If you want the best exercise machine for bigger glutes, look no further than a well-stocked gym. As the popular definition of beauty has shifted to include — and sometimes even emphasize — a shapely backside for both men and women, gyms have responded accordingly by including an array of machines to work your glutes.
The Anatomy of Your Backside
Your gluteus maximus — the big, meaty muscle that defines the shape of your backside and helps you powerfully straighten your leg at the hip — gets most of the press for building a shapely backside, and for good reason. On most people, it's the only butt muscle you're going to notice.
However, there are two smaller "glute" muscles at work in each side of your pelvis. Together, the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius help stabilize your pelvis, rotate your hip joint and also execute hip abduction (swinging your leg sideways, away from the midline of your body). When you see a "butt machine" in the gym that features that leg-away-from-body motion, it targets these muscles. Meanwhile, the variety of machines that focus on hip extension, or straightening your leg at the hip, target your gluteus maximus.
How You Should Lift
If you're working out for general strength and fitness, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans notes that one set of eight to 12 repetitions is effective. If you want to build a bigger booty, adding more sets helps.
Exactly how many sets you add, and how much time you rest between them, makes a difference — although researchers are still sussing out exactly what that difference is. In particular, a small but noteworthy study of 21 men, published in the July 2016 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, found that you can encourage hypertrophy (muscle growth) by lengthening your rest period between sets from one minute to three minutes.
Another small but noteworthy study published in the January 2019 issue of the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise involved 34 healthy men doing three strength-training sessions weekly. Depending on the group they were assigned to, participants did either one, three or five sets of each exercise per training session. They found that the higher training volumes (meaning more sets per session) resulted in more muscular hypertrophy.
Here's what you should not do: Don't do heavy training for your glutes, or any other muscle group, on back-to-back days. As a general rule, any given muscle group needs at least one full rest day between workouts.
Common Gym Machines
The following exercise machines are some of the most common equipment you'll find in the gym for working your glutes. No single workout can necessarily be dubbed the single "best" option; ultimately, the best exercise machine for bigger glutes is going to be the one you're willing to use regularly and with proper form.
Move 1: Donkey Kick
Although they're not the most common butt machine in the gym anymore, you'll probably still find a donkey kick or "butt blaster" machine in a well-stocked gym.
- Stand or kneel in the machine, and lean forward against the machine's hip pad. Some butt blaster machines have handles you can hold onto to help stabilize your torso.
- Place one foot in the footplate behind you — this makes you look as if you're a donkey getting ready to kick out.
- Smoothly press the footplate back and up. (Despite the name of this machine, don't actually go for a forceful kick.)
- Return to your starting position in a smooth, controlled motion.
You might also encounter a variant of this machine that puts you in a superman-like position with your feet strapped into the footplates, allowing you to work each of your legs in turn.
Move 2: Leg Press
The familiar leg press works your quads, hamstrings and glutes, and in many gyms, you'll find multiple versions of the leg press available. But the technique for shifting focus to your glutes is universal.
- Position yourself in the leg press machine, feet planted on the platform and hips against the backrest. Check to make sure your knees and toes point the same direction and that your knees don't extend forward past the tips of your toes.
- Walk your feet a little farther up on the leg press machine; this emphasizes involvement from your glutes.
- Press smoothly through your entire foot to move the foot platform away from you.
- Keep the motion smooth and controlled as you lower the platform to about a 90-degree bend in your knees, completing the repetition.
Move 3: Hip Extension
Hip extension machines crop up in a variety of layouts; you might be positioned to be standing, bent over a hip rest or even lying on your back. Ultimately, the same basic procedure applies:
- Position yourself in the machine, placing the padded leg roll behind your knees. This roller is the part of the machine that's attached to the weight stack or weight plates.
- Fasten the safety/hip belt of the machine — if present — around your hips, making sure it covers your hip bones and not the soft internal organs at your waist. This helps anchor your hips in place.
- Straighten your legs at the hip, pressing against the resistance from the padded leg roll. Slowly bend your hips again to return to the start position and complete the repetition.
Move 4: Hip Abduction
The hip abduction machine shifts the emphasis to your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, which work to stabilize your hips and move your legs away from the midline of your body.
- Sit in the machine and adjust it, if necessary, so that the leg pads are flush against the outside of your legs when you sit with your legs close together.
- Grip the machine handles or fasten the hip belt, if present, to help stabilize your hips.
- Spread your legs apart against the machine's resistance. Keep the motion smooth and under control, even though this might limit your range of motion. Don't fling your legs to make them go farther.
- Control the motion as you let your legs move back together, completing the repetition.
Move 5: Back Extensions
The humble back extension or hyperextension "machine" is often written off as just a back exercise. But although it does work the stabilizing muscles in your back, its focus on hip extension also emphasizes involvement from your glutes.
- Slide your feet in front of the padded footrests and lean forward onto the hip pad of the back extension machine. (Despite its name, it's really just an angled bench.)
- Use the muscles of your core — including your back — to keep your torso flat as you hinge forward from the hips, lowering your torso down toward the ground.
- Maintain that core contraction as you squeeze the muscles of your glutes to swing your torso up, back into line with your body. This completes one repetition.
The Cable Pulley Butt Machine
The cable pulley machine usually resides in the free weight area. But when you pair a low cable pulley with an ankle cuff, it becomes an undercover butt-building machine.
Move 1: Hip Extensions
This movement effectively isolates your gluteus maximus.
- Fasten the ankle cuff around your right leg and stand facing the low cable pulley. Step back, if necessary, until you feel slight tension in the cable. If you need extra help to maintain your balance, position a weight bench, sturdy chair or other equipment you can hold onto within easy reach.
- Squeeze your core to keep your torso stable as you extend your hip, shifting your right leg back against the machine's resistance. Note that this isn't necessarily a large motion; avoid flinging your foot back to make it go farther.
- Release your right foot back to the starting position, next to your left foot. This completes the repetition.
On single-sided exercises like this, make sure you remember to do another set with the other leg.
Move 2: Hip Abduction
This move shifts emphasis to your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, both of which help stabilize your pelvis and move your leg away from the midline of your body.
- Attach the cuff of the low pulley to your right ankle. Stand with your left side facing the low pulley, and make sure the pulley cable crosses in front of your left foot.
- Step away from the pulley, if necessary, until you feel light tension in the cable. If you need extra help with balance, position a sturdy bench, chair or other equipment next to you, where you can hold onto it easily.
- Squeeze your abs to stabilize your body, and smoothly swing your right leg to the side, away from your body, against the cable pulley's resistance. This is a relatively small motion; do not fling your leg out to the side in an attempt to make it go farther.
- Keep the motion smooth and controlled as you let your right leg return to the starting position.
Because this is also a single-sided exercise, make sure you do another set with the ankle cuff on your left leg.
Move 3: Squats With Hip Extension
This move combines the booty-building benefits of bodyweight squats with the extra challenge of a hip extension.
- Attach the ankle cuff to your right leg and stand facing the cable pulley. Step back until you feel mild tension in the pulley; then shift your left leg out until you're standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Sink down into a bodyweight squat, as if you were sitting in a chair. Keep your weight balanced between both feet, knees and toes pointing the same direction, and your shoulders over your feet as your hips move back behind you.
- Stand up and shift your weight onto your left foot as you move your right leg back, extending your hip against the cable pulley's resistance. Squeeze your core muscles to keep your body steady as you do this.
- Return your right foot to its original position and shift your weight evenly onto both feet again, completing the repetition.
Pay close attention to body position and form when doing this exercise. Only the hip extension part of the movement is done against the machine resistance; for the squat portion, your body weight is the resistance.
Less Common Glute Machines
There are many free-weight exercises you can use to work your glutes as well, including deadlifts, lunges, good mornings and squats. You'll sometimes find lever-style gym machines that allow you to do deadlifts, long rear lunges (to emphasize the glutes) and squats. You can also do these exercises on the Smith machine, or go the free-weight route with barbells or dumbbells, although paying close attention to proper form is very important.
Another free-weight exercise, the hip thrust, isn't commonly mimicked by gym machines — but because it's so effective for working the glutes, it's worth mentioning in any discussion of the best butt workouts.
- Position yourself with your back to the long side of a weight bench. Lean back with your shoulders on the bench and rest a barbell across your lap. Both feet should be flat on the floor, hips and knees bent.
- Use your hands to hold the barbell steady as you thrust your hips upward, lifting the barbell to about bench height.
- Flex at the hips, lowering your hips and the barbell back down toward the floor.
Using a shoulder pad or padded roll on the barbell will help protect your hipbones.
- American Council on Exercise: "Mastering the Deadlift"
- ExRx.net: "Gluteus Maximus"
- ExRx.net: "Gluteus Medius"
- ExRx.net: "Gluteus Minimus"
- ExRx.net: "Lever Lying Hip Extension (Plate Loaded)"
- ExRx.net: "Lever Bent-Over Hip Extension"
- ExRx.net: "Lever Kneeling Rear Kick"
- ExRx.net: "Sled 45 Degree Leg Press"
- ExRx.net: "Lever Seated Hip Abduction"
- Health.gov: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- ExRx.net: "Lever Power Runner (Plate Loaded)"
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "Longer Interset Rest Periods Enhance Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men"
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: "Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men"
- ExRx.net: "Smith Bent Knee Good-Morning"
- ExRx.net: "Barbell Hip Thrust"
- ExRx.net: "Sled Rear Lunge"