Improve your day-to-day abilities and reduce your risk of injury by learning how to strengthen glutes! Though the glutes have gained popularity on social media for their looks, they are so much more than aesthetics.
As the largest muscle in our bodies, our gluteal muscles help us run, jump and climb as well as improve posture and reduce pain. If you’re not making glute exercises part of your weekly routine, you’re missing out.
As a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, I became obsessed with glutes around 2013 when I realized how crucial they were during pregnancy and postpartum.
Since then, I’ve been known to repeatedly say “glutes solve life problems” with my clients. Because they do!
Glute strength ties into:
- Better posture
- Better postpartum recovery
- Less injury risk
- Amazing sport performance
- Reduced back pain
What Are The Glute Muscles?
The glutes are a series of three muscles that make up the buttocks.
Broken down, these muscles are the gluteus maximus (the largest part of your bum), the gluteus minimus (on your outer hip), and the gluteus medius (just above the hip and is over top of the minimus).
Though there are three gluteal muscles, they all work together to bring you a variety of functions:
- Hip extension (think bridges or a barbell hip thrust)
- Hip abduction (taking your leg away from your body to the side)
- Hip external rotation (turning your leg outwards)
Every glute exercise you use will target all of the muscles. However, it is possible to place extra emphasis on one over the other.
How To Strengthen Your Glutes In 3 Steps
- Learn to properly activate the glutes
- Use the five exercises below
- Make use of mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage
If you want to strengthen a muscle you need to be able to activate it (this also requires some glute mobility so you can take them through a full range of motion).
Since many of us tend to tuck our bums under (think of a dog tucking its tail), we’re very prone to tight glutes (tight glutes are weak glutes!).
This means that other muscles (like hip flexors) end up doing more jobs than they should be and it results in poor movement mechanics and back pain.
From there it takes some focus on the three things that build muscle: tension, metabolic stress & muscle damage.
In basic terms, the glutes LOVE variety. Use the exercises below and alter your repetitions, sets, and loads for the best results.
The Best Exercises To Strengthen Glutes
Listen, there are a ton of exercises out there that will hit your glute muscles. The ones below though are my favorites.
Though you can easily vary the load or tension on the exercises (bands, dumbbells, etc), you can also use them with different repetition variations (pause reps, 1.5 reps).
Choose 2-3 and work them into your weekly program to get you started with some glute strength.
Want a more done-for-you approach? Grab the Glute Training E-book. A 25-page ebook with the exact glute workouts I use with clients.
Glute Exercise #1: The Hip Thrust
This move is the KING of all glute exercises. And rightfully so.
It targets your glutes through hip extension (and hyperextension) and the elevated back gives you a better range of motion so that you can target them MORE.
How to perform
- Begin by placing your mid to upper back (right about the bra strap line) on a bench (or table, or couch).
- Feet flat on the floor and hips dipped towards the floor. The feet will be slightly outside of your hips. At this bottom position, your knees should be slightly behind the bridge of your feet/your heels. Beginners will normally hook their elbows on the bench. This is fine so long as you don’t press into the bench with them for support.
- Start to push through the heels, squeeze the glutes and lift the hips towards the ceiling.
- As you do, the shins should come into a vertical position. Keep the upper back slightly rounded as you look forward and not straight up. Meaning, do not lay your upper back flat on the bench.
- At the top of the movement, “lockout” with a big glute squeeze. Reverse the movement leading with the hips breaking and moving back toward the floor and the starting position.
The exercise can be used from anywhere between 3-30 repetitions depending on tension levels.
Glute Exercise #2: Deficit Lunges
Again, this glute exercise provides a greater range of motion than a typical lunge thanks to its elevation. Make sure to hinge forward slightly to maximize tension on the back of the leg and not the front.
How to perform
- Using a bottom step or yoga blocks, stand upright, chest lifted, on the step.
- Step the left foot back onto the floor and begin bringing the knee down towards the floor as you hinge the upper body forward slightly.
- Pause at the bottom and then reverse the movement and pull up your body with the right leg (don't push off the left foot!), extending the hips back into the starting position.
Aim for 8-12 repetitions on each leg.
Glute Exercise #3 Reverse Hyper Extensions
Now, this is an exercise most people think can only be done in a gym.. wrong! Learn how to do a reverse hyperextension at home!
A great exercise to really nail down the posterior pelvic tilt. A reverse hyperextension can be done with a band, straight-legged, straddle-legged, or froggy legs!
How to perform
- Lay belly down on a bench with the end of the bench at your hips (legs hanging off).
- You can do this with straight legs or bent knees. Squeeze your glutes so that your legs raise up and your hips extend (go from bent to open). Pause and return the feet to the floor.
Perform this exercise for 12-30 repetitions.
Glute Exercise #4: Sumo Walks
Not as fancy or intense as the exercises above but this one has merit. It places the focus on the outer glutes (gluteus minimus and gluteus medius) and not just gluteus maximus (big glute). It’s amazing for hip stability and one of my most prescribed for runners.
How to perform:
- Standing upright you can place the band around the top of the knees, below the knees or over the shoelaces for different tensions.
- Hinge forward slightly keeping your weight pushed backward and a flat back. Stand on your right foot as you move the left leg sideways using your glutes to push against the band.
- Step down and continue this process one way before completing the same motion on the other side.
Perform for 10-20 repetitions each way.
Glute Exercise #5: Kettlebell Swings
Though kettlebell swings will also hammer on the hamstrings, when done with a correct lockout position they’re amazing at strengthening the glutes. Plus, the swing is a power move (not a strength move) which means that it targets the glutes with a bit more moving intensity.
How to perform it:
- Stand upright and hold the kettlebell between your legs. Feet hip width apart.
- Start to swing the kettlebell by hinging from the hips and keeping the bell hip on your legs as it pulls your torso down and the bell goes through your legs.
- Then, extend the hips (shoot them forward) with your glutes as the kettlebell raises up to roughly belly or shoulder height. Lockout fully.
- Do not control the bell, let it swing like a pendulum back down and through the legs.
Perform for 10-30 repetitions.
Other Tips For Improving Your Glute Strength
- The best glute isolation exercises
- Glute training for busy moms: 5 week program
- Exercises to target the gluteus maximus
- Glute activation exercises
- Glute training 101: everything you need to know
- Glute finishers for a wicked peach
Reduce Daily Back Pain & Build Strong Glutes
In just 25 pages you'll have the exact formula to reduce back pain and carry your kids easier. My Stronger Glutes For Busy Moms E-book provides you with everything you need to strengthen your glutes at home including the exact workouts I use with clients.
This e-book will take you through:
- No equipment glute workouts to do over a four week period
- Resistance band glute workouts to take your toning to the next level
- My favorite glute finishers (booty burners)
- 5-weeks worth of full-body, progressive workout programs to continue using after you’ve finished the initial programs
Take the guesswork out of your glute training and follow a plan. Because being strong isn’t optional when you're a mom.
Frequently Asked Questions About How To Strengthen Glutes
First, make sure that you can take the glute muscles through a good range of motion. You should be able to sit comfortably in a straddle position with a flat low back. Begin learning how to activate both the gluteus maximus as well as the outer glutes and begin by adding in bodyweight glute exercises like lying abductions, clamshells and glute bridges into your training program.
The truth is, we just don’t use our glute muscles enough. Sitting on them causes them to become more dormant than necessary because other muscles then take over to do their job. Likewise, through pregnancy and postpartum, a woman's posture drastically shifts and we tend to tuck our bums under which chronically shortens them.