The Top 15 Moves to Tone Your Glutes
Last Updated: Nov 11, 2014
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Booty, junk in the trunk, heinie, butt, glutes. The list of names for your backside goes on and on. There are so many names for the gluteus maximus because it's such a wonderful muscle (or muscle group, if you include the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and other supporting muscles). As the powerhouse of the body, it’s no wonder that athletes worldwide focus a lot of attention on training their glutes. Here are 15 moves to tone, strengthen and activate your body’s biggest muscle. As an added benefit, these moves will help you fill out those jeans in all the right places!
The godfather of all glute work, the squat is a key movement in developing your derriere. And for variation you can do this move with or without weight by either adding a barbell across your back or holding dumbbells in your hands. HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart and slightly turned out. Take a big breath in to brace the core, then send your butt back as you bend at the hips and knees. Keep your chest elevated. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor, or you can squat below parallel if your mobility allows. As you drive up through your heels, you should think of screwing your feet out and into the ground. This cue will fire your glutes so you can get the most strength out of your movement.
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The sister to the air squat, this move should be performed with dumbbells in your hand or a barbell across the front of your chest. HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet a little more than hip-width apart. With your core tight and your weight focused on your heels, slowly lower yourself with your glutes driving back and down. Depending on your mobility, you can go to or below parallel. Screwing your feet into the ground and squeezing your glutes, drive your knees slightly out and your elbows up as you stand up.
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Lunges are a wonderful move for the glutes because there are so many variations. Start with this basic version and add weight as you get stronger. To add difficulty, place a barbell across your back or hold dumbbells in your hands. HOW TO DO IT: To start, stand with both feet underneath your shoulders. Step forward with one leg and bend both knees so that your back knee touches the floor and your front shin is completely perpendicular to the floor. Your front knee should be directly over your ankle and never track over your foot. You can alternate doing lunges in place, walk forward while doing lunges, walk backwards while doing lunges or do side lunges.
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BANDED SIDE LUNGES
Building off the basic lunge, add resistance bands around your upper thighs to amp up the difficulty. HOW TO DO IT: Wrap a band around your knees with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down a quarter of the way and send your butt back so that you feel your glutes engage. Then step to the side while staying in a semi-squat position. Repeat this movement on the other side and feel the burn!
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BANDED FRONT & BACK WALKS
Another wonderful banded movement that builds strength in your hips and glutes, you can place one band around the knees with your feet shoulder-width apart. Or to make this more challenging add another band around your ankles. HOW TO DO IT: Squat down into an athletic stance (about a quarter of the way down). Then, with control, step forward while keeping your feet facing forward, imagining that your feet have to stay parallel like train tracks. Walk forward for a few steps before repeating this movement and walking backwards.
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The clamshell is one of the best moves for the glutes, whether as part of your warm-up or your regular strength-training workouts. It’s simple and effective. HOW TO DO IT: Start by wrapping a resistance band around the outside of your knees. Then lay down on one side, stacking your knees on top of one another, with your hand on your hip. Keep your bottom leg on the floor with your knee at a 90-degree angle. Externally rotate your top knee open while keeping your top foot on top of your bottom foot the entire time. With control, continue opening and closing your knees. It won’t take long for you to feel this move working!
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STABILITY BALL HAMSTRING CURL
This is a challenging move that works not only your glutes, but also your entire posterior chain (think hips to ankles). HOW TO DO IT: Lie on the ground on your back. Place your ankles on top of a stability ball. Bridge your butt up to the sky with your arms and hands placed firmly on the floor. With control, roll your feet in toward your butt and back out again, all while keeping your hips thrusting to the sky.
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There are many variations to this wonderful glutes-building exercise. HOW TO DO IT: For the beginner, lie flat on the ground on your back. With your knees bent and feet on the floor, squeeze your butt as you drive through your heels and raise your hips to the sky, hold then lower back down. For the more advanced athlete, you can place a weight or barbell across your hips (use a cushion to protect your hip bones). Hold on to the bar tightly and thrust up into the air.
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The one-legged bridge is a great way to isolate your glutes. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with one foot firmly planted on the floor with your knee bent. The free leg should point straight out at a 45-degree angle to the floor with your free leg’s thigh staying in line with the planted leg’s thigh. Squeeze the glutes and thrust up to the sky, hold and slowly lower back down.
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The deadlift is one of the foundational strength movements in any training program. You can perform this with a regular grip or an alternating grip, which means one hand facing toward your body and one hand facing away. HOW TO DO IT: The deadlift begins with the bar on the ground. Hinge your hips when you bend down to pick up the bar and push your knees back to keep your body over the bar. With your chest high and your core locked, keep the bar as close to your body as possible and drive the bar up to the standing position. Then extend your hips and squeeze your glutes at the top for a completed repetition. If you don’t have access to a bar, you can use a resistance band wrapped around each foot for resistance.
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The single-leg deadlift is a wonderful move that isolates the glutes and posterior chain. If you need assistance, you can hold on to something stable. HOW TO DO IT: Begin by balancing on one leg with a weight or kettlebell in the opposite hand. Keeping your standing knee slightly bent, bend at the hip and extend your free leg behind you for balance. Lower the weight toward the ground until your torso is parallel to the ground. Then return to the upright position. Make sure to keep your hips closed and your back in a stable-spine position. Do not round your back!
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This one is a favorite of elite sprinters because it builds strength in the glutes and posterior chain while preventing injury to your lower body. HOW TO DO IT: Start with your torso on top of a hyperextension machine with handles, or you can use a raised bench instead. Your feet should dangle above the floor and your legs should be perpendicular to the floor with the hip crease at the end of the hyperextension machine or bench. Squeeze your glutes and raise your legs as high and possible. Extend your hips so that your legs are nearly straight. Lower your legs to original position and repeat. To add difficulty to this exercise, hook your feet into the hyperextension machine and add weight. You can also add a medicine ball between your feet prior to raising your legs, which also works your adductors.
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BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
Once you master the basic form of this move, you can add difficulty by placing a barbell on your back or dumbbells in your hands. HOW TO DO IT: Using a stable weight bench or raised platform, place one foot on the platform behind you. Your front leg should be far enough in front of you so that your knee never passes over your ankle when you squat down. Slowly and with control, lower your body in a straight line so that you’re in a lunge position with your back foot still raised. Make sure that your front knee is at a 90-degree angle.
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To add to the difficulty of this move, try placing a barbell on your back or dumbbells in your hand for resistance. HOW TO DO IT: Using a stable weight bench or raised platform, place one foot on the platform in front of you so that your knee is at a 90-degree angle. Activating your glutes, step up onto the platform and drive your opposite knee up. Step back down and switch legs.
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Jumping is the purest form of power, and power comes primarily from your glutes. Master box jumps and you’ll have an advantage when it comes to power generation. HOW TO DO IT: Start from the ground and jump onto a box of a certain height, depending on your experience level. (Hint: It’s better for your knees to start lower and progress higher.) Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and drop down to a quarter squat. Drive your arms up as you explode out of the quarter squat and onto the box. Once your feet land on top of the box, open your hips and stand up. To repeat, either “plyo” (plyometrics are jump training) the jump by rebounding immediately off of the box or simply step back down to the ground.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body and one of the most important. Practice these moves to fire your glutes and maximize your power output in your everyday activities. And now that you’ve learned these 15 moves, tell us what you think of them. Did you feel the burn? Were you sore after your first round? Are there other moves you use in your workout routine to tone and strengthen your glutes?
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