Ever wondered “How to get a bigger butt?”, but never quite got a helpful answer? You’re in the right place.
We all want round, ‘juicy,’ ‘peachy’ butts. It’s literally hard-wired into our genes – whenever we see someone with well-developed butts, we automatically assume that they’re likely to be attractive, too!
But what if you’re not satisfied with how your butt looks right now? What if it’s flat or saggy? Can you get a sexier butt?
Thankfully, yes. Without any butt implants, too.
With the right exercise selection and smart workout programming, you can get the booty of your dreams. Here’s how.
To understand how you can train your butt, you need to know the muscles involved.
As the names suggest, the gluteus maximus is the most massive muscle of the three, followed by the gluteus medius, and the smallest gluteus minimus.
Collectively, these muscles are known as your gluteal muscles (aka glutes).
Here’s a quick run-down on the location and functions of the three muscles.
Because the maximus lies on top of most of the other butt muscles (it’s closest to your butt surface), it’s pretty much the M.V.P when it comes to creating the shape of your butt.
- Extension: Pushing of your hips forward
- Abduction: Moving of your thigh away from your body’s midline
- External rotation: Rotating of your thigh bone outwards
- Posterior pelvic tilt: ‘Tucking in’ of your butt
Located directly under the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius wraps around to the front of the hips.
Thus, a well-developed medius makes your hips appear wider, which can then make your waist look smaller by contrast.
Depending on your aesthetic goals, this may or may not be desirable to you.
The gluteus minimus lies underneath the maximus and medius. As such, it’s never visible to the naked eye – meaning it’s less of an aesthetic concern.
Admittedly, building it up will still make your butt look bigger, but unlike the maximus and medius, it won’t contribute to muscle definition at all.
The gluteus minimus contributes to hip abduction and extension, which means you’ll train it when you train the maximus and medius (7, 8). You don’t need to go out of your way to pick specific exercises to train this muscle.
- Three muscles – gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus – make up your glutes.
- The gluteus maximus is the most massive muscle and is closest to the surface of your butt. It’s able to perform a wide variety of functions.
- The gluteus medius wraps around to the side of your hips. Its primary function is hip abduction.
- The gluteus minimus is the smallest glute muscle and performs the same functions as both the maximus and medius.
Benefits of well-developed glutes (other than aesthetics)
Let’s face it. We’re all gunning for a bigger butt for aesthetic purposes.
But hey – did you know that other than helping you capture that perfect #butt selfie Instagram post, glute training can also come with health benefits?
Help shed unwanted weight
With the glutes being the largest muscle in the body and controlling a wide range of functional movements, training your glutes burns more calories than training other body parts (9).
This can, in turn, increase your calorie deficit, helping you lose weight faster.
Especially when you perform glute exercises in a progressive manner.
Reduce muscle strain
For example, when you squat, your glutes share the load with other muscles, such as your quads and hamstrings.
If your glutes aren’t pulling their weight (so to say), these other muscles have to work harder, which can increase your risk of experiencing a muscle strain (13).
Alleviate lower back pain
This means you can more evenly distribute load through the lower back and lower extremities.
In particular, strong glutes can help prevent excessive lumbar extension (hyperextension), which is associated with lower back pain.
Glute-building offers various health benefits, such as boosting weight loss efforts, preventing muscle strain, and alleviating lower back pain.
Why you shouldn’t only do squats for a bigger butt
“Just do squats,” they said. “You’ll get a big booty,” they said. But 3 months later, and you’re still struggling to spot any gains. What’s up with that?
Well, do you remember what the primary function of your glutes? It’s the hip extension (i.e. pushing of your hips forward). Think about how you squat. When you’re at the bottom of the squat, you’ll have to push your hips forward and up to return to the standing position.
This is where your glutes are most activated. Meaning that when you’re squatting, there’s ‘on-and-off’ tension on your glutes.
The 3 mechanisms for muscle growth
- Mechanical tension: Refers to loading a muscle group through a full range of motion
- Metabolic stress: Refers to the feeling you get when the muscle is burning and you have that ‘pump’ sensation; goes hand-in-hand with mechanical tension
- Muscle damage: Refers to the sore muscles you get after a particularly grueling workout; a result of tiny tears to the muscle tissue
As there are portions of the squat where the glutes don’t have any mechanical tension (e.g. when you’re descending), there are relatively low levels of tension placed on the glutes. And that means there’s little metabolic stress, too.
Don’t think that squats are entirely useless for that booty development, though.
There’s still an important mechanism for muscular growth that squats excel at. And that’s muscle damage. Just a little bit of context here: one of the main factors of muscular damage is whether the muscle is being stretched under tension (i.e. when activated) (18, 19).
Remember how the glutes are activated when you’re coming up from the bottom of the squat? That’s when your glutes are stretched.
Thus, explaining why squats cause significant muscle damage. And that post-workout soreness you’re all-too-familiar with. Nonetheless, as you can tell, squats aren’t able to elicit all 3 mechanisms of muscle growth.
That’s why you really shouldn’t only depend on squats to build that booty. You need other exercises that can provide significant metabolic tension and metabolic stress.
Squats are not optimal for developing your glutes as they don’t place constant tension on the muscle group. Other exercises are needed to complement the lift. That said, they can still be a driver for muscle growth due to muscular damage.
What are the best glute-focused exercises?
If you can’t rely solely on squats for glute growth, what exercises complement the lift, then?
Well, the general rule is that you should choose exercises that place constant tension on your glutes throughout the entire range of the movement.
Here are the 6 glute exercises that’ll keep your glutes burning throughout.
#1: Barbell hip thrust
There’s probably no better exercise for the glutes than the hip thrust – its movement mechanics allows for the best glute activation.
Because your knees stay bent throughout the entire range of motion, you’re essentially preventing your hamstrings from getting involved much.
When your knees stay bent as you extend your hips, your glutes contract more than when your knees are straight – as in a back extension or stiff-leg deadlift – or when they bend and straighten – as in a cable pull-through or squat.
Another reason why the hip thrust is so effective for building your glutes is that it causes your gluteus maximus to be in a shortened position – which is where the muscle is most activated.
To perform the hip thrust:
Barbell hip thrusts minimize hamstring activation and maximize glute activation.
#2: Frog pumps
If barbell hip thrusts are too challenging for you, or if you just can’t feel the tension in your glutes, frog pumps can be the perfect ‘starter’ exercise for you.
They’ll make you feel the fire in your glutes like never before!
That’s because of the exercise’s unique set-up. By placing your feet together and spreading your knees out, you begin in an externally rotated and abducted hip position – thus allowing for better glute activation.
Now, frog pumps can be beneficial – even for advanced female lifters, too!
They are excellent low-load activation exercises, which means they can prep your glutes for more strenuous lifts like the back squat and deadlifts.
Treat the exercise as a warm-up set; this will help optimize your lifting performance.
To perform the frog pump:
Frog pumps are excellent ‘primer’ exercises – they can help you fire up the glutes and get them to work optimally.
#3: Glute kickback
Glute kickbacks, also known as quadruped hip extensions, are one of the easiest glute-building movements you can perform. But ‘easy’ doesn’t mean ineffective.
Although you can load this exercise using a band, dumbbell, cable machine or ankle weight, the glute kickback is typically considered a bodyweight exercise.
As such, the glute kickback are typically used for the following purposes:
- Warm-up – It’s necessary to fire up your glutes before any heavy lifts; this allows for optimal performance
- Creation of mind-muscle connection – The quadruped position is great for glute activation, which means you’ll likely now know what it feels like to fully activate the glutes. You can then carry this feeling over to other glute-dominant movements.
- Muscle imbalance correction – Right glutes bigger than your left? Bring up the size (and strength) of your left glutes by focusing on the left-leg movement of this unilateral exercise!
To perform glute kickbacks:
While seemingly straightforward, the glute kickback is excellent for glute activation. As a unilateral exercise, it’s also great for addressing muscle imbalances.
#4: Side-lying hip abduction
Admittedly, the one drawback about the side-lying hip abduction exercise is that it’s difficult to load. You’ll have to use a band to create resistance.
For this reason, you’ll want to place abduction work at the end of a training session. Focus on high repetitions and burnouts, rather than heavy lifting.
To perform the side-lying hip abduction:
Side-lying hip abductions are excellent for targeting the gluteal medius (upper glute region).
#5: Cable pull-throughs
You can think of cable pull-throughs like ‘upright hip thrusts.’
This exercise works your glutes in a different plane of motion than your traditional barbell hip thrusts and is excellent for mixing things up occasionally (29).
They’re also incredibly useful on days where the gym is specially packed, and you can’t be bothered with the entire set-up of the barbell hip thrust.
That said, keep in mind that this exercise does have limitations. The bigger your stack of weights on the cable machine, the more balance it requires as you would be standing up.
And that means less glute activation.
So, they’re best performed at the beginning of your workouts – as a glute-activation exercise.
To perform the cable pull-through:
Cable pull-throughs are great for mixing things up. But with its limitation to lighter weights, it’s best used as a glute-activation exercise.
#6: Glute-focused rounded back extensions
When you hear ‘back extensions,’ you’re likely to think: ‘Hey, that’s supposed to work my back – not my glutes, right?’
Well, you’re right! The focus of traditional back extensions is on hyperextending the lower back at the top of each rep; doing so primarily strengthens the spinal erectors.
What you may not know, however, is that you can tweak the exercise such that you’re now (solely) targeting the glutes instead!
By rounding your back and maximizing movement at the hip (hip extension), you’re now shifting all the tension from your lower back to your glutes!
You’ve probably heard that rounding your back is dangerous. Wel, yes, when it comes to compound exercises like the squat and the deadlift.
But not here – back rounding is something we want in this exercise.
To perform the glute-focused rounded back extensions:
You can shift the load to your glutes by rounding your back during the traditional back extensions exercise.
How often should you train your glutes?
Now that you know the best glute-building exercises available, you must be anxious to start training.
But you must be wondering: how many times a week should you train glutes for the best booty gains?
To find out, let’s take a look at a recent 2016 meta-analysis (30). The paper collected 10 different studies and compared between two training conditions:
- Training each muscle once per week
- Training each muscle with higher frequencies of 2 or 3 times a week
The result? It turns out that every study showed a benefit to training with higher frequencies.
More specifically, training each muscle 2 or 3 times a week resulted in 3.1% greater muscle growth than just training each muscle once a week.
Now, does that then mean that more is always better?
See, if you were to train each muscle too frequently, you’d be disrupting the natural ‘recovery’ phase.
This phase is where your body is repairing and rebuilding your muscle tissues – which would then result in bigger, stronger muscles over time.
This is supported by a recent 2017 paper, which found that training 2 times a week led to better muscle growth in comparison to training 4 times a week (31).
Therefore, it would be smart for you to train your glutes twice a week – or thrice, at most.
Training a muscle group 2-3 times a week is better than training it one time a week. However, the benefits seem to disappear past 4 times a week. As such, training glutes 2-3 times a week is optimal.
Workout plan for science-based glute-building
So, how can you apply what you’ve learned from this article to plan your very own glute workout?
Don’t worry – we’ve done the work for you.
If you’re training twice a week
If you’re training thrice a week
And that’s it, really. That’s all the basics you need to know to get bigger glutes.
Of course, you want to make sure you’re progressively overloading. That means you’re adding more weights to every exercise you’re doing over time, as you get stronger.
Follow this plan, and you might need to throw out your current jeans in just a few months. It’s time to experience the booty gains!