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January 18, 2022
Booty, booty, booty rocking everywhere is going to be your new theme song when you walk into a room after mastering these best glute isolation exercises. If you're looking to build a strong, firm backside, look no further. In this post, we cover everything about glutes, including; the anatomy and function, benefits of training them, plus 11 of the best glute isolation exercises. Finally, we leave you with two glute isolation workouts that can be done at your home or the gym.
Table of Contents:
The glutes, gluteal muscles, buttocks or butt consist of three main muscles; the gluteus maximus, gluteus, medius and gluteus minimus.
Let's have a look at these three different glute muscles:
The gluteus maximus creates a round shape to the butt. It is the biggest muscle in the human body and one of the strongest as well. It starts at the pelvic bone and runs down to the femur. Aside from giving you the shape of your backside, the gluteus maximus is responsible for many vital functions of the human body. Overall, the gluteus maximus helps with stability, balance, and transference of explosive power from the lower body to the upper body.
The primary functions of the gluteus Maximus are:
The gluteus medius is a thick muscle found on the upper outer side of the buttocks, 2/3 of it is covered by the gluteus maximus. It begins at the ilium (hip bone) the travels down the hip. The gluteus medius has three separate portions determined by the layout of the muscle fibers; all the muscle fibers come together towards the bottom in a tendon that inserts into the femur. The primary function of the gluteus medius is to control and stabilize the hips through the exertion of force on the femur.
Here are the main functions of the gluteus medius:
As the name suggests, the gluteus minimus is the smallest gluteal muscles. It's a deep muscle under the other gluteal muscles and tensor fascia latae that starts at the ilium (hip bone) and travels to the femur. The gluteus minimus is similar to the gluteus medius in structure and function. The primary functions of the gluteus minimus are hip abduction and stabilization. It also helps with the movement of the thighs in concert with the gluteus medius.
Here's a look at the main functions of the gluteus minimus:
The benefits of building strong glutes can't be understated; glute isolation exercises target the gluteal muscles while reducing the engagement of other large muscles such as the quads or hamstrings. In workouts featuring our best buttocks lift exercises, you'll notice several isolation moves as they're crucial to targeting and growing your backside.
Here's a look at a few benefits of glute isolation exercises:
You can target the glutes with precision, but it's not possible to isolate them completely. By performing exercises that highlight the gluteal muscles without placing too much tension on the legs or other lower body muscles, you can place the training bias on your glutes to stimulate muscle growth and strength gain. That said, you'll want to avoid doing regular squats and the variations. Also, hold off of single-leg squat exercises for ow including split squats, Bulgarian squats, etc. In addition, you'll want to stay away from bodybuilding exercises such as leg presses, Hack squats, deadlifts, leg curls and extensions, and the like. Lastly, don't focus on hip adduction exercises. All these exercises are fantastic, and while they might hit the glutes, they also target multiple other muscles.
Now you might be thinking, "if I shouldn't do all those exercises to isolate the glutes, what should I do?". Let's start with hip thrusts, they are one of the best exercises you can do to target the gluteus maximus, but they also work the quads and hip adductors. We listed hip thrust in the best glute isolation exercise list below, but for some people, this exercise may work the quads a bit more depending on body mechanics, setup, and execution. The best exercises that isolate the glutes are glute bridges and variations plus multiple hip abduction exercises.
Check out the list of the best glute isolation exercises below.
To select the best glute isolation exercises, we looked to the preeminent voice on the glutes, Bret Contreras, AKA "The Gute Guy." If there's one person that knows how to best isolate and train the glutes without working other muscles in the same proximity, then it's him. He's done countless studies using EMG to figure out which exercises work and activate the glutes the most.
The majority of the best glute isolation exercises can be done at home with minimal equipment, such as resistance bands or booty bands, so there's no excuse why you can't add these exercises to your standard training regimen.
Hip thrusts are a great exercise to activate the gluteus maximus. This hip extension exercise allows you to lift heavy loads without putting too much pressure on the lower back. Instead, the weight is loaded horizontally; with that, you'll be able to stimulate new muscle growth while increasing the strength and power of the glutes. Rotate your feet outwards slightly to maximize glute activation.
How To Do Pause Barbell Hip Thrusts:
Note: Try to play with your foot placement until you feel the glutes working the most. You might have to move your feet either closer or further away from your butt.
Related: Best Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives
The barbell glute bridge is similar to the barbell hip thrust apart from the body positioning. In a hip thrust, your upper back is elevated, whereas the glute bridge your upper back will be on the ground. This change in body position reduces the engagement of the quads. Therefore, the glute bridge will work the glutes directly while the hamstrings play a supporting role.
How To Barbell Glute Bridges:
Note: You may need to reset feet until you find a placement that emphasizes the glutes while reducing the use of the hamstrings to lift the weight. You can also do this exercise by elevating your feet on a platform to increase the range of motion.
The seated hip abduction machine can effectively help you hit the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. If your gym doesn't have this machine, you can use resistance bands looped around the outside of your legs to provide added tension. Seated hip abductions help to strengthen the glutes, thus improving stability and mobility at the hips. This movement can also help to reduce knee valgus, a condition where the knees are skewed inwards.
How To Do Seated Banded Hip Abduction:
Note: Lean forward to hit more of the gluteus maximus or lean back to shift more tension to the gluteus medius.
We mentioned above that deadlifts aren't the best exercise to isolate the glutes, but here is the one exception. Many people might not know the American deadlift and how it differs from the Romanian deadlift or RDL. Although both exercises may look similar, there's one significant difference in execution. The American deadlift requires more pelvic movement at the top of the exercise, where your hips are driven forward with a bigger range of motion than an RDL. This slight change in movement shifts more stress to the glutes away from the hamstrings.
How To Do American Deadlifts:
The kickback can be performed with a cable machine or resistance bands. The glute kickback hits all three gluteal muscles. An added benefit of performing glute kickbacks is that it's a unilateral exercise where you're focusing on one side at a time. This allows you to devote more concentration to establishing the mind-muscle connection. Plus, standing on one leg will activate your gluteus minimus and gluteus medius more to keep your hips level.
How To Do Kickbacks with Cable Machine:
Note: This exercise can be performed with resistance bands as well by anchoring the band to something sturdy that won’t budge.
Back extensions are great for strengthening the lower back and spinal erectors, but they're also good for hitting the glutes if you make a minor adjustment. By flaring your feet outwards, you'll transfer more stress onto the glutes so that they're activated more as you lift your body. Back extensions train the posterior chain without added pressure on the spine. Try starting with no resistance as you focus on using the glutes to perform the movement. You can add resistance as you progress with either weights or bands.
How To Do Glute Focused Back Extensions:
Note: Make sure you keep your feet flared out!
This exercise is sometimes referred to as the glute pull through for a good reason; it hits those glutes hard if done correctly. The cable pull-through can also be done with resistance bands making it an excellent glute isolation exercise for the gym or at home. In this movement, you will work the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and core. This hip hinge exercise will let you add continuous tension on the glutes while you can finish off the movement with a long isometric hold to activate those muscle fibers and stimulate growth.
How To Do Cable Pull Throughs:
This is an excellent exercise to work the glutes. Reverse frog hyperextensions are perfect for activating the glutes while improving lower back strength. Removing the vertical load on the spine during this hyperextension exercise allows similar movements to deadlifts without the added tension, making it a safe and effective exercise to hit the glutes and lower back. Many powerlifters and athletes will use exercises like this to improve their strength and overall explosiveness.
How To Do Reverse Frog Hyperextensions:
Note: You can use a resistance band looped just above your knees if you want to make the exercise harder while working your gluteus minimus and gluteus medius.
Related: Reverse Hyperextension Exercise Guide & Variations
This is a fantastic exercise to work the glutes that can be done with just your bodyweight or with the added resistance using bands. Lateral walks increase the time under tension on your glutes as you'll perform this exercise in a partial squat the whole time. Hit the side glutes and add some definition while toning up the muscles as you work out at home or the gym.
How To Do Banded Lateral Walks:
Clamshells and fire hydrants are two excellent glute isolation exercises that can be done with bodyweight or with added resistance. We recommend adding a band to these exercises to work the muscles more to build strength and muscle. We grouped these exercises together as they focus on external hip rotation and are great for isolating the glutes. The main difference in these exercises is body positioning. Clamshells are done lying down while fire hydrants require a bit more stability in the core, arms in shoulders to brace you in position.
How to do Side Lying Clamshells:
How To Do Banded Fire Hydrants:
To effectively use the best glute isolation exercises, you'll need to follow a few key points to maximize your chances of achieving your goals.
Here's a look at the variables involved in programming the best glute isolation exercises:
Training Frequency: You should perform these glute isolation exercises 2-3 times a week for optimal results. Ensure you have adequate of at least 24 hours between your training sessions. If you want to build muscle and strength, you should shoot for 10-20 sets per week while using added resistance. However, if you wish to tighten and tone your glutes, you can use a higher volume of more sets and reps throughout the week without adding too much extra resistance.
Rep Ranges: Ideally, you'll use a mixture of rep ranges because the glute muscles have a mixture of both type I and type II muscle fibers. Here's a look at some rough guidelines for rep range used and desired outcome:
Progressive Overload: Assuming you want to build muscle and increase strength, you'll have to employ the method of progressive overload. With this, over time, you'll need to increase the amount of weight you're lifting, the number of reps you're doing, or a combination of both to get stronger.
Mind-Muscle Connection: You're reading this post because you want to isolate and train the glutes. This means you need to give the utmost attention to establishing the mind-muscle connection while performing the exercises. Start with a light enough weight to entirely focus on contracting the glutes to execute the movement then work your way up by adding resistance over time.
Perform this glute isolation workout 2-3 times a week at the gym for best results. Remember to focus on squeezing the glutes in each rep of each set.
Rest time between sets is 45-90 seconds:
You can perform this glute isolation workout at home 2-3 times a week by performing these exercises with your bodyweight or using resistance bands.
Rest between sets is 45-90 seconds.
Now you know 11 of the best glute isolation exercises, how the muscles function, and why you should focus on training them. Remember that you'll need to train hard with consistency, plus eat a healthy diet with enough protein to get those glutes you've always wanted.
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June 02, 2023
June 02, 2023
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