Every exercise has its haters, and the squat is no exception. While they're an extremely functional lower-body exercise, they're far from the only booty-building option out there. In fact, since squats tend to be quad-dominant, exercises that specifically target the glutes are even better for your butt-building endeavors.
If you're looking to make your butt look bigger (and get stronger in the process), you need to target all three muscles that make up your glutes — your gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. While the gluteus maximus often gets all the attention (it's the biggest of the three, after all), building the gluteus medius and minimus helps give you that "high and tight," well-rounded derrière (pun definitely intended).
Ready to double down on a bubble butt? Carolina Araujo, certified personal trainer and IFBB Bikini Professional, recommends you train your glutes two to three times a week, giving your body sufficient recovery between sessions. Incorporate these five exercises into your next leg-day workout, performing four sets of 10 reps for each.
1. Barbell Hip Thrust
- Begin seated, leaning against a weight bench where the lower part of your shoulder blades align with the edge of the bench.
- Position your feet hip-width apart with ankles and knees in alignment.
- Externally rotate your feet by slightly pointing your feet out to target your gluteus medius.
- With your chin tucked, press through your heels and elevate your hips, contracting your glutes.
- Once your glutes are parallel to the ground, lower back to the ground.
This exercise is typically done with a barbell across your lap, but if you're a beginner, you can do this move with no weight, says Araujo. Alternatively, you can put a resistance loop around both legs just above your knees.
2. Hip Abduction Machine
- Sit down on the hip abduction machine, placing your outer knees against the pads, keeping your back straight, shoulders back.
- Engage your core and apply pressure with the outside of the knees and thighs, squeezing the glutes through the whole movement.
- Press the pads out as far as your flexibility allows.
- Return to the center with control.
To make this movement a little more challenging, Araujo recommends elevating your hips off the chair, pressing through your heels.
Don't have access to gym machines? Place a resistance loop around both leg just above your knees and do squat walks: Lower into a half-squat and take four step to the right, then four steps to the left.
3. Back Extension
- Lie face-down on a hyperextension bench with a slight bend in your knees, heels slightly elevated off the platform.
- Point your toes out slightly and cross your arms over your chest.
- Fold your upper body over the machine, head toward the ground.
- Then, apply pressure through the toes and drive the hips into the pad of the equipment to raise your upper body up to straight.
Hold a weight plate in your hands to make this exercise even more challenging, Araujo says, and focus on contracting the glutes on the way up.
No equipment? No problem. You can get similar (though not exact) benefits with Supermans. Lie on your stomach, arms overhead. Contract your glutes and raise your arms, torso and legs off the ground without overarching your lower back. Hold for five seconds, then lower.
4. Glute Kickback
- Begin kneeling on all fours, maintaining a neutral spine, tucking your chin and keeping your back flat.
- Kick one leg back behind you with your knee bend at a 90-degree angle, rotating your foot slightly away from your body. Raise your leg toward the ceiling and squeeze your glutes at the top of the motion.
- Keeping your back flat, lower your leg back to the starting position. Once you complete all the reps on one leg, repeat on the other.
You can make this exercise more challenging by using either the cable machine, resistance loop or an ankle weight. From this position, you can also do fire hydrants (knee starts on the floor then lifts out to the side).
Focus on contracting your glutes with each exercise to get blood flowing to the muscles, says Araujo. This can help give your butt the stronger shape you're looking for. (Muscle pump isn't limited to biceps and shoulders!)