Everybody wants a better butt. Building strong and shapely glutes not only enhances your overall physique but also contributes to improved posture, increased athletic performance, and reduced risk of injuries. Whether you’re an athlete, fitness enthusiast, or simply someone who wants to look better in or out of a pair of jeans, incorporating effective glute exercises into your workout routine is essential. In this article, we explore the top 10 glute exercises backed by research and expert recommendations to help you achieve your butt-building goals.
The gluteal muscles, commonly referred to as the glutes, are a group of three muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Each of these muscles has specific functions and contributes to various movements of the hip and thigh.
Gluteus Maximus: This is the largest and outermost muscle of the gluteal group. It plays a crucial role in hip extension, which involves moving the thigh backward. The gluteus maximus is responsible for actions like standing up from a squatting position, climbing stairs, and running. It also provides stability to the hip joint.
Gluteus Medius: Positioned beneath the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius is situated on the outer surface of the pelvis. Its primary function is hip abduction, which involves moving the thigh away from the midline of the body. The gluteus medius also helps to stabilize the pelvis when walking or standing on one leg.
Gluteus Minimus: Situated beneath the gluteus medius, the gluteus minimus has a similar function. It assists in hip abduction and contributes to the stabilization of the pelvis during activities like walking, running, and balancing on one leg.
In addition to their individual functions, the gluteal muscles work together to provide overall stability and strength to the hip joint. Strong and well-developed glutes can help improve posture, enhance athletic performance, and prevent certain injuries. They are also involved in movements such as rotation and tilting of the pelvis.
10 BEST GLUTE EXERCISES RANKED
What follows are the 10 best glute exercises. We’ve ranked them via electromyography (EMG) and other hypertrophy studies, but all of them are recommended and some are similar. So, if you construct a glute routine, include two or three dissimilar exercises, such as hip thrust, lunge, and thigh abduction.
1. Hip Thrust
Hip thrusts are a highly effective glute exercise that specifically targets the posterior chain. Using a bench, box, or step, position your upper back against it and drive your hips upward, squeezing the glutes at the top. Research has shown that hip thrusts elicit high glute activation and are superior to other exercises like squats and deadlifts in isolating the gluteus maximus. 
Step-ups target the glutes while also improving lower body strength and balance. Step onto a bench or sturdy elevated platform with one foot, drive through the heel, and lift your body upward. Hold dumbbells to add resistance. 
Lunges are a versatile exercise that engages the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Step forward or backward, keeping your knee aligned with your ankle, and lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground. You can also do walking lunges, propelling yourself forward with each lunge rep. To activate the glutes more intensely, focus on pushing through the heel and engaging the glute muscles throughout the movement. 
4. Glute Bridge
Similar to hip thrusts, glute bridges activate the glute muscles effectively. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, then lift your hips off the floor, focusing on squeezing the glutes. Experiment with single-leg glute bridges or elevated glute bridges to intensify this exercise. 
5. Glute Kickback
Glute kickbacks isolate the glutes and are especially effective for targeting the gluteus medius, which helps stabilize the hips. Start on your hands and knees, then extend one leg backward while keeping it in line with your hip. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement and return to the starting position. Many gyms have a glute kickback machine to easily add resistance, or you can use ankle weights or ankle cuffs attached to a low cable. 
6. Thigh Abduction
The thigh abduction machine specifically targets the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Sit on the machine with your knees against the pads, then rotate your legs outward against the resistance, focusing on squeezing the glutes. 
7. Cable Pull-Through
Cable pull-throughs activate the glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles. Attach a rope or handle to a low cable pulley, stand facing away from the machine, and hinge at the hips so your torso is parallel to the floor, allowing the cable to pass through your legs. As you stand up, squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward. These are somewhat similar to a stiff-leg deadlift, though they allow you to better keep the tension on your butt. 
Squats are a compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, especially the quadriceps and glutes. To maximize glute activation, perform deep squats while maintaining proper form and engaging your glutes throughout the movement. Variations such as goblet squats and sumo squats can add variety and target the glutes from different angles. 
For more on why deep squats better work the glutes see: Different Muscle Growth from Different Squat Depths
9. Bulgarian Split Squat
Bulgarian split squats engage the glutes while also challenging stability and balance. Stand with one foot positioned behind you on a bench or step, then lower your body into a lunge position. This exercise targets each glute individually, helping to correct muscle imbalances. 
Deadlifts work a wide variety of lower body and upper body muscles, including the glutes. Conventional, sumo, and Romanian deadlift variations all provide different degrees of glute involvement. 
BEST GLUTE EXERCISES: CONCLUSION
Incorporating a combination of these 10 glute exercises into your workout routine can help you achieve firmer, stronger, and more shapely glutes. Remember to start with lighter weights or bodyweight exercises if you’re a beginner and gradually increase intensity as you progress. Additionally, always prioritize maintaining proper form and engaging the glute muscles throughout each exercise for optimal results.
1. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, “Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review,” 2020. Link.
2. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), “Glute Activation.” Link.
3. American Council on Exercise (ACE), “Glutes to the Max,” 2006. Link.
4. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, “Gluteal Muscle Activation during Common Therapeutic Exercises,” 2009. Link.
5. Strength and Conditioning Journal, “Unilateral vs. Bilateral Squat Training for Developing Sprint Acceleration in Team-Sport Athletes: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Link.
6. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, “Electromyographic Analysis of Deadlift Techniques in Healthy Men,” 2020. Link.