I have a love-hate relationship with squats. When I decided to focus more time and attention on sculpting the booty of my dreams, I was told that squats were the key to my success if I wanted to sport a Kim Kardashian-esque bubble butt. And boy, do I want to sport a Kim Kardashian-esque bubble butt!
I got to work and exhausted myself with squat after squat after squat. I tried body squats, jump squats, goblet squats, back squats, and front squats. As I reached for heavier plates, I noticed my legs getting stronger. It saw improvement in my core stability. My calves and hamstrings were toned. My quads were growing. My wee little glutes were trying their very best, but I wasn’t making the booty gains that the squat game promised.
I decided to hit the books (Internet) in a pursuit to work smarter — not harder. Basically, I googled “how to reverse your pancake ass” and I discovered a whole new world of workouts that specifically targeted all parts of my glutes. I learned that there was more to life than the traditional squats I made myself prisoner to (could I be more dramatic?).
On glute day, you might catch me adding in a squat variation or two, but centering my workouts around them are a thing of the past. I’ve incorporated a plethora of new booty burning workouts and hacks that have exponentially helped me gain traction on my trajectory towards (my version of) Kardashian status. Try these glute growing exercises that are guaranteed to help you make strides towards a peach you can be proud of.
Step One: Don’t Skip Your Warm-Up
If there’s one thing that I truly underestimated when I first started training my bum, it’s the importance of glute activation before diving into a workout. These exercises are smaller-scale movements that target and fire up your glute muscles so that when you jump into other exercises, your glutes are activated and ready to put in work. When you don’t warm up your glutes, larger muscles in your quads, hamstrings, and back take over, which can lead to injury or overgrowth of muscles that you’re not trying to target.
My favorite glute activation exercises are the ones that involve resistance bands. I’ve been using these bands for the last two years and I’m still obsessing over them! They allow me to add tension to my activation exercises, but are more comfortable than traditional latex loop bands.
Here are my go-to glute activation exercises to do to kickstart my workout!
- Banded clamshells: After I do a couple of these, I can feel my gluteus medius waking up from its baseline state hibernation, ready to help me take on leg day. Try them once and the clam will be your new jam.
- Banded donkey kicks: When I do donkey kicks, I can’t help but picture Donkey from Shrek exclaiming, “And in the morning, I’m makin’ WAFFLES.” My mind is a strange place. Anyways, I freakin’ love donkey kicks and I especially like adding a band to the mix for some extra resistance.
- Banded fire hydrants: Once I jump into fire hydrants, I immediately start sweating bullets. Do not underestimate these guys… though the movement seems small, it is mighty. It works your glutes and your core and is a one-way ticket to preparing your body for all of the booty work that lies ahead.
- Banded crab walks: You may know them as “lateral band walks,” but I prefer the term “crab walks” simply because it sounds a bit *cheekier.* Whether you place a higher resistance loop band around your thighs or position a stretchier resistance band around your ankles, you’ll feel your gluteus medius awaken on rep one.
- Banded glute bridge abductions: It’s a two-for-one special, Evergirls! I hold banded glute bridge abductions close to my heart. It’s a two-part exercise that works all parts of your glutes. First, you’ll hip thrust up, focusing your mind-muscle connection on the maximus, then take an abduction (outward pulse) at the top of your bridge, firing up your medius. It’s an efficient way to warm up that booty before you jump into bigger, badder glute exercises.
1. Sumo squats
In my opinion, sumo squats are terribly underrated! When I was spending a lot of time on traditional squats and didn’t know the magic of glute activation, I found my quads taking over, which caused a bit of overgrowth. This squat variation requires a wider stance with your feet turned out at a 45-degree angle. This position makes it a lot harder for my quads to get involved. I feel the buuuurrrrn in my inner thighs and “under booty” when I’m doing these, and if I’m feeling extra spicy, I’ll add 10 sumo squat pulses at the end of my reps to really take things to the next level. You can use your body weight or add a kettlebell/dumbbell into the mix for the added challenge!
2. Hip thrusts
Okay, I know hip thrusts are one of the most awkward exercises to perform in a public gym, but hear me out — you simply must add them to your workout routine. They’re slightly different from a glute bridge in that, instead of resting your lower back on the ground, you rest it on a bench, riser, or exercise ball. This position allows for a greater range of motion, which equals more glute gains. Make sure to keep your chin tucked, core tight, and knees at a 90-degree angle. I like to place a dumbbell, barbell, or medicine ball in my hip crease and really squeeze my peach at the top of the thrust for best results!
3. Modified pistol squats
I have a lot of goals in life, and one that reigns supreme is to one day be able to perform an unassisted pistol squat. I’m not quite there yet, but(t) I have high hopes that I’ll get there someday! Cut to scene of me sprawled on the floor after 17 failed attempts in a row. Until I’m a baddie that can pistol squat, you can catch me out here playing around with these modified bench pistol squats which are still unbelievably hard. I love that I can focus on building strength on one side at a time (my right is wildly weaker than my left) and work on evening out my glutes while werkin’ and twerkin’ towards the booty of my dreams.
4. Bulgarian split squats
Say hello to your new frenemy — the Bulgarian split squat. It’s a variation of a split squat where your back leg is propped up on a bench or chair. Really focus on keeping good form and squeezing your booty at the top as you extend out of the squat position. Though you’re guaranteed to feel a burn with bodyweight alone, don’t shy away from adding weight in the form of a kettlebell at the chest or a set of dumbbells in each hand. This exercise will have you singing “Hurts so Good” and walking funny tomorrow. I’m sorry and you’re welcome!
Step on up, ladies and gents! Grab your nearest bench, a sturdy chair, or riser and get that booty workin’. Step-ups are a great way to activate your posterior chain and, like pistol squats and split squats, help you to focus your energy on one leg at a time. Yay for symmetry! When you step up on your elevated surface of choice, be sure to drive your weight through your heel and focus on powering through your glutes. Add height to your stepping platform and dumbbells in each hand for a more challenging variation.
6. Glute kickbacks
Think previously-mentioned banded donkey kicks, but bigger and better. Glute kickbacks require a cable tower and ankle strap. If the cable tower that you use comes with ankle straps, then you’re in luck! If it doesn’t, don’t fret. Amazon has your back (as per usual) and can ship them to you in a flash. I use these ones which have become a staple in my gym bag. After you secure the strap snugly on your “kickback” leg, assume a small bend your knees, hinge your torso slightly forward, and extend your working leg backward. Pause at the top of the extension for one to two seconds (live in the moment, if you will), and lower down slowly.
If you don’t have access to a cable tower, you can mimic a similar exercise with banded standing kickbacks.
7. Single leg deadlifts
Single leg deadlifts are a personal favorite of mine, because no matter if I’m using bodyweight or adding weight in the form of a kettlebell, medicine ball, or dumbbell, I always feel so sore from these on days one, two, and three post leg day. They’ve been a key player in the pursuit of a badass backside and they’re worth a try the next time you hit the gym. They require a bit of balance, and on days I’m feeling a bit wobbly (Sunday mornings post a night of indulging in one too many margs), I anchor myself by holding onto a nearby bench or wall.