10 Glute Isolation Exercises

Fitness is subject to fashion trends just like any other industry. One year, toned, defined arms and shoulders are the latest must-have. The next year, six-pack abs are all the rage.

Currently, the glutes are in the spotlight, and a lot of people want to develop a big, rounded, firm butt. But the glutes are more than just a fashion accessory; they’re also a critical muscle for movement and function.

The glutes are your primary hip extender, meaning they drive your femur or thigh backward. This happens when you walk, run, jump, climb stairs, or sit down and stand up.

Weak, underdeveloped glutes don’t just give you a flat, shapeless butt; they can also cause issues with your hips, knees, and lower back. If your glutes are weak, these other muscles and joints have to step in and take up the slack, exposing them to more stress than they are used to.

The good news is that the glutes are very trainable, and you don’t even need to go to the gym to get your glutes in great shape. There are plenty of bodyweight and resistance band exercises you can use.

In this article, we reveal the ten best glute isolation exercises for building a bigger, firmer butt.

What are the Glutes?

The glutes, full name gluteus maximus, is the largest muscle in the human body. Located on the back of your hips, most people know the glutes as their butt.

The glutes are primarily responsible for the extension of your hip, which means it pushes your femur or thigh backward, for example, when running or jumping.

fitness body from behind

The glutes are also involved in lateral (external) rotation of the hip joint, which is a function of the lower fibers of the glutes. As well as extending and rotating your hip, the glutes act as pelvic stabilizers when you stand on one leg or transfer your weight from one leg to the other, e.g. while running.

The glutes are involved in many of the activities of daily living, including walking, climbing stairs, sitting and standing, and lifting objects from the floor. As such, and also for aesthetics and sporting activities, glute training should be part of everybody’s workout.

10 Best Glute Isolation Exercises to Try

The glutes work with your hamstrings to extend your hip, so it’s all but impossible to completely isolate them. That said, there are plenty of single-joint exercises you can do that preferentially target your glutes, and we’ve listed ten of the best below!

1. Hip thrusts

hip thrust

Glute isolation exercises don’t come much better than #1 – hip thrusts.

Done with or without weights, this movement causes an intense glute contraction you can really feel.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat.
  2. Drive your feet into the floor and lift your hips up to the ceiling. Your knees, hips, and shoulders should form a straight line.
  3. Lower your butt back down to the floor and repeat.
  4. If using weights, hold them across your hips.
  5. You can also do this exercise with your upper back against a bench or stability ball to increase the range of motion.

2. Fire hydrants

The fire hydrant is so-called because, when you do it, you look like a dog cocking its leg to pee!

Don’t let that image put you off; this is still a very effective glute isolation exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel down on all fours so your shoulders are directly above your hands and your hips are over your knees. Brace your abs.
  2. Keeping your hips and shoulders still and your knees bent to 90-degrees, lift one leg up and out to the side as high as you can without twisting your pelvis.
  3. Lower your leg back down and repeat.

3. Bird dog – legs only

Where fire hydrants involve hip abduction and rotation, this exercise focuses on hip extension.

It’s normally done with a corresponding arm movement, but to make it all about the glutes, for this version, keep both hands on the floor.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel down on all fours so your shoulders are directly above your hands and your hips are over your knees. Brace your abs.
  2. Extend one leg out behind you until your leg forms a straight line with your body.
  3. Return your knee to the floor and repeat.

4. Prone leg lift

If bird dogs and fire hydrants (exercises #2 & 3) have a disadvantage, it is that they involve a lot of core activation. With prone leg lifts, your spine is fully supported, so a) you don’t need to use your core as much, and b) you are free to focus on flexing your butt.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your front with your legs straight and your head resting on your hands.
  2. Lift one leg as high off the floor as you can without twisting or lifting your hips.
  3. Lower your leg back to the floor and repeat.

5. Side-lying leg lift

Side-lying leg lift

This exercise emphasizes the side of your glutes and increases activation of gluteus medius and minimus.

Working on the side of your glutes will give you a fuller, rounder butt.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your side with your body straight and your head resting on your arm. Make sure your hips and shoulders are stacked, i.e., square.
  2. Keeping your knee straight, lift your top leg up until it’s abducted to about 45-degrees. Do not lean back to increase the range of motion, as doing so actually reduces glute engagement.
  3. Lower your leg back down and repeat.
  4. Make this exercise more effective by using a booty band or ankle weights.

6. Reverse plank

The reverse plank works your glutes statically or isometrically.

Get the most from this exercise by squeezing your glutes as hard as you can.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and your feet on a bench or chair.
  2. Push your heels down and lift your hips up, so your body is straight. Tense that butt!
  3. With your weight on your heels and shoulders only, maintain this position for as long as possible.

7. Cable hip extensions

If you have strong glutes, you’ll need to use some extra weight to make them even stronger.

This exercise allows you to really load up your glutes, making it the ideal move for more advanced exercisers.

How to do it:

  1. Attach a cuff around your ankle and then, standing in front of a cable machine, attach the cuff to the lowermost pulley. Take a step back to tension the cable. Hold the handrail for balance.
  2. Move the leg with the cuff forward, and then extend your leg out behind you. Make sure the movement comes from your hips and not your knees or lower back.
  3. Repeat for the desired number of reps and then swap sides.

8. Glute marches

Glute marches are a variation of hip lifts.

However, because they work one side at a time, they are not only more challenging but more effective because glute engagement increases when you balance on one leg.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat.
  2. Drive your feet into the floor and lift your hips up to the ceiling. Your knees, hips, and shoulders should form a straight line.
  3. Keeping your hips up, lift one foot off the floor, set it back down, and then repeat on the other side.
  4. Continue “marching” for the prescribed number of reps or duration.

9. Banded side steps

glute workout band

Banded side steps work the side of your glutes. Unlike the majority of glute isolation exercises, this movement is done while standing.

This is a useful warm-up exercise before things like squats and deadlifts, and also a great glute builder in its own right.

How to do it:

  1. Put a booty resistance band around your legs, either just above or just below your knees. Bend your legs slightly and adopt an “athletic” stance.
  2. Keeping your weight low, step out to the left, pressing your knees outward against the resistance offered by the band.
  3. Without letting your knees come together, then step out to the right.
  4. Continue side stepping to the left and right for the specified number of reps.

10. Clamshell

The clamshell exercise involves hip external rotation and abduction to work the back and side of your glutes at the same time. This exercise is popular in group exercise classes because it’s easy to learn and effective. You can make it more challenging by using a booty band.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your side with your legs bent and your head resting on your arms. Make sure your hips are stacked.
  2. Keeping your feet together, open your legs and lift your top knee up and out.
  3. Lower your leg, touching your knees back together, and repeat.
  4. Roll over and repeat on the opposite side.

Glute Workout FAQ

Got a question about glute exercises? Here are our answers to your most common queries!

Q1: How often should I train my glutes?

Even if you want great glutes, there is no need to train them more than 2-3 times a week. Intense training causes muscle breakdown, and it takes 48-72 hours for your body to recover.

Training your glutes daily could impede rather than accelerate your progress. So, work your glutes 2-3 times a week on non-consecutive days to allow time for recuperation and growth, e.g., Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Tuesday, Friday.

Q2: Are squats, deadlifts, and lunges good glute exercises?

They certainly are, but the glutes work alongside other muscles during these exercises, so they’re not as engaged as they could be.

By all means, include squats, deadlifts, and lunges in your lower body workouts, but if you want to target your glutes more precisely, also do a couple of glute isolation exercises.

Q3: How can I make my glutes rounder?

The most effective way to make your butt rounder is to work on the side of your glutes, i.e., gluteus minimus and medius.

Exercises that target these glute muscles include wide-stance squats and sumo deadlifts, clamshells, banded side-steps, side-lying leg lifts, and any exercise done while wearing a booty band.

Q4: Do I need to do glute isolation exercises?

Not necessarily! Your glutes get plenty of stimulation when you do compound leg exercises like squats and step-ups.

However, if your glute development is lacking, or you just want to build the best butt possible, adding some glute isolation exercises to your leg workouts will really pay off.

Q5: Can I just do glute training and nothing else?

A lot of people want a big, round but; it’s a fashion must-have! This means some exercisers fall into the trap of doing nothing but glute exercises. They don’t train their abs, arms, or any other muscle. This is a mistake!

While working just your glutes on their own will increase muscle size, your body looks and works best when all the main muscle groups are developed reasonably equally. So, by all means, emphasize your glutes, but don’t neglect the rest of your body.

Bottom Line

For a lot of people, compound exercises like lunges, squats, and deadlifts are all that are needed to build a strong, shapely butt. The glutes are involved indirectly in almost every leg exercise you do, including barbell, bodyweight, and machine-based exercises.

That said, if you are serious about building a better butt, you may wish to target your glutes more precisely, so you can develop them to their fullest potential. Glute isolation exercises are your best option in this scenario.

Glute isolation exercises involve working your glutes without much quadriceps and hamstrings recruitment. Usually, the only joints that moves are your hips. With your glutes doing more of the work, they’ll respond by getting bigger and stronger.

This will affect both how your glutes look and your strength and performance too. However, it would be a mistake to try and build your glutes on their own. After all, they are just one of 206 muscles in the human body.

Use the exercises in this article to hit your glutes, but for best results, combine them with a well-balanced strength training program designed to develop your entire body.

Patrick

Patrick

Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

Fitness Equipment Reviews
Logo