One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to grow their glutes is just hammering exercises like squats and deadlifts thinking that’s the key to success.
However, these exercises alone will NOT help you grow bigger glutes.
To grow your glutes, you need to isolate them with specific exercises 2-3 times a week in both low and high rep ranges. Then, over the course of 6-8 weeks, you need to consistently add more weight and volume to those exercises so that your glutes are forced to adapt.
Below, I will break down the most effective glute exercises (based on science), and share with you 7 tips to follow if you want to have bigger glutes in the next 1-2 months.
Looking for a glute training program? 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. Get 3 free workouts on Fitbod.
What Muscles Make Up the Glutes?
The glutes are made up of three muscles, each responsible for certain joint actions and each isolated slightly differently than the next.
It is important to note that during most movements all three glute muscles are working together, however, you can isolate them slightly more individually by understanding the joint actions that they each perform.
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle group of the entire body, as well as the largest glute muscle.
When looking to grow bigger glutes, this is the most impactful exercise to target because it is significantly more capable of growth (especially noticeable growth) than the others, simply due to its size.
The gluteus maximus is activated when the hip goes into extension (straightening the hips) as well as hip abduction (when the legs move outwards away from one another).
The glute medius is a smaller muscle of the gluteal group and resides underneath the larger, gluteus maximus muscle.
Visually, you will be able to see this from the lateral side of the hip, and it is responsible for hip abduction (when the legs move apart from one another).
The gluteus minimus is the smallest glute muscle, and is underneath the gluteus medius (it is the deepest glute muscle of the three).
Like the gluteus medius, the minimus is responsible for the stability of the knee as well as the hip, as it supports hip abduction.
- Related Article: 14 Gluteus Minimus Exercises to Grow Your Glutes
7 Best Exercises for Glute Growth
The below exercises were selected after looking at research articles that examined muscle activation of the glutes, hamstrings, and supporting muscle groups.
In other words, they are scientifically proven to target the glutes to a greater extent compared with other exercises.
The majority of the exercises primarily target the gluteus maximus, as that muscle is the largest out of the three and the one that will determine most of the glute growth. The other glute muscles (minimus and medius) are also active in these exercises but to a lesser extent.
Note: All of the exercises below can be found in the Fitbod app.
1. Pelvic Tilt Glute Activation
No matter what exercise you do, if your pelvic positioning is not correct you will have a tough time isolating the glutes.
This is one of the most common issues I see with people who say they can’t grow their glutes, despite doing most of the exercises below.
Here’s a quick explanation of how proper pelvic positioning improves glute activation:
The glutes are responsible primarily for hip extension (opening of the hip joint, such as when we stand up from a deadlift or raise the hips in a hip thrust).
They also help to externally rotate the leg bone (femur), which is why many people wear glute bands around their knees (to activate the glutes).
The issue I see with most lifters is that rather than keeping the pelvis tucked to activate the glutes during these movement patterns, they arch the back and tilt the pelvis backward.
What this does is turns the glutes off, and force the lower back to activate to complete the range of motion.
This is obviously an issue because it doesn’t help you develop the glutes, but it also sets you up for a potential lower back injury.
This is where doing the pelvic tilt glute activation drill can be helpful. It teaches you the proper position your pelvis should be in while performing other glute-dominant exercises.
While there are many out there, the best one I have found is quite complex, so if you want to perform it correctly, please watch the video above.
But, to keep things concise, I will refer you to this video.
2. Hip Thrust
After you’ve mastered this pelvic tilt, the next exercise you need to incorporate is the hip thrust.
The hip thrust has been shown to produce some of the highest amounts of glute activity when compared with most other exercises.
Research has repeatedly concluded that hip thrusts have higher glute activation than back squats, front squats, deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts, and split squats.
Not doing these would be a major misstep in your glute training.
When performing these, you can vary your stance width and emphasis when lifting the load to better target the glutes.
Research shows that taking a wider stance with the feet turned slightly out and thinking about rotating them outwards as you lift has the highest level of glute activation of all hip thrust variations – whether you’re choosing to use a barbell or dumbbell.
Related Article: Can Bodyweight Exercises Build the Glutes?
3. Glute Bridge (Isometric Holds)
The glute bridge is similar to the hip thrust, however, it is done in a shorter range of motion and places more emphasis on the isometric hold (the pause at the top of the movement where the glutes are activated the most).
Most people lack the ability to contract their glutes and feel the muscle working, so you can use this as a regression to the hip thrust if you feel like you need to work on the more mind-muscle connection.
You can also use it as a way to activate the glutes before doing more complex movements like hip thrusts, squats, or deadlifts, or pair them up with other exercises in a superset to further fatigue the glutes.
You can do the glute bridge for 20-30 seconds at a time, and use the same foot positioning as the hip thrust.
Focus on pulling the front of the pelvis towards your belly as you squeeze your glutes at the top). Remember, squeeze hard.
Related Article: How Long Does It Take to Grow Your Glutes
4. Single Leg Squat
The single-leg squat, also known as the modified single-leg squat or the Bulgarian split squat, has been shown to produce significantly greater gluteus maximus activation than back squats and stiff leg deadlifts.
This exercise allows you to train the glutes directly, while also not needing to train with as much loading, making it a great option for any lifter who needs to train the glutes multiple times a week (where recovery and limiting lower back and hip stress is key).
To isolate the glutes more, lower yourself down to parallel (where the hip was in line with the knee and your front knee is at a 90-degree angle).
The research found that performing single-leg squats parallel produced high amounts of glute activation when compared with other techniques.
Note: It is critical to incorporate at least one single-leg glute-focused exercise into your training program since it’s a great way to ensure that you’re not compensating with your dominant leg while performing exercises like the hip thrust.
The next couple of movements are also single-leg glute exercises.
5. Step Up
Step-ups are one of the best exercises you can do in terms of glute activation.
The research shows that step-ups (inline) as well as crossover and lateral step-up variations have some of the highest glute activation scores among all exercises.
- Inline step-ups have you step up and down in a manner where you step straight back
- Crossover step-ups have you step your leg back on a diagonal (behind you)
- Lateral step-ups have you step your leg out to the side.
When stepping up, regardless of the variation, you want to focus on not jumping off the non-working leg for help, but rather stepping up using the lead leg.
The height of the step-up can also vary, but research suggests knee angles of around 90 degrees offer the most glute activation.
You can do deeper step-ups, but more emphasis is placed on the quads when going deeper, not the glutes.
So my recommendation is to limit the range of motion to 90 degrees and instead of doing a deeper range of motion, use heavier loads.
You can vary your step-ups and do lateral, diagonal, and even crossover step-ups for new ways to train the glutes directly. I would focus on one variation for a period of 4-weeks, and then switch to another variation for another 4 weeks.
Note: Research shows all three lunge types can help increase muscle growth, however, the in-line step-up may be the best option if you are looking to maximize glute development.
So yes, incorporate different variations, but make sure to spend more time using the in-line variation.
If you struggle to perform step-ups and lunges due to balance, try adding in Smith machine glute exercises too.
Lunges are another single leg gute exercise that can produce high amounts of glute activation.
Whether they are stationary or dynamic (walking), lunges have been shown to target the glutes more than the conventional deadlift.
Many lifters assume they need to train the glutes with heavy deadlifts and hip thrusts, and while this can be effective, research shows that you can target them more with lunges.
Lunges by default require less loading, keep you in a more upright position, and ultimately can help limit back stress and strain. This means you can train the glutes directly with less stress and risk to the lower back.
If you are someone who suffers from lower back pain or is weary of using heavy deadlifts to grow your glutes (because you haven’t mastered the technique yet), you can do lunges instead. Start with bodyweight and build to using a dumbbell for additional resistance.
Despite what I just said about deadlifts being inferior to lunges, deadlifts are still a great exercise to incorporate into your glute-building program. However, you need to make sure you’re using the right variation.
Deadlifts are a category of movements that emphasize hip flexion and extension (bending at the hips with a flat back and then straightening the hips).
Since the gluteus maximus is the primary muscle responsible for this action, the deadlift and any hinging exercise are good options for glute growth.
That said, there are many different types of deadlifts.
Research has shown that the sumo deadlift, conventional deadlift, and hex bar deadlift all produce similar glute activation levels (no significant differences between them).
The Romanian deadlift is often touted as another variation that targets the glutes, but it appears the hamstrings are also highly engaged, as well as the lower back compared with variations like the hex bar deadlift.
So, which should you choose?
There’s no wrong answer. I would recommend cycling any of them into your training program over the course of a 4-week period and then swapping it out for another variation.
Just make sure you train them with proper form and focus on using the glute muscles, rather than compensating with the quads, low back, and hamstrings.
While not all gyms have a hex bar, the hex bar deadlift would be the easiest variation to start with if you haven’t mastered deadlifting yet.
It is important to note that all deadlifts various are still not as effective at targeting the glutes as when compared to the hip thrust.
So make sure you prioritize the hip thrust and add in deadlifts only as a secondary movement.
You’ll likely want to do hip thrusts twice per week but deadlifts only once per week.
Are Squats Good for Glute Growth?
While squats do train the glutes, they aren’t the best exercise for maximizing glute activation.
This is the case for all types of squat variations, including back squats, front squats, and overhead squats.
As research has repeatedly shown, squats rank lower than all the above eight exercises mentioned above for gluteus maximus activation levels.
- Related Article: Squats vs Hip Thrusts
If you do squats, you will definitely grow your legs, but if you are having issues growing your glutes specifically, then squats should be deprioritized in relation to the other glute-focused movements.
That said, the research did show that partial squats (squatting to parallel or just above) can have the highest amount of glute activation compared with other forms of squats.
This is because the deeper you squat, the more your quads assist with the movement. So if you want the tension to remain on the glutes, just squat so your knees are at 90 degrees and then stand back up.
Because you’ll be doing partial squats, you can use a heavier load than normal. There are some other ways you can target the glutes more when squatting, such as:
- Point your toes slightly outwards, as this will help you use more of the gluteus medius
- Taking a wider stance will help you target more of the glutes
- Keeping the shins more vertical to push the hips back more will increase more usage of the squats (and decrease quad usage).
7 Other Tips To Follow To Get Bigger Glutes
1. You Aren’t Training Them Enough
According to researchers, “the current body of evidence indicates that frequencies of training twice a week promote superior hypertrophic outcomes to once a week”.
If you struggle to grow your glutes, you should aim to train them at least twice per week, with some more advanced lifters potentially training them three times a week.
Ideally, you would deliver 4-6 hard work sets per session, two to three times a week (12-20 total work sets per week), rather than training glutes once per week and doing 20 total sets.
2. You Need to Eat More Calories
If you struggle to gain muscle, you need to eat more calories than you currently are.
If you are not in a caloric surplus, your body will not have enough raw energy (calories) to then fuel harder (and more frequent) training, recovery, and building of new muscle tissue.
You should first determine how much you are eating currently, and then increase your caloric intake by 10%.
You can then track your weight gain, opting to gain 0.5-1% of body weight per week.
If you do not see weight gain at that rate on a weekly basis, then bump up your calorie intake by another 5% to keep pace with the suggested rate for weight gain.
You also need to make sure you are eating enough protein to fuel muscle growth. Aim to consume .8 – 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
3. You Need to Continue to Make Workouts Harder
To continually progress your workouts, and to get similar rates of progress as when you started, you need to progressively overload.
“Progressive overload is a principle of resistance training that typically relies on increasing load to increase neuromuscular demand to facilitate further adaptations.”
Research has shown that progressing both the amount of weight lifted (load) and the number of reps completed are both viable options for increasing muscle mass over the span of 8 weeks (in experienced lifters who trained lower body).
Therefore, if you aren’t either increasing the number of reps you do with weight or adding more weight and doing the same number of reps on a week-to-week basis, you may not be progressively overloading as you need to drive muscle growth.
4. You Aren’t Activating the Glutes
Glute activation is important when trying to isolate the glutes. If you cannot properly engage the muscles and can’t voluntarily connect with them as they work, you may not be effectively training them (no matter what exercise you do).
You can fix this by slowing down your movements, fixing your pelvic positioning, and focusing on feeling the muscle rather than just moving the weight.
Focus on taking 2-3 seconds to lower the loads during all reps and movements, as this will help you feel the muscle being loaded and stretching as you get deeper into position.
This will also allow you to revisit your form and body positioning (making sure your lower back isn’t too arched or rounded).
You want to force the glutes to lift the weight rather than allow the entire lower body to do the lifting (which is what most lifters do).
Related Article: Banded Kickback Variations for Better Glutes
5. You Aren’t Training All Rep Ranges
Research shows that training with heavier loads can promote increases in strength and muscle growth due to higher force outputs. However, training with lighter loads as well, and repping those loads to fatigue, has also been shown to increase muscle mass.
Lifters often only train in one rep range (8-10 for example), but you should be training with heavier loads in the 5-8 rep range as well as higher rep ranges too (12-25 reps).
By training in lower reps, you can increase strength and target muscle fibers that respond to heavier loads (fast twitch muscle fibers), and then use higher rep ranges to maximize muscle growth.
When you take a muscle to near or total failure, you will often get a muscle burn and pumped-up sensation in the muscle. This is a good indicator of metabolic stress, which is an important driver for muscle growth.
If you do not feel this after doing moderate and higher reps, then you most likely are not controlling the weight enough throughout the full movement or training close enough to fatigue, or both.
6. You Don’t Have a Workout Plan
You may be able to get some great workouts here and there without a structured plan, but over time not following a workout plan that progresses your workouts and intensities regularly would 100% be the reason you aren’t seeing results.
Seeing that progress takes time, it’s important to have a plan in place to push you when you may not feel motivated or to make sure you don’t do too much weight or too many sets and reps on a single day.
This is where the Fitbod app comes in handy, as it builds a program for you and adjusts it based on your workout performance and progress, making small continuous adjustments to continually prompt muscle growth
Get 3 free workouts on Fitbod.
7. Use Drop Sets for More Intensity
One of the easiest ways to add more intensity to your workouts and increase metabolic muscle stress is to add drop sets to your training.
A drop set is when you add another lighter set directly after you do your normal hard work set to near failure.
By performing your regular set to near failure, and then grabbing a lighter weight (10-20% less weight) and immediately doing a few more reps, you are able to push the muscle to slightly more fatigue.
How Long Do Glutes Take To Grow?
For most lifters, glute growth should occur within 6-8 weeks of training.
Initially, you will notice performance improvements in the first few weeks during the workout (able to do more sets, more weight, and better muscle contractions). However, these are largely neuromuscular adaptations (your body learning how to coordinate muscle contractions better).
After 6-8 weeks of training the glutes 2-3 times a week, you should start to notice significant changes in your glute firmness, size, and shape.
Research suggests that beginners can expect to gain 3-4 lbs of muscle per month (across the entire body), with more advanced lifters gaining less (1-2 lbs per month).
It’s safe to say that you can expect to see significant improvement in your glute growth in 12 weeks, as they are the largest muscle group and could make up a portion of muscle gain when trained 2-3 days a week.
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 3 free workouts on Fitbod.
What To Do If Your Glutes Aren’t Growing
If your glutes are not growing, you should first assess whether or not you are performing the movements with enough control and intensity.
If you are doing that, then you may need to add another glute workout into the program (i.e. going from 2 times per week to 3 times per week).
If you are not feeling muscle soreness or are not getting enough glute muscle pump (muscle pump is when the muscles feel full and slightly crampy during the workout), then you need to train harder by using more weight, or performing more reps.
You may also need to slow the movement down to make sure you are mainly using the glutes to lift the weight.
If you are still struggling, make sure you are eating enough food to be gaining weight slowly, which may be 5-15% more calories than you are currently eating.
- Related Article: Bulking with a Low Appetite
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Fastest Way To Grow Your Glutes?
Train the glutes with a combination of compound and isolation exercises like hip thrusts, lunges, and deadlifts 3 times a week, delivering 6-10 total hard-intensity sets per workout (spread out across 2-3 exercises per workout). You also need to be in a caloric surplus.
How Much Should I Eat to Grow My Glutes?
You will need to place yourself in a caloric surplus. Start by increasing your calories by 10% above your normal amount, and track your progress. If you are not gaining weight (0.5% body weight per week), then add another 5% to your calorie intake.
Why Is My Butt Not Growing?
First, you may not be training your glutes enough (aim to train the glutes 2-3 times a week). Next, you may not be training them directly or you are not doing the movements slowly enough with control. Lastly, you may not be eating enough (being a caloric surplus).
About The Author
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.