uphill), so you can use all these activities to focus your attention on your booty. For example, you can you a little reminder when you walk: “Glutes, squeeze! Glutes, squeeze” like you would for “left, right, left, right” – it sounds silly, but it will really get that glute activation going. Another thing you can do to bring in little daily micro-workouts is 1. take the stairs and 2. use them as a high step up exercise – when you sit down and stand up use that as a squat.
Remember, these micro-exercises are not meant to replace your regular workouts, but just a way to complement them and bring greater glute awareness. So squeeze that butt as often as possible.
Now it’s your turn: What are your favourite glute exercises? Did you try this workout? Was it challenging enough for you? Let us know!