8 Butt-Building Glute Exercises For Impressive Strength (& Shape Too!)
October 01, 2023
Glute exercises are incredibly popular these days. Is it because people are trying to achieve a certain physique? Or is it because the glutes are a highly functional muscle group?
Well, as it turns out, both can be true! With an influx of Instagram and TikTok workouts promising to build the perfect peach, it’s important to remember that the only way to build muscle is to add load and increase protein intake.
So, if you want functional glute exercises that will help you generate more power and grow your peach in the process, then continue reading (with a protein shake in hand).
Table of Contents
- What are 'glutes' and how do they work?
- Front rack or front squats
- Hip abductions
- Split squats
- Kickstand deadlifts
- Romanian deadlifts (RDLs)
- Table top donkey kicks
- Straight leg raises
- Rainbow leg raises
What are 'glutes' and how do they work?
The term “glutes” refers to your three gluteal muscles, which together make up the largest and strongest muscle group in the human body:
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus
The gluteus maximums is the largest of these three muscles, and aside from being responsible for providing you with stability and strength, it is also tasked with extending the hip joint.
You can thank this muscle in particular when straightening the leg and pushing the body forward with each step!
Did you know the gluteus maximums is also responsible for stabilizing the pelvis, and rotating the hip joint too? How useful!
Onto the gluteus medius and minimus–these two are smaller, albeit just as important, butt muscles that are located deep within and below the gluteus maximus. Together, they abduct the hip joint (move the leg away from the midline of the body).
These two glute muscles are also involved in the stabilization of the pelvis, and prevent hip adduction too!
In fact, you can thank your glutes for a variety of movements that may go unnoticed in everyday life including:
- Lifting objects
- Climbing stairs
- ...and more!
While glute workouts isolate and target only one of these muscles, others, known as "compound exercises", may target all three of your glute muscles at different points in the range of motion.
Take the squat for example: Squats are incredibly efficient and functional glute exercises!
Generally speaking, all squats are compound exercises that engage the glutes, the quadriceps, and the hamstrings too. When performed properly, they work your lats and abdominals as well!
Some squat variations target the glutes more than others (the sumo squat is a good example of this) while other types of squats target the quads more heavily (ie. the narrow squat).
So, if you're looking to improve on the shape, strength and size of your trunk, be sure to mix it up!
Below are a few advanced glute exercises that are great for year-round performance.
Don’t be afraid to bump up the weight when performing these exercises!
Front racks or Front squats
The front rack, also known as the front squat, can be performed on your ARENA with a single handle or with a straight bar.
The phrase 'front rack' speaks more specifically to the position of the rack, which, if performed with a full squat rack, would typically be settled just above the biceps. Your elbows would generally point out in front of you.
This front rack positioning provides much more balance to dip straight down while keeping your back straight, whereas a back squat generally requires a slightly forward lean!
How you position your feet determines the primary active muscle. Typically a person favors one position over another due to their anatomy (ie. tight calves might cause someone to prefer a wider stance).
However you choose to stand, remember that the attachment should remain over the midline of your foot.
Stay upright and imagine dropping your glutes straight down to the platform as opposed to leaning forward.
Hip abduction exercises are most often performed laying down if performed without weight, or are performed with load using an obscure machine at the gym.
Of course, we'll demonstrate how they can be performed using our own digital weight machine, the ARENA platform, which enables progressive strength training at home.
The ARENA offers the widest variety of weighted glute exercises of any home gym machine on the market!
Hip abductions target your gluteus medius (also known as your 'abductor') more than the other gluteus muscles. 'Abduction', as it is referred to anatomically, denotes the motion of limbs or appendages away from the body.
To perform the hip abduction correctly, attach the ankle strap to one of your ankles, then stand on your other foot on top of the platform next to cable port. Please be sure that the D-ring attachment of the ankle strap is pointing to the outside of the ankle of the foot to which it is attached.
With a slight bend in the knees and your right foot flexed, sweep your leg across the front of your body.
For added support, you can place your ARENA against a wall or a chair that you can hold onto!
Don’t forget to switch sides to ensure an even workout!
Split squats can be performed with either your front foot elevated with the ARENA in front of you, or with your rear foot elevated with the ARENA behind you!
Both variations of this glute exercise engage your hips and quads, but the rear foot elevated split squat requires more hip mobility and stabilization. We've demonstrated the former variation of this glute burner above.
If your goal is to work your glutes, either of these will work.
Spend time with each variation and see what works best for you!
Practicing unilateral glute exercise is so important, especially when it comes to the lower extremities. The kickstand deadlift will be your best friend in training and toning specific muscles within this all-important region of the body.
To be able to function properly when we walk or run, we should prioritize balance between the left and right sides of the body. This exercise is a great way to gauge that balance.
To perform a kickstand deadlift, one should align their back toe at or behind their front heel with their feet stationed about hip-width apart.
From there, hinge downwards from the hip while keeping a soft bend in the knee of the hind leg, using only that leg to help stabilize.
Next, with the attachment close to the shin, slowly lower it down to the platform.
The front knee should bend slightly as it's lowered, and straightened as it's extended!
For an added challenge, you can try lifting the back foot off of the platform for a single leg deadlift.
Don’t forget to switch sides!
Romanian deadlifts (RDLs)
The Romanian deadlift, or 'RDL' as it's commonly known, is different from the traditional deadlift for a variety of reasons. Here we’ll focus on two of them.
Firstly, the RDL "begins" in a standing position, is followed by the hinged motion that lowers the bar, and then is returned to its home position in your upright stance.
The traditional deadlift is performed using the opposite motion!
It begins with the straight bar at the floor, and then uses a pushing force, originating at the feet and legs "through the floor”, in an effort to hinge the bar up to your mid quad. This traditional deadlift repetition finishes with the bar back in its home position on the floor.
The other primary difference between the traditional deadlift and the RDL is in the latter's emphasis of the hinge motion, which therefore the primarily targets the hamstrings and glutes, more than does the traditional deadlift. The traditional deadlift puts more focus on the quadriceps.
Next, we'll explain three of our favorite advanced butt-building leg raise exercises!
Table top donkey kicks
The table top donkey kick is a great, low impact leg raise that works the upper and lower sections of the hamstrings and glute muscles, which is helpful in building the lifted, perky look that's often associated with athletes around the world.
To perform a table top donkey kick, start on your hands and knees with your back flattened and your core tight.
Extend one leg backwards and upwards, keeping your knee straight and your foot engaged!
Once extended, hold position for a second, and then slowly bring your leg back to its beginning position.
Repeat on the other side for a balanced effort.
Don't forget to avoid arching your back, or letting your hips sag!
Straight leg raises
Straight leg raises are a variation of the table top donkey kick exercise described above, but begin with your leg fully extended behind you.
To perform a straight leg raise meant to build muscle, you can add a resistance band or use an ARENA ankle attachment.
Begin again on all fours with your back straight and your hips and core engaged.
Extend your leg behind you, and in a slow and controlled fashion, raise your leg upwards towards the ceiling.
You can try pulse repetitions for a real burn!
If you feel your upper glutes and hamstrings working hard, then you know you are doing it right!
Be sure to switch legs for a balanced workout, keep your back straight, and core engaged.
Rainbow leg raises
Our final single leg raise exercise for building an incredible derrière is perhaps our favorite variant because of its versatility. As the name suggests, it is performed with the leg moving in a rainbow motion, which helps to exercise the inner, outer, upper and lower sections of the glutes muscle group.
If you're looking to achieve the rounded look that's become so popular in modern culture today, this is the exercise for you!
Similarly to the straight leg raise, the rainbow leg raise begins with a leg extended behind you with your knee extended and foot flexed.
The main difference between the two is the movement path itself–this rainbow leg raise variant involves moving the leg in a semicircle behind you.
During a straight leg raise, your leg is straight the entire time and the flexion and extension is only at the hip. The rainbows however; though they’re a straight leg exercise, require hip adduction and abduction too!
Were there any exercises we missed? Let us know in the comments section, and contact us with any questions!