Ever wondered “How to get a bigger butt?”, but never quite got a helpful answer? You’re in the right place.
We all want round, ‘juicy,’ ‘peachy’ butts. It’s literally hard-wired into our genes – whenever we see someone with well-developed butts, we automatically assume that they’re likely to be attractive, too!
But what if you’re not satisfied with how your butt looks right now? What if it’s flat or saggy? Can you get a sexier butt?
Thankfully, yes. Without any butt implants, too.
With the right exercise selection and consistent progressive overload, you can get the booty of your dreams. Here’s how.
To understand how to get a bigger butt, you need to know the muscles involved.
Your butt consists of three distinct muscles – the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus (1, 2).
As the names suggest, the gluteus maximus is the most massive muscle of the three, followed by the gluteus medius, and the smallest gluteus minimus.
Collectively, these muscles are known as your gluteal muscles (aka glutes).
Here’s a quick run-down on the location and functions of the three muscles.
Because the maximus lies on top of most of the other butt muscles (it’s closest to your butt surface), it’s pretty much the M.V.P when it comes to creating the shape of your butt.
As it has multiple origins and insertions, it’s able to perform a wide variety of functions, but primarily hip (3, 4):
- Extension: Pushing of your hips forward
- Abduction: Moving of your thigh away from your body’s midline
- External rotation: Rotating of your thigh bone outwards
- Posterior pelvic tilt: ‘Tucking in’ of your butt
Located directly under the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius wraps around to the front of the hips.
Thus, a well-developed medius makes your hips appear wider, which can then make your waist look smaller by contrast.
Depending on your aesthetic goals, this may or may not be desirable to you.
Its primary function is that of hip abduction, which is the moving of your thigh away from your body’s midline (5, 6).
The gluteus minimus lies underneath the maximus and medius. As such, it’s never visible to the naked eye – meaning it’s less of an aesthetic concern.
Admittedly, building it up will still make your butt look bigger, but unlike the maximus and medius, it won’t contribute to muscle definition at all.
The gluteus minimus contributes to hip abduction and extension, which means you’ll train it when you train the maximus and medius (7, 8).
- Three muscles – gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus – make up your glutes.
- The gluteus maximus is the most massive muscle and is closest to the surface of your butt. It’s able to perform a wide variety of functions.
- The gluteus medius wraps around to the side of your hips. Its primary function is hip abduction.
- The gluteus minimus is the smallest glute muscle and performs the same functions as both the maximus and medius.
Benefits of well-developed glutes (other than aesthetics)
Let’s face it. We’re all gunning for a bigger butt for aesthetic purposes.
But hey – did you know that other than helping you capture that perfect #butt selfie Instagram post, glute training can also come with health benefits?
Help with fat loss
With the glutes being the largest muscle in the body and controlling a wide range of functional movements, training your glutes burns more calories than training other body parts (9).
This can, in turn, increase (or at least help maintain) your calorie deficit, helping you with consistent fat loss.
Get a bigger butt and lose fat more effectively? Sign me up!
Reduce muscle strain
The glutes work closely with other muscles during lower-body movements (10, 11, 12).
For example, when you squat, your glutes share the load with other muscles, such as your quads and hamstrings.
If your glutes aren’t pulling their weight (so to say), these other muscles have to work harder, which can increase your risk of experiencing a muscle strain (13).
Alleviate lower back pain
When your glutes are strong, you have a stable pelvis and better support for your lower back (14, 15).
This means you can more evenly distribute load through the lower back and lower extremities.
In particular, strong glutes can help prevent excessive lumbar extension (hyperextension), which is associated with lower back pain.
Glute-building offers various health benefits, such as boosting weight loss efforts, preventing muscle strain, and alleviating lower back pain.
Why you shouldn’t only do squats to get a bigger butt
“Just do squats,” they said. “You’ll get a big booty,” they said. But 3 months later, and you’re still struggling to spot any gains. What’s up with that?
Well, do you remember what the primary function of your glutes? It’s the hip extension (i.e. pushing of your hips forward). Think about how you squat. When you’re at the bottom of the squat, you’ll have to push your hips forward and up to return to the standing position.
This is where your glutes are most activated. Meaning that when you’re squatting, there’s ‘on-and-off’ tension on your glutes.
The 3 mechanisms for muscle growth
And this is crucial. To understand why we need to look at the 3 main mechanisms for muscular growth (16, 17):
- Mechanical tension: Refers to loading a muscle group through a full range of motion
- Metabolic stress: Refers to the feeling you get when the muscle is burning and you have that ‘pump’ sensation; goes hand-in-hand with mechanical tension
- Muscle damage: Refers to the sore muscles you get after a particularly grueling workout; a result of tiny tears to the muscle tissue
As there are portions of the squat where the glutes don’t have any mechanical tension (e.g. when you’re descending), there are relatively low levels of tension placed on the glutes.
And that means there’s little metabolic stress, too.
Don’t think that squats are entirely useless for that booty development, though. There’s still an important mechanism for muscular growth that squats excel at.
And that’s muscle damage.
Just a little bit of context here: one of the main factors of muscular damage is whether the muscle is being stretched under tension (i.e. when activated) (18, 19).
Remember how the glutes are activated when you’re coming up from the bottom of the squat? That’s when your glutes are stretched.
Thus, explaining why squats cause significant muscle damage. And that post-workout soreness you’re all-too-familiar with. Nonetheless, as you can tell, squats aren’t able to elicit all 3 mechanisms of muscle growth.
That’s why you really shouldn’t only depend on squats to build that booty. You need other exercises that can provide significant metabolic tension and metabolic stress.
Squats are not optimal for developing your glutes as they don’t place constant tension on the muscle group. Other exercises are needed to complement the lift. That said, they can still be a driver for muscle growth due to muscular damage.
What are the best glute-focused exercises?
If you can’t rely solely on squats for glute growth, what exercises complement the lift, then?
Well, the general rule is that you should choose exercises that place constant tension on your glutes throughout the entire range of the movement.
Here are the 6 glute exercises that’ll keep your glutes burning throughout.
#1: Barbell hip thrust
There’s probably no better exercise for the glutes than the hip thrust – its movement mechanics allows for the best glute activation.
Because your knees stay bent throughout the entire range of motion, you’re essentially preventing your hamstrings from getting involved much.
This then allows your glutes to do the lion’s share of the work (20, 21).
When your knees stay bent as you extend your hips, your glutes contract more than when your knees are straight – as in a back extension or stiff-leg deadlift – or when they bend and straighten – as in a cable pull-through or squat.
Another reason why the hip thrust is so effective for building your glutes is that it causes your gluteus maximus to be in a shortened position – which is where the muscle is most activated.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on hip thrust you should check out. It covers everything you need to know from setting up the exercise to mistakes you should look out for.
And not to worry – if you don’t enjoy the barbell version of the exercise, there are plenty of barbell hip thrust alternatives you can try as well.
To perform the hip thrust:
Barbell hip thrusts minimize hamstring activation and maximize glute activation.
#2: Reverse lunge
Remember how we said that the squats are great at eliciting muscle damage?
Well, here’s another exercise that’ll place maximum tension on your glutes when they’re in a lengthened state, too: the reverse lunge.
For the most glute activation with this exercise (22, 23):
- Elevate yourself: Performing the exercise on a platform increases the range of motion. That gives you a deeper stretch. And guess what that means? Yep, more muscle damage (and, in turn, growth!) Note that this will then be called the ‘deficit reverse lunge’.
- Stride length: Use a stride length that allows your shins to stay relatively vertical at the bottom position. This best activates your glutes. A stride that’s too short shifts the tension onto your quads (due to greater knee flexion). After all, you’re not trying to get bigger quads here.
- Torso angle: Lean forward throughout the movement. Hip flexion (decrease in angle between torso and upper leg) is what you want in this exercise.
- Force production: Push yourself off with your glutes. Don’t allow your hips to rise faster than your torso. Otherwise, you’re turning this into a ‘good morning’ movement pattern, which loads your lower back.
To perform the deficit reverse lunge:
The deficit reverse lunge – similar to the squat – helps elicit muscle damage by placing the most tension on the glutes when they’re in a lengthened state.
#3: Glute kickback
Glute kickbacks, also known as quadruped hip extensions, are one of the easiest glute-building movements you can perform. But ‘easy’ doesn’t mean ineffective.
In fact, many studies have tested glute activation with the quadruped exercises, and every single research has shown great muscle activation (24, 25, 26)!
Another benefit? As a unilateral exercise, the glute kickback can also help address any muscle imbalances you have in your glutes (i.e. if your right glute is stronger than the left or vice versa).
Better still, loading the movement for a higher degree of glute activation is surprisingly easy.
Just keep the following form tips in mind:
- Maintain a neutral spine: Only kick back as far as you’re still able to maintain a neutral spine. Overarching your back (i.e. going into an anterior pelvic tilt) at the end range of motion shifts the tension away from your glutes – and onto your lower back. Leaning forward slightly may help you better maintain a neutral spine.
- Slow and controlled movement: Make sure your glutes are ‘switched on’ throughout the full range of motion. Do not simply let the weight of the cable pull your leg back to the starting position at the end of each rep. Having difficulties controlling the eccentric portion is a sign that you’ve chosen a weight that’s much too heavy for you.
To perform the glute kickback:
While seemingly straightforward, the glute kickback is excellent for glute activation. As a unilateral exercise, it’s also great for addressing muscle imbalances.
#4: Side-lying hip abduction
This is also commonly known as the side-lying hip raise. Now, if you want to round out the development of your glutes, you can’t forget about abduction exercises, which primarily target the upper glutes (27, 28).
Admittedly, the one drawback about the side-lying hip abduction exercise is that it’s difficult to load. You’ll have to use a band to create resistance.
For this reason, you’ll want to place abduction work at the end of a training session. Focus on high repetitions and burnouts, rather than heavy lifting.
To perform the side-lying hip abduction:
Side-lying hip abductions are excellent for targeting the gluteal medius (upper glute region).
#5: Straddle lift
You can think of the straddle lift as something like a blend of the squat and the deadlift.
Like the squat, it places the maximum tension on your glutes when they’re in a lengthened position – only here, because of the hip hinge motion, your glutes are active through a greater range of motion (29).
For maximal glute activation with the straddle lift:
- Perform it on an elevated platform: The main thing you want out of this exercise is a gretaer range of motion. So, you’re going to have to perform it on an elevated pltform (e.g. aerobic steps, weight plates, assisted pull up machine).
- Initiate the movement by driving your hips back: The initial motion for the exercise is a hip hinge motion. Think about sitting back – instead of sitting down. Only bend your knees to get to the bottom position once you’ve pushed your hips back as far as you can. The straddle lift can be tricky to ‘get’. Practice with light weights to lock the proper execution before going heavy.
- Allow the load to travel between your knees: Holding the load (e.g. dumbbell or weight plate) close to your body reduces unnecessary strain on your lower back. And remember to only go down as deep as you can without letting your lower back round.
To perform the straddle lift:
The straddle lift is the perfect blend between the squat and the deadlift movement pattern. As a result, it places tension on the glutes over a greater range of motion. Just remember to perform it on an elevated platform.
#6: 45-degree hip extension (back extensions)
When you hear ‘back extensions,’ you’re likely to think: ‘Hey, that’s supposed to work my back – not my glutes, right?’
Well, you’re right! The focus of traditional back extensions is on hyperextending the lower back at the top of each rep; doing so primarily strengthens the spinal erectors.
What you may not know, however, is that you can tweak the exercise to better target the glutes instead (30, 31, 32)!
- Round your upper back: Doing this reduces the involvement of your lower back muscles. Don’t take this to the extreme – and round your lower back, too. Do still maintain a braced core and a neutral back throughout the movement. Tucking your chin throughout can help you maintain a neutral spine.
- Point your toes about 45 degrees outwards: EMG analyses show that this imple tweak in your feet angle helps create higher glute activation.
- Think about ‘thrusting into the pad’: This cue could help if you’re having trouble ‘feeling’ your glutes – or experiencing strain in your lower back.
To perform the 45-degree hip extension (back extension):
To perform a 45-degree hip extension that targets your glutes, make sure to: 1) round your back while maintaining a neutral spine, 2) point your toes about 45 degrees outwards, and 3) think about thrusting into the pad.
#7: Standing hip abduction
As you’ve probably suspected, the standing hip abduction targets both your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
But that’s not the main selling point of this exercise.
Instead, you should be including the standing hip abduction as it targets your gluteus minimus optimally.
Why? Well, it all comes down to the origins and insertions (i.e. the places where your muscle attaches to the bone) of the 2 gluteal muscle groups.
More specifically, your:
- Gluteus medius: Originates from the outer surface of the hip bone, and inserts into the upper bone of your leg (i.e. femur).
- Gluteus minimus: Originates from the external surface of the hip bone, then inserts into the upper bone of your leg.
As a result, the gluteus medius runs slightly to the side of your hips – while the gluteus minimus runs almost perpendicular to the ground.
That’s why abducting your thighs straight to the side optimally activates your gluteus minimus.
Note that you can either use the resistance bands or the cable machine to perform this exercise.
Just make sure that you’re not excessively tilting to the left or right (i.e. falling over sideways). You want the lateral movement to really come from contracting your gluteus minimus (and medius).
To perform the standing hip abduction (4th slide):
The standing hip abduction optimally targets the gluteus minimus due to the exercise’s straight ‘out and away’ movement pattern. This is in line with how the gluteus minimus lines up against your hips.
How often should you train your glutes?
Now that you know the best glute-building exercises available, you must be anxious to start training.
But you must be wondering: how many times a week should you train glutes to get a bigger butt?
To find out, let’s take a look at a recent 2016 meta-analysis (33). The paper collected 10 different studies and compared between two training conditions:
- Training each muscle once per week
- Training each muscle with higher frequencies of 2 or 3 times a week
The result? It turns out that every study showed a benefit to training with higher frequencies.
More specifically, training each muscle 2 or 3 times a week resulted in 3.1% greater muscle growth than just training each muscle once a week.
Now, does that then mean that more is always better?
See, if you were to train each muscle too frequently, you’d be disrupting the natural ‘recovery’ phase.
This phase is where your body is repairing and rebuilding your muscle tissues – which would then result in bigger, stronger muscles over time.
This is supported by a recent 2017 paper, which found that training 2 times a week led to better muscle growth in comparison to training 4 times a week (34).
Therefore, it would be smart for you to train your glutes twice a week – or thrice, at most.
Training a muscle group 2-3 times a week is better than training it one time a week. However, the benefits seem to disappear past 4 times a week. As such, training glutes 2-3 times a week is optimal.
Workout plan for getting a bigger butt
So, how can you apply what you’ve learned from this article to plan your very own glute workout?
Don’t worry – we’ve done the work for you. Here are two sample workouts created using the exercises featured earlier.
You can choose the more appropriate workout based on your preferred training frequency.
That said, you don’t have to limit yourself to these exercises.
If you’re serious about getting a bigger butt, check out this best glute exercises guide for even more options. It outlines the 4 categories of glute exercises you want to be doing to make the most of your butt workouts.
If you’re training twice a week
If you’re training thrice a week
And that’s it, really. That’s the basics on “how to get a bigger butt”.
Of course, you’d want to make sure you’re getting consistent progressive overload. One common way is adding more weight to every exercise you’re doing over time.
Learn all about training your glutes well, and you might need to throw out your current jeans in just a few months. It’s time to experience the booty gains!