How To Get A Bigger Butt (Build Huge Glutes!)

July 27, 2022

MC Hammer was ahead of his time. Big butts are in fashion not only for women but also for men. No one wants a flat ass causing your pants to slip down. Lifting weights is your ticket to building giant glutes and sculpting the butt of your dreams.

But many factors influence glute activation, such as load, speed, and stability [5]. This is often why some studies show an exercise to be the "best" for glute activation, but others won't. However, through many years of coaching and lifting experience, it can be relatively easy to figure out which exercises torch your butt muscles.

Many people struggle at first to work their glutes. But if you focus intensely on squeezing your butt when targeting your glutes, you'll build huge glutes in no time. But first, it's essential to understand basic glute anatomy, so we know which movements target the butt muscles.

Glute Anatomy

There are three main glute muscles:

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Gluteus medius
  • Gluteus minimus
How To Get Big Glutes

The gluteus medius and minimus are smaller glute muscles that abduct the hip (think of 80s Jane Fonda lying lateral leg raise) and medially rotates the leg (turn the leg inward). The gluteus maximus is the large, powerful muscle of the butt that extends the leg and assists in lateral rotation (turning the leg outward).

However, the gluteus maximus is only used when the force requirements are high enough. This is vitally important and lays the foundation for building a big butt.

5 Powerful Tips To Get Big Glutes

As the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle of the butt, it logically makes sense to target this muscle for glute development. Don't worry; the smaller glute muscles will support the gluteus maximus during many exercises listed later in this article.

Lift Heavy

Forget the booty band workouts you see on Instagram. If you want to build a bigger butt that doesn't involve ridiculous cosmetic surgeries (yes, you're being lied to on Instagram), you must perform heavy compound exercises.

Remember how I mentioned the gluteus maximus only kicks in when the force requirements are high enough? Turns out, the contributions from the glutes when squatting, lunging, or deadlifting increase as the load increases [1].

Meaning that the heavier the load, the more the glutes are used. For example, the hips provide 33% greater contribution to the squat at 90% vs. 50% 1RM with no increase in knee extensor contribution (quads) [2].

The lunge is similar with a 22.8% greater hip contribution at 50% additional bodyweight load vs. 12.5% load [3]. The deadlift follows the same suit with a 33% increase in hip contribution at 80% vs. 10% 1RM [4].

Heavy loads are needed to elicit large forces from the gluteus maximus to stimulate muscle growth.

Forget Glute Activation Exercises

How To Get Bigger Glutes

When a training program is preceded with glute activation exercises like mini band walks, glute bridges, and hip airplanes, no significant difference was found in peak force or muscle activation compared to the group that didn’t perform these exercises [6].

So, you don’t need to spend 20 minutes “activating your glutes” before stepping under the bar.

Squat Deep

Unfortunately, research is inconsistent in the area of squat depth and glute activation. However, long-term studies suggest deeper squats induce the most significant gains in muscular hypertrophy due to greater mechanical tension and longer muscle lengths [5].

Typically, the low bar squat is preferred for glute development due to the forward lean of the torso placing greater stress on the hips [7]. A recent study adds to the body of evidence finding that the low bar wide stance back squat elicits the most significant hip contributions during the squat [8].

However, a study with bodybuilders found the front squat to show the greatest gluteus maximus activation [9]. The moral of the story is to squat, but squat deep.

Focus On Hip Extension

The gluteus maximus is the primary muscle involved with hip extension [5]. Therefore, your primary glute training must consist of targeted hip extension exercises. Romanian deadlifts, back extensions, and kettlebell swings are some exercises I've listed in the next section.

Progress Volume

Volume with effort is the key to driving muscular growth [10]. Meaning, that the more sets you perform near or to failure, to a certain extent, the more muscle you'll build. Starting at 7 sets up to 25+ per week for the glutes is the range to use [11].

Eat More

You must support training with nutrition. To grow a bigger butt, you must eat in a caloric surplus. Meaning you're eating more calories from food and drink than you're burning each day. An easy way to calculate this is to take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply by 16-17. This will give you an estimated caloric range to gain mass and build muscle.

14 Best Exercises To Get A Bigger Butt

In no particular order, here are the best exercises to get massive glutes based on research and my own experience.

Squat

While the squat is a powerful quad builder, it also torches the glutes. The low bar back squat is typically considered the best for building glutes because of the greater forward lean. However, your glutes will grow as long as you're squatting heavy and deep.

Use whichever variations feel most comfortable to you. I prefer the front squat and high bar back squat but if you have a Powerlifting bias, choose the low bar back squat. Here’s how to squat:

  • Unrack the bar on your upper traps or rear delts depending if you are high or low bar squatting.
  • Stand with your feet slightly outside shoulder width and pointing out.
  • Break at the knees and hips simultaneously while pushing the knees out. Once you're in the bottom position with your bum touching your calves, drive through your entire foot back to the top position.

Romanian Deadlifts

The Romanian deadlift is a key hip extension exercise. You can load it heavy and place the glutes under huge stress to extend the hip. To target the gluteus maximus, use a stance slightly wider than shoulder width to maximize muscle activation [12].

Anecdotally, you can bend your legs more than you would when targeting the hamstrings. This will allow you to get more hip flexion and a greater range of motion of the glutes leading to a better muscle-building response and will remove the limitations from the hamstrings. Here’s how to do it:

  • Assuming you've picked your weight up, stand tall with your knees slightly bent and chest out. Activate your lats to keep the bar close by thinking about having oranges under your armpits.
  • To initiate the movement, arch your lower back like you're going to twerk and push your hips backward. Your bodyweight should be through your heels. You can either pack your chin and look down, so you have a straight line for your spine, or you can have your head and eyes facing forward. Either is fine, and go with what feels best.
  • The bar should travel down your legs as you push your hips back. You shouldn't have any space between the bar and your legs. That's how close it needs to be. Your knees should be at precisely the same angle as at the beginning.
  • The most crucial point many lifters get wrong is when to stop the descent. As soon as your hips STOP MOVING BACKWARD, that is the end of the descent. You will find this is either just above or below your knee cap. If done correctly, you won't have the bar by your shin, which will mean your lower back is taking the rest of the load, not your hamstrings.
  • Thrust your hips forward to get back to the starting position. Rinse and repeat.

Good Morning

The good morning is the Romanian deadlift, but you support the bar on your traps instead of holding a barbell. This limits the external load you can lift but places tremendous stress on the hip extensors (i.e., glutes) as the bar is further away from the pivot point of your hips.

While not directly measured, it is highly likely glute activation increases with load during the good morning due to similar findings in the deadlift and the increasing hamstring activation with load [14]. Here’s how to do it to target the glutes:

  • Un-rack the bar like you are going to back squat. Either with the bar on your traps or in a low bar position. Bend your knees slightly with your bodyweight through your heels.
  • Keep your knees in the same position while pushing your hips back and maintaining a big chest. Your eyes and head will have to look forward. You cannot pack your chin and look down while you good morning.
  • Thrust your hips forward to return to the starting position.

Step Up

Could the step up be the ultimate glute exercise? Scientific research mixed with elite-level anecdotal evidence may suggest it is. A systematic review compiling all of the relevant glute muscle activation research found the step-up light up the glutes the most [5].

Unfortunately, only one study has investigated the step-up in this regard. However, legendary throws coach from the Soviet Union Anatoly Bondarchuk replaced the squat with the step-up as, based on his own research, it was safer, and no athlete found themselves in a full squat position.

The ideal position for the box height allows the thigh to be parallel with the floor. Now, this is where it gets interesting. The Bulgarian Weightlifting team dropped all back squatting in favor of the step-up.

It was reported many lifters had stopped squatting and hit personal best snatch and clean & jerks. The world record holder at the time Leonid Taranenko who clean & jerked 586 pounds, only performed the step-up as his heavy leg training for four years leading up to this.

His best step-up was 396 pounds for 3 reps with each leg which is insane. What matters to you, however, is the Soviet coaches observed the lifters who used the step-up instead of the squat developed more complete muscularity than someone who not just lifted heavy weights but also sprinted and jumped.

So, if you're after giant glutes like a sprinter, use the step-up! Here’s how to do it:

  • Find a box or bench that allows your upper thigh to be parallel with the floor when your foot is placed on it.
  • Unrack the barbell and step one foot onto the box. Drive with the entire foot until your leg is straight.
  • The bar should remain over your hips, so don't lean too far forward. Slowly lower yourself, so your free foot touches the floor.
  • Once grounded, raise your front leg and place the foot back on the box so you can perform all reps on one leg.

Single Leg Deadlift

The single-leg deadlift nails both the glute maximus and medius as you need to stabilize on one leg. Compared to the traditional deadlift, the single-leg deadlift elicits greater concentric glute medius muscle activation and eccentric gluteus maximus and medius activation [13].

It was speculated that the torso being close to parallel with the floor might place greater stress on the hip than the deadlift. Here’s how to do it:

  • Set your foot near the middle of the barbell and perform a single-leg Romanian deadlift to reach the bar.
  • Once gripped, maintain the same knee position and straight back as you use your hamstrings and glutes to bring the bar to the top position.

Staggered Stance Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift

I love this exercise. In my experience, it's the single-leg deadlift on steroids. Because your non-working leg is still on the ground, you can lift heavier loads while isolating the front leg. Your glutes will thank you after performing this exercise.

Or you’ll have crazy delayed onset muscle soreness making sitting at your desk a painful experience. But it’s all worth it for a bigger butt! Here’s how to do it:

  • From the top, stagger your feet, so one is in front of the other but set at shoulder width apart.
  • Maintain a slight knee bend in the front leg and a considerable knee bend in the back leg. Push your hips back and maintain the front leg knee position.
  • Once you feel an intense stretch in your hamstring, thrust your hip forward by squeezing your glutes.

Back Extension

In my experience, you must perform the back extension a certain way to get the most from the glutes. That is, pushing your hips through the pad instead of raising your shoulders. You'll feel a massive difference with your glutes burning compared to raising the shoulders.

Compared to the reverse hyper, we see 23% greater gluteus maximus activation [15]. However, the severe limitation of this study was the same load being used for both exercises. The reverse hyper is typically loaded much heavier than the back extension, potentially leading to greater glute muscle activation since the load is vital for force contribution from the glutes.

Here’s how to do the back extension to target the glutes:

  • Squeeze your glutes as you thrust your hips through the pad. At the top, continue squeezing.
  • Slowly lower yourself to the bottom position.

Reverse Hyper

As mentioned, the reverse hyper is typically loaded heavier than the back extension. One study loaded the reverse hyper to match the subject's upper body weight when performing the back extension with no load [16].

They found peak muscle activation of the glutes was more significant than the back extension, concluding that the reverse hyper is more intense than the back extension when using similar loads. This doesn't mean you ditch the back extension for the reverse hyper.

I prefer the back extension for glutes as I feel it better than the reverse hyper. Further, you must take into account how the reverse hyper is performed. Here’s how to do it for glutes:

  • Squeeze your glutes to initiate the movement. Don’t go so far that you need to hyperextend your lower back. Just far enough to squeeze the glutes hard at the top.
  • Control the weight down.

Hyper Deads

Want to increase the intensity of the back extension? The hyper dead is my all-time favorite back extension variation for the entire posterior chain. However, you specifically need a 45° back extension.

The hyper dead will pack slabs of muscle on your backside. Here’s how to do it:

  • Set a barbell and use a snatch grip to increase the range of motion. Use straps, so your grip is not a limiting factor.
  • Create tightness and tension through your entire body. Squeeze your glutes and thrust your hips into the pad while maintaining a big chest.
  • Slowly lower the bar back to the floor.

Hip Thrust

No exercise list to get a bigger butt would be complete without the hip thrust. Invented and popularized by Bret Contreras, it's been used by physique and sporting athletes worldwide. Fun story, when Bret came to study for his Ph.D. in New Zealand, I caught him in the University gym on his first day.

Luckily for me, I had hip thrusts on my program, so I had the privilege of having the inventor of the exercise watch my hip thrust form. While there are proponents for and against the exercise, it's an excellent exercise for building glutes.

Its peak glute activation occurs at the start of the movement and reduces as you get to lockout [17]. This may seem counterintuitive as the lockout is often where you can squeeze the glutes hard, and fatigue feels greatest.

However, this doesn't mean it's ineffective at the end range of motion. It is still hip extensor dominant throughout the entire range of motion. In contrast, a squat has close to zero contributions from the hip extensors at the top of the exercise.

Further, the hip thrust shows greater glute activation than the American and band variations [19]. Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit on the floor with your back against a bench. Roll the barbell so it is in the crease of your hips. Use a barbell pad or mat to cushion between you and the barbell.
  • Bring your feet flat, so your shins are vertical at the top of the movement. Shift your back up the bench so your shoulder blades are against the edge.
  • Drive through your heels and squeeze your glutes at the top.

Glute Bridge

The shorter range of motion with the glute bridge allows the overload of the glutes leading to greater muscle activation than the hip thrust [18]. While no studies have investigated whether this would lead to greater butt growth, I would consider the hip thrust to still be superior in my opinion because of the greater range of motion.

However, if you don’t have a bench to prop yourself on or want some variation, the glute bridge is your next best alternative to the hip thrust. Here’s how to do it:

  • Roll the barbell over your hips and set your feet on the floor. Point your toes out for better glute activation.
  • Drive through your heels and tilt your bum forward. This will posteriorly tilt your pelvis, giving you better glute activation.
  • Squeeze at the top and slowly lower the weight to the floor.

Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings are not often lumped with glute exercises. However, a light 16 kg kettlebell elicits similar glute activation as a percentage of maximal voluntary contraction to hip thrust with 10RM load [20][21].

If I were to speculate, the rapid eccentric to concentric transition and speed of the kettlebell swing makes up for the lighter loading. Here’s how to maximize the glutes in the kettlebell swing:

  • Initiate the kettlebell swing by pushing the hips back while maintaining soft knees. Thrust the hips forward and squeeze your butt hard.
  • Your arms should remain loose, and the height of the kettlebell swing will be dictated by the power from the hips. Not from raising the kettlebell with the shoulders.
  • As the kettlebell returns, hinge at the hip to have the kettlebell pass as close to your crotch as possible.
  • Rapidly reverse the downward momentum to upward propulsion.

Sled Drag

Did you know you can optimize the sled drag to target the glutes? You can’t use any old harness. To target the glutes, you need to use a waist harness that involves the hips to a greater extent than a shoulder harness [22].

You can mix how you do these. Heavy slow drags for force generation. Or moderately loaded for sprints. Here's how to drag the sled with a waist harness:

  • Tie a waist harness around your waist and walk. The heavier the load, the better!

Flywheel 45° Back Extension

Flywheel training is becoming more popular due to its ease of use and effectiveness in making gains. It is different from traditional strength training because of its reliance on gravity and load; instead, it uses inertia.

This means you can exercise in any direction with resistance, and you don't have "dead spots" during an exercise making the muscles work through the entire range of motion. For example, the exercise gets easier during a squat as you ascend. Further, you need to decelerate the bar.

With a flywheel, you have constant resistance and a longer acceleration phase leading to greater muscle activation.

During the stiff-legged deadlift, 45° back extension, and unilateral straight knee bridge, the flywheel version showed significantly greater glute activation than the traditional weight training variations in the concentric and eccentric phases [23].

This exercise is not easy to set up, and you need the right equipment like the Exerfly. However, if you have the equipment, here’s how to do it:

  • Wear a shoulder harness with a D ring or carabiner on the chest. Attach the flywheel rope to this ring while setting up in the 45° back extension.
  • Turn the flywheel with your hands and lower yourself to the starting position.
  • Thrust your hips through the pad to start the flywheel rotating and continue for the prescribed reps.

Best Workout For Big Glutes

Now we have a list of 13 wickedly effective exercises for giant glutes. Here's how a sample glute workout you can use to add more "junk in the trunk."

Exercise

Set/Reps

Load

A1) Hip Thrust

3 x 10

1 x 20

8 RPE

9.5 RPE

B1) Romanian Deadlift

3 x 8

8 RPE

C1) Step-Up

3 x 6-8/leg

8 RPE

D1) Back Extension

2 x 15-20

9.5 RPE

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting A Bigger Butt

How To Get Big Glutes Fast

How Do Men Build Glutes?

Men build glutes by lifting heavy weights through a full range of motion, using exercises that target the large gluteus maximus. Hip extension exercises should be the staple exercises used.

Do Women Need To Train Differently To Get A Big Butt?

Women do not need a special program to get a bigger butt. Males and females glute programs will be relatively similar minus the individual differences to work around niggles, injuries, or various training goals.

The biggest fallacy in fitness is women need to train differently from men. Social media is lying to you and limiting your glute growth with silly booty band exercises and bodyweight squats. This will not get you the butt you want.

Follow the advice in this article, and you'll see rapid gains in butt muscle growth.

Do Squats Make Your Butt Bigger?

Squats make your butt bigger; hence, they made the list of best glute exercises. Squatting deep and heavy is what will get you there. Not bodyweight squats with booty bands.

Will Glute Exercises Make Your Butt Smaller?

If you hold a lot of body fat around the glutes and you strength train while eating in a caloric deficit, your butt may become smaller. But it will become better shaped as the muscle will show through instead of the fat.

Summary

Building large glutes and sculpting butt muscles involve lifting heavy weights with hip extension exercises. The gluteus maximus is the prime mover during hip extension and increases its contribution to movement as the load increases.

Ditch the bodyweight squats, cable kickbacks, and booty bands and start shifting heavy tin!

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References

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4. Swinton, P. A., Stewart, A., Agouris, I., Keogh, J. W., & Lloyd, R. (2011). A biomechanical analysis of straight and hexagonal barbell deadlifts using submaximal loads. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 2000-2009.

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8. Larsen, S., Kristiansen, E., Helms, E., & van den Tillaar, R. (2021). Effects of stance width and barbell placement on kinematics, kinetics, and myoelectric activity in back squats. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 239.

9. Coratella, G., Tornatore, G., Caccavale, F., Longo, S., Esposito, F., & Cè, E. (2021). The activation of gluteal, thigh, and lower back muscles in different squat variations performed by competitive bodybuilders: implications for resistance training. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(2), 772.

10. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences, 35(11), 1073-1082.

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12. Koderi, K. L., Tan, K., Azzfar, M. S., Abd Malek, N. F., Mohamad, N. I., & Nadzalan, A. M. (2020, April). The effects of stance width on muscle activation and performance during Romanian deadlift exercise. In Journal of Physics: Conference Series (Vol. 1529, No. 2, p. 022026). IOP Publishing.

13. Diamant, W., Geisler, S., Havers, T., & Knicker, A. (2021). Comparison of EMG Activity between Single-Leg Deadlift and Conventional Bilateral Deadlift in Trained Amateur Athletes-An Empirical Analysis. International journal of exercise science, 14(1), 187.

14. Vigotsky, A. D., Harper, E. N., Ryan, D. R., & Contreras, B. (2015). Effects of load on good morning kinematics and EMG activity. PeerJ, 3, e708.

15. Lawrence, M. A., Chin, A., & Swanson, B. T. (2019). Biomechanical Comparison of the Reverse Hyperextension Machine and the Hyperextension Exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 33(8), 2053-2056.

16. Cuthbert, M., Ripley, N. J., Suchomel, T. J., Alejo, R., McMahon, J. J., & Comfort, P. (2021). Electromyographical differences between the hyperextension and reverse-hyperextension. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 35(6), 1477-1483.

17. Brazil, A., Needham, L., Palmer, J. L., & Bezodis, I. N. (2021). A comprehensive biomechanical analysis of the barbell hip thrust. PloS one, 16(3), e0249307.

18. Kennedy, D., Casebolt, J. B., Farren, G. L., Fiaud, V., Bartlett, M., & Strong, L. (2022). Electromyographic differences of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, biceps femoris, and vastus lateralis between the barbell hip thrust and barbell glute bridge. Sports Biomechanics, 1-15.

19. Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., Schoenfeld, B. J., Beardsley, C., & Cronin, J. (2016). A comparison of gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, and vastus lateralis electromyography amplitude for the barbell, band, and American hip thrust variations. Journal of applied biomechanics, 32(3), 254-260.

20. Van Gelder, L. H., Hoogenboom, B. J., Alonzo, B., Briggs, D., & Hatzel, B. (2015). EMG Analysis and Sagittal Plane Kinematics of the Two‐Handed and Single‐Handed Kettlebell Swing: A Descriptive Study. International journal of sports physical therapy, 10(6), 811.

21. McGill, S. M., & Marshall, L. W. (2012). Kettlebell swing, snatch, and bottoms-up carry: back and hip muscle activation, motion, and low back loads. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(1), 16-27.

22. Lawrence, M., Hartigan, E., & Tu, C. (2013). Lower limb moments differ when towing a weighted sled with different attachment points. Sports biomechanics, 12(2), 186-194.

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About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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