Glutes are the largest in your body and have very important functions. They play an important role in maintaining balance and power when we jump, walk, or run. They are responsible for your posture, which can be negatively affected by under-developed glutes.
The glutes consist of three muscles:
Gluteus maximus – Responsible for hip extension when you are walking and lateral rotation of the thigh when you are swinging your leg.
Gluteus medius – Responsible for the movement of your leg away from your body (abduction). For example, when you’re stepping out of bed, and balancing.
Gluteus minimus – The smallest of the three muscles and helps with walking and rotating your legs.
A sign of weak and under-developed glutes is knee and lower back pain. This is common in people that spend the majority of the day seated, causing the glutes to become weak.
We have listed 8 of the best glute exercises with video examples, benefits and top tips.
For beginners it is advised to start with bodyweight squats. This is the most basic type of squat which uses your bodyweight as resistance. To add resistance you can include weights, like barbells or dumbbells, resistance bands, or yoga balls.
Squats rely on your quads, hamstrings, and glutes throughout the movement. This will shape your lower body, help your balance and mobility, and increase your strength. When these muscles are in good condition, it allows for more comfortable movement with less pain.
Adding squats to your workouts can strengthen your ligaments and tendons, decreasing your risk of injury.
Performing squats will burn sufficient calories to support weight loss, due to the high intensity of the movement.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The bulgarian split squat enables you to target your quads or your glutes by altering your foot position. The further away your foot is from the bench or box, the more glute and hamstring dominant the exercise will be. The closer it is the bench or box, the more quad dominant it will be.
Most important, your foot placement must be what feels most natural based on your mobility and flexibility. This will enable you to go through the full range of motion, allowing you to gain the most benefits. Ensure your foot is not so close to the bench that your knee falls over your toes, but you also don’t want it out too far.
Your torso should be tilted forward for this exercise, only by around 30-degrees.
If you stay in a completely upright position, you will limit your range of motion. This will force your knee over your toes, adding stress to your knee.
This is a great substitute for a weighted squat as it will remove the load on your back. Not only does this reduce the risk of lower back pain, it also places the emphasis on your legs.
Bulgarian split squats require you to balance which engages your core.
As a lower body exercise, it strengthens the muscles of the legs, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
Glute Kickbacks are a great exercise for engaging your glutes, hamstrings, and hips.
Glute kickbacks are an isolation exercise, this means that the target areas are kept smaller and more defined. This enables you to do kickbacks without adding demands to the rest of your body.
It works the glute muscles in isolation, allowing you to fill out your glutes whilst building shapely, lean legs.
Strengthening your glutes can improve your posture, make picking up objects and climbing stairs easier.
Step-ups hit all the major muscle groups in your lower body. The exercise is quad dominant, but it works your glutes, hamstrings and calves.
The lower the step, the more the quad dominant the movement is. The higher the step, the more the hamstring and glute dominant. If you are a beginner, it is advised that you start with a smaller step and work your way up to a larger step.
The speed of the movement should be determined by your goal and the type of training you are doing. For more cardio benefit, a faster tempo and no or light weight is best.
You can also add weight to the exercise by carrying a dumbbell in either hand, allowing you to develop explosive leg power.
Less weight is used with step ups compared to squats, this is an advantage if you have lower back issues.
As step-ups are a unilateral exercise, it also improves your balance.
Step-ups can be done anywhere as it only requires a chair, step, or bench, and some optional weights.
Stepping up and onto something gets your heart rate up. This will help you burn more calories during strength training sessions.
For more calorie burning exercises check out another blog post – 7 Best exercises for weight loss.
The glute bridge incorporates hip and knee extension so the gluteus maximus and quadriceps are worked. But the main muscle used in the bridge is the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle.
This exercise focuses on the muscles in your six-pack, flattening your stomach.
This is a great exercise for people who are unable to squat due to back, hip, or knee pain.
A benefit of the glute bridge is that it does not place any pressure on the lower back. The enables glute bridge to reduce lower back pain as it strengthens the hamstrings, lower back, and glutes.
Due to the exercise performed whilst laying down, it avoids putting pressure on your joints.
The glute bridge activates your core muscles. This will help movement in everyday life and strength lifts such as the squat, if that is one of your goals.
Lateral lunges are a great alternative to the stationary lunge as they target your legs at a different angle. This forces your body to adapt to different movements, mixing up your training and strengthening under-developed areas.
Lateral lunges develop strength and stability.
Lateral lunges may reduce the appearance of cellulite as they work your inner and outer thighs.
They strengthen your back and core muscles without putting too much stress or strain on your back, improving your posture.
Lunges are a staple exercise in most routines, this is because they enable you to tone your body whilst improving your athletic performance.
Stationary lunges have the ability to strengthen your back, hips, and legs, while improving mobility and stability.
Lunges can correct misalignments within your lower body to make it more symmetrical.
Lunges are a unilateral movement which forces the core to engage helping to develop your balance, stability and co-ordination.
Grow your glutes by working all three glute muscles, leading to repair and growth.
Lateral Leg raise
The lateral leg raise is a hip abduction movement which has very real strengthening benefits. This exercise primarily targets the gluteus medius and offers numerous functional advantages.
Just like any other exercise, proper form is essential to injury prevention. It can be performed while standing, where your leg moves outward and when lying down on your side, where your leg will move upward.
Lateral leg raises improves the range of motion in the hips, body stabilisation and muscle endurance.
The exercise allows the use of muscles that aren’t usually active in those who sit for prolonged periods each day.
The lateral leg raise strengthens your gluteus minimus and medius, the muscles on the side of your glutes. Both play an important role in stabilizing your knees, hips, and lower back during exercise.
Important Note – Just like preparing for any other exercise, it is crucial that you stretch your muscles and warm them up sufficiently. This is to reduce the risk of injury and to allow you to perform the movements properly.