The Top 10 Exercises to Get a Strong and Shapely Butt

Learn The Best Ways For How To Workout The Butt With This Hand-Picked Collection Of Butt Exercises That Will Help You Build A Strong And Attractive Behind

downward dog

OK, I know what you’re thinking…

John Sifferman is doing an article on getting a great butt? Really? I mean, he’s never cared about physique goals or (gasp) body part training. And the butt of all places? Has he no shame?

Well, before you get your panties in a bunch, let me be very clear. I am NOT about to go on and on about the various benefits of the popular Brazil Butt Lift Workout Program. Hardly!

Now, I do think having a strong and shapely bottom is a great thing for anyone to work towards. It’s not something that I particularly emphasize in my own training programs, per se, but it is something that’s important for a lot of people mainly because we have a weak butt epidemic on our hands. Yes, an epidemic – like the bubonic plague, just not as severe. Not only are the vast majority of butts too big, they are also too weak. And in many cases, the glute muscles simply don’t function the way they’re supposed to, due to something called sensory motor amnesia. Essentially, the muscles stop activating due to nervous system malfunctions in the glute area. It’s almost like they get short-circuited from misuse, disuse, and non-use.

And gee, I wonder why? I mean, it’s not like we sit around on our butts all day – doing practically nothing with one of the largest, most powerful muscle groups in the body. That couldn’t be it!

The truth is that our butts hit rock bottom a long time ago, and it’s time to change that. So, while I will be giving you the keys to what you want (a great butt), I am also going to sneak in some of what you probably need (a strong, functional butt). And don’t worry, this article will be written in typical Siffer-rhetoric – full of anecdotes, opinions, and relatively useless information.

But first things first, you should know that I am truly qualified to impart this advice to you simply for the reason that my wife tells me I “have a perky butt” – whatever that means. And believe me, she is the most qualified person on planet Earth to make a statement like that. And now that I think about it, having a perky butt practically levitates me to butt training guru status. I mean, why not? Most of the other glute training gurus label themselves experts.

So, call it what you want. Regardless of whether we’re talking about your back end, backside, behind, bottom, bum, butt, buttocks, derrière, fanny, gluteus maximus, haunches, hindquarters, rear, rump, or tush, we’re about to get into some serious butt training strategies to help you fill out those buns with sheer muscle.

The Top 10 Best Butt Exercises

OK, I kinda-sorta lied when I said “top 10” because I’m actually going to deliver a lot more than that. When you read between the lines of these exercises, you’ll realize that there are dozens of variations inside this list – if not hundreds, if you use a little imagination. So, pick and choose what would work best for you, and forget about finding the elusive “best exercise.” It doesn’t exist – sorry. When it comes to butt exercises, every one of these is a winner. You just can’t go wrong.

So, here is a collection of butt exercises that would be particularly effective for those wishing to improve their glute shape and function (in no particular order).

1) Squats – If you ask practically any personal trainer or fitness coach for a great butt exercise, the squat will always – ALWAYS – make the list, and for good reason. If you want a great butt, do squats – lot’s of them. You can go heavy with a barbell, or just use bodyweight squats – or anything in between. Squats can be done with barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, clubbells, sandbags, bands, chains, kegs, tires, or practically anything else you can get your hands on. And you can do back squats, front squats, overhead squats, shouldered squats, zercher squats, prisoner squats, Hindu squats, jump squats, hack squats, goblet squats, and all sorts of other variations depending on the tools you have available. And guess what? They all work the glutes. I know. It feels just like winning the lottery, doesn’t it?

female weightlifter

2) Split Squats – Some would call the split squat a sissy exercise that’s more geared for beginners, but I think it’s simply a great way to increase the stability challenge because of the staggered stance. Plus, it’s a great stepping stone to the lunge and step-up exercises. You can do many of the same squat variations with split squats as you can with normal squats. And don’t forget about Bulgarian split squats. There is a ton of variety available even with this one simple exercise.

3) Lunges – Maybe it’s just me, but I love the lunge exercise because you can train the legs in so many different ways. You can do forward lunges, reverse lunges, lateral lunges, plié lunges, plyometric lunges, rotational lunges, and walking lunges, among others. Plus, you can easily combine different types of lunges into one hybrid exercise. And you can load them in any number of ways, too. Use a weighted vest, barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, clubbells, or just a log or rock if you have to. I consider the lunge exercise family the best for lower body unilateral training. And again, every single one of them targets the glutes – some even better than traditional squat variations. I recommend you use both regularly!

dumbbell lunge

4) Step-ups – Even though it shares many of the same characteristics as the lunge exercise, the step-up is one of the most under-rated exercises that tends to get over-looked, but needlessly so. From a practical standpoint, the only major difference is that you need a bench or step to perform it. There are tons of variations to choose from, and they all train the glutes in one way or another. Like the lunge, the unilateral nature of step-ups means you’ll be training stability (ie the so-called “stabilizer muscles”). That’s another way of saying you’ll get a nice, balanced, and “full” derriere from step-ups.

5) Kettlebell (or dumbbell) Swings – The swing is a great exercise for a number of reasons, glute development being just one of them. Another reason is that the swing is really easy to learn. It can be taught in less than a minute, and usually refined after a few minutes of practice. The swing just feels good, too. It feels like you’re doing real work. And you are, as it’s a great power generation movement. They can be performed traditionally with a kettlebell or dumbbell – one handed or two-handed, and forward or laterally. And the movement can be replicated with a stone or medicine ball (just release/throw it when you reach the top position).

female kettlebell swing

6) Sprinting – Now, I know that sprinters aren’t exactly in abundant supply these days, but have you ever met a sprinter who did not have a great butt? Me neither. That said, to play the devil’s advocate, sprinting is one of those activities that hits pretty much every muscle in your body. So, of course, it hits the glutes! But here’s the thing. The glutes are one of the prime movers when you’re running that fast. Said another way, it’s kindof impossible not to use the glutes when sprinting.

Now, I did say that I’d put these exercises in no particular order, but if I had to choose just one exercise for glute development, it would be sprinting (using incremental progression to work up to it accordingly). This is mainly because, if you can sprint safely (ie without pulling a muscle or giving yourself a hernia, etc.), then you can train your glutes with maximum effort in a natural and practical way. And hey, sprinting even works the hammies and quads, too. Seriously, sprinting is like killing a whole flock of birds with one stone. You want great glutes, do sprints. Short sprints, long sprints, hill sprints, interval sprints – just sprint. Easier said than done!

female runner

7) Jumping – Like sprinting, jumping is one of those practical movements that we should all be able to perform with ease, but most of us cannot. It’s just another natural human movement that most people are lacking in. Part of the problem may be that most people have sensory motor amnesia in their glutes, which are the prime movers in a jump. The other reason may be that we never practice jumping, nor have to jump on a regular basis.

I included jumping in here not just because it’s a practical skill to learn that can also be used for glute development, but because it requires no equipment and can be done in a variety of ways. You can jump forwards, backwards, laterally, and diagonally. You can jump up onto things, or down onto things. You can jump to a target. You can jump with a spin (a unique conditioning challenge). You can jump from standing, or from walking, trotting, or running. From two legs or one. Your imagination is really the only limit, and they all – ALL – work the glutes. Seriously, if all you did was do sprints once or twice a week and a jumping practice session once or twice a week, your glutes would reach elite status in no time.


8) Glute bridging (aka lying hip extension) – The glute bridge is probably the one and only classic glute exercise. It doesn’t isolate them completely, but it does target them directly, and serves as a great glute activation drill. So, if you’re having trouble contracting your glutes, first remember that you’re not alone, and then start with this exercise. They can be done with two legs planted on the ground (easiest variation), or just one. Perform them with your feet on the ground, on a step, or on a stability ball. You can even add weight to them by placing a barbell across your lap while extending your hips. After a few weeks of doing these, they’ll start calling your gluteus maximus the nutcracker.

glute bridging

9) Deadlifts – If putting your glutes under heavy load sounds appealing to you, then you need to try deadlifts. Some would argue that deadlifting is the king of all glute exercises. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I will say that deadlifts are right up there with the best of them. They are best done with barbells (and I prefer a trap barbell), but they can also be done with dumbbells, kettlebells, or a stone if you can find heavy enough ones to challenge you. They can be done with a neutral stance, wide/sumo stance, and a staggered stance. You won’t find as much variety with this movement, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a super-effective glute exercise – not to mention it practically trains the whole body for strength.

female deadlifter

10) Single-leg deadlifts – SLD’s tend to get a bad wrap just like split squats do. I think it’s probably because the balance challenge makes them tough to perform correctly. Also, you certainly can’t load up the weight like a conventional deadlift. So, these won’t exactly boost your ego. They’re just not a very sexy exercise, but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective. Speaking of which, in some ways, the single-leg deadlift is more effective than a regular deadlift for balanced glute development because of its stabilization component. They are another fine movement for the glutes that can and should be included in a balanced fitness program at some point or another.

single leg deadlift

Word of Warning

Keep in mind that some of these exercises may be especially challenging if you do have sensory motor amnesia in your glute muscles (and again, most people do). Said another way, it might be hard to sprint correctly if your gluteus maximus isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders. If that’s you, then it may be prudent to work on some simple muscle activation exercises before you get to the conditioning stuff. I’d recommend a daily prescription of hip mobility and some hip-centric yoga until you can bend steel with your buns.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that there are a lot of great butt exercises out there, and most of them are common recommendations for many other reasons besides glute development. I mean, seriously, almost everyone should be doing some form of squatting, lunging, and deadlifting anyways. And exercises like swings and sprinting are superb for tons of reasons besides glute development. If you’re not doing these exercises, then I’d suggest trying out a variation or two ASAP.

So, it’s time to get off your stinkin’ butt and use it! And if you so desire to tell the world that your bottom will be strong and shapely in a matter of weeks, then please share this post so that others may join you and revel in your collective glory.

Helpful Resources For Butt Exercises And Glute Development

Butt Exercises

The Scorpion Bodyweight Exercise Tutorial
The Leg Thread and Leg Swoop Bodyweight Exercise Tutorial
How to do the Lunge Exercise with Optimal Technique
Bodyweight Lunge Exercise Variations
The Four-Corner Balance Drill
5 Beginner Level Burpee Exercises
The Anatomy of a Jump

Fire Up Your Jump Squats
Bodyweight Training For Functional Leg Strength
Various Leg Exercises Tutorial
Barefoot Sprinting For A Great Butt

Butt Workouts

2 Great Glute Workouts
Beyond Burpees Workout
Natural Movement Workout Session
Lower Body Clubbell Workout
4-Week Bodyweight Workout Program to Replace Fat With Muscle  

Big Picture Stuff

How Sitting Is Killing You And What To Do About It
Too Much Sitting = Too Bad For Your Health

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5 Responses

  1. Well, this article resonates with me, because I’m pretty sure I have acute butt motor amnesia.

    You should have mentioned Kegel exercises, which I think should be #1 or #2 on your list of Top Ten Butt exercises.

    And it would be helpful if you provided links to pages describing/demonstrating each of the different types of squats and lunges.

    • Most people do experience motor amnesia in the glutes – even those with acute butt :)

      Kegels are great, but I’ve always considered them a core exercise. So, they didn’t make this list.

      I’ve been meaning to film a tutorial on squats (and another one on glute bridging), but haven’t yet. So, for the time being, feel free to peruse the links at the bottom of the post.

  2. Wow, very good article!

  3. bootywow is amazing for make bigger butt I am also using that same product and trust me In three weeks I’ve already notice a change and so has my boyfriend. Not only does it increase the size but it also has helped a ton with my cellulite and in general firmed my butt quick.

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