The Top 5 Best Glute Exercises

this girl uses the best glute exercises

Whether you are a guy or a girl, it is always an asset to have nice, strong glutes. The main exercise that will help you develop your glutes the most is obviously the squat. Look at those who have the highest squat numbers. ‘Nuff said. However, there are a number of additional exercises such as these 5 best glute exercises and a few honorable mentions, that can get your booty into fighting shape.

How to Get Big, Strong Glutes

As mentioned above, barbell squats are the king of glute exercises. They are without a doubt the single best exercise you can use to develop your glutes. I would even go as far as saying that you would not even need to do another single exercise for them; squats are really that good! However, there are always some other exercises that would be good to experiment with such as this list of best glute exercises.

Before going on to mention the top exercises, let’s take a look at some of the more important details about the glutes.

Anatomy of the Glutes

The Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus lie directly beneath the Gluteus Maximus. The Gluteus Maximus starts along the pelvic bone crests and attaches to the rear of the femur. The Gluteus Medius and Minimus start in about the same spot as the Maximus, but they attach to the side of the femur. The Iliotibial Band is made of connective tissue. It serves to transfer the force of abduction to the leg.

Glutes Anatomy

Function of the Glutes

The main function of the Gluteus Maximus is hip extension, which means moving the thigh to the rear. The Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus serve to abduct the leg.

The Top 5 Best Glute Exercises

1. Squats

The lift: Start by putting a 45 lb barbell on your shoulders. You will then step back until you have enough room. You will want to get a wider stance than your shoulders with your feet pointed outward. When you begin squatting down, you will want your knees to track out toward your toes. While doing this, you will want to look straight forward. Once you hit parallel, you will want to drive your butt off while pushing through the floor.

This is mainly a leg exercise, but it is so good that it will hit your lower back really well.

For a change of pace, try one-legged squats or pistol squats. When you start these you will probably need to hold onto something so you don’t fall over unless you have exquisite balance.

2. Walking Barbell Lunges

This is another of our favorite glute exercises and the convenience of the variations on a simple lunge movement simply by modifying equipment, makes lunges one of the simplest best glute exercises to introduce into your regular routine.

The lift: You will start this exercise out by putting a standard 45 lb barbell on your back, much like the squats starting position. After stepping back to give yourself room, you will need to start the exercise by stepping one foot forward while bending the back leg to the point where the thigh of the back leg is perpendicular to the floor, and the shin is parallel. The thigh of the front leg should also be parallel to the floor, while the shin should be perpendicular.

Walking Lunge – Immediately use your front leg to pull your body and back leg forward. Contract the front leg glute hard when stepping forward to really target that muscle. Bring your back leg up, even with the front leg. Now repeat the same movement with the other side. That’s one rep. By continuing this movement for the prescribed number of reps, you will appear to be “walking”.

Standard Lunge – Once in the lunge position, you will use the front leg to step back into your starting position. For the next repetition, you will step forward with your other foot. Here is a good video demonstration to help you better understand this exercise.

A good alternative to the barbell lunge is the dumbbell lunge. This is often a better option for women who have more difficulty getting a barbell on their shoulders if they don’t have access to a squat rack or power rack.

Also, see the step-back lunge. Rather than stepping forward with one leg, you start the exercise by stepping backward. Then use the front leg to pull yourself forward, back to the start position.

3. Deadlifts

This is why they call deadlifts and squats compound exercises. They are just so effective; you must have them in your workout! Along with squats, this is one of the best glute exercises that you don’t even have to use on leg day. Try adding them on your back day for a change of pace.

The lift: You will start by placing a standard 45 lb barbell on the floor. You will then position your feet at about shoulder width apart and place your hands on the bar outside of your feet. From there, you will need to put your back in a good position to pull the bar up without rounding your back.

To pull correctly, drop your butt and pull the bar up while it “scrapes” your shins. You don’t have to literally scrape your shins, but the bar should be mere millimeters away from your body. Once you pull the bar to the top, drop it back down at a reasonable speed to the floor all while keeping the bar close to your body.

In the video, you will see that he is bouncing the weight off of the floor to use momentum back up. You will want to avoid doing this because it is only a way to cheat the weight back up. Before going for your next rep, make sure that the weight is “dead” on the floor.

Also, you may want to try the single-leg dumbbell deadlift to really isolate each side of the buttocks. Squeeze on the way up.

You might also consider the sumo deadlift, which is performed with the feet spaced a foot wider than shoulder width on each side. Grab the bar with both hands at shoulder width and deadlift like you normally would, keeping your upper body as straight as possible.

4. Step Ups

The lift: This is a fairly simple exercise. First, you will need a pair of dumbbells to choose from. After that, you will need to find a platform in order to do this exercise. The platform should be a little bit lower than knee height or so. You are now prepared to start the lift.

Begin by stepping your right foot up onto the platform and follow your left foot with that one. After you successfully step up onto the platform, you will step off. For the next repetition, you will use the other foot to lead the movement. Do this for 8-12 reps on each leg.

5. Stiff Leg Deadlifts and Romanian Deadlifts

Stiff Leg Deads

Stiff leg deads are a compound exercise and one of the best mass-building exercises for the hamstrings. Your form is especially important to avoid becoming the next victim of lower back injury. Make sure to practice stiff leg deads with lighter weight until you master the form.

Setup is similar to a conventional deadlift except that your feet should be set in a narrower stance and your knees should just barely be bent. Use a pronated grip until you get strong enough that an alternating grip is warranted.

The lift: do not use your back! This should be another exercise where you drive with your hips and glutes using a straight back. The hips should move out and back to allow you to descend. Do NOT round your back or ‘bend over’ so to speak. Lower the weight down as far as you can without straining your hamstrings or compromising your spine.

Romanian Deads

The lift: the Romanian deadlift is another good compound ham exercise. Again, form is of the essence. While similar to the stiff leg deads in the sense that you have to move your hips back during the descent, the difference is that you can bend the knees a little more through the movement. This often allows one to go lower and lift heavier weight but takes some of the focus directly off the hamstrings. Romanian deads are a bit safer for the lower back.

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions: good mornings, reverse hyper-extensions, “butt blaster” movements (don’t ask), weighted hip bridges.

Reverse Hyper-extensions

I feel I’m reaching this exercise because most people don’t have this equipment and can’t figure out how to perform it without the standard equipment. However, it is suggested in many, many writings and videos from strongmen to powerlifters to bodybuilders and sports athletes. Therefore, I’ll recommend it and explain it. I feel the above 5 exercises and their variations are a bit better if you want to build great glutes.

If you have bad knees, this may be a good exercise for you to try out. Squats will blow these out of the water and the comparison isn’t even close, but they can still be a fairly good exercise if used effectively. Many strongmen and powerlifters also use these to help with recovery and rehab from back injuries.

The lift: Start by lying down on the platform with the bottom part of your torso off the platform. You should attach your feet to the lock where you will lift the weight up. Once you do this, you will raise your legs up focusing on using your glutes in doing so, and come back down you’re your legs hit a straight line with the rest of your body. Here is a video demonstration to help you better understand this exercise; excuse the weird music.

Final Thoughts

To work these 5 best glute exercises into your routine, simply use a good workout routine that already includes standard squats, and standard or sumo deadlifts. Then select either step-ups, lunges, stiff leg deadlifts, or one of the single-leg variations of squats, deads, and stiff legs. Every once in a while, use good mornings in place of stiff leg deads or Romanian deads and if possible throw in some reverse-hypers to warm up, cool down, or actively recover.

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16 Responses to “The Top 5 Best Glute Exercises”

  1. You don’t recommend full range of motion squats? FROM squats would allow you to recruit more muscle fibers especially in the glutes.

    • I actually do like FROM squats for myself and for others, as long as they can handle it – no flexibility or other injury limitations.

  2. these exercises(butt blaster movements,reverse hyper-extensions,walking barbell lunges)how can be in gym with no equipment about that?

  3. we do lots of squats and lunges in our routines – things are starting to look up!

  4. Most people believe that glutes will be fine with just squats and deadlifts. But if you really want that nice ass, you've got to work on them properly.

  5. […] An article on Project Swole about the top five best glute exercises. […]

    • I have never seen a woman with a “too muscular” butt. Seriously, the more squats and deadlifts a woman does, the sexier her butt will be. I think it might be a scientific law.

  6. Heard of Bret Contreras? He’s one of the top experts in glute training. He’s a full-body/compound type of guy, so he definitely would agree with your top 3. He would probably put hip thrust and glute press in the 4 and 5 spot. You should check out his articles some time. He does also recommend reverse hypers, miniband hip rotations, and lots of other good exercises to contribute to a good and functional backside.

  7. So just to clarify every time you’re lifting legs do squats and standard deads and then alternate adding 1 of the other 3?

    • Actually every time you lift legs you should choose either squats or deadlifts. Then if you choose squats, follow it with a hamstring exercise and follow that with a quad exercise. If you choose deads, follow it with a quad exercise, then with a hamstring exercise.

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