The best glute exercises: get a better, more powerful butt

No ifs or butts: work out your glute muscles with these exercises to strengthen, sculpt and tone

Two women squatting in a gym

Usually tucked away in a pair of jeans or joggers, your glutes can easily be overlooked when you’re putting together a workout. But if you’re aspiring to glutes that look strong and sculpted in your favourite skinny jeans, then look no further than these top exercises for glutes. Does your bum look big in this? Yes it does! (But in a good way). 

Building a more powerful behind isn't just about looking good – and both men and women like a shapely batty, so men, don't think this is only for the single ladies – having strong glutes will help with many weight-lifting exercises and cardio machines. There's also some evidence that well-worked gluteals can help alleviate back pain.

Let’s face it, we rarely look at our own behinds, and so for many of us the best glute exercises just aren’t a priority compared to working out our stomachs or arms which we see all of the time. 

Not only will adding these glute exercises give you confidence when everything is on show, but you’ll be amazed at the difference having a toned behind makes to how you look and feel in your everyday clothes.

This complete glute workout consists of two rounds, each made up of four exercises (round one focuses on squats and round two on floor exercises). We’ll do 20 reps of each exercise, or ten reps per side if we're working them separately, and repeat that set five times. 

A word of caution. Doing these exercises will make your bum look bigger, but that’s the point. They will help build the muscle to strengthen and lift your butt. 

What are glutes?

Simply put, glutes are the muscles in your butt. There are three glute muscles: the gluteus maximus, which is the biggest muscle that sits in the middle of your butt cheek; the gluteus medius, a longer, thinner muscle that sits on the outer side of your buttocks; and the smaller gluteus minimus which sits under the maximus at the bottom of each buttock. The maximus is what’s primarily responsible for the shape of your bottom. 

Glutes help with strength, balance and posture, so it’s important to maintain them with a variety of the best glute exercises that work all three muscles. 

This whole workout is designed to be done without weights, so you can do it at home just as easily as in the gym. Of course, many of these exercises can be made more difficult by adding weights – primarily kettlebells or dumbbells – thereby giving your glutes even more of a burn.

Three kettlebells lined up

Kettlebells will make the best glute exercises even tougher

Round one of the best glute exercises: squats 

Woman squatting with a barbell

Exercise: Squats (regular) 

Reps: 20

Sets: 5

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your toes pointing forwards. Now squat, bending at the knees and imagining there is a chair behind you that you are sitting down on. 

Your knees should not pass over your toes, instead you should push your bottom backwards and press your heels into the floor so that your weight is going into your heels. 

Do this 20 times before resting, and then repeat the set five times. 

If you want to make the squat more difficult then you can either hold a dumbbell in each hand to add weight to each squat. Between 2kg and 4kg would be a good weight to start with. 

Exercise: Plié squats 

Reps: 20

Sets: 5

Take a much wider stance than you did for the regular squats – wider than shoulder width apart – with your feet pointing outwards and squat. Again do 20 reps of this glute exercise, and repeat five times.

Because your feet are so much wider apart the movement is less like sitting down and leaning forward as you push your buttocks back, and more like a straight down and up movement.  Again your weight should be pushing into your heels and not forwards onto your toes. 

As with the regular squats you can make plié squats harder by adding a weight. Try squatting with a kettlebell: hold the kettlebell in front of you with both hands as you squat. If you wanted to work your arms too you could lift the kettlebell in an upright row as you squat. 

Exercise: Knee raise squats 

Reps: 20 (10 per leg) 

Sets: 5

Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, so somewhere in between how you stood for your regular and plié squats. 

Squat normally, but then as you come back up lift your right knee to hip height. Repeat this ten times and then do the same again but raising your left knee instead. Rest once you have done 20 squats and 10 raises of each knee, and then repeat the whole exercise five times. 

You may find that your stance needs to shift slightly as you figure out your balance. 

Exercise: Squat walks 

Reps: 20 

Sets: 5

Stand in the same position you did for your plié squats and then take two steps to the right and two steps back to the centre, ensuring that you maintain the squat and keep working your glutes by staying as low as you can. 

For this exercise, a rep constitutes two steps out and two steps in. Do ten reps stepping to the right and back to the centre, followed by ten reps stepping to the left and back to the centre without coming out of the squat. 

This gives you a total of 20 reps before you rest and then repeat five times.

Round two of the best glute exercises: floor exercises 

Woman exercising her glutes on a mat

For the next four of the best glute exercises you'll need a yoga mat (or just a folded hoodie or soft carpet floor will do). 

Get onto your hands and knees with your pelvis tucked under. Your back should be curved slightly upwards as if there's a piece of string between it and the ceiling, rather than down and your bum pushed up (think cat rather than cow pose). 

Now you're ready to try the best floor exercises for your glutes. 

Exercise: Sideways extensions

Reps: 10 per leg

Sets: 5 

Starting on your right side, raise your leg to the side with your knee ben: this is your starting position.

Fully extended your leg out to the side and then return it to the starting position (knee elevated and bent, not on the floor). Do ten reps with your right leg before switching to do ten legs on your left leg. Repeat five times. 

Exercise: Donkey kicks 

Reps: 10 per leg

Sets: 5 

Starting on your right side, shoot your leg straight up and down behind you. Each time your leg comes down it should not return all the way to the floor but hover just above it.

Do ten reps with your right leg before switching to do ten legs on your left leg. Repeat five times. 

Exercise: Fire hydrant 

Reps: 10 per leg

Sets: 5 

Starting with both knees on the floor, lift your right leg away from your body at your hip and then return it to touch the resting leg. The working leg should stay bent at 90 degrees so that it mirrors the position of the resting leg even when moving. 

As always, do this ten times on your right leg followed by ten times on your left leg. Repeat the set five times.

Exercise: Glute bridge 

Reps: 20

Sets: 5 

Turn onto your back and lie down with your legs bent at the knee and your feet flat on the floor. Your feet should be shoulder width apart and pointing forwards. 

Raise your hips as high as you can keeping your feet flat on the floor. Do this 20 times. On the last raise hold the position when your butt is lifted for as long as you can and squeeze your glutes for added intensity. 

You can make this harder by adding a bar weight across your hips so that you are lifting additional weight.