The 6 best glute exercises to increase strength and size
Conditioning

The 6 best glute exercises to increase strength and size

clock-circular-outlinePosted 17 Dec 2021

Want bigger, stronger, more powerful glutes?... we know, silly question really. In this article, we'll give you all the information you need to know about glute training – from the best glute exercises to how often you should train glutes.

As the gladiator-esque Latin name suggests, the Gluteus Maximus is something special - in fact, it's the largest muscle in the human body and plays a major role in both our day-to-day life and athletic ability.

The Glute Muscles

The glutes are made up of 3 muscles, all working together to provide form and function in daily activities and exercises.

The 3 muscles are:

  • Gluteus Maximus (largest)

  • Gluteus Medius

  • Gluteus Minimus (smallest)

What is the function of the glutes?

We've established that the glutes are the largest muscle in the body, but what does all that muscle do? A few things, actually...

  • Extends and rotates the hip

  • Provides stability around the hip

  • Aids in standing up, climbing stairs and maintaining an upright posture

If you think of the major exercises that target the glutes, you'll soon be able to relate them with the above functions. Whether you're training for performance or aesthetics, adding weight or resistance to hip extension movements is the key to growing and developing the glutes.

Focusing on glute development isn't just for Olympic lifters and bodybuilders – it can transfer directly into non-weight loaded exercises/activities too, such as team sports, running, jumping and more; due to the requirement for a hip extension being present in most sports and movements.

example 1: when sprinting, the more power your glutes can produce to extend the hips after each stride, the faster you can take your next step – covering a greater distance in less time.

example 2: during an Olympic lift such as the snatch, explosive hip extensions are a crucial part of the exercise, transitioning the body into full extension and propelling the bar upwards.

The 6 best glute exercises for strength, power and size

Here are 6 of the best glute exercises that should be part of any glute training program if strength, power and size is your goal.

. . . Barbell Hip Thrusts

If you want maximum bang for your buck, then the Barbell Hip Thrust should be one of your go-to's when looking for the best glute exercises.

Several studies have revealed a slightly higher level of Gluteus Maximus activation over other similar exercises such as the back squat and split squat.[1]

Hip thrusts are a great way to target your glutes and increase your strength, speed and power. By encouraging optimal hip extension, incorporating hip thrusts into your lower body workout will also help to improve your squats and deadlifts – everyone’s a winner.

TIP: Don't forget to vary rep ranges, and incorporate a unilateral element to your glute training with single-leg hip thrusts.

Back Squat

No surprise here. 

If you want to grow your glutes, back squats should be a staple part of any lower body training program. They’re a great compound movement that will not only add mass to your glutes but also help develop and strengthen your entire body by engaging your hammies, core and quads.

A study in 2017 found an increase in glute engagement when squatting with higher loads between 90% and 100% of your 1RM [2] – so grab a spotter and load up that bar!

If you’re bored of back squats or have injuries, don’t worry! Check out our squat alternatives here.

Front Squat

Lacking in popularity when compared to the back squat, usually due to the reduced loading ability of the bar – most people can squat much more in the back squat variation.

But, take ego out of the equation and the front becomes an excellent compound exercise for increasing lower body size and strength. One study even found a greater level of gluteus maximus activation when performing the front squat than in any other squat variation [3].

If you're new to front squats, take it easy and focus on technique – the above study found a stronger muscle activation during the descending phase of each rep.

Bulgarian Split Squats

They might be tough, but trust us, they’re worth the pain!

The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise, similar to the split squat, however, when performing a BSS the rear leg is elevated – increasing the muscular stress on the working leg at the front.

Bulgarian Splits squats will help to develop your quads, as well as your glutes, whilst also developing lower body strength and power.

A study also found that the BSS places less demand on the knee joint in comparison to a back squat, and therefore may provide a sensible alternative for people who suffer from knee pain [4].

Conventional Deadlift

Deadlifts are a key exercise to work the muscles in our posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings and erector spinae.

With proper technique, performing the deadlift allows us to add significant load to our training with an exercise that provides full-body activation, developing both upper and lower body strength, power and size.

Other benefits include improved posture and grip strength, both easily transferable to other exercises.

Prefer to sumo deadlift? A comparison of electromyographic analysis between sumo and conventional deadlifts reported no significant differences in glute activation when performing a 12RM [5].

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlifts are a great exercise for targeting your hamstrings, glutes and erector spinae. The ‘pulling’ movement that is required is great for challenging your glutes and helping to build strength and power, promoting muscular growth. If you struggle with activating your glutes during a regular deadlift, Romanian deadlifts are a great way to help.

TIP: Remember to retract your shoulders throughout the whole set, and focus on squeezing and engaging your glutes as you maintain a steady tempo during each rep.

Prefer to have the weight loaded on your back? Good Mornings provoke a very similar muscle activation making them a great substitute for Romanian Deadlifts [6].

If you want to make these more challenging, why not try a single-leg Romanian deadlift and really challenge your stability and glutes? 

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When training your glutes, it is essential to keep in mind that they are one section of an incredibly sophisticated body, and to not become fixated on just prioritising training for particular muscle groups - otherwise imbalances and a higher risk of injury may occur.

What are your go-to glute exercises? Drop them in the comments below to share them with other readers!

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Written By: Chris Beck

Chris Beck is Senior Editor at Gymshark, with a passion for curating informative conditioning and health content. Chris is an experienced Personal Trainer, and also holds qualifications in Nutrition, Sports Performance and is a certified Crossfit Level 1 Trainer.

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Chris BeckBy Chris Beck

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