How to Get a Better Butt: A Complete Guide
When describing the ideal physique men often include cannonball deltoid muscles, bulging biceps, and a barrel chest. Women often mention a small waist, shapely thighs, and toned arms.
Unfortunately the glutes, one of the biggest and strongest muscles in the human body, don’t get the attention they deserve. The gluteus is comprises of three muscles – gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three glute muscles and is comprised of two heads – the upper and lower fibers. It originates from the ilium, sacrum, and fascia from the lumbar area and inserts in to the femur and tibia. This muscle plays a role in hip extension, external rotation, transverse abduction, and adduction. 
The gluteus medius second largest glute muscle and is comprised of anterior and posterior fibers. It originates from the ilium and inserts in to the femur. This muscle plays a critical role in hip abduction, transverse abduction, internal rotation, and external rotation during abduction. 
The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the three glute muscles but still plays large part in hip abduction, transverse abduction, and internal rotation during abduction. It originates from the ilium, below the origin of the gluteus medius, and inserts in to the femur. 
Unlike the other two glute muscles it only has one head, the gluteus minimus. You must perform exercises that engage all three gluteus muscles if you’re want to build a balanced, healthy, and injury-resilient physique.
The three workouts presented below are designed to target, strengthen, build, and shape the glutes based on your training experience. If you’re new to weightlifting start with the beginner workout. If you’re an intermediate lifter but are new to direct glute training then start with the beginning workout.
You may progress faster and move on to the intermediate specialization workout faster than novice trainees but it’s worth starting with the most basic movements to reinforce proper motor patterns and glute muscle activation. For those with 5+ years of lifting experience and/or 6-12 months of direct glute training start with the intermediate or advanced specialization workout.
Perform each workout at least twice per week on non-consecutive days. To maximize routine effectiveness perform these exercises at the beginning of a lower body workout, end of an upper body workout, before a cardiovascular activity, or on a separate training day from your other workouts.
Beginner Glute Specialization Workout
- Bodyweight Glute Bridge – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Lay down on floor so that your knees are bent, feet are flat on the ground and slightly outside shoulder width apart, your arms are down by your sides, and your upper body is in contact with the ground. Initiate the movement by squeezing your glutes and pushing through your heels until your hips are fully extended off the ground.
Ensure your arms and upper back remain on the ground. Squeeze the glutes and hold top flexed position for 1 to 5 seconds to increase intensity. Slowly lower your hips back to the ground and repeat.
- Step-ups on to Box – 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per leg
If you’re brand new to glute training begin with your bodyweight and a six to 12 inch high box. If you’ve performed some direct leg or glute training you may use dumbbells and up to an 18 inch tall box. Begin by standing close to and facing the box. Place one leg on the box and keep one leg on the ground.
Squeeze your glutes, push off with your grounded leg and step up on to the box. During this motion your shoulders should be relaxed, chest should be up, and the heel of your foot on the box should remain firmly planted. Return the in-motion leg back to the start position. You can alternate legs for each rep or perform all repetitions for one leg before switching.
- Low Pulley Cable Pullthrough – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Set the pulley of an adjustable height cable tower to the lowest possible height and attach the double knobbed rope handle. Facing away from the tower take a stance slightly wider than shoulder width, bend down, and grab the handles with an overhand grip below the knobs.
While holding the handle take two to three steps with each leg away from the tower. Starting with an upright posture (some counter lean to balance the weight is acceptable) and hips fully extended, keep your arms straight and slowly allow your hands to drift back towards the tower. Your shins should stay perpendicular with the ground but your upper thighs and hips will move backwards and your torso will move towards the ground.
Ensure your knees are in-line with your toes and pointing slightly outwards, opening up further as the handle moves backwards. Stop when you feel a nice stretch in the glutes and hamstrings. Continuing to keep your arms straight initiate with the glutes and squeeze them, driving your hips forward until your torso is upright and hips are fully extended.
- Unilateral Glute Kickback Machine – 3 sets of 20 to 25 reps per leg
This machine may be plate or lever-loaded and may be performed with an upright posture and small chest support or with the torso parallel with the ground and full upper body support.
Follow the instructions of the machine. Focusing on pushing through the heel of the active foot. Don’t rush these higher rep sets; you should feel a nice burn in the glutes at the end of these sets. It’s advised to perform all repetitions for one leg before switching.
Intermediate Glute Specialization Workout
- Kettlebell Swings – 3 sets of 20 to 30 swings
Prime your central nervous system, open up your hips, burn fat, and build your glutes with this powerful exercise. Grab a kettlebell and place it on the ground away from walls, people, or other gym equipment. Take a stance wider than shoulder width and stand over the kettlebell so it’s vertically in-line with your hips.
Grab the kettlebell with a double overhand grip and pick it up so that your torso is upright and hips are fully extended. Keeping your arms straight and heels firmly planted on the ground swing the kettlebell backwards. Your shins should stay perpendicular with the ground but your upper thighs and hips will move backwards and your torso will move towards the ground.
Ensure your knees are in-line with your toes and pointing slightly outwards, opening up further as the kettlebell moves backwards. When you feel the kettlebell no longer has momentum forcefully squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward until your torso is upright, hips are fully extended, and arms are shoulder height and parallel with the floor.
This counts as one swing. Your arms should remain straight throughout the entire movement. Do not stop the momentum of the kettlebell during a set; terminate momentum only at the end of the set.
- Weighted Step Ups on to Box – 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per leg
Perform this movement as outlined in the Beginner Glute Specialization workout except use a box up to 24 inches in height as well as a weighted vest, dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbell to add resistance. Ensure your torso remains relatively upright through the entire movement.
- Weighted Glute Bridges – 3 sets of 10 to 12
Perform this movement as outlined in the beginner glute specialization workout except place dumbbell or barbell on your hips for added resistance. Place a squat pad, yoga mat, or foam exercise pad in between the weight and your hips to minimize discomfort.
- Weighted Forward or Reverse Lunges – 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps per leg
You can grab two dumbbells or kettlebells, place a barbell on your back, or use a weighted vest to perform this exercise. Begin by standing upright with a hip-width stance and your hips fully extended.
Take one moderately large step forward with one leg, flex the hips, and lower the active thigh until it’s almost or is parallel with the ground. Your stationary foot should come off the ground slightly but your toes should remain in-contact with the ground and your knee should almost but not quite touch the ground.
Hold in the bottom position for one to five seconds. Initiate the return by pushing through the heel of the active foot and moving it back to the original start position. You can alternate legs for each rep or perform all repetitions for one leg before switching. If you have knee issues then perform reverse lunges.
- Rack Pulls with a Sumo Deadlift Stance – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Set the pin or block height so that the barbell starts at or slightly below the knees. Take a sumo deadlift grip (shoulder width) and stance (greater than shoulder width). Forcefully squeeze the glutes and extend the hips. Hold at the top for one to five seconds to increase intensity. If your grip gives out before your glutes then use straps; this is a glute and not a grip exercise.
Advanced Glute Specialization Workout
- Weighted Walking Lunges – 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps per leg
Perform the exercise as outlined in the weighted forward lunge found in the intermediate glute specialization workout but instead of return the active foot to the starting position push through the toes of the stationary foot so that it becomes active and moves up and in-line with the active foot.
You can alternate legs for each rep or perform all repetitions for one leg before switching. If you have knee issues then perform stationary reverse lunges.
- Weighted Barbell Hip Thrusts – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Sit down on the ground so that your shoulder blades are resting on the center of the side of flat bench, your glutes are touching the ground, your knees are bent, feet are shoulder width apart and flat on the ground. Roll the barbell so that it’s above your hips.
Place a squat pad, yoga mat, or foam exercise pad in between the weight and your hips to minimize discomfort. While keeping your upper back in-contact with the pad and feet flat on the floor, engage your glutes, push through your heels, and extend your hips.
Continue extending your hips until they’re in-line with your knees and upper body. Hold at the top for one to five seconds to increase intensity. Slowly lower the barbell and repeat. For the ultimate glute burn hold the last rep of each set as long as possible.
- Bulgarian Split Squats – 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
These may be completed with a barbell, dumbbell, or weighted vest. Place one foot face-down on a flat bench or medium height box and one foot on the ground in front of your torso.
While maintaining an upright torso flex the hips, and lower the thigh of the grounded foot until it’s almost or is parallel with the ground. Hold in the bottom position for one to five seconds. Initiate the return by squeezing the glutes and pushing through the heel of the grounded foot so that your hips are fully extended.
- Unilateral Leg Press – 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps with each leg
Load a leg press machine so that the weight distribution is even on both sides. Sit down so that that glutes are in contact with the lowering support and torso is in-contact with the upper body support. Keep one knee bent with the foot flat on the floor. Place the other foot in the center of the leg press sled; this is your active leg. Initiate the movement by squeezing the glutes and pressing through the heel of your active leg.
Continue pressing until the leg is completely straight but not hyperextended. Return to the starting position by allowing the knee and hips to flex. It’s advised to perform all repetitions for one leg before switching. Ensure your glutes and torso remain in contact with the padded support at all times.
- Kettlebell Swings – 1 set of 50-100 reps
Perform the exercise as outlined in the intermediate glute specialization workout. Pick a conservative weight and aim to complete all reps without setting down the kettlebell. You may rest in between some of the reps and split up the rep scheme however you’d like but it’s crucial you rest as little as possible and do not set down the kettlebell.
Comment below and share your experience with these specialization workouts as well as any personal glute-building tips and tricks.
Griffing, James, et al. “Gluteus Maximus.” ExRx.net. N.p., 2016. Web.
Griffing, James, et al. “Gluteus Medius.” ExRx.net. N.p., 2016. Web.
Griffing, James, et al. “Gluteus Minimus.” ExRx.net. N.p., 2016. Web.