The Best Butt Workout Moves of All Time, According to Trainers
The Best Butt Workout Moves for Stronger Glutes
PSA: Butts are not all about aesthetics—building stronger butt muscles (yep, there are multiple) will not only improve your speed and explosiveness but will also protect your lower back and knees from injury. Plus, any good butt workout, which can and should include some of these best butt exercises, will target the biggest muscle in your body—the glute max—so you'll maximize your burn both during and after your workout. Still, you want to be sure you're working all your butt muscles (and the rest of your posterior chain) to get the most out of your effort. These exercises accomplish all that and more.
How it works: How you incorporate these exercises into your butt workout is totally up to you. There are suggested reps and sets information for each, but otherwise, they are customizable. Try a few as a finisher to a lower-body workout. You can do one set of each for a circuit-style workout, or simply incorporate your favorites into your usual full-body workout.
What you’ll need: While you can effectively work your butt with just your bodyweight (hi, split-stance squats), many of these trainer-approved exercises for your best booty utilize tools and equipment that take your glute work to the next level. Some items that you'll want to familiarize yourself with: a stability ball, tall step or stable box, glute-ham developer machine, barbell, and set of medium (8-12 pounds) or heavy (20-35 pounds) dumbbells.
Barbell Hip Thrust
Get ready to burn out those muscles with this butt exercise from "The Glute Guy" Bret Contreras, M.A., C.S.C.S., and author of Advanced Techniques in Glutei Maximi Strengthening. Mix up your reps and sets for the best booty challenge. "Some days you can go heavy for lower reps, some days you can go lighter for higher reps, and some days you can do both," says Contreras. "I will warn you though, high-rep hip thrusts are brutal. The booty-burn is excruciating!"
A. Sit on the ground with your back against a bench, feet planted firmly in front of you, and a barbell fitted with a pad (trust us, you'll want this) in your lap. (No barbell? Try one heavy dumbbell instead.)
B. Keeping lower back and knees stable, push through your heels and raise the barbell by extending your hips, making sure to use the force of your glutes rather than your back.
C. Rise until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees (full hip extension), and then slowly descend back to the ground.
Try: 3 sets of 6 to 20 reps, depending on the weight used
The step-up is one of the best butt workout exercises you can do to focus on strength, power, and balance in a unilateral fashion (one side at a time), says Declan Condron, an exercise physiologist for PumpOne. (BTW, here’s how to test your balance for real.) "We all perform this basic functional movement many times a day, every day," says Condron. "It targets all the main large muscles of the legs, particularly the glutes and hamstrings, and really helps develop a nice toned rear end."
A. Stand with right foot on a platform such as a bench or step, holding dumbbells by your sides with your arms straight.
B. Push through right heel and step up onto platform with both feet.
C. Step down to floor with your right foot first, then left.
Butt workout tip: To burn out one side, continue this same pattern of right then left, or alternate which side comes up and down first with each rep.
Try: 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps per leg
Turn on the burn in your butt workout with this lunge variation that activates the gluteus medius (a smaller glute muscle on the side of your butt that helps to externally rotate the hip) much better than a traditional reverse lunge, which focuses more on the glute max.
A. Start standing with your feet hip-width apart, and then, keeping your weight in your left foot, take a big step back with your right leg, crossing it behind your left leg. Make sure that your hips stay facing forward.
B. Slowly bend your knees and lower down until your front thigh is parallel to the floor, and both knees are bent at roughly 90 degrees.
C. Push through left heel to returning to standing at starting position
Butt workout tip: Make this butt exercise more difficult but adding weight, such as with a set of dumbbells as shown here or one kettlebell held in the goblet position.)
Try: 3 sets of 15 reps per side
Quadruped Hip Extension
While this exercise may seem simple, research has actually shown that the glute kickback or donkey kick, as some also call this butt exercise, causes more muscle activation in the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius when compared to other common butt workout exercises (yep, even squats). Plus, the flexed heel curling toward your butt activates your hamstrings nicely. Plus, this bodyweight butt move workout can be done anywhere for ease or made more challenging with the use of resistance bands or even a light dumbbell behind the knee.
A. Start on hands and knees with knees directly below hips and wrists directly below shoulders, fingers pointing forward.
B. Keeping the core engaged to avoid arching your back, as you lift your right bent leg to the sky. Foot should be flexed so the sole of foot is facing the ceiling. Avoid rotating your hips by keeping the shoulders and hips squared to the floor during the entire exercise.
Try: 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per leg
"This is a signature sprinter move to improve power, and the added bonus is that it really pumps up your glute muscles too," says Samantha Clayton, a former Olympic athlete and personal trainer. "Try to do this while working on your coordination, driving the opposite arm to the opposite knee. The aim is to get height, not distance, with each step.” (Related: 6 Strength Exercises Every Runner Should Be Doing)
A. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step left leg back into a reverse lunge, going as low as you can while keeping your back straight and making sure to maintain a bend in both legs.
B. Hold at the bottom of this lunge position for 3 counts then push through right heel to explode up, driving left knee forward and up.
Try: 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per leg
Barre Kickback Pulse
Don't let the small range of motion fool you. You're about to build your best booty with this mico movement crafted by Tracey Mallett, a certified Pilates instructor and creator of the Booty Barre Workout. Throughout this butt workout exercise, you want to think about "keeping the body pitched forward from the hips so that the work is in the gluteus, not the lower back," says Mallett.
A. Stand facing the barre, or back of a chair or sturdy countertop. Place your right forearm down on the barre and bend both knees slightly.
B. Keeping your knees bent, lift your outside leg behind your body until your thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Externally rotate hip slightly to engage the glute med as well as glute max. Point toes, and place the outside hand on your hip.
C. Lift bent raised leg up and down in small 1-inch pulses, keeping the hip elevated the entirely time to increase time under tension.
Butt workout tip: Make this move harder and challenge your balance by coming into relevé on the standing leg (rise to the ball of your foot and stay there while pulsing the back leg).
Try: 3 sets of 20 small pulses per leg
You already know that squats are one of the best butt exercises of all time, and adding heavy weight makes them even more effective, says Elizabeth Hendrix Burwell, co-owner of High Performance Gym in Greenville, South Carolina. "A good goal would be to squat your own body weight," says Hendrix Burwell. But don't worry: If that sounds intimidating you can absolutely work your way up safely.
(ICYMI, check out this complete guide to your butt muscles—and how to activate 'em from every angle.)
A. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance, toes slightly turned out. Note: Biomechanically, everyone's squat stance will be slightly different, so if it feels better to go wider for you or to have less of an externally rotation, do you.
B. Leading with your hips, lower your butt down and back to your low point (thighs parallel to ground is a good goal, you don't have to feel pushed to go passed there) then press through heels to return to starting position, squeezing glutes at the top.
Try: 3 sets of 8 reps
Bridge with Leg Extension
"The bridge isolates the gluteus maximus because the leg is bent at the knee and therefore the hamstring is less active," says Robert Forster, certified trainer and founder of Phase IV and Forster Physical Therapy. "Extending the opposite leg serves to put much more work onto the glute of the stationary leg, and balancing on one foot recruits the other glute muscles on the outside of the pelvis for stability." (BTW, there is a difference between a glute bridge and hip thrust, as shown earlier.)
A. Lie face-up with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands at your sides.
B. Perform a pelvic tilt (making sure lower back is pressing into the floor), then squeeze your glutes and press through heels to raise hips off the mat to create a straight line with your body, aligning your knees, hips, and shoulders.
C. Straighten right leg, keeping quads and knees aligned, and hold for 3 seconds.
D. Return right foot to ground to the starting position and repeat with the left leg. Alternate sides.
Butt workout tip: Avoid overextending your hips, which causes you to arch your back, turning a butt exercise into a backbend.
Try: 3 sets of 10 reps per side
Pretzel Side Kick
Warning: You'll feel the burn for days (and days)—expesically in your glute med—after you do this exercise from LA-based celebrity trainer and fitness expert Stephanie Vitorino. (Related: Yoga-Inspired Butt Exercises for a Stronger Butt)
A. Start seated with your left knee bent directly in front of your hip and right knee bent behind your right hip.
B. Rotate your torso and place your hands on either side of your left knee.
C. Brace your core as you lift your right knee and foot off the floor, keeping your chest lifted.
D. Keep your right leg lifted and extend to kick, leg parallel to the floor. Bend your left knee back in and release it to the floor.
Butt workout tip: If lifting your knee is too challenging, start by just lifting your foot and then add the sidekick if/when you're ready.
Try: 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps per side
"You cannot cheat on this exercise," says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. "This butt workout move takes the best glute activation a squat can offer and the best hip and thigh activation that a lunge can offer all rolled into one truly challenging but oh-so-worth-it exercise!" (P.S. This 30-day squat challenge will keep the butt workout wins coming.)
A. Stand on left leg with the entire foot rooted firmly into the floor, right leg lifted slightly forward to start.
B. Bend the left knee and send hips backward, reaching arms forward while extending the right leg forward, lowering body until hips are below parallel.
C. Squeeze the glutes and hamstring to stop the descent, then imagine pushing the standing leg through the floor to press back up to standing.
Butt workout tip: To modify this advanced butt exercise to make it a little more achievable, put a chai direct behind you, so you can quickly tap your butt to the edge of the seat. As you progress, you can use objects (like the bottom of a step) that are lower to the ground.
Try 2 sets of 5 on each leg
You will literally lift your buns with this awesome exercise that uses a stability ball, gliders, or even just a folded towel on a smooth surface to work your glutes, hamstrings, and core from fitness expert Chris Freytag.
A. Lie face-up with heels pressed into the top of the stability ball, gliders, or towel, arms extended by your sides. Pressing through your glutes, lift lower back a few inches off the floor.
B. Pull heels toward your glutes, lifting hips a few inches higher.
C. Roll or slide back to extend legs to return to starting position.
Try: 3 sets of 15 reps
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
The single-leg Romanian deadlift (RDL) is an awesome booty-builder, says Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University in Baltimore. Bonus: You can use just about any weight, such as a mini barbell, or kettlebell (as shown) for this butt workout exercise.
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell in one hand or a pair of dumbbells in both hands, palms facing thighs.
B. Keeping your spine neutral, hinge at the hips (push your hips toward the wall behind you), and allow the weight to lower towards your shins.
C. As you lower, bend your right knee slightly and lift your left leg behind you to counter your balance. If using a kettlebell, you'll transfer to your right hand.
D. Press through right heel to return back to standing. Repeat on same side to burn out those muscles before switching.
Try: 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per side
This butt-sculpting exercise recommended by Jessica Lozano, N.C.S.A., a certified personal trainer at the Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton, Florida, challenges your butt muscles, no matter how experienced you are with glute-focused training.
Learn more about this piece of equipment, also called a glute-hamstrings developer (GHD), including all the booty-building benefits you can get from using it.
A. With feet locked in, quads on the main pad (not knees, nor hips), lower torso so it's parallel to the floor and hold your body completely still for one count. Arms can be crossed in front of chest.
B. From there, slowly lower torso toward the floor. As you do, make sure to keep chest and neck lifted and back straight.
C. Use a controlled tempo during the exercise: Aim for a 2- to 3-second count on the way down, and take 1 to 2 seconds to come back up.
Try: 3 sets of 10 reps