Best Butt Exercises for a Strong, Shapely Booty

A strong, shapely butt starts with good genes, but you can easily build on that by doing exercises and activities that target all the muscles in your glutes.

Your glutes are made up if three different areas: the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle, and then the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

The key to firm glutes is to hit all of these muscles from different angles and with a variety of exercises and cardio activities. You can't always change the shape of your glutes, but you can make them firmer and stronger with the right exercises. 

Squats

squat
Ben Goldstein

Squats are one of the best exercises to target gluteus maximus, which is the largest muscle in the lower body. Not only does it target the glutes, it also works the hips, thighs, calves, and even the core. Squats should be a staple of any basic lower body workout. If squats hurt your knees, check out these alternatives.

Do It Right

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and, for added intensity, hold weights at shoulder level or at your sides.
  2. Bend the knees, and lower into a squat, keeping the knees behind the toes. Imagine that you're sticking your butt out behind you, but keep the torso upright and contracted.
  3. Press into the heels to stand up.
  4. Repeat for 2-3 sets of 8-16 reps

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Lunges

single lunge
Ben Goldstein

Lunges are a favorite butt exercise. Because you're in a staggered stance, you really have to use your glutes to stabilize your body. That staggered stance also forces the glutes on the front leg to work even harder.

Do It Right

  • Stand with feet staggered, one foot forward and one foot back, about 3 or so feet apart.
  • Bend both knees and lunge straight down, sending the back knee towards the floor.
  • Try not to lunge forward over the front knee.
  • Press into the heel to stand and repeat for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps, holding weights for added intensity.

As a bonus, lunges also work a variety of other muscles including your hamstrings, quads, and calves. And, one of the best thing about lunges is that fact that there are so many varieties, so you can easily mix up your lunges to target your muscles in different ways from one workout to the next.

You can also elevate the back foot on a step or platform to really challenge both legs. This is a great move for the glutes and thighs, but please avoid this move if it aggravates any knees problems.

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Step Ups

close-up of three women's legs stepping up onto an exercise step
Alexandr Sherstobitov / Getty Images

Step ups are another great one for focusing attention on the butt. To really make it work, try choosing a platform high enough that the knee is at a 90-degree angle when bent. If that's a little too much, try using the second stair on a staircase and hold onto the rail for balance if you need to.

Do It Right

  • Stand in front of the step or platform and place the right foot on the step. Hold weights for added intensity.
  • Pressing into the heel, step up, touching the left toes to the step.
  • Keeping the right foot on the step, take the left foot down to the floor. Bend the knee into a lunge for more intensity.
  • Repeat for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps on each side.

One key point is to push into the heel to lift the body up and concentrate all your weight on the stepping leg. In other words, lower down gently, barely touching the toes of the other leg to the ground.

You'll really feel this when you take it slow and concentrate on the working leg. Holding weights will add some nice intensity and you can even use a band under the standing foot to add some resistance.

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Side Step Squats with Resistance Bands

Squat With Side Step
Ben Goldstein

While the previous exercises target mostly the gluteus maximus, this move targets the smaller muscles of the gluteus medius and minimus.

Because there's a squat involves, you're also getting the gluteus maximus as well. If you hold the handles with the arms bent, you can also get a great isometric exercise for the biceps, making this a great whole body exercise.

Do It Right

  • Use a band with medium-light tension and stand on it, holding onto both handles.
  • Take a wide step out to the right into a squat, keeping tension on the band.
  • Step the left foot in and continue stepping out and squatting to the right, all the way across the room (or as far as you can).
  • Repeat the other way or for about 1-3 sets of 8-16 steps.

Butt Squeezes on the Ball

Glute Squeezes on the Ball
Ben Goldstein

The butt squeeze on the ball is another great choice for working your glutes.

The ball adds some instability, forcing your entire lower body to work and holding weights on the upper thighs adds intensity to the exercise.

Do It Right

  • Begin in a bridge position, head resting on the ball, butt lifted and weights on the thighs (optional)
  • Lower the hips towards the ground and try not to let the ball roll around.
  • Squeeze the glutes to lift back to start and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
  • Lift the toes for even more intensity.

Hiking

Hiker looks off from mountain ridge crest
Ascent Xmedia / Getty Images

The previous strength exercises aren't the only strength moves for the glutes, but we often forget that there are cardio activities that will also engage the backside.

Hiking is one of those activities and it also burns a large number of calories. Not only do you work harder because you're hiking uphill, if there's a change in altitude, you'll expend even more energy.

Walking up an incline automatically gets your glutes more involved and, if you're wearing a backpack, you're getting even more of a workout.

A 140-lb person burns about 390 calories in about an hour. If you live in a flat area, try raising the incline on your treadmill to mimic hiking up a hill.

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Kickboxing

Mixed Race woman kicking heavy bag in gymnasium
Peathegee Inc / Getty Images

Kickboxing is an excellent workout for the entire body, including the hips glutes and thighs.

Controlled front kicks, roundhouses, side kicks and back kicks work your hips, thighs, and butt.

At the same time, complex combinations that include punches will target your upper body and abs to make them stronger. A 140-lb woman will burn up to 500 calories with 45 minutes of kickboxing.

Hip Extensions

While the previous compound exercises are the go-to choice for walking multiple muscles at the same time, hips extensions are wonderful for targeting the glutes in a more focused way.

Do It Right

  • Get on the hands and knees, hands directly under the shoulders, knees directly under the hips.
  • Squeeze a weight in the back of the right knee or use ankle weights for added intensity.
  • Keeping the right knee bent, lift the right leg up until it's level with the glutes.
  • Lower and repeat for 12-16 reps on each side.

One-Legged Deadlifts

Deadlifts are great for your hamstrings, butt and lower back, but this one-legged version is killer on the butt. Doing anything on one leg adds intensity and it also involves your stabilizer muscles to keep your body balanced. 

Form is very important and you should skip this exercise if you have any back problems.

Do It Right

  • Holding weights, take the left leg back behind you about a foot or so, lightly resting on the toe.
  • Tip from the hips and slowly lower the weights towards the floor as far as your flexibility allows.
  • Keep your back flat or with a natural arch and make sure you keep the abs contracted to protect the back.
  • Squeeze the glutes of the working leg to raise back up.
  • Do 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on each side.

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