The glute muscle group is made up of three main muscles: the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. People sometimes mistakenly believe that the only way you can build bigger glute muscles is by training them using heavy weights. Glute muscles, however, can actually be easily trained without additional weights because most glute exercises involve you lifting and lowering your own body weight.
In 2006, the American Council on Exercise, or ACE, conducted a study on the best glute exercises. The study concluded that body-weight quadruped hip extensions were the best exercise for targeting both the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius. Get on your hands and knees on the floor or a mat. Keeping both knees bent at 90 degrees, lift one leg back as high as you can, with your foot facing the sky. Slowly bring it back down to the starting position and repeat for a total of eight to 12 reps per leg.
When the American Council on Exercise polled its certified fitness professionals on their favorite glute exercises, squats were the top choice. The squat also ranked second for gluteus maximus activation in the ACE glute study cited above. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your chest high. Slowly bend your knees and push your hips back until your upper legs are parallel to the ground. Squeeze your glutes and slowly return to the starting position. Perform 15 repetitions.
Lunges are also effective body-weight glute exercises. They ranked as the third best body weight for gluteus maximus activation in the ACE study, and ACE-certified fitness professionals also ranked lunges as their second favorite glute building exercise. Stand tall with slightly contracted abs. Step forward with your right foot while keeping your head up and your spine neutral. Bend both your knees to 90 degrees until both your right thigh and left shin are parallel to the ground. Your left knee should also be within inches of the ground. Push off your right heel and return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg and continue to alternate legs for eight to 12 repetitions per side.
Step ups are only slightly less effective than lunges for gluteus maximus activation, according to the ACE glute study. Stand behind a tall step or box. Place your left foot fully on the top of the step and press down on that foot until you are fully standing on the step. Avoid pushing off your right foot to lift yourself up. Step down with your right leg and repeat for a total of eight to 12 repetitions with each of your legs.
Andrea Chrysanthou began writing professionally in 1993. Her work has been published internationally by "The Cyprus Mail," MochaSofa and My Favorite Trainer, among other magazines and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in journalism from Ryerson University. Chrysanthou is a certified fitness instructor and personal-training specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.