The 21 Best Butt Exercises Top Trainers Swear By
Strong glute muscles are key to both strength training performance and injury prevention, which makes butt exercises a super important addition to your workout routine.
“Simply put, the glutes are the foundation of the whole body,” Holly Perkins, CSCS, tells SELF. When those muscles are weak—which can happen with too much sitting—it can cause the pelvis to shift forward, in both your workouts and your everyday movement.
“As your hips tilt forward due to lack of glute recruitment and engagement, your alignment can get thrown off in ways that you might not connect to your glutes,” she says. For example, this subtle misalignment can cause neck pain, rounded shoulders, knee issues, and even ankle tightness.
What’s more, your butt muscles also help transfer power from your lower body to your trunk, which can help you throughout your entire strength-training routine, Alicia Jamison, CPT, trainer at Bodyspace Fitness in New York City, told SELF previously. This can translate to more power and strength in your workouts.
There are tons of great butt exercises out there that work these all-important glute muscles in a variety of ways. But before we get into all the butt moves, it’s important to understand what we mean by your glutes first. Read on to find out more about those butt muscles!
What are your glute muscles, and how do you work them?
The glutes may seem like a solid block, but they’re actually comprised of three separate muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Similar to the core, these help stabilize the body, Perkins says.
Your glute muscles also have different functions. Your biggest glute muscle, the gluteus maximus, really fires during hip extension—say, in the upward phase of a deadlift. As Jamison told SELF previously, your gluteus maximus works most in moves that take place in the sagittal plane of motion, or the forward to backward movement you get with flexion and extension. So if you’re looking for butt workouts that primarily target the gluteus maximus, you’d want to include moves like the deadlift, squat, and glute bridge.
Your glutes medius and gluteus minimus are your smaller butt muscles that make up your “side butt,” and they’re known as your hip abductor muscles. These muscles work in the frontal plane of movement, or when you’re moving from side to side. A lateral lunge or a monster walk are two examples of butt exercises at home that really fire up your hip abductor muscles.
Your glute muscles help you with hip extension, abduction, and rotation, which is why it’s helpful to do a breadth of moves rather than focusing on just one particular kind of movement. It’s also important to work in unilateral moves, or one-sided exercises like step-ups or staggered-stance deadlifts, since they help isolate each side. This can help you detect if you have more weakness on one side versus the other so you can work to alleviate that imbalance.
One more important thing about glutes muscles: While proper form and focus are crucial in any workout, they’re particularly important when doing butt exercises. This is because when your focus drifts, there’s a tendency for stronger muscles like your quads to take over the work, Perkins says. Even worse, your lower back might try to take up the task, which can lead to strain.
“To really fire up those three muscles, you need to mentally engage your glutes and pay attention,” Perkins says. You may also want to take some time to do a specific butt warm-up before you get into a dedicated butt workout. For instance, this glute activation circuit includes just four moves, but it’ll really make sure you get the right glute muscles firing.
What are the best butt muscles to include in your workout?
We touched base with a bunch of top trainers to get the intel on the best butt workouts they swear by for their lower-body workouts. These include everything from bodyweight butt exercises to butt exercises with weights, and from resistance band moves to barbell butt exercises—so yes, you can do these anywhere, whether you’re looking for an at-home butt workout or one at the gym. Check out some of their favorites so you can incorporate them into your next butt day too.