Let me take a wild guess, building a stronger booty is on your agenda for your workouts. What you might not realise is that targeting the glutes does way more than perk up your peach. “It’s a major stabiliser and it’s also the biggest muscle in the body,” says Leigh Weissman, CPT, a certified personal trainer, nutrition coach and glute specialist. “The glutes control a lot of your pelvic function and the hips.”
That means your glutes help you do everything from walk, sit and bend throughout your day. And you’ll start to notice a boost in your athletic performance, as well. “If you are a practising athlete, you’ll sprint faster and turn quicker,” says Weissman. “In yoga, it can help you balance in specific poses.” Plus, when your glutes are strong, you can better strengthen and protect your back, hips and core—all of which are huge for balance and stability. Truly everyone can benefit from a butt workout and do it right at home to boot.
Meet the experts: Leigh Weissman, CPT, a certified personal trainer, nutrition coach and founder of Leigh Taylor Method for building strong glutes. Suki Clements, CPT, RYT, is a New York City-based yoga teacher and former professional dancer.
The Muscle Science
Understanding all the muscles that make up your booty can help you work your rear more effectively. The gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles along with a slew of other smaller muscles, like the piriformis (located about where the heel of your hand lands if you put it in the back pocket of your jeans), are all part of your behind.
The key to getting in a good butt workout at home (and reaping all of these full-body benefits) is to move slowly and with control so that you work your glute muscles—and don’t stress out your lower back. To keep your focus on your butt, engage your core and exhale through the challenging part of every exercise. When you shorten the muscle in an exercise, you should start to feel a burning sensation. If you’re lengthening the muscle, look for a stretching feeling to know you’re activating the area, says Weissman.
Use the 15 exercises below to create your own butt workout at home. All you need is a mini resistance band and a set of dumbbells!
As long as you recover well (think plenty of stretching and foam rolling), you can work out your butt up to three times a week.
Equipment: resistance band, dumbbells | Time: 20 minutes | Good for: glutes
Instructions: Choose up to five of the exercises below. Complete the indicated number of reps for each, then rest for 15 seconds and continue on to the next. Once you’ve completed all five exercises, rest for one minute, then repeat the entire circuit twice more for a total of three sets.
Standing Glute Kickback
Why it rocks: This move isolates one side so you can really feel the burn. Working one side allows you to recognise and fix strength imbalances, says Weissman.
- Stand with weight on left foot and right leg long behind body with toes pointed and resting on floor.
- Bend left knee slightly and hinge at hips to lower torso forward.
- Clasp hands in front of body. This is your starting position.
- From here, engage right glutes to kick straight right leg back and up until nearly parallel with floor. Slowly and with control, reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 per side.
Pro tip: Engage core throughout the movement to prevent lower-back strain and keep the emphasis on glutes. Use a looped resistance band just above your knees to level this one up.
Supported Single-Leg Deadlift
Why it rocks: The supported single-leg deadlift is an introduction for people who have a challenging time performing a full single-leg deadlift. It also helps you to understand how to do a hip hinge before just going into a full single-leg deadlift.
- Start standing on left leg with a weight in right hand, palm facing toward thigh and left arm by side.
- Step right leg a few feet behind body, lift heel and press right toes into the floor for balance. Keep left leg slightly bent.
- Lean forward, hinging at the hips with a flat back while lowering the weight toward the floor.
- Drive into the left heel to return to the standing position. That’s 1 rep.
Why it rocks: Working the hips in this position gives you the biggest strength boost, says Weissman. Science is there to support it, too, according to a Journal of Sports Science & Medicine study.
- Sit with feet flat on the floor in front of a couch or stable chair.
- Place forearms flat on surface so elbows point back and fingers point forward.
- Lift seat up off floor and walk feet out until planted slightly beyond knees. This is your starting position.
- Push through heels and engage glutes to extend hips up until body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees.
- Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12.
Pro tip: To maximise glute engagement, press knees slightly outward throughout the movement. For an extra challenge, place a looped mini-band just above your knees or add a weight at the hips.
Why it rocks: This move is a great way to feel a stretch in the glute muscles, says Weissman. To take it up a notch, she suggests adding resistance with a band or dumbbell.
- Start standing with feet hips-width distance apart (or slightly wider) and hands clasped behind your head.
- Bend knees slightly, engage core, draw shoulders back and keep neck long, then hinge at hips to push seat back while lowering chest forward until parallel to floor.
- Keeping weight in heels, slowly reverse the movement to return to start. That’s 1 rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps.
Pro tip: Hold a dumbbell behind neck to increase the intensity.
Why it rocks: An RDL is a great way to level up from a Good Morning because it adds resistance and intensity with the dumbbells, says Weissman.
- Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells in hands with palms facing thighs.
- Keeping back straight, hinge at the hips and focus on sending hips and butt back as you lower the dumbbells toward the ground.
- Engage glutes and rise back to standing, locking hips out at the top. That’s 1 rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps.
Banded Glute Bridge
Why it rocks: This has all the benefits of a bodyweight glute bridge, but you also engage the hips more with the band.
- Wrap a resistance band around thighs and lie face up with knees bent and feet on the floor about a foot away from butt.
- Brace core, then press into heels and squeeze glutes to lift hips up toward ceiling while pushing upper back into floor.
- Pause in this position and expand the band by pressing knees apart.
- Reverse the movement and return to start. That’s 1 rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps.
Pro tip: To make this more challenging, hold a dumbbell on top of hips.
Banded Clam Shell
- Start lying on right side on a mat with upper body propped up on right forearm, right elbow below right shoulder.
- Stack left foot over right with legs bent at 90 degrees and heels in line with glutes.
- Place left hand on top hip. This is your starting position. Without moving hips or disconnecting feet, engage outer left glutes to drive left knee straight up toward ceiling.
- Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s 1 rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
Pro tip: Keep hips stacked and avoid rolling backwards when lifting top leg. You can also place a looped resistance band just above the knees to level this one up.
Why the move is effective: “You’re isolating one side of the hip,” says Weissman. “So it’s a nice contraction where people tend to have that natural hip dip.”
Bulgarian Split Squat
Why it rocks: This is one of Weissman’s go-to exercises for all her clients. “This causes the glute medias to fire up to help stabilise the pelvis,” says Weissman.
- Stand in front of a low bench or platform with feet hip-width apart.
- Place left foot onto the platform behind you, gently resting the top of the foot to stabilise. The distance between you and the elevated surface can vary depending on your experience and range of motion.
- Engage core and glutes and lower down with control. Stop when back knee hovers just off the ground, or as low as is comfortable for your range of motion.
- Drive through front foot and squeeze glutes as you stand back up. That’s 1 rep. Complete 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Take a step back with left leg, crossing it behind right. Bend knees and lower hips until right thigh is nearly parallel to the floor. Keep torso upright and your hips and shoulders as square as possible.
- Return to start. Repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.
Why it rocks: This tabletop setup allows your upper body to help with stabilising your hips while you focus on working the glutes one side at a time.
- Start on all fours with shoulders stacked over wrists and back flat, toes tucked, and knees under hips.
- Keep core tight, shoulders and hips square and foot flexed, then squeeze glute and kick the right knee back in line with the hip.
- Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s 1 rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
Pro tip: Imagine you’re trying to stamp the sole of your foot on the wall behind you and move from the hips, not the lower back.
Isometric Banded Glute Bridge
Why it rocks: “This is a good move if you just want to feel what it’s like to squeeze the glute and feel that contraction,” explains Weissman.
- Lie on back with knees bent and feet on the floor 12 to 16 inches from butt.
- Brace core, then press into heels and squeeze glutes to lift hips towards ceiling. Maintain space between chin and chest and keep upper back pressed into floor.
- Hold the elevated position with glutes engaged for 5 seconds. That’s 1 rep. Perform 5 reps.
- Start on all fours with wrists stacked directly under shoulders and knees over hips.
- Draw belly button to spine and, keeping back flat, lift the right knee so it is in line with the right hip.
- Return to start. That’s one rep. After 20 seconds, switch to the other side.
Lateral Lunge with Balance
Why it rocks: “This is great for the overall health of your hips,” says Weissman. She adds that you can also use this move to measure your progress and see your strength improve over time.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands at sides.
- Take a big step to the left, then push hips back, bending left knee and lowering body until left knee is bent to 90 degrees.
- Push back to an upright position, lifting left knee up and into the chest. That’s 1 rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
Pro tip: Keep weight in heel of bending leg to fire up glutes.
Why it rocks: This move allows you to work the muscles that help you walk and how your body moves in everyday life, says Weissman.
- Start standing with hands at sides or clasped in front of chest and legs staggered so left is forward and right is back with right heel raised.
- With torso upright, bend knees and lower until legs both form 90-degree angles.
- Press through left foot to return to standing position. That’s 1 rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
Pro tip: When in the lowest position, hover back knee off the floor to keep lower body under tension. Hold dumbbells to increase the intensity.
Alternating Step Up
Why it rocks: You can play with tempo and create multiple variations of this move, says Weissman. “If you’re doing it with bodyweight, slowing down that step down is how you get the most bang for your buck.”
- Stand with feet hip-width apart in front of an elevated surface or step.
- Lift left foot and step onto the elevated surface.
- Press into left foot and lift right leg up to chest, lengthening the glute.
- Step the right foot back to start and bring the left to meet it.
- Then, switch sides and repeat. That’s 1 rep. Continue alternating for 10 to 12 reps.