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The Best Butt Exercises for Women

author image Jody Braverman
Jody Braverman is a professional writer and editor based in Atlanta. She studied creative writing at the American University of Paris and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland. She also received personal trainer certification from NASM and her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from YogaWorks.
The Best Butt Exercises for Women
The Best Butt Exercises for Women Photo Credit: nd3000/iStock/GettyImages

There are two factors involved in a firm, lifted and shapely rear end: genetics and hard work. While you can't control what you were given at birth, the right exercises performed consistently can get you the butt of your dreams. Along with choosing the most effective exercises, you have to have the right technique and continue to add challenge. Kick your butt into gear with these top tush exercises.

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The Squat

According to trainer and author Michael Matthews, the squat is the "single most effective movement" for building a great butt. Although it seems like a simple exercise, there's actually a lot that goes into perfecting the squat. Before you add weight, practice these basics:

  1. Start with your feet hip-distance apart. Stand up tall, contract your abs and pull your shoulders back.
  2. Keeping your torso upright, send your hips back as you bend your knees. These two actions should happen simultaneously. Your torso will naturally lean forward as you lower down, but try to keep it as erect as possible.
  3. Stick your butt out behind you as if you're sitting down into a chair. Keep your toes tracking over your knees. Shift the weight back into your heels.
  4. Lower down until your thighs are parallel, or just below parallel, with the ground. Push through your feet to rise up, fully extending your hips at the top.

To target the glute muscles of the butt, it's most effective to take a stance wider than hip width, research shows. According to Matthews, a stance that's 125 to 150 percent wider than shoulder-width is ideal. Practice your technique with your feet hip-distance apart, then widen your stance as you get more comfortable with the movement.

Once you've mastered the form, it's time to add weight. Your can use dumbbells, a barbell or a kettlebell. Brace the barbell across the backs of your shoulders, grasping it a little wider than hip-distance. If using dumbbells, hold them resting on the fronts of your shoulders with elbows bent. To use a kettlebell, hold it in between your legs with both hands. Elevate your feet on exercise steps with space in between, so you can squat low without the bell touching the ground.

Read more: The Top 15 Moves to Tone Your Glutes

Squeeze your glutes at the top of the deadlift.
Squeeze your glutes at the top of the deadlift. Photo Credit: jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages

The Deadlift

This can seem like a complicated movement to those new to heavy lifts. But this is the single most-effective exercise for building total-body strength and activating the glute muscles. It does take practice to master, so use light weight on a barbell when you're learning the movement. Here are the basics of technique:

  1. Place the barbell on the ground in front of you.
  2. Position your feet slightly narrower than hip-distance apart and step up to the bar so your shins touch it.
  3. Stand up tall with your shoulders back and your chest slightly puffed. Keep this position throughout the movement. Contract your abs as if you were about to get punched in the stomach.
  4. Lower yourself down toward the bar by pushing your hips back, not by squatting down. Your knees will bend slightly, but this is not a squat — that's key to remember.
  5. Keep your back flat and shoulders pulled back as you grasp the bar just wider than your shins.
  6. Contract your glutes as you quickly rise up, extending at the knees and hips. As you do this, the bar will slide up your legs, stopping about mid-thigh.
  7. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  8. Lower the bar back down to the ground, reversing the movement. Pause at the bottom, then repeat.

Sumo deadlifts are another option. With a sumo deadlift, you take a wider stance and grasp the bar in the middle, in between your legs. According to research, glute activation is about the same for conventional and sumo deadlifts, so it amounts to your personal preference.

Hip Thrusts

Get comfortable with yourself for this exercise, especially if you're doing it in a gym setting. You can do hip thrusts with or without weight, depending on your goals. Start out without weight to practice the technique:

  1. Position a weight bench behind you and sit down on the floor in front of it with your shoulder blades against the long edge. 
  2. Extend your arms out to the side and lie them on the bench for support.
  3. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  4. Contract your core muscles, squeeze your glutes and lift your butt off the floor. Lift your hips until your pelvis is just about in line with your knees, but don't overextend at the top. Your knees should be positioned over your feet and remain parallel to each other.
  5. Squeeze your glutes at the top, pause for a moment at the top, and then lower back down.

You can increase the challenge of this exercise by doing single-leg thrusts. Simply extend one leg out as you rise up, and leave it extended throughout subsequent reps. Switch legs for the next set.

You can add weight with a barbell, by placing the barbell across your hips when you're on the ground. This is easiest if you have someone to help you position the barbell. You can wrap a squat pad around the bar to protect your hips bones.

Read more: 17 Exercises to Shape and Tone Your Booty

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