Exercises Scientifically Proven to Work Your Butt

Your Best Butt Workout - The Most Effective Butt Exercises

Getty Images/Adrianna Williams

If you're looking for the most effective butt exercises, The American Council on Exercise has the answer for you. They commissioned a study designed to determine which exercises target the glutes in the most effective way and the moves below highlight the best moves for your backside. Many of these exercises target other muscles in the lower body, making this a great overall lower body workout.


See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses or other conditions and modify any exercise that causes pain or discomfort.

Equipment Needed

Various weighted dumbbells and a step or platform.

How To

  • Warm up with 5-10 minutes of light cardio
  • Perform this workout in a circuit-style, doing one exercise after the other with little or no rest in between exercises
  • Complete the circuit 1-3 times
  • Click on the links/pictures to view detailed instructions for each exercise


Squats with Dumbbells. Paige Waehner

Squats are probably the best lower body exercise there is, in my humble opinion, and not just because they work the glutes, although they totally do. I love that squats are so functional, targeting every muscle in the lower body and mimicking a move we do all day long.

How to: Hold weights in each hand - I like to go heavy here - And you can also hold the weights over the shoulders if you like. Begin with feet about hip-distance apart. Bend the knees and lower into a squat, sending the hips back behind you like you're sticking your butt out. Go as low as you can, then push back to start and repeat for 8-16 reps.

Helpful Tip: Think of sending your butt back behind you when you squat, putting the emphasis on your glutes and thighs instead of on the knees.


Paige Waehner

There's probably no greater exercise for the glutes than lunges, which is one reason no one likes to do them. The great thing about lunges is that they work everything, not just the glutes. If you focus while you're doing them, you'll feel the glute of the front leg working along with the quad of the back leg. Add heavy weights and you've got a great glute exercise.

How to: Stand in split stance, feet about 3 or so feet apart and hold weights. Bend both knees, lowering into a lunge while keeping front knee behind the toe. Lift back up and repeat before switching sides. Repeat for 8-16 reps on each side.

Helpful Tip: If lunges hurt your knees, try one of these alternatives to lunges.

One-Legged Ball Squats

One-Legged Squat. Paige Waehner

If you think squats and lunges are great for the glutes, weight until you try these one-legged squats. Yowza! The idea here is to keep the squats shallow - you'll realize you can't go as far as regular squats pretty darn quick. Also, keep the weight in your heels to really target the glutes.

How To: With a ball supporting the back, lean against it and lift one foot off the floor - You can either lift it completely off the floor or you can lightly rest the toe on the floor for balance. You can also hold weights, if you can get into the position safely. With the weight firmly in the heel, bend the knee into a squat, only going as far down as you safely can. Press back up and repeat for 8-16 reps before switching sides.

Step Ups

Step Ups. Paige Waehner

I really love step ups for target the glutes and you'll really feel this move if you use a high step or platform - One where your knee starts at a 90-degree angle. You can use a bench at the gym for this, but if it's padded, you'll want to be really careful not to fall.

How To: Hold weights (I like heavy ones for this exercise) and stand in front of a step or platform. Place the right foot on the step and, pressing through the heel step up onto the step, bringing the left foot next to the right. Briefly touch the left toes to the step and then step down, keeping the right foot on the step. I also like to add a little squat at the bottom, just for a bonus glute exercise. Repeat for 8-16 reps and switch sides.

Helpful Tip: Press through the heel of the foot on the step to really engage the glutes.

Hip Extensions

Hip Extensions. Paige Waehner

Also known as Donkey Kicks (that's a lovely visual, isn't it), the quadruped hip extensions was one of the number one exercises to target the largest muscle in the lower body - the gluteus maximus. As you can see, it really isolated the glutes, making this a perfect exercise for your lower body workout.

How To: Get on your forearms and knees and keep the abs braced and back straight. Place a weight (this is optional) behind the right knee and squeeze to hold in place. Now, keeping that knee bent, lift the leg so that it's parallel to the floor. At this point the bottom of the foot faces the ceiling and the hip, thigh and knee are all in alignment and parallel to the floor.

Lower and repeat for 8-16 reps.

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