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March 31, 2023
Glute goals rank toward the top of many women's priority lists when it comes to seeing workout results. I know it's at the top of mine! After all, nothing complements a favorite pair of leggings more than a firm, sculpted behind. It's the ultimate accessory to any gym outfit.
But if you've been training consistently and don't feel as though your glutes have anything to show for it, it might not be your butt that's to blame. It could be that you're doing the wrong exercises.
You see, every butt exercise is different and some are actually much better for growth than others. This means that every butt exercise will build and strengthen your glutes to an extent. But, some are better at it than others, and the moves with the highest butt-building potential are the ones you want in your training program.
It's these elite glute-building exercises we're featuring here, so you can head into your next lower body workout confident you're using the most effective moves. Without further ado, let's get into the best 5 glute exercises for women.
Table of Contents:
The gluteal muscle group contains three different muscles, the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, which work in unison yet also independently. This means your routine requires a variety of moves to ensure you're targeting all three glute muscles.
Let's take a closer look at each.
The gluteus maximus is the biggest and strongest of the glutes, hence the term maximus. It sits on top of the other two glute muscles and not only plays a huge role in the shape of your behind but also acts as the primary mover in many butt exercises.
When examining biomechanics and performance, glute maximus exercises are essential for optimizing your lower body function and mitigating injury.
The gluteus medius sits under the gluteus maximus and is located on the outer region of the upper hips. Its unique role is hip abduction, which allows it to act as a critical stabilizer.
Weak hip abduction (aka, a weak gluteus medius) can lead to your hips sagging, which forces your other joints and muscles to compensate. This eventually leads to overuse injuries, making it a crucial muscle to strengthen¹. Simply put, don't forget your gluteus medius exercises!
The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the gluteal muscles, sitting underneath the gluteus medius. It often plays a supporting role for the gluteus medius.
While the glutes have secondary roles that they can perform independently of each other, together, their primary function is hip extension.
The glutes also help your body maintain an erect spine and proper posture². And strong glutes can help prevent joint issues that are prevalent in those with weak hips. I see weak hips frequently in long-distance runners.
Last, your glutes help with rotating your hips outward, as well as lifting your thighs out to the side. In real life, this occurs when you step outward to avoid a hole. In sports, the movement is more pronounced, such as when you're dribbling a soccer ball.
The last glute function is more aesthetics than anything else. There's no denying that a well-rounded butt can infinitely boost your physique and confidence. A well-built behind shows you're strong, powerful, and pretty badass.
As I discussed above, the glute's primary function is hip extension. When examining this movement, hip extension can occur in 3 ways:
Putting this information together, we can assume the highest glute activation occurs when the upper and lower bodies extend together, like when pulling the torso back in a deadlift or the legs back when running.
Now let's get right into some of the best glute exercises that women should include in their workout split. These are the moves I swear by and each has a special spot in my personal glute training program.
Barbell hip thrusts are one of the best glute exercises for a woman, if not the best. I can say this confidently for 3 reasons: One, the load is placed directly on the hip joint, which involves the upper and lower body.
Two, it's one of the heaviest lifts you can do. And three, it's actually an isolation movement, meaning this heavy load is only moved through the hip thrust (glutes). The takeaway here? Your glute workout needs the hip thrust!
How to do Barbell Hip Thrusts:
You can do the Romanian deadlift using a barbell or dumbbells, making it pretty versatile. I find that dumbbells tend to be easier, as they allow you to focus more on a mind-muscle connection.
It's an awesome exercise that's all about building tension and stress in the glutes and hamstrings, meaning optimal growth and strength gains.
How to do Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts:
Ladies, step-ups are an awesome glute builder, so great, in fact, that you can even do them without weights and you're still going to feel the burn. Step-ups take advantage of the glute's role in pulling the thigh down and backward.
In addition, as they occur on one leg, stability plays a large role in this exercise, so it's challenging your balance as well. These are easily adjustable and can be performed just about anywhere, assuming you have a step.
How to do Step-Ups:
The quadruped donkey kick is a classic exercise, but be warned: It's brutal. Any guy or gal serious about glute training has these in their workout, as they are ultra-effective at isolating the glutes.
Again, you can perform these with bodyweight only, or you can even use a Smith machine to add a load. The donkey kick is such a powerful glute-builder because it uses hyperextension to really isolate your butt muscles.
How to do the Quadruped Donkey Kick:
Lunges are an awesome exercise requiring hip flexion and extension, making them great for your glutes. This move is a stand-out exercise as it requires you to be mobile and balanced, translating to plenty of stability work for your glutes.
These will for sure get your glutes firing! For an extra burn, use some pulses during the reps, or try walking lunges instead.
How to do Lunges:
Glute training is one of the most important training days there is, especially for women. Here are 3 reasons why you'll want to make it a priority!
One of the most common reasons women love butt-lifting exercises is because there's no denying how aesthetically appealing a round, muscular behind is. But you won't get one without some glute-specific training.
I discussed earlier how glutes play a variety of roles in performance and biomechanics. Our muscles are like chains, and when one is weak or messes up, a reaction occurs that ends up with the other muscles and joints overcompensating or being directly injured.
For example, a weak gluteus medius causes hip issues in runners, on top of other muscle and joint issues caused by imbalanced butt muscles. But, this can all be prevented with some consistent glute training.
Because the glutes are the primary hip extenders, they constantly work to hold your torso upright. If you have weak glutes, you're going to have a hard time standing up straight, which is not good for your back (or any part of you for that matter).
Now that you have your exercises, here's what to do with them.
Progressive overload is the most important lifting principle there is. It simply states that in order to continually progress, you need to consistently place more stress on your muscles.
In other words, you should always be adding weight or doing more reps.
Your glutes are unique as they are essential for such a wide variety of tasks. On any given day, you might need them to help you walk a mile or jump over something high.
Because of the high demands you place on them, the glute muscles need strength training, muscle hypertrophy work, and even muscular endurance training. While anecdotal, many people claim to get awesome results with ultra-high rep schemes of 20+.
We'll go over this more below, but to optimize your glute training, you want to maximize the cycle of muscle breakdown and muscle recovery. The theory is that it takes 2-3 days for your muscles to fully recover.
I suggest following this cycle: Train, let your glutes recover 2-3 days, then hit them again. This puts you in a perpetual building/recovery cycle. Studies show that training twice a week is optimal, and three times a week may even be acceptable in certain situations³.
I will go over nutrition in more detail in a second, but remember to eat! In addition, you need rest and sleep. These are literally two of the most important aspects of training that people continually neglect. Eat your food and sleep.
That doesn't sound so bad, does it? It's two of my favorite parts of training.
Deciding when to train your glutes can get confusing, as you have a few options to pick from. I'd suggest figuring out what your true goal is and letting that guide you.
Here are your two main options to consider:
If you're looking to improve your current training and optimize your glute exercises, there's no need to add any specific glute training days. Instead, simply alter your training plans.
I recommend hitting your glutes twice a week using a variety of heavy and light compound movements, as well as glute isolation exercises. These can be done on either pulling days or lower body days (leg day).
The second option is if you really want to concentrate on your glutes for a short period of time. Perhaps you're unhappy with them, or you have stalled on progress, and want to see some gains.
In this situation, you could get away with hitting your glute muscles 3 times a week. To do this, perform one lower body pulling day that's glute specific, in addition to a lower body day that focuses on heavy compound movements and another lower body day that includes a few glute isolation exercises.
This might look like this:
If you do this, keep in mind you should only train them 3 times a week for a short period of time, around 4-6 weeks. After this time period, twice weekly is perfect.
Your glutes are the biggest and strongest muscles in the human body. As a result, they need fuel to grow. And by fuel, I obviously mean food! If your goal is glute growth, make sure your nutrition is just as aligned as your training.
The most important variable when you're growing muscles is getting into a caloric surplus. This simply means eating more calories than you burn, resulting in the need to store your excess calories. Unfortunately, the way this is stored is through fat. However, that's only if you eat too many calories.
Therefore, you only want to get into a slight caloric surplus. The ideal range is a 300-500 caloric surplus. This is enough calories to support building muscle, without causing you to gain excess fat.
I'd suggest starting with 300 additional calories, monitoring, and tweaking as you go.
Protein, which is made of a string of amino acids, is the primary nutrient involved in muscle building. Once eaten, your digestive system breaks down these amino acids, which perform an array of jobs. One of their jobs is initiating muscle protein synthesis, which is key for muscle recovery and growth.
In order to supply enough amino acids for your glute muscles, you should aim to eat at least 1.6g per kg of body weight, but ideally, >2.0g per kg of body weight is best. Split this evenly across 4-5 meals throughout the day.
Keep fat simple. After you have your total calories, be sure 30% of it goes toward healthy fats. And if you're worried about gaining fat, realize that eating healthy fat isn't the same as stored fat.
Fat is essential for the human body as it can help provide warmth. Further, it plays a vital role in the uptake and transport of various vitamins and minerals. Foods such as fatty fishy avocados, and nuts are all great options.
Carbs are lifters' best friends. Not only do they fuel your workouts, but they can fill your glutes with muscle glycogen. In turn, this will make your muscles fuller and larger. As if that's not reason enough, they also play a role in muscle protein synthesis, which is key for recovery.
To keep things, simple, after calculating your protein and fat needs, fill in the rest with carbs.
We just went over the best exercises and training variables to help you grow some serious glutes. Once you start strengthening your glutes, you will love seeing how it improves the performance of every other lift you do. You may notice you're able to move faster and even jump higher. Our glutes are pretty amazing.
In addition, you're going to look awesome! Use the exercises above, following the training variables I discussed, and don't forget to prioritize nutrition. After that, all that's left to do is watch those glutes grow!
Looking for an entire workout to build an athletic, toned physique? Check out our Ultimate Slim Thick Diet & Workout Plan!
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