10 Glute Isolation Exercises For Your Workout (Sample Program)

glute isolation exercises for your workout

Isolating the glutes can be challenging as some lifters struggle to use them during many standard lower body exercises.

Isolating the glutes can be done by performing various exercises that target all three areas of the glutes. Hinging movements are excellent for training the gluteus maximus. Abduction movements that have you moving the legs away from or toward the body are good for training the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

In this article, I will share 10 of the best glute isolation exercises you can do to target all three areas of the glutes. The 10 exercises will include bodyweight, resistance band, barbell, dumbbell, and machine options.

Lastly, I will provide you with a few glute isolation workouts to match your ability level and equipment.

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What Are the Glute Muscles?

what are the glute muscles

The glutes are the biggest muscle group in the human body and are located on the back of the hips. They are active in almost everything we do as humans, allowing us to squat, sprint, stand upright, and lift things from the ground.

The gluteus (glute) muscle is composed of 3 smaller muscles, all of which can be targeted by training hinging movements (bending over and standing up) and movements that have the leg lift laterally to the side. 

Below are the three muscles that make up the glutes and the types of exercises best used to isolate those muscles.

Gluteus Maximus

This is the largest of the three glute muscles and covers the majority of the hips. It is also the most visible muscle group as it provides shape and size to the glute muscle group.

Exercises like hip thrusts are best for isolating the glute maximus.

Gluteus Medius

The gluteus medius is a smaller glute muscle that lies underneath the larger maximus muscle. It assists the other glute muscle groups in most movements and is also responsible for hip abduction.

This muscle is best targeted by doing movements that mimic the hips moving the legs away from one another, such as machine abductions or side-lying leg raises.

You could also train the glute medius by wearing a band around your knees and performing most of the movements below as usual.

Gluteus Minimus

This small muscle runs on the outside of the hips.

Like the other glute muscles, the glute minimus can be trained and targeted when doing most hinging movements and abducting the hips (opening and moving the legs apart).

Related Article: 14 Glute Minimus Exercises (Dumbbells, Cables, Bands) 

How To Isolate the Glutes

To isolate the glutes, you want to choose movements that allow you to feel the glutes being active without also working the hamstrings, lower back, or other lower body muscle groups.

This may mean you choose exercises like hip thrusts, glute bridges, and cable pull-throughs to help you stimulate the glute muscle fibers. You can do these movements in a warm-up or at the very beginning of your workout.

Regardless of the order you go in, it is important to expose the glutes to both lower-rep and higher-rep exercises, so you can strengthen and grow them effectively. 

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

Need a workout program? Try Fitbod for Free.

10 Best Glute Isolation Exercises

Below are 10 of the best glute isolation exercises you can do to develop the glutes (all parts). Most of the exercises below can be found in the Fitbod app:

  • Bodyweight Glute Bridge
  • Bodyweight Single-Leg Glute Bridge
  • Lying Leg Lift (Abduction)
  • Dumbbell Glute Bridge
  • Barbell Glute Bridge
  • Barbell Hip Thrust
  • Cable Pull-Through
  • Smith Machine Hip Thrust
  • Cable Standing Abductions
  • Machine-Seated Abductions

Bodyweight Glute Isolation Exercises

1. Glute Bridge

This is a glute exercise that can be done to warm up for squats or deadlifts or to help relieve lower back pain. You can do this to target the gluteus maximus.

How To
  1. Lie on your back on the floor, and bend your knees.
  1. Lift your toes, and drive your hips up in the air by pushing down through your heels.
  1. Hold your hips in the air for 30-60 seconds, focusing on squeezing your glutes.
Pro Tip

Try tucking your tailbone under you as you lift the hips rather than arching your lower back to prevent straining the lower back muscles.

2. Single-Leg Glute Bridge

This is a single-leg variation of the glute bridge. It’s a good option if using two legs is too easy or if you are looking for a glute isolation exercise to target one side of the hip at a time.

How To
  1. Lie on your back on the floor with the knee of one leg bent and the foot flat on the ground. The other leg should be lifted off the ground and just kept out of the way (you can have it pulled into the chest, up in the air, or wherever it is best kept out of the way). 
  1. Push down through the heel of the foot on the ground, and lift the hips.
  1. Hold that position for 30-60 seconds, then switch legs.
Pro Tip

When doing this movement, be sure not to use your non-working leg to try to pump it in the air to add momentum.

You should be using only the leg on the ground to lift the hips, which should be significantly more challenging than having both feet on the ground.

Related Article: Can You Build Bigger Glutes with Bodyweight Exercises?

Resistance Band Glute Isolation Exercises

3. Lying Leg Lift (Abduction)

This exercise targets the gluteus minimus and can be done with a resistance band worn around the foot/ankles for added resistance.

This may not provide enough resistance for more advanced lifters, so if this is the case you should invest in heavy resistance bands.

How To
  1. Lie on your side with your hips and feet in a straight line.
  1. Lift your top leg in the air, making sure to not bend the leg.
  1. Hold the leg up briefly, then lower back down and repeat for reps before switching sides.
Pro Tip

Try to not lower your leg fully. If you do, it will allow the muscle to take a break at the bottom of every rep, which will decrease the amount of constant tension and muscle stress placed on the glutes. As a result, this will make the exercise less effective.

Related Article: 9 Banded Kickback Variations To Target Your Glutes

Dumbbell Glute Isolation Exercises

4. Dumbbell Glute Bridge

The dumbbell glute bridge is a weighted version of the bodyweight glute bridge. This exercise helps strengthen the gluteus maximus and can be done with both one foot or two feet on the floor (one foot is harder than using two feet).

How To
  1. Lie on your back on the floor, and bend your knees. Place a dumbbell on your hips.
  1. Lift your toes, and drive your hips up in the air by pushing down through your heels.
  1. Hold your hips in the air for 30-60 seconds, focusing on squeezing your glutes.
Pro Tip

Try to keep your ribs pulled into your body as you lift the hips. To do this, you need to not allow the chest and ribs to rise upwards, as this demonstrates that your lower back is too arched. Imagine someone pressing down on your rib cage as you lift the hips.

Barbell Glute Isolation Exercises

5. Barbell Glute Bridge

The barbell glute bridge is the same movement as the dumbbell and bodyweight glute bridges. However, you are often able to add more load with a barbell, which may be needed for stronger lifters.

How To
  1. Load a barbell on the ground, and lie on your back on the floor.
  1. You may want to add a pad around the barbell to provide some cushioninging, as the barbell may be uncomfortable in the hip crease.
  1. Roll the barbell to the hips, and bend your knees. Your feet should be far enough away from your body that your shins are vertical once you thrust the weight up.
  1. With your feet flat on the floor, drive your hips up in the air by pushing down through your heels. If you have trouble feeling the glutes, you can lift the toes to prevent putting too much pressure on them and not activating the glutes properly.
  1. Hold your hips in the air for 30-60 seconds, focusing on squeezing your glutes.
Pro Tip

As you start using heavier loads, you will find you need to brace your core more and actively push up against the bar to not have it roll down towards you. To do this, make sure your arms are straight and your ribs are not pushed up into the air.

6. Barbell Hip Thrust

The barbell hip thrust is like the glute bridge. However, you will sit with your upper back against a box or bench, and you will perform multiple repetitions of lifting the hips rather than holding the top position for time.

This is a good exercise to target the gluteus maximus and can be a great exercise for isolating the glutes with heavy loads.

How To
  1. Load a barbell on the ground, and place your upper back across a bench that’s perpendicular to your upper torso.
  1. Roll the barbell to the hips, and bend your knees. Your feet should be far enough away from your body that your shins are vertical once you thrust the weight up.
  1. Lift the hips and barbell by driving your hips upwards and pausing at the top.
  1. Slowly lower the weight, and repeat.
Pro Tip

Lower the hips about ¾ of the way to the ground to keep tension on the glutes. By keeping tension on the glute muscles, you are able to train them to failure in a more time-efficient manner.

Glute Isolation Exercises with Machines

7. Cable Pull-Through

The cable pull-through is a glute exercise that mimics a Romanian deadlift but decreases the amount of back stress due to the angle of the pull.

This is great for higher rep training or when looking to isolate the glutes and limit back stress.

If you don’t have access to a cable machine, you can do this exercise with a resistance band by securing the band to a sturdy anchor point.

How To
  1. Attach a rope attachment to a cable machine.
  1. Stand in front of the cable machine, facing away from the pulley set in the low position.
  1. Reach through the legs and grab the rope attachment.
  1. With a flat back and knees softly bent, stand up by opening the hips and flexing the glutes.
  1. Slowly return to the starting position, then repeat for reps.
Pro Tip

You can focus on the top ½ to ¾ of the movement to isolate the glutes. The lower you go, the more you target the hamstrings. But by restricting the range of motion and not hinging as much, you place more emphasis on the glutes.

8. Smith Machine Hip Thrust

This is a machine version of the barbell hip thrust and ideal for training the glutes to failure when you don’t want to worry about setting up a barbell.

It’s also good for training the glutes without other things standing in your way, like balancing a free weight on your hips.

How To
  1. Set yourself up in a Smith machine with the bar lowered to hip height.
  1. Sit on the floor with your upper back resting against a bench that runs perpendicular to your torso with the bar across your hip crease.
  1. Drive through the feet to lift the hips and the weight, pause at the top, and then lower down and repeat.
Pro Tip

Perform the top half of the movement by only lowering your hips about halfway to isolate the glutes and decrease back strain.

Too often, people will train the hip thrust all the way to the floor, which will definitely train the glutes but also makes individuals more susceptible to losing lower back stability. They also are more likely to use the lower back to assist in the movement, which can lead to back strains.

Related Article: 11 Best Smith Machine Glute Exercises

9. Cable Standing Abductions

This cable exercise targets the outer muscles of the glutes (medius and minimus). This is a good option if you do not have access to a seated machine version or if the lying leg lift is too easy.

How To
  1. Get an attachment that allows you to Velcro a loop around your ankle.
  1. With one of your ankles set up in the loop, stand at a 90° angle to the weight stack with your looped ankle in front of you.
  1. While keeping the leg straight, lift it out to the side against the resistance, pause at the top, and slowly lower all the way back down.
  1. Repeat for the desired number of reps, then repeat the steps on the other side.
Pro Tip

Try to be very slow and controlled, focusing on lifting the leg with a slow 2 to 3-second count rather than using your entire body to swing the leg out.

10. Machine-Seated Abductions

This machine exercise targets the gluteus medius and minimus. The machine has you perform seated movements where you pull the legs apart, challenging the outside of your glutes (abduction).

How To
  1. Sit down in the seat and place your thighs together.
  1. The outside of your thighs should be touching the pads.
  1. Open your thighs up against the pads, feeling the resistance in the sides of your glutes.
  1. Pause for a second, then come back to center and repeat.
Pro Tip

Try doing these for higher reps (15-30) and slow down your movements (2-3 seconds on the way in) to really isolate the muscles.

Sample Glute Isolation Workout Routines

sample glute isolation workout routines

Below are four sample glute isolation workout programs you can use to build your glutes regardless of what equipment you have available.

At-Home Glute Isolation Workout

This workout requires a bench and a resistance band, so you don’t need much equipment to do it.

The rep ranges are either for time or higher reps, as most people do not have access to very heavy weights at home. Therefore, to get the growth you need, you can train the glute muscles for longer durations, maintaining constant tension on them.

  • Glute Bridge: 4 sets of 1-minute holds, resting 30-60 seconds after each one
  • Band Pull Through: 4 sets of 20-30 reps
    • Superset with Bodyweight Hip Thrust: 4 sets of 20, then rest 90 seconds
  • Lying Leg Lift: 4 sets of 1 minute pulses per leg, no rest between sets

Free Weight and Machine-Based Glute Isolation Workout

This workout requires a barbell, a bench, dumbbells, machines, and cables. The reps vary between lower rep ranges (8-10) to help increase strength and higher rep ranges (20-30) to train the muscle to failure.

  • Barbell Hip Thrust: 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps, 90-120 seconds rest between sets
  • Single-Leg Glute Bridge: 3-4 sets of 30-60 seconds per leg, 90 seconds rest after each set
  • Seated Machine Abduction: 3-4 sets of 20-30 reps, 30-45 seconds rest between legs

Dumbbell-Only Glute Isolation Workout 

This workout requires dumbbells only, but you will also need a bench to rest your upper back against when doing hip thrusts. You may want to make sure you have access to a variety of dumbbell weights, as you may need heavier or lighter weights for certain movements.

This workout has you train the glutes in the moderate rep ranges (10-15), as heavier loads may be harder to set up, and light weights may not train the muscle hard enough.

  • Dumbbell Single-Leg Hip Thrust: 4 sets of 10-12 reps per leg, 30 seconds between sets
  • Dumbbell Hip Thrust: 4 sets of 12-15 reps, 90 seconds between sets
  • Lying Leg Lift: 3 sets of 12-15 reps per leg, then go into next exercise immediately after

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Exercise Isolates the Glutes?

The best exercises to isolate the glutes are ones that have you bend and then extend the hips, such as hip thrusts and pull-throughs. You will also want to do movements that have you work the sides of the glutes, like side-lying leg lifts or machine abductions.

What Is the Difference Between Compound and Isolation Glute Exercises?

Compound glute exercises train the glutes but also train other surrounding muscle groups, like the hamstrings and lower back. Isolation glute exercises target the glutes only. Romanian deadlifts, lunges, and squats are compound glute exercises, whereas hip thrusts and machine abductions are glute isolation exercises.

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.