“Ugh, I wish my butt was smaller,” said no athlete ever. Many of us chase a bigger backside to better fill out our jeans, yes… But did you know that your glutes also play a really important role in nearly everything you do? From standing to squatting to getting out of bed in the morning, ya need your butt. It’s a muscle powerhouse and also helps to connect your lower and upper halves. So, yeah, it’s got a big job to do. Let’s talk about five glute exercises you can try to build your bum.
5 Glute Exercises for a Bigger (and Stronger) Backside
1. Bulgarian Split Squats
Yes, we know, athletes often do these to target their glutes. But have you ever reached back and felt your glutes while you’re doing Bulgarian split squats? They’re working hard.
What makes these so brutal is that with one foot propped up behind you, you’re left standing (and squatting) on one leg, making for one heck of a unilateral exercise. As an added bonus, if you have any imbalances in weaknesses between your left and right sides — which most of us do — this will help to point them out and correct them.
Start with body weight first. Yeah, they’re that hard. To scale, you can hold a barbell in the front rack or back rack position, dumbbells or kettlebells in both hands, or just one that you hold like you would in a goblet squat.
2. Hip Bridges
Hip bridges are *phenomenal* for not only strengthening your glutes but teaching your glutes to activate. Plus, there are countless variations.
The standard hip bridge typically has you on the floor, no extra weight added.
However, you can put a dumbbell across your hips to make it harder. You can also do hip bridges on one leg. Or, prop your shoulders up on a bench and use a barbell across your hips.
(BTW, you can also do barbell hip bridges on the floor, but you probably won’t be able to go as heavy.)
This isn’t simply about pushing your hips up into the air. Technique and form matter! Think “fast up, pause, slow down.” Squeeze at the top before that slow release, and you’re going to feel a major burn.
“But I can’t do pistols,” you’re saying. Keep reading anyway, because this should still be on your list of glute exercises.
Like Bulgarian split squats, pistols are a fantastic unilateral exercise. And even if you can’t do them Rx’d, you have a number of options to scale pistols and still reap the benefits.
Doing them from a box allows your free leg to hang a little lower, which is a huge help.
You can also do a one-leg step-up (make sure your free leg is hanging to the side of the box, not the back — see the video above for an example) or only practice the negative (the lowering portion) on a box or on the floor.
If you need to scale further, do a pistol down to a box, bench, or chair, so that at the bottom point of the movement, you’re sitting down. Still stay on tension, though, and stand back up. That way, you’re mimicking the exact movement, just with a decreased range of motion.
If balance is the issue, use a rig or wall to guide you.
Remember that in addition to strength and balance, you need awesome ankle mobility to execute a pistol. Be sure to warm up your ankles and hips, first.
A lot of people think clamshells are for your hips only. And they are an awesome hip drill! But if you do them properly, your glutes should be engaged.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing these with just your body weight, if that’s what’s challenging. If you’re ready to kick things up a notch, grab a mini band and get to work. Remember, you need to stay in control. As you’re bring your knees together, don’t let the band snap you back.
Check out The WOD Life’s selection of mini bands.
So simple and yet so effective. You can make these easier or harder by lowering or raising the weight. Add a barbell in the front or back, or dumbbells or kettlebells at your sides or on your shoulders to seriously up the challenge. If you’re really in the mood to torture yourself, hold the dumbbells or kettlebells overhead. You’ve been warned!
Another idea is to slow down the lowering phase. Your glutes won’t know what hit them.
Here’s the basic step-up.
It’s always a smart idea to throw in this type of accessory work on top of your regular squats and deadlifts — especially the unilateral stuff. Don’t forget that the benefits of a bigger booty are twofold: Sure, it looks nice, but importantly, it’s better for your overall health and fitness, as well as injury prevention.
Get to work!
Which one of these glute exercises will you try first? Let us know in the comments section below.