When it comes to sculpting gorgeous glutes, many trainers claim expert status, but one type of workout does not fit all. Your choice of butt exercise programs is influenced by your body type, your movement style preferences, your fitness goals, and your access, or lack thereof, to different types of exercise. For best results, experiment with different workout styles, choose your favorites, and alternate your workouts on different days of the week.
To sculpt the perfect pair of glutes, you must target each of the three major muscles in the butt. The gluteus maximus is the largest and most superficial of the gluteal muscles. It forms the bulk of your butt's muscle mass. The gluteus medius sits on the upper outer part of your butt, and the gluteus minimus sits deeply below it. Your gluteus maximus performs hip extension, which moves your leg behind your body. The gluteus minimus and medius move your leg away from your body's center and rotate your leg in its socket.
Old School Workouts
Floor exercises were the rage during the age of "women's figure salons." These exercises might be dated, but thanks to an American Council on Exercise study, everything old has become new again. The researchers discovered that the good-old "fire hydrant" was actually one of the most effective butt exercises. This hip extension exercise, performed on all fours, involves squeezing your glutes and lifting out to the side, one at a time, a leg with the knee bent. The floor jack is another old-school butt exercise. Lie prone on a mat, lift your legs and open and close them, as if performing jumping jacks. Other floor exercises target the gluteus minimus and medius. Side leg-lift variations involve lifting your leg, circling it, and swinging it back and forth.
Every personal trainer has a favorite butt-bridge exercise for the gluteus maximus. Bret Contreras, sometimes called "the glute guy," likes the barbell hip thrust. Sit on the floor with your back against a bench, your knees bent, your feet planted in front of you and a padded barbell in your lap. Lift the barbell by contracting your glutes and extending your hips up. Keep lifting until your body forms a bridge, with your head and shoulders resting on the bench. There should be a straight line between your knees and your head. Lower your hips to return to the starting position. If you do not have access to a bench and barbell, perform the exercise from a supine position, with your feet on top of a stability ball, or attached to the cuffs of a suspension trainer. These exercises are challenging, so use a spotter.
Functional Glute Workouts
Functional glute exercises involve using your butt muscles in a manner that simulates the muscle actions that occur while playing your sport. Examples include running up hills or running on an incline on the treadmill, squats, lunges, stair-stepping and plyometric jumping exercises. What makes these exercises fall into the functional training category is the fact that they are all compound exercises, which work more than one muscle group at a time. In real life, especially in sports, your butt muscles work in conjunction with one another. Your hamstrings and quads always assist the movement.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.