August 15, 2020 10 min read
A well-developed butt is the holy grail of lower body aesthetics, so it’s no surprise that the glutes get so much attention from gym-goers.
As the largest muscle in the human body, not only do they look good when they’re taken care of, but they’re also very necessary when it comes to a wide array of functional actions and athletic feats.
But being the biggest and one of the strongest muscles in the body poses some challenges when it comes to training.
While there’s a lot of fantastic bodyweight exercises, people sometimes shy away from those that hit the lower body. And it’s not hard to see why—a heavy barbell is going to overload your butt muscles a lot more than a few squats utilizing just your bodyweight, right?
When it comes down to it, you’re not always going to have access to a gym and its facilities; but that’s never an excuse to leave gains on the table.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best bodyweight glute exercises that’ll leave you wondering if you ever really needed all that fancy equipment.
Aside from having your posterior turn heads next time you hit the beach, well-developed glutes also aid in an array of different bodily functions.
The fact that the glutes are the largest muscles in the body is a good clue that shows how necessary they are. If you want to turbocharge your athletic performance and just feel better all-round than strong glutes are a must.
Everything that we use our lower body’s for needs glutes to function. You want to jump? Have glutes. You want to jump higher? Get stronger glutes.
Even things like turning around, cardio, walking, balancing, and stopping rely on your glutes. In the end, this results in much greater maneuverability—a difference you’ll definitely notice in any sports that you might play. Even if you don’t greater flexibility and strength in the lower body will help you prevent injuries when doing regular functional activities as well.
If you’re wondering how you stack up to your other glute brothers and sisters, the Trendelenberg test is a quick and easy way to find out.
While it’s a very basic test, it can help in showing you whether your glutes are particularly weak—a problem that’s rising in the overall population.
To do to the test, you want to begin by standing with a straight back—your spine in a straight line. Raising your right foot, lift it until your right knee forms a right angle. Once you get it there, pause the movement.
Your pelvis needs to be either staying level or leaning slightly to the load-bearing side (the left side in this example). The position should be kept up for at least 30 seconds with no difficulties. Difficulties being a pelvis which slants towards the wrong side of the body, or trouble staying up.
If you’re someone who regularly hits the iron temple, chances are that you won’t have a problem doing this test (unless you’ve been avoiding leg day like the plague). Nevertheless, try it out, and if you do have trouble then it’s probably a good idea to begin with the more beginner-level exercises down below.
But why are weak glutes a growing problem? And why is it more important than ever to keep them strong?
The reasoning for why weak glutes have beset our world is an easy one. Simply put, people aren’t being as physically active as before.
Rather than running, jumping, or even walking, chairs have taken over our spaces. Not to say that chairs are the problem, but we’re doing more activities that require chairs than ever before. The hunter-gatherer has turned into the office drone and our bodies haven’t made the leap with us.
This is doubly bad since strong glutes help protect our spine when we’re sitting. All the load from your upper body has to rest somewhere, and before it rests on the cushy seat it’s resting on whatever kind of bottom you have.
The glutes are part of the core and your posterior chain, so not only do they soften the pressure when sitting, but they’re also important stabilizers; helping position your pelvis and posturing your spine correctly.
Undeveloped glutes can lead to everything from back problems (like low back pain) to hip extension issues to knee pain.
Not taking care of your butt can have cascading effects. And if you take care of them, the benefits can cascade in the other direction.
We often refer to the gluteal muscle group as simply the glutes. But it goes a lot deeper than that, which can be good to know in case you’re wanting to get an edge and train specific portions of the muscle.
For the most part, the muscle of the hour is the gluteus maximus. As the name suggests, it’s the largest glute muscle (and the largest muscle by itself), while also being closest to the surface of the skin. Most lower-body movements will hit the gluteus maximus to at least some degree since its function lies mostly in thigh extension.
Then there’s the gluteus medius, the middle child. It lies directly beneath the gluteus maximus and it has a couple of different uses. For one, it aids in rotating the thigh internally and also abducting it. Additionally, when you’re standing or walking the gluteus medius will also provide stabilization to your body.
Lastly, we have the little guy. The gluteus minimus, while essential, mostly finds itself helping the gluteus medius with its jobs. This includes both internally rotating and abducting the thigh, and helping to stabilize the spine when walking or standing.
Different exercises and movement patterns will hit all of these differently. While most people will focus on the gluteus maximus for both its size and its proximity to the surface (therefore being the easiest to see), focusing on different gluteals can give you the edge that you might’ve been looking for.
Otherwise, and especially if you’re a beginner, doing any of the exercises below will warrant firm results and even more firm bums.
While many movements below are bodyweight versions of their gym cousins, others are ones that can’t be done with loads. Keep in mind how you program these as well, in order to elicit the greatest gains possible.
As we mentioned at the beginning, the big, strong muscles of the lower body can be more difficult to develop while strictly using bodyweight; especially when it comes to strength training. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you can’t get a nice ass with bodyweight alone.
What you’ll want to focus on is the programming, since that’ll be your greatest strength when doing these. While you can’t increase the training volume by adding another plate, you can definitely increase volume in other ways. What does that entail?
The easiest way is to just increase the number of reps. Keep reps high, go until failure—whatever it takes to feel that burn. In terms of sets, either do more of them or turn the routine into a superset. Minimize rest times to the absolute minimum, going from one exercise to the next, and your conditioning will be challenged like never before.
If you don’t like the sound of supersets, even just minimizing rest time can be beneficial when it comes to eliciting muscle growth and strength gains.
Lastly, you can work out more often.
You no longer need the gym, or any equipment for that matter—you’re free, so use that to your advantage. If you have the time and some space, you can fit in multiple training sessions throughout the day.
Below we’ve compiled a list of some of the best exercises for your lower body workout (and glute) needs. While great exercises on their own, they can also be used as a warm-up for other exercises.
Properly programmed into your workout routine, these butt exercises will leave your posterior chiseled like a Greek statue.
Here are our 5 best glute exercises
You can’t spell lower body exercises without “squat”. Well, you can, but you know what we mean.
This exercise is a juggernaut for training your lower body muscles, especially the quads. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent movement for conditioning the glutes as well. As you go into the squat, your glutes will be engaged as well under the load of your body. Additionally, from the bottom of the movement, you’ll be engaging the glutes in order to explosively come back up.
To do one, you want to stand with your back straight, feet pointing forward or slightly angled out at about a shoulder-width distance. While squats are notoriously difficult to “get right”, remember to keep your back straight and core engaged and you’ll be well on your way.
The benefits are compounded when you think about all the different variations of the squat you can do.
Think Bulgarian split squats where one of your legs is elevated on a bench behind you and you have to squat down with the leg in front. Or even just simpler variations like the jump squat or squats with a twist at the bottom.
To make it more difficult, try doing prisoner squats where your hands are kept behind your neck. Want to really up the ante? Pistol squats are the way to go. These single-legged squats are a sure-fire way to feel the burn.
While a humble movement, the lunge is a great way to focus on the glutes and make sure that you can’t sit down the next day.
The glute activation comes at the bottom of the movement when your lead leg goes into a bend. This is when the load on your glutes is highest—the most difficult part of the exercise.
To begin, stand tall and take a step forward with your left foot, for example. The wider the step the better for glute engagement. Once in this position, pause, and then push yourself back up in a standing position with your left leg planted on the ground. Repeat the movement by switching your leading foot after every rep.
Much like the squat, lunges come in a variety of flavors—whatever your needs may be. And while it’s sometimes easy to settle into one way of doing it, there are benefits to trying different forms. Not only will it lead to a more well-rounded development of your butt, but it’ll also make the glute workouts more interesting.
Examples include walking lunges, reverse lunges, side lunges, curtsy lunges, and even jumping lunges.
Much like the lunge, steps-up are a must-do exercise if you want big glutes. But not only do they develop the muscle in question, but they’ll also help in a bunch of functional movements—even things as mundane as walking up stairs.
To begin the movement, you’ll want to stand in front of a raised platform (either a bench or a chair will do), and place one of your feet on the bench. As the name suggests, you’ll step-up onto the bench, driving through the lead leg. Reverse the movement back to the starting position.
This movement will only be as beneficial as you allow it to. That means no pushing off with the foot on the ground and properly engaging the glute of the leading leg.
This is, once again, a highly modifiable exercise. Not only can you easily change the difficulty by changing the height, but there are also different ways you can position yourself, such as stepping up from the side instead of going frontwards.
Additionally, you can start the movement on the ground on your knees. Get onto your feet by placing a lead leg forward and driving through it and the glute, then pick yourself up and stand on the raised surface. At the top, instead of placing your non-lead leg on the surface, pull it up so your thigh is at least parallel to the floor.
I know we’ve been saying every exercise is the most amazing for your glutes, but this time we’re serious.
Hip thrusts are almost the equivalent of planks for your back and your bottom. They’re terrific if you’re trying to balance out a job where you’re constantly sitting, and they’re easy and simple to boot.
Furthermore, even if you’re not that into the whole bodyweight thing, they’re also a great movement to do if you’re trying to improve on your squat or your deadlift’s lockout power.
You begin the movement by lying on the ground on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Feet should be placed flat on the ground at about hip-width apart—keep them rooted there.
Engage your core and slowly push through your feet. Raise your hips as far as they can go, but don’t let your lower back arch at all. You want to hold this position at the top for a few seconds and then lower back down slowly, in a controlled manner. Do a few of these and you’ll have some beautiful buns.
Want to change the angle of attack, or maybe you’re looking for a bigger challenge?
Easily modify this movement by either elevating your feet or your shoulders to make your glutes work harder. Furthermore, you can make this a single-leg exercise so you can only rely on a single glute to get you up.
While making sure to activate your glutes, the hip hinge will also ramp up your performance when it comes to things like lunges, deadlifts, squats, jumping—basically what we’re saying is that everything you do with your lower body will be benefited by hip hinges.
Most lower-body movements require a good range of motion in your hips since they all start with your hips hinging. Not only will this train your mobility, but it’ll also be a great way to improve your flexibility. Especially if you can’t remember the last time you could touch your toes without bending the knees.
To begin this exercise, stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Your spine should be completely straight and aligned throughout the entire movement. And while you can slightly bend your knees to make things easier, the less you bend them the better.
Continue the movement by pushing your hips and hamstrings backward, until your torso is at least parallel to the floor—but the further the better. You want to hold this position for a few seconds, and then reverse the movement slowly. To get the most out of this exercise, engage your core and give your glutes a good squeeze when you reach the standing tall position.
Not having access to dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands isn’t an excuse for having a lackluster tushy. And a lackluster tushy is one of the last things you want to have.
Reaching much further than skin deep aesthetics, the glutes help to bring the lower body into a well-functioning and cohesive whole. But at the same time they’re supporting you (literally), you want to make sure that you’re taking good care of your body.