By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Thanks to social media and the famed “belfie,” exercises for the butt have become an important part of almost everyone’s workout. There’s a huge upside to this trend, since strong booties are vital for injury prevention. The glutes are the largest muscle in your body and protect your lower back, keep your pelvis aligned, and give you power to run. Strength training benefits women and men for so many reasons.
There’s no shortage of information for booty building workouts, but getting started on a plan can still be difficult. You may have tried plans before and not gotten the results you were hoping for or may not know which ones are the best for you. Workouts affect each person’s body differently, which is why some of us like pilates and others like lifting. Exercises designed for your butt are no different! A person with a V-shape booty should be doing exercises geared toward them and not for the round-shaped Instagram influencer they follow.
Squats and deadlifts might be two of the most popular lower body lifts, but they aren’t the most ideal for glute building. Although very important for strengthening your body, they target several muscles in your legs and don’t directly target your butt. For best results, you must isolate and progressively overload your glute muscles so that they can grow. This is the key behind how to get a bigger butt!
Isolation exercises allow you to activate all three of the glute muscles—gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Those that require full hip extension are the most efficient because they activate your muscles the most. The most effective method for progressively overloading your tush is to use heavy weight, fully extend your hips, and keep each set to 6–12 reps.
Building a strong derriere not only looks appealing but also stabilizes your body! As an important part of your core muscles, your butt keeps your hips, knees, and ankles from overcompensating when you move. Your entire body works together to keep you healthy and happy! If one part is imbalanced, you’ll have a harder time accomplishing everyday tasks and be more prone to injuries. As such, it’s important to note that upper body and leg workouts are important to implement as well if you want to feel at your best.
Booties fall into four different shape categories. Look below to find your shape, and then we will cover the ideal sculpting exercises just for you!
Square shapes are heavier at the bottom and fattier at the top—often creating the dreaded muffin top. Building up the gluteus medius is important for this type. These muscles sit laterally at the top of your butt and will lift your butt up so it doesn’t fall at the bottom. Since these booties tend to hold a little more fat, you might also want to consider keeping a low-fat diet. Cutting excess fat will reveal more of the muscular shape from your hard work.
Round glutes also store fat in their upper glutes; however, they don’t drop at the bottom. Round glutes need a program that works all three gluteal muscles. If you have a program that works your booty from every angle, you are good to go! Interestingly enough, women with this body shape are also said to give birth easier.
A signature part of the hourglass figure, the heart-shaped booty is fullest in the gluteus maximus. This means that it is roundest at the bottom and narrows as it approaches your waist. To keep it standing tall and perky, heart shapes need exercises that will prevent them from drooping as you age. Leg extensions are great for activating your hamstrings and lifting the bottom of your tush. Gluteus medius workouts also provide a great lift, so lateral movements that hit the upper part of your glute should also be a staple of your program.
The fourth and final shape is the V-shape. True to its name, the V-shape is fullest at the top and smallest at the bottom. Often this shape develops during menopause as the hormone estrogen decreases. This causes fat to build up around your waistline and causes volume loss in your gluteus maximus. If you aren’t in menopause, your V-shape may be from a pelvis that is rotated upward. Regardless of the cause, you will want to hit your gluteus maximus hard to build back up your muscles. Exercises that use hip range of motion—such as hip thrusts—are perfect for this.
All butt shapes except the V-shape need to prioritize upper glute activation. A strong gluteus medius sculpts, lifts, and provides protection from chronic back pain. Therefore, exercises that build them are very important to discuss! The gluteus medius runs along the side of your butt and can’t be targeted with squats and deadlifts. To really grow, exercises that isolate the gluteus medius are best.
The weighted hip extension is one of the best ways to isolate the gluteus medius. Begin on all fours, placing your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Make sure to keep your pelvis in a neutral position by pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Keep this neutral position as you lift one of your legs off of the ground, squeezing that glute as you do so. To make this exercise a little bit harder, you can add a dumbbell behind the knee of the leg you’re working. If that’s still too easy, either increase the weight or add 10 pulses to each lift. Do 10 reps on each leg for 2–3 sets.
Another gluteus medius isolator is the side-lying leg lift. This exercise requires you to lie on your side with your hips stacked directly over each other. Prop up your bottom arm so that you can rest your head on your hand, and place your other hand on the ground in front of your chest. After you have reached a comfortable position, raise your top leg away from the midline of your body and up toward the ceiling. Remember to always keep your hips facing forward—don’t allow the top hip to externally rotate or you won’t target your gluteus medius as effectively. To increase the difficulty, place a band around your ankles and then lift your leg. Repeat the leg lifts 12 times for 3 sets.
The monster walk has a couple of different variations and is more advanced, so it requires mental focus and coordination. One of the most popular ways to do the monster walk requires you to use an exercise band above your knees and around your ankles. After these are in place, you will squat down slightly and walk forward. As you walk, you will abduct each hip around in a circular motion, while fighting your knees’ tendency to collapse inward. For best results, monster walks should be done nonstop for 30 seconds.
While you might think exercise bands would be the best way to target your glutes, dumbbells and barbells are also great tools. Dumbbells are generally one of the easiest to get the hang of, and while many gyms don’t have bands, they almost always have a dumbbell rack.
Since we already covered several gluteus medius exercises, let’s consider moves that work all three glute muscles.
Glute bridges are one of the simplest ways to target the gluteus maximus. To perform this movement, lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet hip-width apart. Place a dumbbell across your pelvis and squeeze your glutes as you raise your hips off of the floor. Hold your position at the top of the movement for a moment, and then lower yourself back down. Repeat 10–12 times for 3 sets. If you’re a new exerciser, start with a lighter weight (around 10 pounds) and see how you feel. If the weight is easy for you, increase it until you feel more resistance.
This exercise hits all of the glute muscles and requires more focus, as you must move through a greater range of motion. Begin on your hands and knees, being sure to place your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Place a dumbbell behind one of your knees, brace your abs and, squeezing your glute, bring the weight out to the side. Unlike the weighted hip extension from before, you don’t bring the weight back down to the ground. Instead, you circle it back behind you and then bring it down. Repeat this movement 12 times, and then switch sides.
Frog pumps are very similar to glute bridges. You start in the same position on your back with your knees bent and a dumbbell across your pelvis. However, you actually put the bottom of your feet together so that your knees are pointed outward. From this position, you bridge upward, squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, and lower yourself back down. Just like the others, 3 sets of 12 should really get your booty on fire. To make this movement more difficult, elevate your feet onto a bench or step.
Butt exercises are usually considered to be more important for a woman’s repertoire. However, they’re important for men, as well, since they have a huge impact on performance and injury prevention. Besides looking great, strong booties have a positive impact on your health and wellness!