When it comes to glute exercises, the simplest moves always do the trick. Squats, lunges, glute bridges — these OGs will never steer you wrong. But when you want to take things to the next level, that’s when you can add extra weight into the mix or try more complicated movements to really bring the burn.
glute exercises feel harder than others depending on the resistance you use, says Brittany Bowman, a celebrity trainer based in Los Angeles. Add a little something like a light barbell or a band, and suddenly a simple squat feels tougher. Working unilaterally with a single leg is also harder than working bilaterally with both legs, Bowman says, so keep that in mind when choosing your moves.
To build your way up to challenging glute exercises, start with just your
body weight. “Effectively working out is all about mastering form, so once you feel confident with your form using body weight, you can introduce things like bands and light dumbbells until you feel stronger and ready to move on to a new level of challenge,” Bowman tells Bustle.
From there, each time you
work your glutes, gradually increase the weight. “If doing a bodyweight exercise feels easy after 12 to 15 reps, try placing a 10 to 20-pound dumbbell on your hips,” Bowman explains. “Once you get to a point where you are doing 12 reps easily and could continue past 12 with that weight, you are ready to increase the resistance to something more challenging that feels hard in the 10 to 12 rep range.”
Ready to rock that peach? Keep scrolling for some of the most challenging glute exercises you can do, straight from the pros.
1 Barbell Hip Thrust
Bowman recommends this advanced move to zero in on your glutes.
- Lean your shoulders against a workout bench or box that’s about 12 to 18 inches high, depending on your height.
- Roll a barbell with weights over your hips.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
- Plant your feet hip-width apart.
- Focus on keeping your pelvis tucked forward.
- Push your feet into the floor.
- Extend your hips up until they’re in line with your knees.
- Drop your hips back down to the floor.
- Repeat 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
- Rest 90 seconds between each set.
2 Kettlebell Deadlift
Bowman is also a fan of
kettlebell deadlifts, a compound move that lights up the back side of your body.
- Place a kettlebell between your feet.
- Position your feet hip-width apart.
- Keep your knees soft.
- Hinge at the hips, lean your chest forward to lower down.
- Grab the kettlebell horns with both hands.
- Feel a stretch down the backs of your legs.
- Push your feet into the ground to stand back up.
- Extend your hips forward. Squeeze your glutes.
- Hinge back down and repeat.
- Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps with a heavy weight.
3 Kickstand Deadlift
This is an exercise running coach
Amanda Brooks loves to have her clients do. “By doing a single-leg exercise, you ensure that any muscle imbalances are caught and you are really forced to slow down and focus on the muscles being used,” she tells Bustle.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other.
- Point your front foot forward.
- Put your weight on your front foot.
- Hinge forward at your hips.
- Bend your front knee slightly.
- Keep your back leg straight.
- Grab a kettlebell or dumbbell. You could also work with two at a time, one in each hand.
- Let it hang in front of you with straight arms, close to your front foot.
- Think about pushing your butt backwards. Keep your back straight.
- Engage your core and glutes to return to standing.
- Do 3 sets of 8 reps per leg with a weight that feels tough to lift on the last 2 reps.
4 Pistol Squat
Mary Sabat, an ACE-certified personal trainer, pistol squats are tricky, but they’re a fun challenge to aim for. “This move can be tough because it requires significant strength, mobility, and balance, as well as the ability to maintain proper form throughout,” she tells Bustle.
- Stand on one leg with the other leg extended straight out in front of you.
- Lower down into a squat.
- Keep your chest up and your weight in your heel as you lower until your butt nearly touches the ground.
- Stand up by driving through your heel and squeezing your glutes.
- If helpful, keep a pylo box behind you for support.
- Keep the extended leg lifted the entire time.
- Aim for 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps on each leg.
5 Bulgarian Split Squat
To add another unilateral move into the mix, Sabat suggests a couple rounds of
Bulgarian split squats. “This move can be tough because it requires significant stability and balance, as well as strength and power to perform the movement with proper form,” she says.
- Stand facing away from a bench or elevated surface.
- Rest one foot on the bench.
- Keep your front foot flat on the ground.
- Lower down into a lunge until your back knee nearly touches the ground.
- Drive through your front heel to stand back up.
- For a greater challenge, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Aim for 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps on each leg.
6 Kas Glute Bridge
Aaron Burgess, the head coach at
Built 180 Strong, says the kas glute bridge will give you an amazing booty workout. It’s similar to the hip thrust, but it uses smaller movements and places a direct load on your glutes, he tells Bustle.
- Load up a barbell or pick a dumbbell that’s heavy enough to challenge you.
- Sit on the floor with your shoulder blades against a flat bench.
- Keep your knees shoulder-width apart and your head neutral.
- Plant your heels in line with your knees.
- Let the bar or dumbbell rest slightly below your navel.
- Lower your hips
just until you feel a stretch in your glutes, then lift them back up to return to the starting position.
- Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
7 Single-Leg Deadlift
Challenge yourself to try a single-leg deadlift while holding a kettlebell or set of dumbbells. “This move requires significant balance and stability, as well as strength in the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back,” Sabat explains.
- Stand on one leg with a weight in your opposite hand.
- Hold a kettlebell or two dumbbells.
- Hinge at the hips to lower the weight toward the ground.
- Let your back leg rise up.
- Keep your back flat and your core engaged.
- Stand up by driving through your standing leg.
- Squeeze your glutes.
- Lower the weight again and repeat.
- Aim for 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps on each leg with a challenging weight.
Taylor Reyanne Sherak reminds you to up the challenge if you can complete about 10 reps of these without feeling the burn. For this move, you can add in a cable pull at the top.
- Stand facing a plyo box.
- Place one foot firmly on the box.
- Step up onto the box.
- Keep your shin vertical, squeeze your glute.
- Once you’re able to do this bodyweight move, add dumbbells.
- Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per leg with a moderate or heavy weight.
Another toughie: the
RDL. “These are tough because they isolate the glute. Focus in on the form, and really have that muscle-to-mind connection,” Sherak tells Bustle.
- Step your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold dumbbells or a barbell.
- Push your hips backward.
- Engage the backs of your legs as you lower the weight to the floor.
- Keep your back flat.
- Allow your knees to bend.
- Do 8 to 12 reps.
Studies referenced: Eliassen, W. (2018). Comparison Of Bilateral And Unilateral Squat Exercises On Barbell Kinematics And Muscle Activation. Int J Sports Phys Ther. PMID: 30276019; PMCID: PMC6159498. Sources: Brittany Bowman, celebrity trainer based in Los Angeles Amanda Brooks, running coach Mary Sabat, ACE-certified personal trainer Aaron Burgess, head coach at Built 180 Strong Taylor Reyanne Sherak, fitness pro
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