One of the most frequently asked questions Move With Us Coach Rachel Dillon receives from our community of clients is, “How can I grow and shape my glutes?”, and "what are the best exercises to to grow glutes?"
The glutes are referred to as one of the largest, heaviest and strongest muscles in the human body, yet they're one of the most stubborn muscle groups to work on and target individually.
If you're determined to develop your glutes and ready to put in the work, keep reading to learn Rachel's ultimate glute-building tips, with a tough glute-focused workout to try.
Have you ever experienced the problem of doing what’s supposed to be a glute-focused day at the gym, only to wake up the next day with sore quads and hamstrings?
A major factor that contributes to this is the prevalence of leading a sedentary lifestyle, which may cause your glutes to functionally “fall asleep”. Having “underactive” glutes make them much harder to target, as your other muscles may start taking on the extra load.
Because of this, Rachel recommends using glute activation exercises to “switch on” the glutes before moving on to the main training block.
In her Programs, Rachel always includes specific glute focused activation circuits, which is one of the key reasons why her workouts are so effective at targeting your glutes.
Mind-muscle connection requires you to deliberately focus the tension of your movements into contracting the muscle group you're targeting.
This simple act of consciously feeling your muscles working makes all the difference in your results.
In every exercise during a glute-focused session, you should be focusing your attention on using your glutes, and actively thinking about the specific area you're working.
Control the movement with every rep and concentrate on squeezing the glutes. You should pause for a brief moment at the point of maximum contraction and mentally isolate your target muscles.
Best glute-building exercises
Rachel typically trains glutes 2-3 times a week, targeting them from all angles at a variety of rep ranges and weights. She notes that consistency is extremely important here, "If you want to grow your glutes, train them regularly, and more frequently than just once a week!"
There are a number of different opinions on the best exercises to build and shape the glutes, but at the end of the day, the best exercises are those that you personally feel target your booty. Every body is different and there isn't just one overarching blanket approach to training.
These 4 exercises are Rachel's personal favourite glute-building exercises, and are the ones that have worked best in her training journey.
1. Hip Thrusts
Hip Thrusts are Rachel's all time favourite, and a true staple for glute development.
If you're not performing these correctly, you may feel the exercise in your hamstrings or quad muscles more, or end up injuring yourself with the wrong form.
How To Perfect Your Hip Thrust:
Choose a weight that challenges you but allows you to maintain great form. If you aren’t feeling it in your glutes, drop the weight and focus on contracting your glutes with each rep.
Pay attention to your foot placement. Although the hip thrust looks like a simple exercise, a slight alteration of your foot placement can change how you feel it. For the best glute engagement, Rachel recommends placing your feet so that your heels are directly under your knees when you’re fully extended. If your feet are too far away or too close together, you may feel the exercise in your hamstrings more than glutes. And if your feet are tucked too close into you, your quads may engage more than your glutes.
Tuck your chin. This is essential to create what is called ‘posterior pelvic tilt’. Doing so prevents overextending the back while thrusting and allows to completely push through the glutes. If you ever feel your lower back on these, really try tucking your chin into your chest throughout the entire movement.
- Use a booty band to engage the glutes even more. If you’ve fixed your foot placement but you’re still feeling your quads engage, try placing a band around the top of your knees. This will force you to push your knees outward using your glutes throughout the whole movement, and therefore, you’ll get better glute engagement.
- Play with your rep range. Hip thrusts are a great exercise to go heavy on and build your strength up over time. You can even choose a lighter weight load and focus on pumping out as many reps as you can. Rachel includes a variety of rep ranges when thrusting to get the most benefit out of the exercise.
2. Sumo Squats
The Sumo Squat and its number of variations are another great exercise to target your glutes, as well as your inner thigh muscles, quads, hamstrings and calves too. Not only is this functional movement pattern great for targeting the lower part of your glutes, but you'll find that they work your core strength by relying on your balance and abdominal stability to move upright.
How to Sumo Squat:
Find a stance that is comfortable for you. To get into the proper stance of a sumo squat, place your feet wider-than-shoulder-width apart but not too wide (this will place more emphasis on inner thighs than glutes and may cause discomfort). Your toes should be slightly pointed out so that your knees can track them as you descend.
Contract your glutes. Throughout each rep, really focus on squeezing your glutes together. Be careful to not over-squeeze by arching your lower back forwards at the top of the movement, as this could lead to injury or strain.
Load it up. Once you've nailed the bodyweight sumo squat, you can add some weights (dumbbells, a barbell or kettlebells), and try some variations like banded sumo squat pulses to increase the difficulty. Like with every movement, focus on perfecting your form before increasing your weight.
Squatting on a Smith Machine allows you to really sit back in your heels while doing the exercise, so you can focus on pushing through your glutes. Adding a booty band will force you to keep your knees out using engaging your glutes even more. Additionally, pulsing is a great way to up the intensity of any exercise by keeping your muscles under tension for a longer period of time.
- Still not feeling it in your glutes? Place a bench behind you and squat down onto the bench for every rep. Really focus on pushing through your heels the entire time and keeping your knees tracking your toes. This will help you master the movement.
3. Seated Abductions
Rachel recommends seated abductions as a glute activation exercise or even as a finisher. This exercise is great to develop your Gluteus Medius and Minimus, which is the top part of your glutes. These can be performed on an abduction machine or with a bench and a booty band if you don’t have access to one in the gym.
Focus on pushing out with your glutes and controlling the movement. Squeeze and hold for 1-2 seconds at the top of each rep to really exhaust the glutes.
- Keep your spine neutral, meaning your back and neck should be straight and aligned. Avoid any rounding of your back while performing this exercise.
Here is a small abduction circuit that you can do, either to wake up your glutes before a lower body workout, or to finish them off after your session.
Banded booty burner circuit
1. Banded Seated Abductors, leaning forwards - 20 reps
2. Banded Seated Abductors, neutral position - 20 reps
3. Banded Seated Abductors, leaning backwards - 20 reps
Repeat this circuit for 3 sets, taking 30 seconds rest in between rounds.
This mini-circuit will work your glutes from three different angles, allowing them to really feel the burn and get great glute engagement.
Kickbacks are another great exercise that develop the top shelf of the glutes. These are a great isolation exercise that you can do anywhere, anytime. You can do these with just your bodyweight, ankle weights, a booty or power band, or with a cable machine.
How to properly perform your kickbacks:
Find your sweet spot. For many people, it can be hard to really feel their glutes during kickbacks. Play around with your foot placement and kickback to find what works for you.
Rachel finds that pointing the toe of the working leg slightly outwards and keeping the back leg straight throughout the entire movement is the most effective way to perform kickbacks.
- Keep your core tight. Whether you are doing kickbacks with ankle weights, cables or other equipment, it is very easy to use your lower back to try and lift the weight at the top of the movement. This can lead to irritating or even injuring your lower back. Instead of letting yourself arch and use your back, keep your core tight, spine neutral and use only your glutes to move the weight up.
Rachel recommends super-setting this exercise with hip thrusts or sumo squats for maximum burn.
Bonus glute-focused workout
Here’s a glute-focused workout that includes all of Rachel's favourites with some of their most effective variations.
Give it a go and let us know how you found this session in the MWU Community Forum.
Repeat this circuit for 4 rounds, taking 60 seconds rest at the end of each round.
Complete all 4 rounds of exercises A1 and A2 before starting exercises B1 and B2, etc.
A1. Smith Machine Hip Thrusts - 10 reps
A2. Banded Seated Abductors - 15 reps
B1. Banded Smith Machine Sumo Squats - 12 reps
B2. Banded Kickbacks - 12 each leg
C1. Cable Kickbacks - 15 each leg
C2. Cable Lateral Kicks - 15 each leg
For more glute-focused sessions like this, download the MWU App to access an entire Workout Library of sessions to keep you moving, plus Live Workouts you can stream to your TV and follow along with training cues, technique tips and motivation from 5 trainers.
If your main goal is to grow your glutes, Rachel Dillon's STRONG Program has been specifically designed to help you build lean muscle, develop overall strength, endurance and enhance conditioning in just 8 weeks.
You'll experience daily workouts with interchangeable home and gym options, plus access to Meal Guides customised to your goals, preferences and restrictions to make the journey uniquely yours.