Who doesn’t want a great booty? The answer is pretty much no one, but as you test out different butt workouts in your quest for the perfect butt, you may find yourself wondering, “Am I wasting my time? Are great butts born or made?” The good news is even if you weren’t blessed with the genetic code for a perfect backside, you can tap in to my targeted butt workouts to build the best butt of your life, no matter what your age.
But first, let’s explore a little booty background. The “glutes” are formed by the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles, and are superimposed by a layer of fat. This large muscle group impacts everything from bending over and standing back up to maintaining posture. The buttocks are pretty important, since they allow us to sit upright without needing to rest our weight on our feet as four-legged animals do.
The glutes play a vital role in stabilizing the pelvis, and weak glutes (sometimes associated with too much sitting) can result in decreased stabilization and control, setting you up for pain and injuries. In fact, many doctors and physical therapists focus on strengthening the glutes to improve lower body movement and even to reverse lower back pain. (1, 2)
Now that we have some understanding of purpose, let’s get back to the question, “Are great butts born or made?” The truth is it’s a little bit of both.
Though there are surgical ways to improve the aesthetics of the butt, I never recommend surgery for this purpose. While many people — mostly females between the ages of 20 and 50 years old — wish to remodel their buttocks, the great news is you transform your backside without surgery. (3) The key? Adopt proven butt workouts that consist of gluteal-specific and leg workouts. Combine that with a healthy, whole food-based diet, and you’ll be on your way to a great butt that will last.
The 5 Best Butt Workouts
Try to do these butt workouts in my program three to four times per week. Perform each exercise for 45–60 seconds, with a 15-second break between each exercise. For beginners, perform two rounds; for advanced exercisers, perform three to four rounds. Take a 60-second break between each round.
The deadlift is a great exercise for the butt, but like all other exercises, it must be done with proper form to prevent injury. First, choose a weight, either hand weights or a barbell, that’s slightly challenging but not too heavy so you’re able to properly perform the exercise. Start with the barbells or hand weights in your hands just outside your thighs. Feet are hip distance apart. Knees are slightly bent. Hips are slightly tucked.
Starting at the top, lower the upper body while keeping the chest proud and sticking the butt back. Keep the back flat (do not hunch the back). Lower to about mid-shin or just below the knees, then slowly raise back to the standing upright position. Repeat 10–20 times. As you get stronger, you can increase the weight, but be careful to not overdo it.
2. Sumo Squats
We all love the squat. Well, Chelsea and I do, and you will, too, when you see its butt-lifting benefits just in time for summer. To perform the sumo squat, stand with feet a little further than hip distance apart and toes pointed out at about 10 and 2 o’clock. You can do this with a hand weight, kettlebell or with no weight. In either case, hold your weight, or just your hands, in front of you at about chin level. Make sure to keep good form by maintaining your upper body in an upright position.
Bend at the knees, pushing your butt back while squatting as if sitting in a chair, while holding your your hands or weight in front of you but close to the body. If you are able, squat to where your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to the floor, like a sumo wrestler. If not, just go about halfway. Over time, you will get stronger and be able to perform a deep squat.
If you choose to hold weight while performing this exercise, select a weight that provides a little challenge but doesn’t cause you to have poor form.
Advanced: Lift one knee as you stand up and out of the squatting position, alternating sides.
3. Hip Raises (Optional with Weight)
I love this exercise because it has little to no impact yet packs a powerful glute-building result. It focuses on both the quads and hamstrings, helping to lift the butt!
With your feet hip distance apart, lie on the floor or a mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. As you inhale, slowly lift yourself up into a bridge pushing the hips up toward the ceiling as you drive through the heels of your feet. Tighten the abs, glutes and hamstrings during the movement. Lift your hips all the way up into a bridge as high as you can and hold for a five to 10 seconds. As you exhale, lower back down slowly. Start with 10–12 repetitions, and work up to as many as 30.
Advanced: Place a weight or barbell across your lower abdomen.
4. Squat Jumps
This move incorporates the traditional squat but with a jump to better engage the glutes, quads and calves. You’ll definitely feel the burn.
Start with your feet just hip distance apart with your toes slightly turned out to about 10 and 2 o’clock. Go into a low squat while taking your hands to the floor between the feet. Then jump up while reaching up toward the ceiling. When you land, take it back down to a low squat position with the hands on the floor. Repeat for 10–20 reps. For beginners, you can leave out the jump.
5. Donkey Kicks
This exercise has long stood the test of time and activates those deep glute muscles. Get on all fours with your toes curled under, feet flexed and back flat. Pull the abs in to help maintain posture and alignment. Place your knees directly under your hips, and place your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep the legs about hip-distance apart. Maintain a 90-degree bend in the right leg during the entire exercise.
Slowly begin taking the right heel up toward the ceiling, keeping the foot flexed. Lift the leg as high as you can go while maintaining your posture. Avoid arching your back, and keep the other leg in proper vertical alignment. Once lifted, hold for three seconds, then return the right knee to the mat and repeat for 12–30 reps on each side.
Advanced: Place a weight at the back of the knee and squeeze, holding on to the weight using your leg while lifting.
4 Butt Workouts to Sneak Into Your Day
1. Take the Stairs
While the elevator is convenient and sometimes gets you there faster, have you considered using the stairs wherever you go? Whenever I travel and stay at a hotel, I always take the stairs. By using your legs and your glutes with each step, you engage those muscles and most certainly raise your heart rate. Of course, going up the stairs provides the most benefits, but going down can also help by working different muscles.
2. Go for a Walk
Walking is one of the best things you can do and something most people can manage to do every day. Your glutes will definitely reap the benefits of regular walking, as well as other muscles in the legs and core. I like to wear my GPS watch or other fitness tracker so I can track my distance and pace. It’s important to have good posture, and you can engage your abs and glutes while walking. With practice, you can walk a mile in 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Take Up Cycling or Do a Spin Class
Cycling not only cranks up your heart rate, but it tones and builds the glute muscles, especially if you take it uphill. If you cycle outdoors, find areas where you can cycle uphill in the heaviest gear you can handle, and do hill repeats — meaning go up the hill, come back down and repeat. You can do them seated or standing, though standing is more difficult. Either way, if on a stationary bike at the gym or at home, you need to increase the tension on the gear to mimic a steep hill.
4. Sprint It Out
Sprints are great to engage those glute muscles. Try incorporating an easy 10- to 15-minute warm-up jog followed by sprints — either on a track or flat road — into your routine. The sprints can be anywhere from 25 meters to 400 meters (a quarter mile), depending on your level of fitness. Just make sure you are warmed-up first.
5 Benefits of a Toned Butt and Strong Glutes
1. Reduce the Risk of Injury
Studies show that weight-bearing exercises — including bodyweight exercises — improve the muscle function of the glutes and can reduce injury in athletes. One study shows the effects of strong glute muscles in swimmers verses non-swimmers, indicating that the swimmers with the stronger gluteal muscles enjoyed a lower risk of injury. (4, 5)
2. Improved Athletic Performance
Because the glutes are responsible for helping our bodies move faster, slow down, change direction and create explosive jumping moves, strong glute muscles are critical in most sports. But you can’t just rely on squats to built strong glutes. Instead, you need to stimulate your backside muscles in different ways.
Sprinting is one of the most effective exercises for simulating the glutes and activates 234 percent more of the gluteus maximus muscle than a vertical jump. Athletes with strong glutes are faster, more efficient and explosive in their movements compared to athletes with weaker glutes. (6)
3. Better Support for the Back
Research shows that stronger gluteal muscles can help prevent back injury and back pain. Strengthening your glutes can greatly decrease the risk of back pain, too. Some of the exercises mentioned, such as the deadlift and squat, ultimately take some of the pressure off your lower back. (7)
4. Less Knee, Hamstring and Groin Injuries
Developing strong glutes not only helps prevent back injury and pain, but it can also lower your risk for injury in the knees, hamstring and groin areas. By strengthening your weak glutes, you help improve hip alignment, which could improve knee pain, too. In fact, many butt workouts are also effective knee strengthening exercises. Runners notoriously suffer from patellar knee pain due to hips overcompensating for weak glutes. Furthermore, weak glutes may also contribute to pulled muscles in your hamstring or groin.
5. Nicer Visual Appearance with the Reduction in Cellulite
I have shared a lot of information about cellulite reduction, including the benefits of dry-brushing. Usually fluid retention, lack of circulation, weak collagen structure and increased body fat result in the annoying cellulite that most often shows up in spots like the legs, butt, stomach and back of the arms.
Naturally, butt exercises, leg exercises and a smart whole foods-based diet help decrease body fat, which can reduce the appearance of cellulite on the skin. Burst training exercises, similar to interval training, HIIT workouts and Tabata workouts, are great routines that you can add to your butt-lifting program and also work as natural remedies for cellulite.
Butt Workout Precautions
If you’re a beginner, never use added weight without the supervision of a fitness professional. If you have a heart condition or are taking medication, please consult with your physician before engaging in any new exercise program.
Final Thoughts on Butt Workouts
Having a great butt is partially genetic, but science-backed exercises can help whip your butt into shape regardless of your genes. In addition, there are many reasons to strengthen your butt that span far beyond beauty. Weak gluteal muscles can actually lead to chronic low back pain and even knee pain and injury. Butt workouts help strengthen your entire kinetic chain, diminish the appearance of cellulite and reduce your risk of injury, so remember to keep the following in mind:
- The five best butt workouts are Romanian deadlifts, sumo squats, hip raises, squat jumps and donkey kicks.
- Four other butt workouts you can sneak into your day include taking the stairs, taking a walk, taking up cycling or trying a spin class and sprinting.
- The benefits of a toned butt and strong glutes include reducing the risk of injury, better athletic performance, improved support for the back, enhanced appearance and reduced cellulite.