The best butt exercises for strong and toned glutes

Build a bigger butt with these great glute moves.

Amanda Capritto
4 min read
woman squatting with a kettlebell

Build your booty. 

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There's no shame in wanting a nice butt. It's a common fitness goal, unsurprisingly. But there's something you should know: The best butt-building exercises do more than just make your backside look perky. They actually strengthen your entire posterior chain, which includes all of the muscles on the back of your body, from your shoulders to your calves. 

If you want a bigger butt, you can't be afraid of getting stronger. I promise you won't bulk up

What will happen when your glutes get stronger is this: Your butt will look rounder, perkier and lifted. But most importantly, your lower body will become much more powerful and will help you kick butt (pun intended) in all your other physical pursuits. 

Read more: How to get rid of love handles

Spot reduction is a myth, but spot growth is not

A young woman and man doing lunges on a rooftop parking lot
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Where on your body you lose fat is entirely determined by your genetic makeup -- spot reduction is a total myth

Spot growth, however, is not. You can 100% build muscle in specific areas by isolating those muscle groups during your workouts.

This doesn't necessarily mean doing only isolation exercises, but instead doing compound exercises that target the muscle group you want to grow. (In contrast to compound exercises, wherein multiple joints move, isolation exercises involve movement at just one joint. An example of an isolation exercise is the bicep curl).

Building muscle takes time and dedication, but by doing the right exercises with proper form, you'll be well on your way to a stronger backside. 

Best exercises to get a bigger butt

The best exercises for your glutes all involve hip extension, the act of fully extending your leg so your hip flexors lengthen and open up. If you're having trouble picturing this, stand up and pull your heel to your butt. The leg you're stretching has achieved hip extension.

To reach full hip extension, it's impossible not to squeeze your glutes. You'll also notice that reaching hip extension requires recruiting your hamstrings, which, when muscular, contribute to the overall appearance of the toned backside people are after. 

The five exercises below are some of the best for building and strengthening your glute muscles.

Barbell hip thrust

I firmly believe there's no better way to train the glutes than barbell hip thrusts. One fitness professional even built his whole career around this very exercise. When done correctly the hip thrust is the only compound exercise that targets your glutes in such a way that muscle recruitment from the hamstrings and quads is minimized. 

Try this: Do bodyweight hip thrusts first. Practice keeping your back straight (avoid arching) and planting your heels firmly. Drive through your heels to press your hips upward, using as little power from your quads and hamstrings as possible. You want this to come from your glutes. 

Romanian deadlift

This exercise emphasizes the hip hinge pattern and requires you to squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to return to the standing position. For this one, focus on lowering the barbell until you feel tension in your hamstrings, then squeeze your butt as hard as you can to stand up. 

Try this: Do three sets of five reps at a light weight to get used to the movement. Once you get comfortable, add some weight (so long as your back isn't arching or rounding) and try for a set of 10 reps. 

Single-leg Romanian deadlift

Just like the standard Romanian deadlift, the single-leg Romanian deadlift capitalizes on the hip hinge. This version is more challenging because it requires more balance, but that challenge pays off: Unilateral (single-side) leg exercises force your muscles to work harder than they do when both sides are contributing. You'll likely feel this exercise in the side muscles of your butt (your gluteus medius). 

Try this: If you're not ready to balance on one foot yet, hold on to something sturdy. Another option is to plant the toes of your back foot on the ground and adopt a staggered stance. You'll still get the same stimulus, but you won't feel as off-kilter.

Reverse lunges

For surefire butt DOMS (post-workout soreness), add weighted reverse lunges into your workout. Reverse lunges work your glutes more than forward lunges do, thanks to the way in which you return to standing -- driving through the heels versus the forefoot. 

Try this: Using a light or moderate weight, do three sets of 10 reps on each leg. Once you feel comfortable with the movement, bump up the weight and reduce the reps to five on each leg. This should be challenging, but not so hard that your form crumbles.

Russian kettlebell swing

Another hip hinge movement, the kettlebell swing is a powerful and explosive exercise that targets the glutes. It might look like a shoulder exercise, but in reality, your lower body should propel the kettlebell upward. If your arms start burning before your butt, you're doing it wrong. 

Try this: Practice the swing without a kettlebell in your hands. You'll feel silly at first, but it helps to know exactly what full hip extension feels like. If you can feel your glutes working with no kettlebell, you're ready to add the weight. 

Read more: How to get a great workout with a kettlebell 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.