The Best Exercises to Build the Gluteus Maximus

There is no time like the present to start building strength with gluteus maximus exercises. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle you have in your buttocks and yet, it often gets overlooked. Perhaps it's because this muscle is quite literally behind you and therefore hard to see, or maybe it's because you don't realize just how important this muscle is, especially as you age.

Deadlifts are a great exercise to build the gluteus maximus. (Image: AzmanJaka/E+/GettyImages)

Advantages of Gluteal Muscles

The gluteus maximus serves many daily functions like helping you climb stairs and maintain balance while walking or running. When you work to build strength in the glutes, there are many advantages, too. At the top of the list is injury prevention.

When the glutes become weak, it puts you at higher risk for common issues like knee and lower back pain. In fact, the American Council on Exercise claims building strong glutes is the key to a pain-free lower back. This should be an inspiration for most of you considering 80 percent of adults suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lifetimes.

1. Gluteus Maximus Exercises

Building strong gluteus maximus muscles is especially important as you age, as muscle mass decreases by 3 to 5 percent every decade after age 30. The good news is that there are many exercises available that target the gluteus maximus, and it's never too late to start. Some glute exercises require equipment, while others do not.

Move 1: Deadlift

The deadlift can be performed with either a barbell or two dumbbells.

  1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and with either a barbell or two dumbbells in your hands. Position your grip with the backs of your hands forward and your knuckles pointing down.
  2. With your knees softly bent, hinge at the hip to tip forward. Lower down maintaining a flat back until you feel a gentle pull in your hamstring muscles (the large muscles in the back of your upper legs, just below your buttocks).
  3. Using the strength of your gluteus maximus muscles and keeping your core tight, press your hips forward while drawing your knees back to return to an upright position.
  4. Maintain a flat back as you tip down and back up again with control. Repeat eight to 12 reps.

Tip

When doing a barbell deadlift, some people prefer a mixed grip with one palm facing the body and one facing away from the body.

Move 2: Bridge

This is one of the most effective gluteus maximus exercises, and it can be done with no equipment.

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted on the floor about a foot or so from your buttocks.
  2. Driving through your heels, lift your buttocks off the floor using strength from your gluteus maximus muscles. Lift as high as you can while maintaining a neutral spine.
  3. Lower down in the same fashion and repeat. Try varying your tempo for an extra challenge.

Move 3: Glute Kickbacks

This exercise can be performed with body weight alone, as well.

  1. Start on all fours with your wrists below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
  2. Either stay on your hands or drop down to your elbows if you prefer.
  3. Keeping your hips square to the ground and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, lift your right foot toward the sky as though you are stamping the bottom of your shoe on the ceiling. Squeeze through your glutes to lift.
  4. Lower down in the same fashion and repeat. Switch to the left side after reaching fatigue on the right side.

Move 4: Goblet Squats

Pick up a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell and perform this glute building squat.

  1. Start with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart, toes slightly turned out and one dumbbell or kettlebell clutched in both hands at your chest.
  2. With your weight evenly distributed and your upper body erect, lower down into a squat, allowing your knees to track slightly outward so that your elbows lower toward the inside of your legs.
  3. Go as low as you can while maintaining a tall upper body. Drive through your feet evenly to stand back up to your original position.
  4. Repeat eight to 12 reps.

Move 5: Kettlebell Swing

This glute exercise has a cardio component, as well.

  1. Start with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart and a kettlebell in both hands with your grip facing inward.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and then hinge at the hips to tip forward to approximately a 45-degree bend with a flat back. Draw the kettlebell back between your legs.
  3. Using strength from your glutes and keeping your arms long, drive your hips forward, creating momentum that drives your kettlebell forward.
  4. Let this swing lift your kettlebell to shoulder-height and then allow gravity to lower the kettlebell in the same fashion between your legs.
  5. Catch your arms with your inner thighs and drive your hips forward again to swing the kettlebell using your glute strength and control.
  6. Repeat eight to 12 reps.

2. Gluteus Medius Exercises

The buttocks is comprised of three muscles, the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, all of which work together to help with hip rotation and movement. The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three gluteal muscles and is largely responsible for the overall look and physique of your buttocks, but building your glutes is not just about having a good looking rear.

Since the glutes consist of three different muscles, so you'll want to target the smaller ones, as well. Why? Because they all work together to support hip movement and core strength. There are many great exercises to target each section of the glutes.

Move 1: Leg Lift

  1. Start by laying on your side so that your hips are comfortably stacked one on top of the other.
  2. With your bottom leg comfortably grounded, flex the foot of your top leg and lift that leg up to a degree your hip will allow without letting your hips rock off the ground.
  3. Lower back down in the same manner, hovering the top leg over your bottom before repeating another rep.
  4. Switch to the other leg after reaching fatigue on your first side.

Read more: Glutes Cramping

Move 2: Hydrants

  1. Start on all fours in a tabletop position with your wrists below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
  2. With your hips square to the ground, lift your right knee out to the side keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Lower down in the same fashion and repeat.
  4. Switch to the other leg after reaching fatigue on your first side.
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