The most common complement I get from women (especially at the gym) is, “you have a very attractive and curvy backside”, followed by the question, “what exercises do you do for your glutes?”. It’s extremely difficult for me to make them understand that my exercises don’t affect the size or shape of my glutes. The genes my mother has given me this small waist and wider-glute shape. Exercise make the glutes stronger, firmer and gives them a lift. Even though I love glute-isolated exercises, my main objective is to increase strength. Following are my top exercises that will help firm and strengthen your glutes, find out more in Glute Exercises: My Top 5 for Stronger, Firmer Glutes!
1. Hip Thrust or Glute Bridge
The most effective and glute-focused exercise. Almost 90% of the glutes and 10% of the hamstrings are activated. Perform this exercise either with a bench or on the floor, the result is almost the same.
Personal favourite: Single leg hip thrust (helps focus on each glute separately).
2. Conventional & Stiff-Legged Deadlift
Deadlifts (DL) are underestimated when it comes to glute strengthening. It’s a compound movement that impacts different parts of the body. Stiff legged DL or RDL (Romanian Deadlift) is comparatively more glute-isolated but incorporating both types of DLs in your workout is advisable.
Personal favourite: Superset single-leg RDL (both sides). RDL has a greater impact on the lower glutes and improves stability.
3. Bulgarian Split Squat
Works on the glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back as well as on core strengthening. The split squat helps balance the strength between the two sides. This is a good exercise to improve stability while stretching the hip flexors.
Personal favourite: Split squats with barbell between the legs rather than dumbbells on each side.
4. Goblet Squat
This squat variation is not very popular, but it affects different parts of the body including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and shoulders. This is a good beginner exercise that helps correct the squat posture.
Personal favourite: Goblet squats with elevated heel (this allows more focus on the glutes).
An amazing exercise that only focuses on your glutes and hamstrings. There are various ways of doing kickbacks, either on the floor or on a bench or even while standing with the assistance of a cable machine, with resistance bands or just your body weight.
Personal favourite: Superset cable machine kickback with body weight – half kickbacks. The leg comes halfway down and goes back up, completed on one side then repeated on the other.
Over the course of three years I have understood what exercises better affects my glutes via trial and error. Everyone has a different and unique size and shape, try different variations and see which ones suit you best.
For example, I personally do not prefer the side kick or fire hydrant, but it might work perfectly for your glutes. Follow Bret Contreras (“The Glute Guy”) or Anthony Osorio (“Booty King”) for more glute exercises and variations.