A lot of us bust our butts in the gym only to be dissatisfied with how that very butt looks in the end (pun intended). Glutes can be a stubborn bodypart, but no matter what your issue — flat, ample or nonexistent — your rear view can be whipped into shape with a little strategizing.
“Hitting the glutes from every angle is key for reaching your potential,” says Liz Jackson, amateur figure competitor and co-owner of The Rack Gym in Ponca City, Okla. “Implementing sprints, explosive plyometrics and classic gym-rat training will push you past every limit and make your booty beautiful.”
Practice all five of these strategies regularly, and in as few as four weeks, you’ll look as great leaving a room as you do coming into it.
Glute Must-Do #1: Sprint
Distance running is a perfectly good mode of exercise, so if you enjoy marathoning, by all means, keep it up. But bringing up stubborn glutes requires more intensity, and intensity comes in the form of sprints.
The primary power source in a sprint is your glutes because they provide the explosive forward drive that makes you speedy. When sprinting, you want to run as fast as possible — 100 percent all out — for a very short distance until you reach your finish line. Because you’re going all out, you won’t last very long, and sprint intervals should only be about five to 30 seconds long.
“Sprinting should leave your whole body trembling — from your lats to your calves,” Jackson says.
“If you can do more than eight sprints, you aren’t really sprinting.”
- Schedule your sprint days separately from your strength workouts.
- Shoot for three to 15 sprints per workout, depending on your ability.
- Note: If it’s been a while since you’ve sprinted, ease into it gradually, increasing your running speed over a course of weeks or even months until you’re able to sprint all out.
- Between sprints, you need time to recover. For every sprint you do, take five times that long to rest. So a 15-second sprint would mean a one minute 15-second break.
Sample Sprint Workouts
For both workouts, walk briskly for five to 10 minutes, then spend five to 10 minutes doing some dynamic stretches such as leg swings, torso twists and calf raises.
After your workout, walk for five to 10 minutes to cool down and stretch the large muscles in the legs, back and glutes.
Workout #1: Track
Workout #2: Hill
For this workout, sprint up the hill, then use your downhill walk to recover.
Glute Must-Do #2: Jump
An often-overlooked element in sculpting the glutes is explosive training. Being explosive means moving through a range of motion as fast as you possibly can while maintaining good form. Again, it’s all about power, and power comes from your hindquarters.
Box jumps, squat leaps, bounding, switch lunges, single-legged hops — these are all examples of explosive movements that engage and exhaust the glutes. These movements are extremely taxing and will also speed up your metabolism and boost fat burning for hours afterward.
Your bodyweight alone should be sufficient for explosive training, though you can use very light resistance if you’re more advanced. Also, you should not be taking sets to failure when training for size or strength, which may increase your risk of injury.
- Do your explosive training on a separate day or early in your workout, before your standard strength-training exercises.
- If combining explosive training with standard strength training, limit yourself to one jumping move per workout.
- Shoot for two to three sets of three to eight reps per move. When rep counts get high (15 and above), it becomes a conditioning exercise.
- Leave at least 72 hours between explosive workouts per bodypart for adequate recovery.
Sample Jump Workout
Warm up with five minutes of brisk walking followed by a series of dynamic stretches that hit the legs, back, glutes, shoulders and arms. Do each move for five to 10 repetitions, and rest 30 seconds between. For each move, explode into the air, but land softly to protect your joints. Cool down and stretch thoroughly afterward, focusing on the large muscles of the legs, back, chest and shoulders.
Squat Jump: Squat, then leap straight up into the air.
Tuck Jump: Squat, then leap into the air and bring your knees up in front of you.
Box Jump: Jump onto a plyometric box with both feet. Step or jump back off.
Single-Leg Jump: Jump onto a low plyometric box and land on one foot.
180: Squat, leap into the air, turn 180 degrees and land facing the other way.
Skater: Leap from side to side, taking off from and landing on one foot.
Glute Must-Do #3: Squat
Squats recruit your entire lower body plus your core, making them an intense, compound motion that is as effective metabolically as it is muscularly. They’re a barnburner when it comes to calorie incineration, and booty results? Crazy good. The glutes are the primary movers in hip extension, and when you squat, you’re moving your hip through nearly its entire range of motion. Going to parallel or even slightly below will best engage your backside and will be the most effective way to blast that butt.
- Select one or two squat variations and do them early in your workout when you have the most energy.
- Shoot for three to five sets of six to 10 reps, depending on your goals and ability.
- Use a moderately heavy weight to adequately load and exhaust the glutes, Jackson advises.
Squatting, Step by Step
- Plant your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Maintain a flat or slightly arched lower back.
- Draw your shoulders back.
- Lift your chest.
- Kick your hips back, then bend your knees.
- Keep your weight in your heels.
- Maintain a flat back and keep your chest lifted.
- Drop to parallel or slightly below before rising back to the start.
10 Great Squat Variations
Glute Must-Do #4: Lunge
Like squats, lunges involve tremendous hip flexion, but they do it in a staggered stance, (one foot forward, one back). This adds a balance component to the mix, further challenging your hips and glutes to stabilize you, as well as engaging the core. Extra bonus: Lunges improve hip flexibility because the flexor of the back leg gets a nice stretch with each rep.
Jackson again advises using a fairly heavy weight, though not as much as with squats because you’re using one leg at a time.
- Do lunges either first or second in your workout (after squats) when you have a lot of energy.
- Choose one to two variations to use per training session.
- Shoot for three to five sets of eight to 12 reps per leg.
Lunging, Step by Step
- Take a long stride forward with one foot, toes pointing forward.
- Place your hands on your hips, or hold weights across your shoulders (barbell) or at your sides (dumbbells).
- Lift your chest and draw your shoulders back; your torso should be vertical.
- Bend both knees and lower straight toward the ground.
- Keep your torso upright throughout the move.
- Keep your weight mostly in your front heel.
- Track your knee over your toes.
- Lower until your front thigh is parallel to the floor, then reverse.
10 Great Lunges to Try
• Smith Machine
• Lunge and Knee Lift
• Switch Lunge
Glute Must-Do #5: Isolate
Now that you’ve built a bunch of muscle using the first four techniques, it’s time to refine it. There’s always room for some detailing work on your derrière, and for this, we do isolations.
Isolations are single-joint exercises that extend the hip and directly target the glutes with minimal involvement from other muscle groups. Most gyms have at least one machine designed for this sole purpose, typically with a name like “Butt Buster,” but you also can engage those same muscles with floor-based bodyweight exercises à la Jane Fonda or with strength moves like Romanian deadlifts.
- You can either do your isolation work first in your workout or last, depending on your goals. If you want to activate and “prime” your glutes for the big moves to follow, do isolations first; if you want to use most of your energy for the big butt builders, do them last.
- Limit yourself to one or two isolation exercises per workout.
- Shoot for three sets of 12 to 15 reps each move.
Three Great Glute Isolations
Lie face up with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Press your hips toward the sky, keeping your knees parallel and your feet flat. Raise until your hips come in line with your knees and shoulders, then lower back to the start.
Get on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Lift one leg, knee bent, into the air, pressing your heel toward the sky and raising until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Lower to the start and repeat, completing all reps on one side before switching.
Romanian Deadlift (not shown)
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a set of dumbbells in front of your thighs. Keeping your back flat and your legs straight, hinge forward from the hip and lower the weights toward the ground. When the weights come to midshin, reverse the move and stand back to the start.