Your glutes are the large muscles that make up your butt. Not only do people want strong glutes because they look perky and peachy, but because they're a fundamental muscle group for a wide variety of movements.
The glutes are responsible for stabilizing the pelvis and hips. Looking after your glutes will translate into everyday life activities such as walking, running, and standing. Strong glutes can also help to minimize back pain for people who experience overcompensation from other muscle groups. You'll find a wide range of exercise recommendations for glute development online. Here we list the 5 most fundamental exercises you can include in your workouts to achieve strong butt muscles.
Deadlifts are the king of exercises. Not just for strong glutes, but for strong everything! A deadlift involves picking weight up off the floor, so the real-world implications of performing this movement are apparent. The deadlift puts the tension into the stretched position of the glute, which means when you're reaching over to lift the weight, you feel a pulling in your hamstrings, and that tension can help you generate power through the lift.
Technically, the movement is considered a "hinge" because the hip is first flexed while the weight is still on the ground and then extended when you stand up tall at the top of the movement. This takes the glutes through a full range from flexion to extension.
If you've never done this before, it's worth consulting a personal trainer to help you get the form right. This is a complex movement involving all your muscles of the back of your body, also called the posterior chain. When done incorrectly, there is a high risk of injuring your back.
Remember the Health & Safety warnings at work about lifting with your legs and not your back? The deadlift teaches your body how to do exactly just that!
#2. Reverse Lunge
The reverse lunge takes a little bit of work because the balance required is more challenging than a standard front lunge. The reverse lunge is also quite a bit more comfortable on the knees. In this movement, you take one long step backward and gently touch your back knee to the ground. This puts tension into the glutes when they're in their stretched position.
The great thing about the reverse lunge is that it can affect the muscles in your legs and the tendons around the hip. Strengthening the glutes helps stabilize these muscles, which can help with low back issues and chronic pain. These are a fantastic option if there's limited resistance equipment available.
#3. Hip Thrust Variations
According to Bret Contreras, The Glute Guy, hip thrusts are an ideal movement for glute strength. With minimal equipment needed, you can achieve a great level of isolation for the glutes with a hip thrust.
Position your back against a bench for stability and keep your feet on the floor. Tuck your chin and squeeze your glutes as hard as you can to raise your thighs so that they're parallel to the floor. With the hip thrust, tension is in the fully contracted position of the glute.
Some people feel cramping in the front or back of their thighs with this movement - if you do, and you're not feeling it in your glutes, push your heels down into the ground, and lift your toes slightly to shift the effort to the glutes. You can perform the hip thrust with or without external loading, and you'll get a great workout.
Clamshells are a movement that isolates the muscles on the side of your butt through a fancy process called "transverse abduction". In practice, that means the glute is actively opening the hip by actively opening the legs. Those muscles, also called gluteus medius, are very important but often neglected with standard glute exercises recommended online.
Start by lying on your side with the big toe on each foot together. Your heels, hips, and shoulder should form one straight line while your knees are comfortably placed on top of each other. Before you start moving, ensure that you are actively engaging your core area, so there's a slight arch between your hip bone and your rib cage, and your spine is straight and not sagging in. Hold that position throughout the movement. Then keeping your feet together, start opening your knee towards the ceiling.
The key here is only to open it far enough so long your pelvis doesn't want to rotate out. This is the best way to isolate the gluteus medius. You can make the exercise more challenging by wrapping a mini band around your knees!
#5. Glute Band Walks
The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to banded exercises. Still, some of the best you can do for glutes are the banded walks. You can half-crouch and walk forwards - these are called monster walks. You can half-crouch and walk sideways - these are called crab walks. But the band creates low levels of constant tension for the glutes to fight against, and that's an incredible strength builder.
The glutes are a vitally important muscle group, and they're not just about looking good. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Including a robust strength program for your glutes can contribute to lower levels of back pain and more transferable power in sports.
Most commonly, glute strength exercises such as the hip thrust are performed with a barbell or sometimes resistance bands - but any resistance will be fine once mechanical mastery has been achieved with bodyweight movements only. Glute movements are popular, and to maximize performance from the working set, it's advisable to seek the guidance of a professional trainer.