5 Simple Exercises to Strengthen Your Glutes

by JJ Virgin on August 30, 2023

I’m all about baring arms. (I even wrote the book on great arms!) But let’s be honest: maintaining a shapely, firm, and lifted posterior—that’s a fancy phrase for a great butt—can also do wonders for your confidence and overall health. 

Whether you want to rock the perfect pair of jeans, turn heads at the beach, or feel strong and empowered in your own skin, a killer backside is always in style. More than just aesthetics, strong gluteal muscles help improve posture, alleviate lower back pain, and enhance athletic performance.  

Your glutes are your body’s biggest and most powerful muscle group. Without your gluteal muscles, you’d have trouble walking uphill, getting out of a chair, or picking things up. When I talk about the glutes, I’m referring to three main muscles: 

  • The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the gluteal region. Its hip-extension ability helps move your thigh backward. This muscle also assists with hip abduction (moving the thigh away from the midline of the body) and external rotation of your hip joint. 
  • Located on the outer surface of the hip, your gluteus medius helps stabilize your pelvis during walking, running, and other weight-bearing activities. Its primary function is hip abduction. In other words, the gluteus medius helps lift your leg out to the side when your foot is off the ground. 
  • The gluteus minimus, located beneath the gluteus medius, also helps support hip abduction, stabilizes your pelvis, and supports internal rotation of the hip joint. 

When you have strong glute muscles, you can lift heavier, jump higher, sprint faster, swing harder, and avoid injury. Some experts even argue that glutes are the most important, versatile skeletal muscle in the body. 

Sure, some people were born with a great butt. But even if genetics aren’t in your favor, the right fitness approach can get you closer to your glute goals.  

5 Glute Exercises for a Great Butt 

Whether you want to take your workouts to the next level or enhance your physique and overall well-being, these five moves can give you glutes of steel… or at least a butt that looks great in a pair of jeans and helps you power through your daily life.  

1. Wall Sits 

Years ago, I had a friend who swore by doing these while she brushed her teeth. Adding something new to your routine by pairing it with an established habit makes it much easier to keep up with!

Especially if you’re a newbie, wall sits may make your legs quiver. Start out with 20 seconds. Though it might feel like an eternity, over time you’ll build up endurance, and a minute or even two will fly by. (OK, those minutes might not fly by, but they will become more tolerable.) 

Squats place a significant demand on your glutes, increasing your strength and growth. When you’re doing squats, all your glute muscles work together to generate force and drive movement.  

How to do wall sits: Stand with your back against a wall. Slide your back down the wall until your hips and knees bend to 90 degrees, like you’re sitting in an invisible chair. Keep your shoulders and back of your head against the wall. Your feet should be flat on the ground. Start out at around 20 seconds. Add two seconds every training day. Before you know it, you’ll be doing them for two minutes! 

2. Squats  

Squats are true multitaskers. They also work every muscle in your legs and recruit lower body muscles, including the quads (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), and calves. Squats even give your core a solid workout. 

How to do squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight. Then, lower your butt towards the ground. Putting your arms out in front of you may help you balance on the way down. The lower you squat, the better, because a low squat puts the emphasis on your glutes and hamstrings. Be sure to maintain proper form; keep your legs shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed slightly out. 

Do two to three sets of 8-12 squats each time, increasing the number and depth of your squats as your training progresses. When it gets easier, add weights for more resistance. 

3. Bridges  

Bridges are one of my favorite moves to improve the endurance of your gluteal muscles. Lifting your hips off the ground creates resistance against gravity and thus strength in your glutes. Bridges also work your hips, core, hamstrings, and lower back. Those muscles perform synergistically with your glutes, contributing to overall strength and stability. You can always make bridges harder with resistance bands just above your knees, or by performing single-leg variations. 

How to do bridges: Lie on your back on an exercise mat with your knees bent, feet on the floor, and your hands at your sides, palms down. The tips of your fingers should touch the back of your heels. Scoop your tailbone upward, push your heels into the floor, and lift your hips, squeezing your glutes as you go, then hold at the top. 

Repeat this sequence with two to three sets of 8-12 reps each time, increasing the number of reps and length of your hold as your training progresses. You can also lift your heels, or hold a dumbbell on your hips for added difficulty. 

4. Lunges  

As you step forward or backward into a lunge position, you engage your glutes to stabilize the hip joint and provide power for pushing off and returning to the starting position. Repeated activation helps strengthen and tone glute muscles over time. 

Lunges also strengthen your knees and promote hip stability, improving your balance and reducing your risk of injury. You always want to challenge yourself! Dumbbells or performing advanced lunge variations increase resistance to stimulate muscle growth. 

One of my favorite advanced versions is walking lunges. Instead of returning to the starting position after each lunge, with walking lunges you continue moving forward with each step. 

How to do lunges: Start with your arms at your sides and a dumbbell in each hand. (Lift the heaviest weights you can use in good form. No wimpy weights!) Step forward and lunge, alternating legs with each step. Try to lunge as low as possible, making 90-degree angles with both your legs, but make sure your front knee never extends past your toes. If the dumbbells are too much for you as a beginner, you can start with body weight only and add them when you’re ready. 

Do two to three sets of 8-12 lunges each time, increasing the dumbbell weight and depth of your lunges as your training progresses. 

5. Step Ups 

Whenever I’m staying at a hotel, I always look for the stairwell. Sure, I might need to make a hasty exit, but I’m more focused on the fitness benefits: stairs are your secret to fabulous legs and glutes no matter where you go.

Beyond targeting your glutes, step-ups strengthen several key muscle groups, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles. Strengthening these and other leg muscles improves lower body strength, stability, and overall muscular development. 

You don’t need stairs to do step-ups, either. A simple, stable bench or stool will do the job, too.  

How to do step-ups: Start with one foot on a bench or step, holding your arms by your sides. Push off your top foot (putting weight in your heel) and step up onto the bench or step with both feet. Step down onto one foot, keeping the other foot on the bench and repeat.

Do two to three sets of 8-12 steps with each leg. When it gets easier, add weights for more resistance. 

The Ideal Combo to Build Muscle & Optimize Your Workout 

Incorporate these five glute-firing exercises regularly, and you’ll soon reap the physical and aesthetic benefits of a better backside. You’ll notice that many of these exercises don’t just work your glutes; they target several muscle groups. I’m a huge fan of compound movements.  

Building and maintaining strong muscle demands optimal protein, too. Protein supplies amino acids, the building blocks of muscle tissue. When you meet your protein needs, you support muscle recovery, repair, and growth, ensuring your body has optimal amino acids to support muscle protein synthesis.  

When you’re working out hard and meeting your protein needs, you’ve got an effective strategy to get—and stay—strong and lean.

Building muscle helps you stabilize blood sugar, balance hormones, burn fat, and so much more. My brand-new Resistance Training Cheat Sheet provides everything you need to quickly start your fitness journey, including the best equipment to complete your gym setup, an 8-week workout plan, and a progress tracker. It’s FREE, so claim yours today.*  

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern.