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 . 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.
Table of Contents
- Glute Anatomy
- 5 Powerful Tips To Get Big Glutes
- 14 Best Exercises To Get A Bigger Butt
- Staggered Stance Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift
- Best Workout For Big Glutes
- Frequently Asked Questions About Getting A Bigger Butt
There are three main glute muscles:
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.
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 .
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) .
The lunge is similar with a 22.8% greater hip contribution at 50% additional bodyweight load vs. 12.5% load . The deadlift follows the same suit with a 33% increase in hip contribution at 80% vs. 10% 1RM .
Heavy loads are needed to elicit large forces from the gluteus maximus to stimulate muscle growth.
Forget Glute Activation Exercises
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 .
So, you don’t need to spend 20 minutes “activating your glutes” before stepping under the bar.
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 .
Typically, the low bar squat is preferred for glute development due to the forward lean of the torso placing greater stress on the hips . 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 .
However, a study with bodybuilders found the front squat to show the greatest gluteus maximus activation . 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 . 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.
Volume with effort is the key to driving muscular growth . 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 .
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.
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:
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 .
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:
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 . Here’s how to do it to target the glutes:
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 .
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:
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 .
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:
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:
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 . 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:
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 .
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:
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:
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 . 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 . Here’s how to do it:
The shorter range of motion with the glute bridge allows the overload of the glutes leading to greater muscle activation than the hip thrust . 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:
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 .
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:
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 .
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:
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 .
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:
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."
A1) Hip Thrust
3 x 10
1 x 20
B1) Romanian Deadlift
3 x 8
3 x 6-8/leg
D1) Back Extension
2 x 15-20
Frequently Asked Questions About Getting A Bigger Butt
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.
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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