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The 5 BEST Glute Building Exercises For a Round, Firm Bum

Female Strength Training Glute Training, 6 Jul 2022, Written By Aaron Schiavone, Edited, 11-minute read

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[These are] my 5 best glute building exercises. Go on any other top 5 glute exercise list... there will always be staple exercises like hip thrusts, squats, and deadlifts.

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Building bigger, rounder bums has become perhaps the biggest growth area (no pun intended) in women’s fitness over the last 10 years. Women’s fitness and training styles is making a paradigm shift away from being skinny and wanting a thigh gap to wanting a big, round, perky set of glutes and strong lean legs.

With this however has come the rise of the Instagram influencer and an exponential rise in the amount of completely random and nonsense glute training videos, glute exercises and booty band workouts. Annoyingly more women seem to spend time on the “fluff” exercises rather than the basics that actually build your glutes.

Building your glutes is like making a cake, your big compound exercises are the cake mix, the actual cake. Without them you have no cake, only icing. All the other exercises, your isolation work, band work, pump work and weird Instagram exercises are the icing on the cake. They sweeten it up, make it look a little nicer and give it some shape…butt without the cake to go on, it’s just a thin layer of not very much…. It’s certainly not a cake.

Of course, don’t eat cake for your extra calories! Fill up on nutritious lean proteins, vegetables, fruit, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to build that booty.

Let’s dive into the Top 5 glute building exercises for a bigger, firmer butt.


1. Hip Thrusts with Cal-Fit’s Booty Builder

The big daddy of booty builders, since its inception by Bret Contreras in the early 2000’s it has revolutionized glute training and can single handily claim responsibility for all the amazing glutes we see in the media. The hip thrust is a glute dominant exercise, the quads and hamstrings help but not as much as other exercises like squats and deadlifts.

The hip thrust activates and builds the upper glutes to a much greater extent than squats, and even to a greater extent than deadlifts. In fact, the hip thrust is one of the few moves that hits the glute muscle in its entirety, meaning more bang for your buck than ANY other exercise for the glutes. Hip thrusts help to build glute muscle through mechanical tension and metabolic stress.

The time the muscle spends under tension, provided by the weight, creates mechanical tension in the muscle. Metabolic stress comes from a buildup of blood and metabolic compounds in the muscle otherwise known as the pump/burn. The important thing to note is that hip thrusts won’t leave you as sore as squats and deadlifts because they don’t cause as much muscular damage.

To use the Booty Builder machine, simply…

  1. Position yourself in a seated position. Your back should face the floor.

  2. Buckle the seatbelt across your lap and adjust it so that it is firm but not tight.

  3. Place your feet approximately shoulder-width apart on the press plate.

  4. Push the plate forward until your knees are nearly fully extended.

  5. Bring back until legs create an approximately 90% angle at knees.

  6. Repeat as reps and sets as desired.

Weights can be added to the bar as desired.


2. Sumo Deadlift with the Smith Machine

The sumo deadlift is what we call a hamstring dominant exercise, in that it works the hamstrings more than any other muscle. It also involves a lot of quad work as well as lower back and upper back/trap muscles and of course the glutes!

The glutes are targeted to a high degree by the sumo deadlift, primarily due to where you place your feet. In a sumo deadlift, the feet are wide and are pointing outwards, otherwise known as external rotation.  External rotation of the leg is a primary action of the glutes, so this stance involves the glutes to a higher degree, making this a great movement to target the glutes.


3. Bulgarian Split Squats with the Pin-Loaded Press Machine or the Plate-Loaded Press Machine

Our clients and admittedly, Personal Trainers too, have a kind of hate/love relationship with the split squat.  More often than not, this is when my clients tell me they hate me! Very few exercises can match the lung busting demand of the split squat. Using only one leg at a time means to complete one set, you need to do double the work!

Split squats are a quad dominant exercise, but they can be used to absolutely hammer the glutes. For example, by leaning forward slightly you increase the stretch on the glutes and increase the demand in the muscle. Also, by focusing on pushing your weight through your heels you place more emphasis on the glutes.

The split squat assist glute growth by causing muscular damage; tiny micro tears in the muscle; because the muscle is firing when it is stretched; basically, your glute muscles are working hardest when you are at the bottom of the squat. Muscular damage is what leads to DOMS, the pain you often get post workout.


4. Romanian Deadlift (RDL) with the Smith Machine

If the squat is the King of quad exercises, then the RDL is the king of hamstring exercises, it is also one of my all-time favorite glute-building exercises. No exercise works the entire posterior chain more effectively than the Romanian Deadlift.

Whether you’re an elite athlete who wants to run faster, jump higher or prevent injury, or you’re a regular gym member who wants a booty that’s the envy of all her friends, the RDL is the best lift you’re not doing that you can add to your program.

The hip-hinge motion is probably the most important pattern for overall movement health and the RDL is great for boosting mobility in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back. And, unlike a traditional deadlift, RDLs can be done with much less weight, minimizing joint stress.

Much like the split squat, RDL’s create a lot of muscular damage as the glutes work their hardest when they are being stretched so they can leave you sore with DOMS. I would advise adding RDL’s no more than 2x per week to your glute training.


5. Squats with the Smith Machine

The squat, King of leg exercises, titan of strength and an overrated glute builder! There is a reason I left it to number 5 on the list.  Despite being a crazy good quad builder, it’s not the mighty glute builder that most people think it is (but it’s still an essential).

Until the hip thrust came along the squat was the go too for glutes and honestly glutes were not as good as they are today. That being said, squat variations should be 100% be part of your glute routine, just don’t rely on them to get the results you want…. That’s why we hip thrust.

One of the main issues is that like the split squat and RDL the squat works the glutes hardest at the bottom of the squat when the muscle is stretched.  However, a lot of people really struggle to get deep enough in their squats to really work the glutes fully.

This is a big issue; it means that your glutes are not working hard enough, and your quads are doing all the work. Now, this doesn’t mean you should avoid squats if your goal is for bigger and stronger glutes.  In fact, I personally suggest that you incorporate a variety of these exercises in your routine for optimal results.

In your glute-focused workouts, not only should you incorporate a variation of the above exercises, but you should also incorporate multiple squat and deadlift variations as well.

Although squats may not be the top exercise for glutes, there are ways to make sure you’re activating your glutes more effectively, especially in today’s world where most people are seated and have trained their glutes to become inactive.

There you have it, my favorite big glute exercises. If you picked a few of these to do in a workout and peppered some kickbacks, abductor work and band work on to the end, you will have the recipe for a fantastic glute workout.




Hi, I’m Aaron Schiavone, owner of Mind Muscle Personal Training. Over the past 5+ years I have helped women increase their self-confidence, improve their relationship with food, improve their health, become stronger, fitter, and happier.

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