A solid booty may just be the pinnacle of a fit physique. But there are so many more reasons to build a strong rump outside of having hot rear-view gym selfies to post on Instagram.
“Glutes are the biggest muscle in the body, and they help us walk and run,” says Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., founder of TS Fitness. Not to mention, they’re important for protecting the lower back.
To mold a well-rounded butt, consider these three pro tips from Tamir:
- Mix up your workout by incorporating lateral movements in addition to your usual squats, lunges, and deadlifts. Lateral work—like clamshells, cable hip abductions, or lateral band walks—target the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles, while a lot of big leg day movements hit the gluteus maximus, the biggest muscle in your butt.
- Whatever move you’re performing, make sure you mindfully squeeze your glutes to maximize your muscle-making potential.
- Incorporate weights into your routine. “Doing just bodyweight exercises will only get you so far,” says Tamir. “Weighted exercises are how you really grow your glutes.”
With these tips in mind, try out the following all-time favorite glutes moves from Tamir, as well as Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, founders of Tone It Up.
1. Deep Squat (Plus Overhead Press)
This powerful move engages your booty and your quads, according to Dawn and Scott. And because the move engages your large muscle groups, it’ll fire up your metabolism all day, they say. For a full-body bonus, you can add an overhead press to the movement to sculpt your upper-body, too.
Try it: Stand with your legs just wider than hips-width apart, with your toes pointed slightly outward. Lower your booty directly back and down as if sitting back into a chair. Keep your chest open, your shoulders back, and your core engaged. Try to keep your knees behind your toes—and get low!
If you have a hard time dropping it low because of inflexible ankles, try placing thin weight plates under your heels. Newbies can practice this move without weight, but you can kick up the intensity by holding a kettlebell at chest-level or dumbbells at shoulder-level. You can then add an overhead press, pushing your weight up above your head when you reach the top of your squat—just keep your form intact and core tight.
Dawn and Scott recommend adding three sets of 20 reps to your next leg workout. Or, try a drop set protocol by performing 12 reps with the heaviest weight you can handle with good form, and then performing about eight reps with a slightly lighter weight.
Related: 3 Ways To Improve Your Squat
2. Hip Thrust
This exercise hits the gluteus maximus, which gives the butt the nice round shape many of us are after, says Tamir. Plus, because it also engages your core, quads, and hamstrings, it’s also helpful for maintaining good posture.
Try it: Place your upper back on a bench, chair, or sofa that comes to about knee-height. Walk your feet out to so they’re directly under your knees and push your hips up so that you’re parallel to the floor, with a 90-degree angle at your knees. Stretch your arms out wide across the bench, with your palms facing up. Drop your hips so they hover just above the ground, then bring them back up to that starting level by pushing through your heels. Don’t lift your feet! Keep your pelvis tucked and your core engaged so your ribs are down and your back is flat throughout the movement.
Step the move up a notch by either placing a band around your knees or resting a barbell across your hips. To bump up the intensity without adding weight, perform your hip thrusts on one leg, keeping one leg stretched out in front of you throughout the move.
Try this one for three sets of 10 to 12 reps, Tamir says.
Deadlifts are the gold standard for shaping your backside, say Dawn and Scott. This big move not only fires up your glutes, but hits your hamstrings and your lower back. It’s a calorie-torching full-body powerhouse.
Try it: Hold dumbbells in each hand and stand with your feet hips-width apart. Keeping your core engaged and your back straight, hinge at the hips and lower the dumbbells down along your legs. When the weights are just above your toes, hinge back up to the starting position, engaging your glutes.
Dawn and Scott recommend performing three sets of 15 reps.
4. Step Up
“The step is great because it works your stability,” says Tamir. That means you’ll strengthen your core along with your lower body. Plus, you can really squeeze those glutes as you push off with your working leg. And since you’re focusing on one leg at a time, you’ll work both sides of your rear equally.
Try it: Stand facing a bench, chair, or couch that’s about knee-height. Place one foot firmly onto your step so your knee forms a 90-degree angle. Drive through your heel and push up until you’re standing in an extended position and your other foot is hovering at bench-level. Engage your abs and glutes to keep the movement steady and controlled. Then, lower back down to starting position.
To increase the burn in your glutes, lift the knee of your non-working leg up to hit height when you reach the top of the movement. You can also hold dumbbells while performing the move.
Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Related: The 5 Most Effective Abs Moves
5. Plyo Lunges
Standard lunges are a leg day staple because they target both your booty and the muscles in your thighs. By turning those lunges into plyo lunges, you kick up your heart rate and burn more calories, according to Dawn and Scott.
How to do it: Begin by standing tall in split squat position, with one leg in front of you and one leg behind you. Lower down into a lunge position so that your front knee is directly above your front heel and forms a 90-degree angle, and your back knee is directly below your hip. Jump up, switching your legs in the air, and land softly in the same lunge position on the opposite side. Keep your abs engaged and maintain a tall posture throughout the move.
To make the exercise harder, hold light dumbbells in your hands—just make sure you can maintain proper form.
Add three sets of 10 reps to the end of your next workout to end on a sweaty note.