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The Best Weight Lifting Exercise for Glutes

author image Ryan Mess
Ryan Mess earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Cal Poly SLO, where he played rugby. His fitness expertise bloomed during his college and semi-pro rugby career. And since then, he has been training everyone from youth to professional athletes to grandparents in all things fitness and health while still competing.
The Best Weight Lifting Exercise for Glutes
A class works on walking lunges. Photo Credit Mark Bowden/iStock/Getty Images

Walking lunges are the king of weight lifting exercises when it comes to the glutes, which are also called the butt cheeks. The gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus are the three muscles that make up each butt cheek. There are dozens of exercises that will strengthen and build the glute muscles, but the weighted walking lunge has been shown to activate the glutes more so than other movements.

Your Performance Depends on Strong Glutes

Most people want to build their glute muscles for aesthetic purposes, because, let’s face it, a great back side is very appealing. But, there is much more to this. The glute muscles control your legs’ abilities to move at the hip joint. If you have underdeveloped and weak glutes, you will not only perform well below your potential, you also risk injuring other muscles on the front and back of your legs that are not designed to take on the work that the glutes should primarily be handling.

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Walking Lunges To The Rescue

Squats and deadlifts are significant for their athletic and functional carryover. But, walking lunges have glute-specific benefits that those movements don't. Walking lunges take your hips through a greater range of motion than a squat or deadlift and have a greater proprioceptive demand. Proprioception is the body’s awareness of its parts in relation to each other and the space around them. When a leg has to perform a squat-like movement without the other leg, the other leg and the glute muscles have to work much harder to perform the action.

Technique of Walking Lunges

You first need to be able to perform unweighted walking lunges easily before moving on to weighted lunges. From the standing position, take a long step forward with one leg. Upon landing, you will keep your torso vertical and lower your back knee to the ground without allowing the front knee to drift forward. Once the back knee grazes the ground, you will drive off the front foot, through the heel, and step all the way into the next lunge with the leg that was behind -- do not stop midway. Then repeat again with the other leg. If it is easy unweighted, hold a barbell over your shoulders or hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand while you lunge.

Rep Ranges and Safety

A good place to start is by doing four to six sets of 20 walking lunges -- 10 per leg -- while using a weight that allows you to do so with proper form. Once you feel as though lunges are your bread and butter, you can occasionally mix in sets of four to 10 reps using much more weight or walking for a distance such as 50 feet with as much weight as possible. You must always pay undivided attention to perfect technique. If you are slamming your back knee into the ground or hyperextending your lead knee, you are out of control and need to lessen the weight.

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