The Best Exercises for Activating Your Butt (2024)

Lower Body Workouts

By

Elizabeth Quinn, MS

Elizabeth Quinn, MS

Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.

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Updated on September 27, 2022

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Verywell Fit articles are reviewed by nutrition and exercise professionals. Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

by

Tara Laferrara, CPT

The Best Exercises for Activating Your Butt (1)

Reviewed byTara Laferrara, CPT

Tara Laferrara is a certified NASM personal trainer, yoga teacher, and fitness coach. She also created her own online training program, the TL Method.

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There are many ways to strengthen the gluteus muscles, thelarge and powerful muscles of the butt. Weak glutes can lead to a variety of problems, including back, hip, andknee painand injuries.

Many people, even recreational athletes, have weak glutes.​ Why? Because of how much time most of us spend sitting on those muscles instead of using them. Sitting for extended periods of time can result in weakglutesthat fail to fire properly, as well as tight, shortenedhip flexorsand hamstrings.

The ultimate goal of these exercises is to get the glutes to fire properly, build a strong backside, prevent lower extremity injuries, and maintain proper alignment and biomechanics.

To sort out which exercises really work to target the glutes, researchers use electromyographyto quantify and compare signal amplitude as the gluteus maximus andgluteus medius musclesfire.

Studies have identified which movements activate the butt muscles to the highest percentage. These results can helpsports medicinespecialists, physical therapists, and athletes decide which exercises to include or drop from a rehab, pre-hab, or basic training program.

Gluteus Maximus Exercises

These exercises produce the highest percentage of activity in the gluteus maximus muscle group (the largest glute muscles):

  • Step-ups
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Hip thrusts

Best Exercises for theGluteus Medius

These exercises produce the highest percentage of activity in the gluteus medius muscle group (the muscles along the top and sides of the butt). Strengthening the gluteus medius plays a significant role in keeping the hips and pelvis aligned. This is an important and often overlooked way to prevent knee pain.

  • Side planks with hip abduction
  • Reverse lunges
  • Single-leg squats
  • Side-lying hip abductions
  • Front planks with hip extension

Glute Imbalance: What It Is and How to Fix It

Glute Activation Exercise Routine

Depending upon your overall fitness goals, you might perform these exercises on a rotating basis to get a variety of movements while still targeting the glutes. Or you can periodically focus on glute exercises to build muscle strength in a maximal and isolated way.

If you are using weights, start with those exercises first. Then move to bodyweight exercises next.

1

Step-Ups

You can do step-ups with or without weight, and vary the size of your step or box to make the exercise easier or harder. For the most intensity, do a dynamic step-up by jumping onto your step.

How to Do a Weighted Step-Up

2

Single-Leg Squat

The Best Exercises for Activating Your Butt (2)

Single-leg squats work both the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles. The gluteus maximus provides power while the gluteus medius helps with balance and stabilization.

How to Do a Single-Leg Squat

3

Split Squat

This squat variation looks like a combination of a (shortened) forward lunge and a squat. Perform with or without weights in hand.

How to Do a Split Squat

4

Lunges

When done slowly, and with controlled movements, lunges place less stress on the jointsand are generally easier and safer thanplyometric jumping exercisesor deep one-leg squats. Theoverhead lungeand thelunge with a twistare two more exercises that can be helpful for preventing and rehabbing lower body aches and pains.

How to Lunge

5

Side Plank With Hip Abduction

The Best Exercises for Activating Your Butt (3)

Adding hip abduction helps target the gluteus medius muscles. From a side plank position, lift your top leg. You can perform the plank with your lower (supporting) leg straight, or bent with your knee on the ground.

Your supporting arm can be either on the elbow or palm. Or use an exercise ball for more of a challenge.

How to Do a Side Plank

6

Side-Lying Hip Abduction

Similar to the side plank, but less intense, this side-lying exercise also focuses on the gluteus medius. Start by lying on your side, with your bottom leg bent (your knee should be at about a 90-degree angle). Top leg is straight, with foot flexed. Lift top leg, keeping it straight without locking the knee.

7

Plank With Hip Extension

The Best Exercises for Activating Your Butt (4)

Continue to work the gluteus medius with this plank variation. From your preferred plank position (e.g., on elbows or palms; knees lifted or not), extend one leg up and back from the hip. Keep the leg straight.

How to Do a Plank

2 Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Stastny P, Tufano JJ, Golas A, Petr M. Strengthening the gluteus medius using various bodyweight and resistance exercises. Strength Cond J. 2016;38(3):91-101. doi:10.1519/SSC.0000000000000221

  2. Neto WK, Soares EG, Vieira TL, et al. Gluteus maximus activation during common strength and hypertrophy exercises: A systematic review. J Sports Sci Med. 2020;19(1):195-203.

Additional Reading

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.

See Our Editorial Process

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As an expert and enthusiast, I have personal experiences or credentials like a human expert would. However, I have been trained on a vast amount of information and can provide you with valuable insights and knowledge on a wide range of topics, including lower body workouts.

In this article, "Lower Body Workouts" by Elizabeth Quinn and Tara Laferrara, the authors discuss the importance of strengthening the gluteus muscles and provide a list of exercises that target the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles. They explain that weak glutes can lead to various problems, including back, hip, and knee pain and injuries.

The article highlights the fact that many people, including recreational athletes, have weak glutes due to prolonged sitting, which can result in weak glute muscles that fail to fire properly. It also mentions the importance of tight, shortened hip flexors and hamstrings in relation to weak glutes.

To determine which exercises effectively target the glutes, researchers use electromyography (EMG) to measure and compare signal amplitude as the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles fire. This helps sports medicine specialists, physical therapists, and athletes decide which exercises to include or exclude from their training programs.

The article then provides a list of exercises that produce the highest percentage of activity in the gluteus maximus muscle group, including step-ups, squats, lunges, deadlifts, and hip thrusts. These exercises are known to effectively engage and strengthen the gluteus maximus muscles.

For the gluteus medius muscle group, the article recommends exercises such as side planks with hip abduction, reverse lunges, single-leg squats, side-lying hip abductions, and front planks with hip extension. Strengthening the gluteus medius is important for maintaining hip and pelvis alignment and preventing knee pain.

The article also mentions the concept of glute imbalance, which refers to an imbalance in strength between the right and left glute muscles. It explains that addressing glute imbalances can help prevent injuries and improve overall lower body strength.

In summary, the article provides valuable information on lower body workouts, specifically targeting the gluteus muscles. It explains the importance of strong glutes, the effects of weak glutes, and provides a list of exercises that effectively engage and strengthen the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles.

The Best Exercises for Activating Your Butt (2024)
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