The 9 best exercises for glutes at home

Tthere’s a lot to love about having strong glutes. They help us with athletic feats like running faster and jumping higher, but also with everyday activities like climbing stairs or getting in and out of a car. (Also: They don’t hurt when it comes to rocking a pair of jeans.)

“Because the glutes are in the center of our body, they are involved in most of our fundamental movements,” explains Daniel Richter, certified personal trainer and co-founder of StrengthLog. “As we age, our glutes are one of the most important muscles in maintaining our freedom of movement, including the ability to perform everyday movements, such as simply getting up from a chair.”

Since we spend so much of our days sitting in front of computers or in a car, working our glutes keeps them from elongating and starting to feel too tight, says Heather Carroll, certified personal trainer and owner of A Balanced Life Training. She adds that the glutes help keep the pelvis in alignment with the spine for optimal posture. “The gluteal muscles work directly with the core muscles by keeping the pelvis pointed toward the ground instead of tilting back or forward,” she says.

Fortunately, there are seemingly endless ways to strengthen our buttocks. But what is really effective? When it comes to the best way to strengthen the glutes, which consist of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus, many of us aren’t sure which exercises to do. We asked three personal trainers to fill us in on their favorite moves for maximum results that you can do on your own at home or in the gym.

1. Squats

Richter says that the classic squat is a great staple in any lower-body training program. “The squat works your glutes through a wide range of motion, stretching your muscles under load at the bottom of the squat,” he says. “Working a muscle through a wide range of motion under load has been shown to be important for muscle growth and strength.” Science backs it up: A 2019 study showed that deep squatting resulted in twice the improvements seen with half squats, despite training with lighter loads.

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, shoulders back, chest up, and core engaged.
  • Bend your knees and feel your hips fully back as if you were stretching your butt to sit on a chair while pushing your arms forward for balance.
  • When your thighs are parallel to the floor, press through your heels to return to standing.
  • Complete 20 to 50 repetitions.

2. Hip thrusts

Hip thrusts, which can be performed with a barbell or a hip thrust machine, use hip extension to target the glutes. “One benefit of hip thrusting is that it’s easy to find and maintain consistent muscle contact throughout the exercise, which can be beneficial for muscle growth,” says Richter. “Aim for a wide range of motion for best results, and progressively increase the weights with each workout.”

  • Place your shoulder blades on a bench with your body forming a lateral bridge so your knees are bent 90 degrees, feet shoulder-width apart, and hips lifted into a tabletop position.
  • Hold dumbbells or a barbell across your hips.
  • Lower your hips toward the ground, then raise them until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Complete 10 controlled reps per set.

3. Bulgarian split squats

Because you’re standing on one leg at a time, Bulgarian split squats work your hip stabilizers: the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. “Working one leg at a time also means you can find and match any differences in strength from side to side, although it’s completely normal to be a little more stable on one side than the other,” says Richter.

  • Stand about three feet in front of a bench or step, facing away, with the top of your back foot on the bench behind you. Your legs should be shoulder-width apart, and your front foot should be far enough forward that when you lunge, your front knee doesn’t extend past your toes.
  • Keeping your shoulders back and your core engaged, bend your front knee to drop into a split lunge.
  • When the thigh of your front leg is parallel to the ground, press through your heel to return to a standing position.
  • Complete eight to 10 reps per leg per set.
  • For an added challenge, you can load this squat by holding dumbbells in each hand with your arms down at your sides.

4. Deadlift

Kent Probst, a certified personal trainer and fitness educator via the Long Healthy Life blog, likes that deadlifts mimic the function of the glutes in everyday life, like lifting something off the ground.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides, and a dumbbell in front of each ankle.
  • Bend your knees to sit your hips back as far as possible until you’re low enough to reach and grab the weights while keeping your back straight and your chest up.
  • Engage your core to lift the dumbbells as you lift your body up to a standing position. Your back should remain straight and the weights should follow vertically along your shins.
  • Return your hips back to slowly lower the weights to the ground. Keep your chin up and look straight ahead.
  • Perform 10 to 12 reps per set.

5. Single Leg Glute Bridges

“This exercise resembles a hip thrust, but using one leg at a time makes it more challenging even without weights,” says Richter. He adds that it’s a great exercise to improve hip stability for running and other sports.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, one foot flat on the floor and the other stretched straight up in the air.
  • Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips until your body forms a long line from your knees to your shoulders.
  • Hold and squeeze for one breath and then slowly lower.
  • Repeat 15 times, then switch sides.

6. Weighted donkey kicks

Carroll likes this exercise because it works both the glutes and hamstrings, and you can progress or regress it by adding or removing weight.

  • Get down on all fours with an ankle weight on each ankle.
  • Raise your right leg behind you, keeping the 90-degree bend at the knee so your shin is perpendicular to the ceiling, then start again.
  • Aim for 15 repetitions on each side.

7. Fire hydrants

By straightening the leg out to the side, Carroll says this exercise works the gluteus medius.

  • Get on your knees and hands in a tabletop position with a tight core, flat back, and ankle weights on your ankles.
  • Use your core to stabilize your hips as you lift your right leg straight out to the side, keeping your knee bent.
  • Go back to the starting position.
  • Do two sets of 15 reps per side.

8. Shells

This Pilates exercise works the hip rotator muscles located at the base of the butt, says Carroll. “This is also great for working the muscles we need to quickly turn and change direction.” To progress the exercise, she says, add a loop band around the middle of your thighs.

  • Lie on your side with your knees bent at 45 degrees with your heels aligned directly under your seat bones. Engage your core to lift your heels off the floor, feet together, so they’re in line with your tailbone.
  • Rotate your top knee open, keeping your hips stable and heels connected.
  • Lock your knees to return to the starting position.
  • Complete two sets of 15 to 25 repetitions per side.

9. Reverse glider lunges

If you don’t have access to sliding discs, you can use towels on a smooth floor for this exercise. Carroll says this is great for functional movements like climbing stairs or lifting something heavy off the ground.

  • Stand with your feet together and a slipper or towel under your right foot.
  • Slide your right foot back as you bend both knees to 90 degrees so you’re in a reverse lunge.
  • Press down through the heel of your left foot, engage your glutes and hamstrings, and push back to starting position.
  • Complete 12 to 15 repetitions per side.

So how often should you do these glute exercises?

While you don’t have to do all of these exercises every time you work out, mixing and matching three or four into your regular workouts will give you the variety you need to build strong, well-rounded glutes.

You can do glute exercises every day if you just train light, Richter says. “If you’re doing more challenging workouts, one to three times a week is generally a good idea, with about two times a week being a sweet spot.” As you progress, you can increase your training volume, Richter notes. “But, if you’re just starting out, be careful not to overdo it!”

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