When you think of the muscles in your butt, the ones that get the most attention are the ones you sit on, your gluteus maximus. However, your glutes consist of three specific muscles that, together, give you a full range of motion as you go about your day. Targeting each section of your glutes with exercises such as the squat and lunge will keep you supple and flexible and give you a firmer and stronger lower half.
Buns of Steel
The gluteus maximus is the strongest muscle in your body, and each one covers the main fleshy area of your butt. This pair of muscles helps you to extend your thigh, allowing you to straighten your leg when you run, walk or climb. This is also the muscle you use to get up from a sitting position. The gluteus medius and minimus are located at the top of your hip, just below your lower back. These muscles allow you to move and rotate your thigh.
Preparation Is Everything
For the following exercises, aim for two to three sets of eight to 12 reps to begin with, with a one-minute rest between sets. Always do both sides where appropriate. Increase the number of reps as you gain in strength and find the exercises easier to perform. As a guide, you should be struggling to perform the last rep of each set, your legs feeling heavy as you lift your thighs or squat down. Focus on form over rep number, taking care to do each movement in a slow and controlled manner to avoid potential injury. Perform each exercise two or three times per week with at least a day of rest between. Warm up before you start with at least five minutes of light cardio, and make sure to cool down after with a few gentle stretches to prevent stiffness and reduce stress on your heart.
Squats for Maximum Glutes
Squats are a simple body-weight exercise that target your gluteus maximus. To perform a squat, stand with your feet hip-width apart, back straight, feet facing forward. With your arms straight out in front of you, bend at your knees, tracking them in line with your second toe, and lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Exhale as you go down, and inhale as you bring yourself back up, returning to the starting position.
Lunge and Clench
Lunges are another simple body-weight exercise, but these target all of your gluteus muscles. Stand with your hands on your hips and lunge forward with one leg until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Land heel to toe with your foot, making sure that your opposite knee is bent behind you and almost touching the floor. Push off with your forward leg and return to the starting position. Keep your knees aligned with your toes, and push your hip backwards before lowering them to the floor. Your back should be straight, with your trunk angled slightly forward as you shift down to your front leg. Align your knee directly above your ankle on your forward leg to avoid shearing the knee. Keep the movement slow and controlled, and hold in your abs for added stability.
Medius and Minimus Targeting
Your gluteus medius and minimus muscles can be specifically targeted with the side-lying hip abduction exercise. Lay on your side, legs straight, one foot resting on the other. Bend your lower arm at the elbow and place it under your head for support. Place your upper arm across your hip. Keep your head and spine aligned. Breathe out and slowly raise your top leg until there's a 12 inch gap between your knees. Hold for two seconds and slowly return to the starting position, gently breathing in.