The 11 Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises (With Sample Workouts)

best dumbbell glute exercises

Training the glutes can be challenging when you only have access to one type of equipment. However, dumbbells allow you to add glute-specific exercises that train all glute muscles relatively quickly once you master the necessary movements.

The 11 best glute exercises to do with dumbbells are:

  • Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
  • Dumbbell Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
  • Dumbbell Glute Bridge
  • Dumbbell Hip Thrust
  • Dumbbell Reverse Lunge
  • Dumbbell Curtsy Lunge
  • Dumbbell Side Lunge
  • Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
  • Dumbbell Step-Up
  • Dumbbell Fire Hydrant Circle
  • Dumbbell Rear Glute Raise

Below, I’ll cover the glute exercises you can do with dumbbells and explain how to do them correctly to maximize muscle growth and activation. 

If you want to build your glutes, let Fitbod help. On average, a new Fitbod user who trains 3 times a week for about 45 minutes will see a 34% strength increase after 3 months. Try Fitbod for free.

Anatomy of the Gluteal Muscles

anatomy of the gluteal muscles

The glute muscles are located along the backside of the hips. They attach to the pelvis (back and sides) and connect to the back of the upper leg (femur).

The glute muscles are responsible for the extension (straightening) of the hips, internally and externally rotating the femur (moving your thigh inward or outward), and adduction and abduction of the legs (pulling the legs apart and pushing them inwards).

Because of their involvement in many movements at the hip, the glutes are active in most lower-body exercises like deadlifts, squats, and lunges

Additionally, the glute muscles assist in stabilizing the knees and spine when doing dynamic exercises and movements. They are a key muscle group that promotes proper biomechanics and posture.

When training glutes, we’re referring to three specific muscle groups: 

Gluteus Maximus

The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body and the largest of the three glute muscles. It is primarily responsible for hip extension (straightening) and is the main muscle that provides the shape and size of the glutes. 

This muscle is typically trained when doing Romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, glute bridges, lunges, and step-ups.

Gluteus Medius

This muscle is located underneath the gluteus maximus. It works to abduct the leg (pull the legs apart) and aid with internal rotation of the leg (moving it inward) at the hip.

This muscle is key to helping prevent the knees from caving inwards during lunges and squats (referred to as knee valgus), which can create knee pain and injury if left unchecked.

Gluteus Minimus

The gluteus minimus is the deepest of the three gluteal muscles, meaning it lies underneath the other two. It is responsible for assisting the gluteus medius muscle and helping to stabilize the pelvis. 

Related Article: 11 Knee-Friendly Glute Exercises

Benefits of Dumbbell Glute Exercises

Below are three benefits of training your glutes with dumbbells.

Grow Bigger, Stronger Glutes

Dumbbell glute exercises can help you develop all of the glute muscles once you understand the key exercises to do and how to do them. With dumbbells, you can perform many different glute exercises without needing a lot of machines or specialty pieces of equipment.

You can also easily add load to your exercises, helping you add intensity and progressive overload to your workouts.

Progressive overload is a principle of muscle growth that states you should continually strive to add load, do more reps, or add more sets from one workout to the next to continue to promote growth. If you have access to a wide range of dumbbells, you can keep challenging yourself with your glute workouts over time.

Related Article: How Long Does It Take For Glute Growth + How To Grow Faster

Minimize Stress on the Back and Hips

Weak glute muscles can impact your ability to extend the hips properly, which means you may end up using your lower back muscles or losing pelvic stability during movement.

When this happens, you could be placing unnecessary stress on your lower back muscles and spine. Your weak glutes may even cause your nagging lower back pain.

When looking at individuals who had lower back pain vs. healthy cohorts, researchers found that having weak glute muscles (especially the glute medius) was a key difference between the groups.

Improve Athletic Ability While Minimizing Injury

If you enjoy running, playing sports, or squatting, training your glutes is a must. 

More developed glute muscles will not only help you run faster and lift more weight, but they will also help keep your back and knees more protected from the stress of exercise.

In the book Masterful Care of the Aging Athlete, Dr. Zakko and his colleagues concluded that athletes (especially aging athletes) would be less efficient in their sport and more prone to injury if they have weak glutes or a weak core.

This means that the stronger your glutes are, the more capable you are of meeting the demands of your sport or everyday life and decreasing your risk of injury.

Need a workout program? Try Fitbod for Free.

11 Best Glute Exercises With Dumbbells

Below is a list of 11 of the best exercises you should be doing to build your glutes with dumbbells. 

Note: Most of these exercises can be found within the Fitbod app. You don’t need to incorporate all 11 into your training program. You just need to pick 3-6 exercises and rotate them through your program over the long term. If using Fitbod, you can select the muscle groups you want to work (i.e., glutes), and the program will build itself accordingly. 

1. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift (RDL) is a powerful exercise for targeting the glutes and hamstrings. 

While this exercise trains both the hamstrings and glutes, it allows you to train the glutes with heavy loads, which can help increase strength and muscle growth. The glutes are very active at the top half of the movement, as they are responsible for extending (straightening) the hips.

How To Do It

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with the toes forward or slightly turned outwards.
  • With the dumbbells in each hand, either in front of you or to your sides, straighten the arms and then place a soft bend in the knees.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells by pushing your hips back, keeping them in close proximity to your shins. You should feel a stretch in the upper hamstrings and hips.
  • Lower the dumbbells until they get to the top of the knees. You could go lower, but this will start to hit more of the hamstrings. 
  • Return to the starting position by standing up straight, and repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions.

Pro Tip

This exercise is great to do with heavier loads to build strength and muscle mass in the glutes or for higher reps with lighter loads as you focus on squeezing the glutes at the top of every rep. Flexing the glutes at the top will allow you to more effectively target those muscles with this movement.

2. Dumbbell Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

The dumbbell single-leg Romanian deadlift (SL RDL) is a single-leg variation of the dumbbell Romanian deadlift and helps to train one leg at a time, which can be helpful for addressing muscle imbalances, improving balance, or making the RDL more challenging with less weight.

This exercise targets the glutes and hamstrings. When training on one leg, the glutes are needed to not only extend the hip but also provide stability. The gluteus medius and minimus are primarily responsible for this.

By adding this exercise to your workouts, you can increase glute growth and hip stability and help activate the sides of the glutes as well. You can also improve knee and hip joint health.

How To Do It

  • Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed forward. You can hold a weight in one hand or both.
  • Brace your core and pull your ribs down into your body so that you are not arching your lower back.
  • Softly bend the leg you are standing on, and then push the hips back evenly, making sure not to let your hips twist or torso lean to one side.
  • Keep all the weight on your support leg.
  • Your other leg can be bent or extended back behind you. Either is fine as long as you keep it out of the way.
  • Lower yourself as low as you can until you cannot keep a neutral spine position (not arched or rounded), then stand back up.
  • Repeat for reps, then switch sides.

Pro Tip

Many people tend to lean to one side and allow their hips to rotate. Whichever leg is not on the ground tends to want to turn the body and hips outwards, which is incorrect.

Think about keeping the non-working side of the body pointed toward the floor, as this will ensure no twisting of the spine or hips as you go down.

3. Dumbbell Glute Bridge

The dumbbell glute bridge is an exercise that targets the gluteus maximus and has you perform static holds (also called isometrics, which are muscle contractions that occur when you are not moving) or repetitions. 

I recommend beginners first perform holds to feel the glutes activating and ensure they are not using their lower back muscles to arch and lift the hips. From there, beginners can progress to lifting and lowering the hips slowly to perform multiple repetitions.

How To Do It

  • Start by lying on the ground with your chest up. Your knees should be bent enough so that your feet can be flat on the floor with your toes out.
  • Your heels should be 6 inches in front of your glutes.
  • Place a dumbbell in the crease of the hips, and secure the weight by holding it with both hands. You can place a pad under the dumbbell if your hips feel uncomfortable from the dumbbell sitting on them.
  • With your lower back flat on the floor, slowly lift the hips as high as you can using the glutes.
  • You can then hold this position for 30-60 seconds, or you can slowly lower back down and repeat for repetitions. Both are acceptable, and each can help build the glutes.

Pro Tip

When doing these with weights, many people try to arch their back during lift-off. Be slow and controlled during this phase, and really focus on keeping the front of your pelvis (your belt buckle) pulled up to your belly button as you lift. This will help minimize going into an arched position.

Related Article: How To Grow Your Glutes (The Most Science-Based Method)

4. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

The dumbbell hip thrust is a glute isolation exercise that targets the glutes without adding too much loading to the hamstrings and lower back. 

Unlike deadlifts and lunges, this exercise only hits the glutes, which means you are able to attack them directly without allowing the hamstrings and lower back to assist in the movement.

By not having other muscles help out, you can also make sure you are not over-taxing the other muscles that support the glutes (in case you have prior injuries or muscle soreness in those areas already). 

Lifters of all levels will find this exercise a key movement for building the glutes.

How To Do It

  • Lie face up on the ground with your feet flat on the ground, roughly 6 inches away from your glutes. The feet should be hip-width apart.
  • The toes can be pointed forwards or slightly outwards, whichever feels best on your knees and glutes. Most people will find pointing the feet slightly outwards is best.
  • Place a dumbbell in the crease of the hips, grabbing both ends of it with your hands. You can place a pad under the dumbbell if your hips feel uncomfortable from the dumbbell sitting on them.
  • Push your lower back into the floor to get rid of any arch in your back, then brace your core by taking a deep breath and locking your pelvis in the neutral position.
  • Contract your glutes and lift the hips by driving the heels into the floor. Be sure not to lose control of your pelvis, which will result in your lower back arching. Think about pulling the front of your pelvis up towards your face as you lift the hips.
  • Pause at the top of the movement and maintain tension in the glutes, then slowly lower yourself down, making sure not to lose tension at the bottom of the movement.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Pro Tip

If you struggle to maintain control throughout the entire movement, try lowering the weight only 75% of the way down rather than going all the way to the floor. This will help you maintain tension on the glutes and minimize the loss of tension between reps.

5. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge

The dumbbell reverse lunge targets the glutes and quadriceps. Lunges are a great exercise for the glutes because they require stability at the hip (which targets the outer glutes) and demand the glutes to assist in extending the hip (straightening) at the top of the movement.

When doing reverse lunges, you can target more of the glutes by adding a slight forward lean and taking slightly bigger steps backward than your normal stride.

The key is to keep the front heel down as you step forward and stand up through the front foot fully before going into the next step.

How To Do It

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and hold dumbbells in your hands. The dumbbells can be resting on the outside of your thighs.
  • Step back with one foot and bend your knees so that both knees end at a 90-degree angle. Make sure to keep your front heel down.
  • Straighten your legs by standing up with your lead leg, making sure not to let the lead heel lift off the floor. Stand all the way up, then switch legs and repeat.
  • You can do all reps on one leg before switching or alternate legs with each rep. 

Pro Tip

When you step back, be careful not to allow the hips to rotate. Rather, think about stepping one leg back, with the other hip being pulled back as well, to prevent rotation and to load the glute more.

6. Dumbbell Curtsy Lunge

The dumbbell curtsy lunge is similar to a reverse lunge, but you slightly cross the leg behind you as you step back. By doing this, you place more emphasis on the sides of the glutes, as they need to work to maintain balance and assist in extending the hip as you stand up.

This is a good option for lifters who want to target more of the glutes, as the regular reverse lunge places loading on the glutes and quads.

This is also a good exercise for individuals who struggle to get glute engagement during lunges, as this forces the gluteus medius and minimus to participate so that the knees do not collapse inwards.

How To Do It

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and hold dumbbells in your hands. You may want to hold the dumbbells (or one larger dumbbell) in the front of the body by the chest rather than the sides, as they may get in the way.
  • Descend into a reverse lunge by stepping back and letting the knees bend. 
  • As you step back, bring the rear knee behind the lead leg’s heel while maintaining an upright torso positioning.
  • Stand up using the front leg, then repeat for reps, either staying on the same leg or alternating legs.

Pro Tip

You may need to play around with how much you point your toe out. However, make sure to always have the lead knee pointed in the direction of the lead toe to minimize stress on the knee joint.

7. Dumbbell Side Lunge

The dumbbell side lunge is a lunge where you step out laterally to target the glutes and quads. By stepping outwards, you place the muscular demands on the gluteus medius and minimus. The lower you descend in the lateral lunge, the more the quadriceps and gluteus maximus will be involved.

This exercise can be helpful as it also trains the hips in a different plane (i.e., moving to the side and not just forward and backward). This is a great way to increase hip mobility and strengthen the inner groin and outer thigh muscles.

How To Do It

  • Stand upright with the feet hip-width apart and the hands in front of you holding a dumbbell up by the chest.
  • Shift your weight to one side and step laterally with the other leg. You should step out far enough that you can keep your other leg straight (no knee bend).
  • As you absorb the impact with the leg you stepped out on, allow the hips and knees to bend while keeping your other leg straight.
  • Push off the leg you stepped out with and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat reps on the same leg or alternate legs with each rep. Both are acceptable and depend on your preference.

Pro Tip

As you step outwards, let the toe turn out. Otherwise, you may produce some stress in the knee.

Aim to have the knee of your outer leg point in the same direction as the toes of the outer leg, as this will line up the knee joint and help minimize twisting of the joint.

8. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is a single-leg squat variation that targets the glutes and quadriceps. This is a great exercise to train the glutes with both heavier and lighter loads. The back foot is propped up and should be relaxed during the exercise, but you are still able to maintain some balance to allow for harder effort training.

This is also a great exercise for keeping constant tension on the glutes, whereas some lunge variations allow you to rest in a standing position between reps. The Bulgarian split squat forces you to stabilize yourself on one leg between reps, so the glutes are always working.

How To Do It

  • Start by sitting on a bench with your legs straight in front of you and your knees straight. This will help you determine how far your feet should be from the bench during the exercise.
  • While holding dumbbells to your sides, stand up, keeping your feet where they were.
  • Now, place one of your feet behind you on the edge of the bench, with the other leg remaining underneath you.
  • Shift most of your weight to the front leg, allowing the back knee to bend and the back hip to relax.
  • Bend your knees and slowly lower yourself downwards to the ground, making sure to touch the back knee to the ground as your torso stays vertical.
  • Stand up using the lead leg and repeat for reps, then switch your stance and do the other leg.

Pro Tip

This movement can be tricky to learn, and I find that most people are really tight in their hips. If you struggle to have the back leg relax, start by sitting in the bottom position (back foot on the bench and the back knee down) for 30 seconds. This should help the hips relax so that you can be more flexible during the exercise.

9. Dumbbell Step-Up

The dumbbell step-up is a single-leg movement that has you stand up on a bench or box as if you were climbing stairs. By doing step-ups, you target both the quadriceps and the glutes.

The step height can vary, but most people should aim to have their top knee bent at 90 degrees.

This exercise requires good balance and coordination. It also forces you to have control as you lower yourself to the ground. Otherwise, you could fall over.

If you struggle with balance, you may want to have a friend spot you, or try doing this against a wall in case you need to use your arms to reach out for balance assistance.

If you are doing this variation with dumbbells, hold a single dumbbell in one hand. That way, you can use the other one for balance assistance.

How To Do It

  • Stand up with your arms at your sides and dumbbells in your hands. 
  • Place one foot on a box, making sure it is high enough that it places your front knee at a 90-degree angle.
  • Shift your weight to the lead leg and stand up, trying not to use your back leg for help.
  • Make sure that your front foot stays firmly planted in the middle of the box without letting the front heel lift as you bring your other foot on top of the box next to the other leg.
  • Step backward slowly to maintain balance, and then repeat for reps or alternate the lead leg with each rep.

Pro Tip

I find it helpful to try to slow myself on the way down, making sure that gravity doesn’t just let me drop. This helps keep more tension on the muscle and prevents adding jarring stress to the joints and body.

10. Dumbbell Fire Hydrant Circle

The dumbbell fire hydrant circle is a glute isolation exercise that also trains hip mobility. This exercise can be done as a warm-up or with lighter weights to help engage the glutes.

It requires finite control of the leg and proper control of the spine. Therefore, it should not be done with heavy weights. 

This exercise can be challenging for some individuals, so master this first without any weight.

How To Do It

  • Kneel on the ground with the hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips.
  • Squeeze a dumbbell behind one of your knees, and lift that leg in the air, keeping the dumbbell between the back of your leg and the calf. 
  • Engage the glutes on that leg, and rotate the leg slowly in a circular motion so that the knees flare out away from your body and your leg is out to the side.
  • Slowly allow the leg to descend back towards you in the starting position, and continue to perform repetitions on the same leg, then switch.

Pro Tip

If you do not feel this in the glutes, or you also feel it in your lower back, you need to first pull the front of your pelvis (your belt buckle) towards your chest to flatten your lower back.

You may find you cannot make as large circles by doing this, but that is perfectly fine and will save your lower back.

11. Dumbbell Rear Glute Raise

The dumbbell rear glute raise is a single-leg glute isolation exercise that targets the glutes with lighter weights. Like the hydrants, this should be done slowly to make sure you are not using your lower back. 

You can do this to primarily target the gluteus maximus with lighter weights and higher reps, as it may be challenging to train with heavy dumbbells based on the unique setup of the weight behind your knee.

How To Do It

  • Get on all fours (hands and knees) on the ground with the hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips.
  • Squeeze a dumbbell behind one of your knees, and lift that leg above you so that the bottom of the foot is not facing upwards.
  • Engage the glutes and pause at the top of the exercise, making sure that your lower back is not arched.
  • Slowly lower the leg back down to the start position, and repeat for reps. 
  • You should do these slowly. Squeeze the glutes for 2-3 seconds at the top and lower the leg to a count of 2-3 seconds.

Pro Tip

I like doing these after a heavier dumbbell glute exercise like the RDL or Bulgarian split squat. I also like to pair them with those heavier movements and use the rear glute raise as a glute activation exercise.

Doing them after the heavy RDLs and split squats will allow you to target the glutes just as well as if you did them prior. However, you will be able to do RDLs and Bulgarian split squats in a less fatigued state (something often needed to do these correctly).

If you paired them with that movement, it will help you feel the glutes and then carry that sensation over to RDLs and Bulgarian split squats better.

Sample Glute Routine With Dumbbells

sample glute routine with dumbbells

Below is a sample glute 2-day routine you can do with dumbbells.

The workouts below use moderate rap ranges, as this allows you to train the muscle with high intensity but not have issues setting up heavier dumbbells.

If you do have heavier weights, you could also train these in the 8-10 rep range as long as you are lifting heavy enough to make that rep range very challenging.

Note: Although this exact workout cannot be found in the Fitbod app, all of the movements below can. You should use this sample routine as an outline to construct your own workouts based on the information discussed above.

Day 1

  • Dumbbell Rear Glute Raise: 3 sets of 15-20 reps, no rest between legs or sets
  • Dumbbell Glute Bridge: 3 sets of 30 seconds, using as much weight as you can. After each set, move directly into the next exercise.
  • Dumbbell Curtsy Lunge: 3 sets of 12-15, resting 90 seconds between sets
  • Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets of 12-15 reps, resting 90 seconds between sets

Day 2

  • Dumbbell Hip Thrust: 3 sets of a 10-second hold at the top, then 10-15 reps with 45 seconds between sets
  • Dumbbell Step Ups: 3 sets of 12-15 reps per leg, then move directly into the next exercise after each set
  • Dumbbell Glute Bridge: 3 sets of 60 seconds
  • Dumbbell Fire Hydrant Circles: 3 sets of 12-15 slow and controlled reps. After each set, move directly into the next exercise.
  • Dumbbell Rear Glute Raise: 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Grow Glutes With Dumbbells?

You can grow your glutes with dumbbells by doing exercises like hip thrusts, glute bridges, Romanian deadlifts, lunges, and step-ups in your workout program. Dumbbells are a great tool to target your glutes, as you can train a wide variety of movements and easily adjust loading as needed.

How Do You Get Big Glutes With Dumbbells?

To get big glutes with dumbbells, you should train the glutes with heavy dumbbells on hip thrusts, lunges, and RDLs, then do higher-rep sets with lighter weights on another day using the same exercises.

You could also choose more isolated exercises that target the glute medius and minimus, such as fire hydrants, rear glute raises, and single-leg exercises.

What Is the Single Best Glute Exercise With Dumbbells?

The step-up is the glute exercise that elicits the most muscle activity compared to all other movements. However, hip thrusts and other step-up variations are also very effective at targeting the glutes.

About The Author

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.