Booty Blaster

Squeeze these exercises into your program and you’ll be one step closer to those glam glutes you’ve been craving. Your bonus: Better posture and a pain-free back.

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Admit it: You and your butt have always had a love-hate relationship – and unfortunately, it tends to be more hate than love. Lucky for you, we’ve got the scoop on what it really takes to develop your derriere – and the best moves to whip your butt into shape.

Bottoms Up to Your Health

Of course you want your back end to look good — those tight jean shorts and bathing suit bottoms won’t wear themselves, will they? But appearances aside, there are health reasons to train your behind. “Our glutes are more important for our well-being than most people think,” says Michele Olson, PhD, CSCS, professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, and creator of the DVD Fitness Prescription: Perfect Legs, Glutes & Abs. If you often find yourself hunched over, don’t point the blame at your shoulders just yet: Your glutes also play an important role in good posture and a pain-free back. In fact, without strength in these muscles, you can also develop balance issues, not to mention lower back and hip problems.

To understand how your glutes — the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus — could possibly cause that twinge in your back, you need to take a closer look at your body as a whole. While many consider the glutes to be part of the legs, experts often classify them as members of the core, which plays an important stabilizing role in everything you do.

Your Great Booty Secret

So what is the best way to tone this eye-catching area? Isolation may not be the key. Your hip, the point at which the glutes cross, is a complex joint with many different planes of movement, making the gluteus maximus – the largest muscle in your body and the one women usually want to target – tough to isolate.

Fortunately, the way to a great behind is simple. “Doing a variety of exercises is the single best way to tone the butt,” says John Porcari, PhD, professor of exercise and sport science at the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse, Wisconsin. And while variety is important, incorporating the greatest glutes moves into your routine will ensure your best tush ever.

To get to the bottom (so to speak) of how to effectively tone the posterior, Porcari led a study for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) to test gluteal response in eight common butt exercises. Each exercise, including squats, lunges and leg presses, targeted different aspects of the glutes. Surprisingly, the quadruped hip extension elicited the highest muscle activation in the gluteus maximus. This exercise is included here as an at-home alternative to the leg press or for those busy times at the gym when you can’t squeeze in a set at the machine. Squats and lunges are still heavy hitters in the butt-boosting department, so they also have a prize place in ACE’s study — and in your own perfect posterior plan.

The Workout

For each of these moves, do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps, resting for 45 seconds between sets. The glutes are a blend of slow- and fast-twitch fibers. By keeping the reps in this range, you’ll hit both groups to build strength and increase endurance.


Long-Step Lunge


Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, quadriceps

Set Up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and step your left foot two feet or more behind you. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your thighs.

Action: Keeping your abs contracted, lower toward the ground until your right leg forms a 90-degree angle and your left knee is a few inches from the floor. Make sure that your right knee isn’t extending past your toes; if necessary, move your feet wider. Press through your front heel to return to the starting position and repeat, switching your forward leg after your set is complete.

Why It’s Butt Friendly: When you lunge, your front leg forces the glutes on that side to do all the work. By working one leg at a time, you’re also strengthening the weaker side of your behind.

Tip: Keep your chest high to maintain balance.

Leg Press


Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, quadriceps

Set Up: Sit at the machine with your back supported, and lightly hold the handles on each side of the seat. Place your feet on the footplate with your toes extended slightly above its surface.

Action: Without locking your knees, exhale and press through your heels until your legs are extended. Inhale and return slowly to the starting position, then repeat.

Why It’s Butt Friendly: By placing your toes at the top of the platform, you isolate the glutes instead of the quadriceps, Olson says.

Tip: Your heels must stay in contact with the plate.

Your At-Home Alternative: Quadruped Hip Extension


Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, erector spinae

Set Up: Position yourself on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.

Action: Press your right leg up, keeping your knee bent at 90 degrees, until the sole of your foot is facing the ceiling. Return to the starting position and repeat. Switch sides after your set is complete.

Why It’s Butt Friendly: ACE found this move to be the most effective at targeting the gluteus maximus — even more so than a traditional squat!

Plié Squat


Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors

Set Up: Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Hold a single dumbbell and extend your arms naturally in front of your body.

Action: Bend your knees, lowering your body until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Push through your heels to return to the starting position. Repeat.

Why It’s Butt Friendly: Under the glutes muscles lie six gluteal rotators that keep your toes turned out while in the plié position. “With this exercise, you’re working the deep muscles of your glutes in a way that you don’t with other moves,” Olson says.

Tip: Always push through your heels.

Front Squat With Angled Dumbbells


Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, quadriceps

Set Up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lift them to your shoulders, palms facing each other. Slightly angle the dumbbell heads toward opposite walls.

Action: Contract your abs, keeping your weight in your heels and your chest lifted, and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your knees are aligned over your ankles. Extend your legs to return to the starting position. Repeat.

Why It’s Butt Friendly: Squats are the king of all glutes moves. This unique take on the front squat forces you to keep your torso upright by slightly angling the dumbbell heads away from each other. The bonus: Because your back muscles keep your trunk straight, your core is also challenged.

Tip: Don’t let the front of the dumbbells drop.

Maximize Your Glutes Training

These moves won’t help your booty if you aren’t doing them right. Up the butt-building ante with these terrific tips.

1. Contract them: You know that you need to squeeze your glutes as you rise, like when you squat, but you should also squeeze them on the way down. “You’ll feel the burn more if you resist on the way down too,” Olson says.

2. Boost the range: Whether it’s a squat or lunge, try to go as low as you can, and aim to bring your thighs parallel with the floor. “The more range of motion you get, the more you challenge the glutes,” Olson says.

3. Push yourself: If you haven’t reached fatigue by the last rep, up the weight. Because they are so large and strong, the glutes need to be challenged more than other muscles.