What are the best exercises for growing glutes?
I’m glad you asked! Because there are BIG differences in exercises that are effective and not – especially when it comes to glute activation. And you don’t want to waste your time doing stuff that doesn’t move the needle, right?
Based on 20 years of workout experience, I have collected the top 5 exercises for people who are serious about their glute training! And as a bonus, I have also put together a super-efficient glute building program.
The 5 Best Exercises for Growing Glutes
1. Hip Thrust
Bret Contreras, also known as the Glute Guy, heavily popularized this exercise for a strong and developed butt. The movement has become incredibly popular in the last decade, and countless athletes and sports players today use it as part of their strength and conditioning training.
According to EMG data, the hip thrust is a fantastic glute activity, and its peak values are roughly twice that of the barbell back squat (1).
What makes the hip thrust such a fantastic exercise is that it targets our glutes incredibly well without putting much stress on the back. Hip thrusts are also relatively simple to master for most people, and the overloading potential is excellent. It’s not uncommon to eventually work up to 300, 400, even 500-pound hip thrusts.
Deadlifts are another fantastic exercise for the posterior chain and do a great job of training the glutes. According to the literature, classic deadlifts and the different variations don’t cause such high EMG activity, but that doesn’t make them obsolete (2).
Deadlifts are fantastic for glute development because our glutes are the most powerful hip extensors along with the hamstrings. And, given that hip extension plays a significant role in the deadlift, it means that our glutes work hard.
Plus, similar to hip thrusts, deadlifts also have a fantastic overloading potential, which means that you can impose significant mechanical tension on your posterior chain.
And finally, you can pick from several fantastic deadlift variations and use the one you enjoy best. Good options include:
- Conventional deadlift
- Sumo deadlift
- Romanian deadlift
- Trap bar deadlift
3. Forward Lunge
Compared to the previous two exercises, lunges are much less intimidating. Still, this is a fantastic exercise for glute and overall leg development.
The primary muscle group working during the lunge are our quads, which makes sense given that this muscle group extends the knee.
According to some EMG data, changing the way one does lunges can place more emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes. Specifically, researchers found that forward torso lean results in higher glute and hamstring activation (3, 4). Research also shows that taking longer steps forward also recruits our glutes to a more significant degree.
As a final tip based on anecdote, you can also recruit your glutes to an even greater degree by actively pushing through your heel on each repetition.
The best part is, you can apply these tips to any lunge variation and possibly achieve greater glute development in the long run.
4. Bulgarian Split Squat
Like lunges, Bulgarian split squats have a similar movement pattern, which means we can expect to train the same muscles similarly.
The Bulgarian split squat is fantastic for quad development, but using the tweaks we discussed in the previous point can shift the emphasis toward the posterior chain (4).
Specifically, to make BSS more glute-focused, extend your front leg more, lean your torso forward, and push through the heel on every repetition. By the end of each set, you should feel your glutes burning up.
5. Glute Kickback
The last exercise on our list certainly doesn’t feel comparable to the others we reviewed today but is incredibly useful and comes closest to a glute isolation movement.
Unlike the previous exercises, this is an open-chain movement and can be incredibly useful in any glute-building program because it trains the muscle differently. Plus, glute kickbacks allow us to train the butt with higher repetitions, which can cause greater metabolic stress (a factor in muscle hypertrophy) (5).
The best part about this exercise is that you can start with the bodyweight version and later move to a machine, cable, or ankle weights. With some creativity, you can also do it with a resistance band.
A Weekly Glute Program With The Above Exercises
Given that training our muscles twice per week seems optimal for hypertrophy, this program will include two glute workouts per week. For example, you can do one on Monday and the other on Thursday. Here they are:
Hip thrusts – 3 to 4 sets of 4 to 8 reps
Alternating forward lunges – 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 15 reps (per leg)
Glute kickbacks – 2 to 4 sets of 12 to 25 reps (per leg)
Deadlifts – 3 to 4 sets of 4 to 8 reps
Bulgarian split squats – 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 15 reps (per leg)
Glute kickbacks – 2 to 4 sets of 15 to 30 reps (per leg)
Final Words: The Key to Building Glutes, Now Use it!
So, there you have it:
The key to building strong, nice-looking glutes.
By incorporating this glute program into your workout week, you will see results in just a few weeks. Although some of the exercises might feel hard to master initially, they will do wonders when you start getting the hang of it.
When you reach a level where you are starting to feel happy with the results – pull the brakes and stop doing dedicated glute-days. Instead, blend the exercises into a full-body workout routine. You will still see progression, just at a slower rate.
A collection of full-body workouts can be found in my MASSIVE strength-building archive, together with tons of other actionable fitness tips.
See you there!
Other Helpful Resources
- What are The Best Glute Machines For Home? Reviews and Top Picks
- Allstar Innovations Squat Magic Reviews
- How To Get a Nice Buttocks For Guys: The Man’s ABC to a Tight and Firm Butt
- How to Build A Bigger Booty: The Beginners ABC
- What Exercises Lift Your Buttocks at Home? 5 Killer Glute Exercises
- How to Get a Bigger Buttocks Fast With Exercise: The Beginners ABC
- A Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis Electromyographic Activity in the Back Squat and Barbell Hip Thrust Exercises. J Appl Biomech. 2015 Dec;31(6):452-8. doi: 10.1123/jab.2014-0301. Epub 2015 Jul 24.
- Electromyographic activity in deadlift exercise and its variants. A systematic review. PLoS One. 2020 Feb 27;15(2):e0229507. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0229507. eCollection 2020.
- Electromyography Of The Hip And Thigh Muscles During Two Variations Of The Lunge Exercise: A Cross-Sectional Study. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2018 Apr; 13(2): 137–142.
- Joint angles of the ankle, knee, and hip and loading conditions during split squats. J Appl Biomech. 2014 Jun;30(3):373-80. doi: 10.1123/jab.2013-0175. Epub 2013 Dec 17.
- Potential mechanisms for a role of metabolic stress in hypertrophic adaptations to resistance training. Sports Med. 2013 Mar;43(3):179-94. doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0017-1.