Summer is right around the corner, and if a booty boost to Kim-Kardashian levels is on your to-do list, we have the best butt exercises to get you there. The qualities of the perfect booty have changed over time, explains Anna Laura Sommer, a personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. She also holds the title of 2017 Ms. Bikini New England, and she has become known for her toned glutes. “Back in the ’80s, when jazzercise was a big thing, having no butt was the butt to have. These days, it’s all about the big butt, but that will probably change again. I hope we can get to the point where there’s not one type of desirable body, and everyone can work to challenge their bodies in their own way,” she says. No matter the size or shape of your butt, there are ways of working toward your dream derrière. Sommer has put together a guide packed with the best butt exercises you can do right at home. These glute exercises are no cake walk, but every lunge, squat, and pulse will get your bum one step closer to a silhouette as plump as the peach emoji.
But(t) First, an Anatomy Lesson
The best butt exercises aren’t designed just to help you fill out a great pair of jeans. They also help keep one of your body’s most powerful muscle groups strong and healthy. Understanding the anatomy of your rear end will help you target each area of the glutes, says Sommer. The gluteus maximus is the large muscle on the bottom of the butt, and it’s usually what people are referring to when they talk about their “glutes.” Closer to your hip bones, you’ll find your gluteus medius, a smaller muscle that is typically worked when running. “The gluteus medius is what makes runners’ butts look long and lean,” explains Sommer. Finally, you have the gluteus minimus, the smallest butt muscle, located just beneath the gluteus medius. It’s not mentioned much when talking about the best glute exercises, says Sommer, but it’s a really important one to work. “All of the gluteus muscles lay on top of each other, so you don’t want to have any weak areas,” she says.
So which exercises give you a bigger butt?
“You’ll want to use really big movements, some weights, and dynamic exercises that target every single muscle in the legs, from the butt to the calves,” says Sommer. “Targeting the entire lower body, not just the glutes, will help you become a stronger person overall and reduce the risk of injury.”
Form is everything.
The first step toward a beautiful butt is a commitment to put in the work. No matter how many times a week you do butt exercises, though, the effort won’t pay off unless you practice proper form. “For squats and lunges, one of the biggest mistakes that I see is allowing your knees to go past your toes. They need to be in line with your ankles, so really focus on having your weight in your heels. At the bottom of your squat, you should be able to wiggle your toes off the ground a bit,” says Sommer. For most exercises (especially squats), your feet will face forward and be about hip-width apart. Focus on driving your hips down and back and keeping your chest up and back. Most importantly, make sure that you focus on slow, steady breathing. “Nail the form before you add weights and worry about reps,” says Sommer. “If you don’t have good form, you won’t work the muscles you intend to, and you could end up in pain.”
Sommer’s Favorite Butt Exercises
Getting an exceptional butt is hard work, no buts about it. Fortunately, Sommer has put together a list of glute exercises to target each muscle group. And if you’re a little shy about doing some of these moves in front of others, don’t fear: These exercises can be done from the comfort of your home. Choose four of Sommer’s best butt exercises below, and try to do three or four sets of each move, with 10–15 reps in each set, at least two days a week for a month. Switch up your chosen glute exercises every four weeks to challenge your body in new ways. “You’ll feel it immediately after your first workout if you’re doing things right. You should start seeing results within 30 days, if not sooner,” she says.
Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart, begin to drive your butt back into a squat. As you bend, keep your chest and shoulders back. Get a deep bend in the knees (aim for at least 90 degrees if your body is able), while making sure they don’t go past your toes and your weight stays in your heels. When you head back up, press through your heels and contract your glutes until you’re standing. For added booty work, squeeze your butt again at the top.
This butt exercise is very similar to the standard squat, but you start with your legs spread wider than your shoulders and your toes pointed outward to help increase the work required by your glutes.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended in front of you or with your hands resting firmly on your hips. Then, step forward with one leg, flexing the knees to 90-degree angles and keeping your chest upright. Push through your front heel to straighten your legs and bring your feet back into their original place. Repeat on the opposite side.
Start in the same position as you did for the walking lunge. Then, step your left leg back about two feet, landing at an angle behind your right leg so your thighs cross. Both knees should bend, like a curtsy. Press through the heel to straighten your knees and bring your legs back to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
Begin on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. With your core engaged, raise one knee out to the side as high as you can, and hold it up for one second. The position should look a little like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant. Lower your leg to the starting position, and repeat. Then, switch sides and repeat the sequence.
Fire Hydrant Pulse
This move works exactly like the standard fire hydrant, but rather than lowering your leg all the way down, just lower halfway and pulse it back up to the top. Then, switch sides and repeat.
Bodyweight Glute Bridge
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground (hip-width apart) and knees bent. Press hard through your heels to drive your glutes off the ground, while keeping your shoulder blades on the floor. Push your hips as high as possible and draw your belly button in. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then lower to the ground.
Prone Hamstring Curl
Lie on your stomach with a lightweight dumbbell between your feet. With your toes flexed, exhale and bend your knees, bringing your heels toward your glutes and keeping your thighs on the ground. Inhale and slowly return your legs back to your starting position.
Start with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, squat, then return to standing. Transfer your weight to one leg and kick back with the opposite leg. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
Begin on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Keep your right knee at a 90-degree angle and foot flexed, raising your leg behind you until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Squeeze your glutes to pulse your flexed foot toward the ceiling. Keep a neutral spine throughout this movement. Lower your leg to return to your starting position.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower to a squat. Press into the balls of your feet and jump as high in the air as you can. When your feet hit the ground, go back down into a squat and repeat the frog jump.
A Beautiful Booty’s Not Built on Exercise Alone
You can spend all day and night doing squats, but glute exercises aren’t the sole way to build a great booty. You also need to pay attention to your nutrition, says Sommer. “At the beginning of my fitness journey, I’d try to out-exercise a poor diet, and I didn’t see the results I wanted. Around 80 percent of how you look and feel is directly related to what you’re putting in your body, not what you’re doing at the gym,” she says. She recommends fueling your butt exercises with a high-protein diet and healthy carbohydrates. “Rather than eating three big meals a day, go for four or five small, healthy meals, each with a generous amount of lean protein. That keeps your metabolism up all day long,” says Sommer. “Don’t be afraid of carbs—your body needs them! I recommend oatmeal and sprouted bread.” Finally, manage your expectations. No matter which part of your body you’re targeting, it will never look exactly the same as anyone else’s—and that’s okay! The “flaws” you notice about your butt, like cellulite, size, or shape, are all completely normal. Use your glute workout routine to help become the strongest, fittest, healthiest version of yourself, building confidence along the way. “I’m a bikini fitness pro, and on my day of show, there’s still some cellulite on my legs even after working out, doing the best butt exercises, and having awesome nutrition. We can’t be self-conscious about it or beat ourselves up about it. Just accept that this is your body right now, and do the best you can not to compare yourself to others.”