The Top 10 Best Glute Exercises That Shape Your Butt
I just stumbled across a study that examines glute activation of exercises in an extremely detailed manner.
It’s titled: Which Exercises Target the Gluteal Muscles While Minimizing Activation of the Tensor Fascia Lata? Electromyographic Assessment Using Fine-Wire Electrodes
This study is superior to any similar study I’ve seen for two reasons.
- Most studies use surface electrodes which are inaccurate because nearby muscles can contaminate the data. This one uses fine wire electrodes inserted into the muscles.
- Other studies don’t separate out TFL activity.
TFL is short for Tensor Fascia Lata
Here’s where it is located in relation to the gluteus maximus.
If your TFL is overactive you will have a tough time activating the glutes when doing “booty exercises”.
This is actually a common problem.
You will have an easier time shaping your glutes if you limit exercises where TFL contributes to the exercise too much.
This study came up with a way of measuring the best glute activation exercises, called…
“The Gluteal-to-TFL Index”
The researchers examined how hard the glutes fire in relation to the TFL.
They examined and ranked 11 popular glute exercises.
Lunges came in 11th place.
Here are the top 10 along with short video demonstrations I found on Youtube.
*I tried to find variations as close as possible to the exercise descriptions in the study.
10. Hip Hike Exercise
I’ve never even seen this exercise performed before. This is a slightly grainy video but a good explanation of how to do this exercise and what to focus on, etc.
9. Deep Squats
The “she squats” memes are a huge pet peeve of mine, but squats are a decent butt exercise nonetheless. This ranked ahead of lunges, but not as high as I would have guessed.
8. Bilateral Bridge (2 Leg Glute Bridge)
I just call these hip bridges using both legs, “bi lateral” sounds like a bad 80’s haircut. “I want a bilateral with frosted tips, but not too short on top”.
This video really explains the nuances well. After watching this video I’m 100% positive I’ve never done these properly.
6. Side-Lying Hip Abduction
In the study, they did these against a wall to make it slightly more strict. I’m guessing you wouldn’t have to use the wall if you use the form demonstrated in this video.
5. Quadruped Hip Extension Knee Flexed
In the study, they specified doing these on your elbows not hands. Here’s a video is showing proper form and done on the elbows. This video is helpful but is slightly terrifying (press play at your own risk).
4. Quadruped Hip Extension Knee Extending
This is the straight leg version which works better than with the bent leg variation. She covers both, but just pay attention to the straight leg version which targets the underbutt and lower glutes.
3. Unilateral Bridge (Single Leg Glute Bride)
Looks like using one leg works a lot better than hip bridges with two legs.
2. Sidestep With Resistance Bands (Walking Side Squats)
In the study, they used a resistance band put slightly above the knee… everything else is the same as described in the video. Stay in a squat position as you take 2-4 steps left, then 2-4 steps right, etc.
1. Clam Exercise (Side Lying Clam)
In my opinion, this one seems like the perfect glute activation exercise. Maybe a few sets before doing lower body work.
What to do with this info?
You aren’t going to be burning a ton of calories doing exercises like clams or hip bridges.
I would simply use some of these as “glute activation exercises”.
Pick a few of these and do them BEFORE some of the more intense lower body exercises or if you are going to run stairs etc.
Like clams before squats.
The clam exercise that is.
Eating clams before squats can’t be a good idea.
Note: In my article How to Fix “Dead Butt Syndrome”, I discuss hip bridges. It looks like there are a few exercises that rank higher for awakening the glutes.
Are These the Best Glute Exercises for Mass?
I would say once that you have activated the glutes with some of these exercises, you will want to follow with exercises that allow you to use more weight.
The top exercise for adding size to the butt is weighted hip thrusts.
It’s possible to use some pretty heavy weight with hip thrusts.
The goal is to be able to eventually do 10 reps with 1.5 times your body weight.
Brett Contreras is the top expert when it comes to this exercise.
Here’s a link to a tutorial on how to perform these properly:
Squats are a good exercise to build up size in the glutes, but the hip bridge works this area better.
Here’s a link to a study that compares back squat to hip thrusts when it comes to working the glutes and hamstrings.
What is the Best Cardio to Build Glutes?
The StepMill is by far the best cardio machine to activate and build up the buttocks.
It targets the butt and hamstrings without overworking the quads.
This exercise is perfect for women who want to a grow their glutes but not legs.
If your glutes are already activated from any of the exercises listed above, this works extra well.
Here are tips for feeling StepMill cardio in your glutes.
- Walk at a fast pace but don’t run.
- Push from your heels each step, not toes.
- Lean forward a little bit.
- Experiment with skipping steps if it is possible to do on your particular StepMill machine.
The only negative about this machine is they are really expensive.
Not all gyms have them.
I know that the majority of LA Fitness gyms have them, but not sure about other gym chains.
Hope this helps.
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