If you're following Fit With Iulia's Build a Booty at the Gym workout program then you're already on the right track to growing your glutes, but it still doesn't hurt to know the key to maximizing your leg day for better glute muscle growth! And if you're not following her program, we'll tell you how you can try your first workout for free after we give you all the important stuff first!
So, you want to grow stronger glutes?
It's quite a common fitness goal nowadays, the problem is, most don't know how strategically grow this large muscle! Many women tend to squat their lives away expecting massive results in their lower body, but more than often, they're left disappointed. We're here to break the bad news - focusing solely on squats is not going to help build the strong glutes you've been dreaming of. Squats are a key compound exercise that everyone should be practicing regularly, but despite common misconceptions, it's not the best or only way to build stronger glutes. Your glutes are a huge muscle group, and you need to incorporate various exercises that target all the muscles
Iulia has an entire workout program dedicated to helping you "build a booty" so we know all the best strategies and exercises that will help maximize your lower body workouts to get you on the right track to grow rounder, stronger glutes!
Best Glute Exercises
The glutes are a huge muscle group comprised of three primary muscles – gluteus maximus (the largest muscle that helps keep the torso upright), gluteus medius (muscle near the outside of your pelvis that helps with side-stepping), and gluteus minimus (under the gluteus medius and assists with abducting leg away and rotating inward). Aside from those three, there are six supporting muscles that are found under the gluteus muscles and are known as the "deep six". These muscles work together to help stabilize your body when you stand up, walk, and/or twist your body. Just like your core, these muscles play an integral role in functional everyday movements, not just from your workout routine.
It's good to know this information because it'll help you pick what butt exercises to implement in your routine. You want to pick exercises that work all three major glute muscles and the deep six. There are so many to choose from, but below are the best glute exercises you should start doing ASAP...
Paused barbell hip thrust
Hip thrusts are by far the best glute exercise you can do! This exercise targets and actives the entire glute muscle groups, and if done with proper form, it can also work your lower back, hamstrings, abductors, and quadriceps. This is a regular barbell hip thrust, except, it has a pause at the top to increase the time under tension for better growth.
How to do it: Sit on the floor with the long side of the bench behind the back. Roll barbell back and center over hips. Position upper back on the corner of the bench. Place feet on the floor approximately shoulder-width with knees bent. Grasp bar on each side. Raise bar upward by extending hips until straight. Pause for 5 seconds (or longer), lower, and repeat.
Alternative for home workouts: Try a single-leg hip thrust! Instead of putting your back against the bench, put it against a couch or sturdy box. Once you're in position, hold one leg at a 90-degree angle at the hip and drive the other foot into the floor to bridge your hips up while squeezing your glute. Do 10-15 reps on one leg before moving to the other.
Although this exercise is primarily known for targeting the lower back, it actually really fires up the lower part of your glutes and your hamstrings. Aside from that, incorporating this exercise into your routine can help improve your squats and deadlifts which in turn will improve your lower body strength!
How to do it: Lie face down on a hyperextension bench, tucking your ankles securely under the footpads. Adjust the upper pad if possible so your upper thighs lie flat across the wide pad, leaving enough room for you to bend at the waist without any restriction. Get a plate and hold it in front of you under your crossed arms. With your body straight, cross your arms in front of you (my preference) or behind your head. This will be your starting position. Start bending forward slowly at the waist as far as you can while keeping your back flat. Inhale as you perform this movement. Keep moving forward until you feel a nice stretch on the hamstrings and you can no longer keep going without rounding the back. Slowly raise your torso back to the initial position as you inhale.
Alternative for home workouts: There are two home workout alternatives you can try, one requires only your body and the other requires a stability ball. Supermans is an equipment-free alternative that involves laying the floor facing down with your arms and legs stretched outward and then lifting them in the air toward the ceiling – like your superman flying over the sky! Stability ball leg curls involve playing on the floor face up with your ankles placed on a stability ball, and then moving it towards you to perform a leg curl.
The conventional deadlift is an excellent booty-builder, but don't neglect Romanian deadlifts (RDLs). This exercise fires up your entire posterior chain, mainly the gluteus maximus and hamstrings. Another great plus is that it also works your forearm flexors to help improve your grip strength!
How to do it: Stand with a shoulder-width or narrower stance on a shallow platform with feet flat beneath the bar. Bend knees and bend over with lower back straight. Grasp barbell with a shoulder-width overhand or mixed grip, shoulder-width or slightly wider. Lift weight to standing position. Lower bar to the top of feet by bending hips. Bend knees slightly during descent and keep waist straight, flexing only slightly at the bottom. With knees bent, lift the bar by extending at hips until standing upright. Pull shoulders back slightly if rounded. Extend knees at the top if desired.
Alternatives for home workouts: If you have a pair of dumbbells try this exercise at home! Follow the directions above, but instead of holding a barbell, you'll be holding a pair of dumbbells in front of your legs. If you don't have dumbbells, but have a long resistance band try good mornings! This exercise involves placing the band and wrapping one end around your neck and the other end under your feet standing on it hip-width apart. You can grab the band on your shoulders and hinge back into the hips while maintaining your back neutral. Pause and then extend back up.
Walking dumbbell lunge
Lunges are by far one of the best total lower body exercises! It not only targets your quads but also your hamstrings, glutes, and calves. However, for your glutes, we recommend a walking dumbbell lunge because it gives you a much deeper stretch and it's more difficult at the bottom over the movement which produces more muscle damage – and the more damage, the more growth there will be!
How to do it: Begin standing with your feet about hip-width apart and holding dumbbells in your hands down by your side. This will be your starting position. Step forward with one leg, flexing the knees to drop your hips. Descend until your rear knee nearly touches the ground. Your posture should remain upright, and your front knee should be in line with your front foot. Do not allow your front knee to go forward beyond your toes as you come down, as this will put undue stress on the knee joint. Drive through the heel of your lead foot and extend both knees to raise yourself back up. Step forward with your rear foot, repeating the lunge on the opposite leg.
Alternatives for home workouts: Simply perform the exercise above without any weights! But there are so many more lunge variations you can try at home or at the gym, here are some of our favorites!
Cable glute kickbacks
Kickbacks in general are a great exercise for isolating the glutes, meaning other muscle groups can't come in and carry the load. And like hip thrusts, they work your entire glute muscles, while also challenging your core!
How to do it: Wrap an ankle strap around your right foot. Stand facing the weight stack and grasp the cable tower for support. With your knees slightly bent and your abs drawn in, slowly kick your right leg back until your hip is fully extended back with your glutes contracted. Pause for 1-2 seconds, then slowly bring your right leg back to the starting position and repeat.
Alternatives for home workouts: Try banded glute kickbacks! Wrap a short resistance band around your thighs just above the knee, position yourself on all fours, and begin to kick your right leg up.
Banded hip abductions
Hip abduction exercises are an excellent exercise that isolates your glutes, specifically the medius and maximus. The best part is that it'll help improve your hip abductor strength so you have better power on your squats and deadlifts!
How to do it: Wrap a short resistance band around your knees and sit on the edge of a bench or chair. Maintain your back straight, and using your upper glutes, push your knees out. Pause for a moment and return back to the starting position. Perform 10-15 reps, then perform another set with your back bent over, and another with a lean back. Doing this will help stimulate different muscle fibers in the glutes.
Alternatives for home workouts: It's already a home-friendly exercise, but if you don't have a resistance band set at home, check out UPPPER Gear! Their Resistance Bands are always on sale for buy two get one free. Simply add three bands to your cart, and the discount will automatically be applied on the third!
Best strategies for how to grow glutes
The above exercises, along with others, will help you grow your glutes. But you also need a good plan. For some reason when it comes to booty building many think it's easy and expect massive results within a month or two. Although you can get some results in that time, building muscle in any area requires a lot of time and hard work. There are no shortcuts! If you really want to grow firmer and stronger glutes, then you must have an effective workout plan for your leg days. Implement these strategies and you'll definitely start reaping the benefits and seeing the glute growth you've been wanting!
Stretch and activate glutes
As with any type of workout, it's important to have a proper warm-up before hitting the heavyweights, but it's especially important for glute workouts. Whether you work out after a long day at work or early in the morning, your glute muscles and hip flexors are most likely tight. Tight muscles are unable to work through their full range of motion, and if you're squatting or hip thrusting then it's crucial to do so.
To solve this issue simply have a warm-up routine that implements exercises that help to lengthen the muscle and activates them! Not sure what to do? Don't worry, we'll give you some ideas...
First, if you have a foam roller, use it!! Foam rolling before you exercise will help wake up and loosen the muscles around your glutes and hips. Second, do some static glute stretches like the figure four stretch, seated twist, half pigeon, frog pose, and more. Third, incorporate some dynamic stretches! This involves actual movements that improve blood flow and help to increase your range of motion. You can do glute bridges, leg swings, deep bodyweight squats, and more. The last and best way to finish off your warm-up is by doing at least two glute activation exercises and performing at least 2 sets with 10-15 reps. Glute activation exercises require a resistance band to help fire up and activate the gluteal muscles that way when you hit your leg workout they're actually working! Neglecting to activate your glutes can lead to the surrounding muscles picking up the slack, which means if you're doing hip thrusts then your hamstrings might be doing most of the work. So, take the time to activate your glutes! Pick a lateral move like fire hydrants, hip abductions, side leg raises, and pick a sagittal plane move like donkey kicks, glute bridges, and standing glute kickbacks. This will ensure that you're activating various muscle groups in the glutes, not just one.
Anyone in strength training knows that the key to building muscle is practicing progressive overload. Unfortunately, many women looking solely to build a booty do not know this. They have this misconception that resistance band exercises, squats, and hip thrusts are enough, and just continue doing the same amount of reps, sets, and weight, thus halting any further progress. Getting comfortable with your workout routine will lead to hitting a workout plateau, so to promote glute growth and lower body gains, practice progressive overload.
For those who don't know, progressive overload is a fitness principle that involves increasing the amount of resistance or workload you expose your muscles. There are other techniques involved, but the most important is adding more resistance as you make progress so you can continually challenge your muscles and promote better muscle growth. To do this you have to either increase the weight or the number of reps you do. For example, if you're new to strength training and starting out with resistance band exercises, but feel that you're breezing right through them without breaking a sweat then it’s time to introduce free weights! Move up to dumbbell exercises, and gradually increase the weight as you make progress, eventually, you'll be able to do barbell squats, hip thrusts, and other heavy weight exercises. Just avoid adding a lot of weight/resistance at once! You want to gradually make changes to your routine, so add another 10lbs next week or aim to push for 15 reps instead of 10. Keep it simple, yet effective.
Follow the rule of thirds
Adding resistance is one way to practice progressive overload, another way is by having a workout routine with a variety of exercises and techniques. Bret Contreras has a rule of thirds that will help you create an effective training plan that will maximize your glute growing efforts.
For those who don't know, Bret Contreras, Ph. D., C.S.C.S., is the glute guy. He's an accomplished exercise physiologist credited for inventing the renowned glute growing exercise, the hip thrust. He recommends training the glutes at least three times a week, as do we! In fact, Iulia's Build a Booty program has three lower body workouts a week.
So, the rule of thirds involves not only training the glute three times a week but also in a way that includes a variety of loads and exercises. Contreras says to perform approximately one-third of exercises that are horizontal in nature, vertical, and lateral/rotary. Here's an example of exercises you can do:
- Horizontally loaded exercises: Hip thrusts, cable pull-throughs, glute bridges, good mornings, and more.
- Vertically loaded exercises: Deadlifts, step-ups, squats, walking lunges, and more.
- Laterally loaded exercises: Banded lateral walks, clamshells, hip abductions, side leg raises, and more.
The rule of thirds also applies to the weight and rep ranges. Many believe that heavy lifting is the way to building a bigger butt, and there is truth to that, but you shouldn't only focus on heavy weight training. Instead, have roughly one-third of your routine be heavy sets with lower reps, one-third should be medium for moderate reps, and one-third should be light for higher reps. This will help you naturally select a variety of different exercises. For example, you can choose two to three heavy compound movements like hip thrusts, deadlifts and/or squats, which naturally require a heavier weight and lower rep range. Followed by one or two unilateral exercises and isolation exercises like single-leg deadlifts, single-leg glute bridges, Bulgarian split squats, hamstring curls, and/or leg extensions which typically require a moderate weight and moderate rep range. Then finish off with one or two burnout exercises, pick a light weight or use a resistance band to do banded lateral walks, hip abductions, and/or squat pulses.
Following the rule of thirds will ensure that you implement different techniques as a way to challenge your muscles in different ways and angles that keep you from getting too burnt out.
Master good form
Neglecting good form can lead to minimal results, performing 5 squats with good form and technique is better than 15 squats with terrible form. Why? Let's take a look at squats for example. Lifters often advise going deep on your squats, and there's a good reason. Going deep, or through the full range of motion, requires more work from the muscles, particularly in the hamstrings and glutes. The same pretty much goes for all leg and glute exercises, if you want to recruit more muscles you have to work through the full range of motion. So, take your time to practice proper form and technique for any strength training exercise to ensure you're recruiting the muscles you are intending to grow.
There's one glute growing technique that everyone should nail - the posterior pelvic tilt. This is a technique used at the end range of the exercise, it requires locking out your glutes to contract the muscles. It's essentially a glute squeeze that will put you in maximal hip extension and ensure that your glutes are fired up and working. So, when should you try this technique? Finish any gluteus maximus exercise with it! This includes, but is not limited to, barbell hip thrusts, step-ups, and glute bridges.
Prioritize nutrition and recovery
What you do in the gym isn't the only important part, what you do outside of the gym matters too! When it comes to dieting, women tend to cut carbs and calories in order to accelerate fat loss. Well, we have some good news and bad news. If you want to build muscle in your glutes, you need to prioritize your nutrition and be in a slight surplus (or at least not in a huge calorie deficit), which includes eating plenty of good carbs! Undereating by a large amount will only promote weight loss, not muscle growth. The best approach to ensure you're eating enough nutrients for your goals, calculate your macros and track them (here are all the details on tracking macros in case you need them)!
Building lean muscle mass is a demanding process, and requires that your body is getting essential nutrients for sustainable energy and muscle recovery. But you also need rest... And we're talking about good, deep sleep and enough rest days! You shouldn't be hitting your glutes every day, or every other day, you'll just end up being burnt out and increase your risk of an overuse injury. To avoid this, get at least 6-8 hours of sleep and only train legs 3x a week with proper training splits to ensure you’re resting your glute muscles enough in between each session.
Bottom line is, these five simple strategies will help maximize the effort you’re putting in at the gym and get you the glute growth you've been dreaming of! You're not going to grow a booty overnight, but you will build muscle in your entire lower body and build sustainable healthy habits along the way. Implement them into your workout plan, and don’t forget to check out Iulia's Build a Booty at the Gym program! Iulia plans every single workout program on the Fit With Iulia app herself every week. She picks the best exercises designed to get you results for the given goal, appropriate training splits, and the app features progress tracking so you can practice progressive overload all in one spot!
Want to see what all the hype is about?
The first workout of every goal is available for everyone to try for free! Just download the Fit With Iulia app, click on the goal “Build a Booty at the Gym”, and start working out with Iulia.