9 best gluteal exercises at home

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

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

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Seeing that we spend so many of our days sitting in front of computers or in the car, working the glutes prevents them from lengthening and starting to feel too tight, says Heather Carroll, a certified personal trainer and owner of Balanced Life Coaching. She adds that the glutes help keep our pelvis in line with our spine to maintain optimal posture. “The gluteal muscles work directly with the core muscles keeping the pelvis facing straight down into the floor rather than tilting back or tilting forward,” she says.

Fortunately, there seem to be countless ways to strengthen our backs. But what is the actor actually? When it comes to the best way to strengthen the glutes—which consists of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus—many of us aren’t sure what exercises to do. We asked three personal trainers to fill in their favorite moves for maximum results that you can do on your own at home or in the gym.

The best glute exercises you can do at home

1. Squat

The classic squat is an essential component of any lower-body training program, Richter says. “Squatting works your glutes in a long range of motion, which causes your glutes to contract under load at the bottom of the squat,” he says. “Working muscles in a long range of motion under load has proven important to muscle growth and strength.” The science backs it up: A 2019 study showed that performing deep squats resulted in twice the improvements seen with half squats, despite training with lighter loads.

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders back, chest up, core tucked in.
  • Bend your knees and sit your hips back just as if you were reaching your bottom to sit on a chair while driving your arms forward in front of you for balance.
  • When your thighs are parallel to the floor, press into your heels to stand back up.
  • Complete 20 to 50 reps.

2. Hip orientations

Hip crunches, which can be performed with a barbell or a hip thrust machine, use hip extension to target the glutes. “One of the advantages of hip thrust is that it’s easier to find and maintain continuous muscle contact throughout the exercise, which can be beneficial for muscle growth,” says Richter. “Aim for a long range of motion for best results and gradually increase the weights with each exercise.”

  • Rest your shoulder blades on a bench with your body extended out to the side with your knees bent at 90 degrees, your feet shoulder-width apart and your hips up in a tabletop position.
  • Hold dumbbells or a barbell on your hips.
  • Lower your hips toward the floor, then raise them again until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Complete 10 controlled reps per set.

3. Bulgarian split squat

Since you’re standing on one leg at a time, the Bulgarian split squat works the hip stabilizers — the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. “Working on one leg at a time also means you can find and even out any side-to-side differences in strength, although it’s totally normal to be more stable on one side than the other,” says Richter.

  • Stand about three feet in front of the bench or ladder, facing away, with the top of your back foot resting on the bench behind you. Your legs should be shoulder-width apart, and your front foot should be far enough forward that when you fall into a lunge, your front knee does not extend beyond your toes.
  • While keeping your shoulders back and torso up, bend your front knee to drop into a split lunge.
  • When the thigh of your front leg is parallel to the floor, press into your heel to return to a standing position.
  • Complete eight to 10 reps per leg for each set.
  • For an added challenge, you can load up this squat by holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms at your sides.

4. Deadlifts

Kent Probst, certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with the Long Healthy Life Blog, likes that deadlifts mimic the function of the glutes in everyday life, like when we pick up something on the floor.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your arms at your sides, and a dumbbell in front of each ankle.
  • Bend your knees to sit your hips back as far as you can until you are low enough to reach and hold the dumbbells while keeping your back and chest straight.
  • Engage your core in lifting the dumbbells as you lift your body up to a standing position. Your back should remain straight and the weights should run vertically along your legs.
  • Sit with your hips back again to slowly lower the weights back to the floor. Keep your chin up and look forward.
  • Do 10 to 12 reps per set.

5. Single-leg bridges

“This exercise is similar to the hip thrust, but using one leg at a time makes it more challenging even without any weights,” says Richter. He adds that it is an excellent exercise for improving hip stability when running and other athletics.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, one foot flat on the floor and the other straight in the air.
  • Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up until your body is in one long row from your knees to your shoulders.
  • Hold and press for one breath and then slowly come down.
  • Repeat 15 times, then switch sides.

6. Weighted donkey kicks

Carroll loves this exercise because it works both your glutes and hamstrings, and it can be advanced or regressed by adding or removing weight.

  • Get on all fours with an ankle dumbbell on each ankle.
  • Lift the right leg behind you, maintaining a 90-degree bend in the knee so that the shin is perpendicular to the ceiling, and return to start.
  • Work up to 15 repetitions on each side.

7. Fire hydrants

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

  • Get on your hands and knees in a tabletop position with your torso tight, back flat, and ankle weights resting on your ankles.
  • Use your core to stabilize your hips as you lift your right leg straight out to the side, keeping the knee bent.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Aim for two sets of 15 repetitions on each side.

8. Oysters

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

  • Lie on one side with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle and heels lined up just below your sit bones. Engage your core to lift the heels off the floor, feet together, so they are in line with the tailbone.
  • Rotate the top knee open, keeping the hips stable and heels connected.
  • Close the knees to return to the starting position.
  • Complete two sets of 15 to 25 reps per side.

9. Reverse sail lunge

If you don’t have access to glider discs, you can use towels on a soft floor for this exercise. This is great for functional movements like walking up stairs or picking up something heavy from the floor, Carroll says.

  • Stand with your feet together and place a glider or towel under your right foot.
  • Step your right foot back while bending both knees to 90 degrees so that you are in a reverse lunge.
  • Press down through the heel of the left foot, engaging your glutes and hamstrings, and push up to the starting position.
  • Complete 12 to 15 reps on each side.

So how often should you do these buttocks exercises?

While you don’t have to do all of these exercises every time you do an exercise, mixing and matching three or four in your regular workouts will provide the variety you need to build strong, well-rounded glute muscles.

You can do glute exercises every day if you only train light, says Richter. “If you’re doing more strenuous exercise, one to three times a week is generally a good idea, with about twice a week being a good place to be.” As you get more advanced, 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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