Your glutes are your butt muscles and are actually three different muscles grouped together -- the glute maximus, which is the biggest of the three, the glute minimus, which sits underneath it and the glute medius, which runs along the side. Building stronger glutes will not only make your butt look better but it will also increase your lower-body strength, power and speed, writes strength coach Bret Contreras in "Advanced Techniques in Glutei Maximi Strengthening." There is no single best weightlifting exercise for the glutes, but there are a number of highly effective ones.
Barbell hip thrusts isolate your glutes and build hip extension strength, which can boost your squat and deadlift power, says Contreras. Sit on the floor with a barbell on your lap and your upper back resting against a weight bench. Lift the barbell off the floor by forcefully pushing your hips up as high as you can and squeezing your glutes hard, then slowly lower again. You may need to wrap a towel or squat pad around the bar to make it more comfortable. Reverse lunges also hit the glutes hard, according to Tony Gentilcore, trainer at Cressey Performance in Massachusetts. These are just like regular lunges, but you step backward instead of forward. You can perform them holding dumbbells or a barbell.
Body-weight exercises are often underrated for building strength, but there are plenty of body-weight glute exercises that will really work your entire butt. One of the most simple drills is the glute bridge raise. Lie on your back with your legs bent to 90 degrees. Lift your hips off the floor as high as you can, squeeze your glutes and dig your heels into the ground. Hold this position for two seconds, then lower your hips again. Once you can do 15 perfect repetitions, try elevating your feet on a weight bench or aerobic step, then progress to doing them single-legged.
Resistance Machine Exercises
If you're unfamiliar with free-weight and body-weight exercises, then machine training can act as an introduction to resistance training. Many gyms carry leg curl and hip extension machines that target your glutes. The downside to training your glutes on machines is that the movements aren't functional to everyday life, as the machine forces your muscles to move in a fixed plane of motion, according to a report from the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois. The weight increments are pre-set too, meaning you'll often have to make big jumps from one weight level to the next.
For best results, use all three different training methods in your glute routine. After a thorough warm-up, start each session with a barbell or dumbbell exercise, as these require the most coordination to perform. Move to a body-weight exercise second and finish your workout with a machine exercise, or lighter free-weight movement. Use a variety of rep ranges too. Lighter weights for sets of 15 repetitions or more will boost your muscular endurance, heavier sets of eight to 12 work best for muscle growth, while sets of one to six reps using maximal weight will boost your strength.
- Strength Training Anatomy; Frederic Delavier
- Advanced Techniques in Glutei Maximi Strengthening; Bret Contreras
- Tony Gentilcore: Exercises You Should Be Doing: Barbell Reverse Lunge – Front Squat Grip
- ExRx: Lying Hip Extension
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.