Workouts for Women

All About That Bass: Pinpoint Your Trouble Spots

Isolate those stubborn glute zones with this band-aided circuit workout from Los Angeles–based online trainer Kelly Von Schleis.

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When it comes to building the perfect butt, it’s all about one muscle. The gluteus maximus may be just one of three gluteal muscles, but it’s the most noticeable and is responsible for your shape and definition, and thus is the one that needs all your attention on leg day.

Still, though, the glutes can be hard to isolate because they work in concert with the hamstrings and quadriceps, and one side of your rear may even be stronger than the other, meaning some specialized attention to bring back balance. “If you’re having trouble hitting those glutes during your workouts, any of these exercises are guaranteed to isolate and activate muscle just where you need it,” says Kelly Von Schleis, certified health coach, personal trainer and information technology health-care consultant. “Prepare to feel that next day, oh-so-good burn right where it counts.”

Equipment required: Exercise band. (Kelly recommends Booty Bands dumbbells and bands. Shoppers who use the link provided will get a 10-percent discount.) Ankle weights are optional for added toning benefits. Kelly recommends Bala Bangles ankle weights. Use code KELLYSCHE20 to get 15 percent off all products on the site.)

Suggested warm-up: Do the following circuit of bodyweight moves with no equipment: 10 squat-to-toe raises, 20 reverse lunges (10 each side), 20 skiers (low crouch and hop side to side) and 20 jumping jacks.

Workout overview: Before you begin, you’ll place the resistance band above your knees, where it will stay for the duration of the routine. In the workout, you’ll run through a gauntlet of superset circuits and cardio bursts. The circuits include standard reps, slow reps and various holds with small “pulse” reps to further engage the target muscles, while the bursts are high-energy plyometric-style exercises you’ll perform explosively (but for a short time frame).

Run through each superset circuit three times in a row, back-to-back with no rest, except for the final circuit, which you’ll do twice through on each side. Rest one to two minutes between circuits. The cardio bursts are just one bout of 10 to 20 reps, with a two-minute, three-move finisher at the end that’ll ensure you’re not leaving an ounce of effort in the tank.

Kelly Von Schleis’ Divide-and-Conquer Banded Workout

All of the following moves are performed with a band placed above knee level.

Circuit/Burst Exercise Sets Reps/Time
1 Squat + Alternating Reverse Leg Lift 3 20 reps
Squat Hold With Pulses 3 10 seconds*
Cardio Burst Banded Squat Jump 1 10 reps
2 Side-to-Side Squat 3 10 reps
Squat Hold With Pulses 3 10 seconds*
Cardio Burst Banded Squat Jack 1 20 reps
3 Full Glute-Bridge Lift 3 30 slow reps
Glute Bridge With Pulses 3 10 seconds**
Cardio Burst Banded Squat Jump 1 10 reps
4 Glute-Bridge Single-Leg Extension 2 + 2*** 12 reps
Glute-Bridge Single-Leg Extension Hold 2 + 2*** 10 seconds**
Cardio Finisher Rotate between these three moves for two minutes total:
10 Squat Jumps
20 Jumping Jacks
10 Squat Jumps

*Assume the squat position and do 10 one-count outward pulses against the band.
**Hold the bridge 10 seconds while doing small 1-inch pulses with your hips.
***Run through two times in a row on each side before switching to the other.

Woman demonstrating a squat with banded reverse leg lift

Squat + Alternating Reverse Leg Lift

How-To: Loop a resistance band just above your knees. Stand with feet hip-width apart, your hands clasped together at your chest or on your hips. Bend your knees and lower your hips to sit back into a low, controlled squat. As you stand up, slowly lift your right leg straight behind your body (keeping it straight) as high as you comfortably can. Hold the top for a one-count, then slowly lower it down and repeat the movement with your left leg.

Kelly’s Pointers: “Don’t arch your lower back during the leg raise. Keep your back and neck straight as you lower into the squat, thinking about “pulling” your bellybutton toward your spine — sit back into your heels and ever so slightly push the resistance band outward with your knees. The movement should be slow and smooth, and you should feel the burn in your upper and outer glutes during the leg lifts. I sometimes like to add multiple lifts on each side prior to moving into my squat to further activate the legs.”

Woman demonstrating a squat hold

Squat Hold With Pulses

How-To: With a resistance band just above your knees, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands clasped together at your chest or on your hips. Bend your knees and lower your hips to sit back into a low squat. Hold at the lowest point, aiming to get your knee bend to at least a 90-degree angle. Slowly pulse your knees outward without moving any other part of your body for a total of 10 slow, single-count reps, then raise back to a standing position.

Kelly’s Pointers: “Keep your core tight and remember to breathe during this exercise! When sinking into your deep, juicy squat, sit back into your heels and ever so slightly push outward on the band with your knees. You should be at muscle failure near the end, so if 10 seconds is too easy, extend the time of your set.”

Woman demonstrating Lateral Band Walk

Side-to-Side Squat

How-To: With the resistance band remaining in place right above your knees, set your feet about hip-width apart to start. Step out to the right side with your right leg as you descend into a squat. Remaining in that low position, step to your left to bring yourself to a center squat. Hold one-count. Slowly stand up, pushing through your heels while “squeezing” your glutes forward. Repeat the side-to-side movement for reps.

Kelly’s Pointers: “Stay low in your squat and really step as far to the side as you can extend your leg as you move from side to side — the goal is to maintain resistance in the band throughout the entire exercise. Consider adding dumbbells, propped over your shoulders, which can help serve as a cue to maintain a straight spine. I like to find the beat of the music for this exercise — right-side squat, left-side squat equals one full rep.”

Woman demonstrating a weighted glute bridge lift

Full Glute-Bridge Lift

How-To: Keeping the resistance band above your knees, lie down on the floor on your back. Bend your knees and place both feet flat on the floor, your arms alongside you for balance. Raise your hips upward as high as you can, lifting your entire back up off the floor — as a mental cue, think of extending your knees forward toward the wall in front of you, which will help you better engage your glutes and hips. Hold the position for a one-count, then slowly lower yourself to the start and repeat.

Kelly’s Pointers: “You can easily intensify this exercise by resting your upper back on a flat bench and adding a barbell (30 to 60 pounds) across your body, resting it just above the hips and pelvis, for resistance — I recommend a towel or pad beneath it to ease any potential discomfort.”

Woman in a full glute bridge extension

Glute Bridge With Pulses

How-To: Hold the highest part of the glute bridge (as described above) for a full 10-count, performing small “pulse” reps as you do so, just lowering and raising your hips an inch while continually pushing outward on the band with your knees for the duration of the hold.

Kelly’s Pointers: “For extra credit, I recommend following the 10 up-and-down pulses with your hips immediately with another 10 pulses with your knees, pushing with all your might outward on the band, trying to separate your knees as far as possible while maintaining the highest point of the bridge. This is intended to take you to failure with the band.”

Woman performing a single-leg glute bridge

Glute-Bridge Single-Leg Extension

How-To: Leave the resistance band above your knees and lie on your back with your knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart and set on the floor about 12 to 16 inches away from your glutes. Lift your right leg so it’s straight up in the air at hip height with your foot flexed. Keeping your upper back in contact with the floor, engage your glutes, drive through your left heel and raise your hips off the floor until your knee, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Pause at the top, squeezing your glutes for one to two seconds, then lower your hips back down to the start.

Kelly’s Pointers: “As with the full glute bridge, you have the option to place your upper back on a flat bench. For this one-leg variation, you also have the option of resting your raised leg on a bench or BOSU ball instead of extending it straight up in the air. For added resistance, you can add a dumbbell above your hip on the same side as your bent leg (as shown in the photos).”

Woman holding a single-leg glute bridge

Glute-Bridge Single-Leg Extension Hold

How-To: Remain in the same base starting position as the previous exercise, except hold at the top for a 12-count of small pulses, really emphasizing the tightening of the glutes on the grounded leg.

Kelly’s Pointers: “This should be a very small pulsing movement up and down, just going no more than 1 to 2 inches each direction and maintaining constant tension on the grounded leg, pushing through the heel to help isolate the glute muscle. The glute of that planted leg should be trembling by the time you’re done!”

Cardio Bursts

Woman performing a jump squat

Banded Squat Jump

How-To: With the band in place above your knees and your feet shoulder-width apart, hinge at your hips to descend into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then using your arms to help propel you, launch yourself upward into a high jump as you slightly straighten your legs in the air before returning to a squat position, allowing your knees to bend to 45 degrees as you land and immediately jump again.

Woman demonstrating Banded Squat Jump

Banded Squat Jack

How-To: For this move, you’ll perform jumping jacks with the band around your knees — but when you land with your feet wide and your arms up in the air, add extra range of motion by descending down into a full squat each time. On the intervening jumps when your feet come together for the landing, your arms should come down to your sides.