Karima tried various forms of exercise over the years before finally landing on weightlifting 2 years ago.
Exercises to Grow Your Booty
Training for a bigger butt isn't just about taking mirror selfies at the gym and looking good in a pair of jeans. It's about building a strong, well-rounded body capable of climbing mountains and going long distances—but looking good doesn't hurt.
Your butt's shape is defined by a group of muscles called your glutes: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Together, these are the strongest and largest muscle group in your body.
Training your glutes takes a lot of effort and burns more calories than training other muscle groups. It will help you jump higher, run faster, and prevent injuries. Perhaps most excitingly, training these muscles will help make everyday life easier—walking up the stairs or going on a hike with your friends will be a breeze. Having a perky derrière is just a bonus!
The 5 Best Exercises for a Bigger Butt
- Hip Thrusts
- Quadruped Glute Extensions
- Bulgarian Split Squats
For more information about these exercises, plus additional tips on growing your booty, keep on reading!
1. Hip Thrusts
That's right, the number one exercise to grow your glutes is not squats or lunges—it's hip thrusts. The hip thrust places more stress on your glute muscles compared to squats, allowing them to grow. Because it works a bigger muscle group, you can also lift heavier on a hip thrust than you would on a squat.
Hip thrusts can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or just bodyweight. As a beginner, you might want to start with little to no weight to make sure your form is correct and reduce risk of injury. See the video below to see how it's done. Once you start adding weight, use something as a cushion between the weight and your hip bones, otherwise you'll develop bruises. I use this barbell pad, but you can also use a folded yoga mat or towel.
Video: How to Hip Thrust With Correct Form
Hip Thrust Variations
- Glute Bridges. These are done on the floor and are great for beginners or people who don't have the equipment to perform the traditional hip thrust.
- Single-leg hip thrust. If you're looking for something more challenging, then try doing it with a single leg. Make sure to start with body weight first and to do an equal amount of reps on each side.
- Foot-elevated hip thrust. This is a great way to increase the difficulty of this exercise by increasing your range of motion. Lie down on the ground and place your feet on a short chair or bench with a 90-degree bend at the knees. Drive your hips up through your heels.
Just because squats come in at number two, doesn't mean that they still don't help your booty! Squats are a great full-body movement—they primarily work your quads, but they also engage your hamstrings, glutes, abs, and calves.
Just like with a hip thrust, make sure you can do the movement perfectly without weights before stepping up to the squat rack. It's especially important to focus on your form while doing squats, as failure to do so can injure your lower back or knees. Watch the video below to ensure you have proper squat form.
Video: How to Squat With Good Form
Deadlifts sound a little scary, but they're not if you know what you're doing. Like squats, deadlifts are a full-body workout, working your hamstrings, glutes, quads, abs, inner thighs, as well as your lats and traps.
Deadlifts are another exercise with a risk of injury—you could easily blow out your back if you lift too heavy and don't have proper form. Be sure to start out with some light dumbbells and perfect your form before trying for anything more. See the video below to see how it's done, and practice in front of a mirror before adding weight.
I personally prefer to do Romanian deadlifts, which are a little easier and have less risk for injury. The movement is the same except you only have to bring the weight just past your knees before starting the next rep.
Video: Perfect Deadlift Form
4. Quadruped Hip Extension (Donkey Kick)
When you think of butt exercises, you probably think of this move. Sometimes called a donkey kick, the quadruped hip extension is a target glute movement when done correctly.
Make sure your glutes are really working by adding a squeeze or hold at the top of the movement. Increase your reps and add a fabric exercise band to add resistance and make the exercise more difficult. I use these ones.
Video: Quadruped Hip Extension
5. Bulgarian Split Squats
Because squats can be hard on the knees, loads of people opt to do Bulgarian Split Squats instead, which are great for your quads, hamstrings, calves, and, last but not least, glutes. Though they're called squats in name, they are more similar to a lunge.
You do not need a weight for this exercise when starting out, but you do need a bench or a chair. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart about 2 feet in front of the bench. Lift your non-working leg and rest your foot on the bench. Make sure you have enough space to lunge—you might need to hop around a bit to find the most comfortable position.
Lean forward slightly at the waist and bend your working leg until your thigh is parallel to the ground, then push up. During the upward motion, think about powering through your heel—this will increase glute activation. See the video below for an example.
Video: Bulgarian Split Squat Glute Activation
Growing Your Butt at Home (Without the Gym)
Though the best booty gains are made by lifting heavy weights, you can still reap the benefits of these exercises by doing them at home with little to no weight. There are several ways to make these exercises challenging enough to gain muscle, such as:
- Using resistance bands
- Increasing your reps
- Pausing and holding at the top of the movement. For example, hold your hip thrust for 10 seconds before lowering back down.
- Using dumbbells and small weights. I have these adjustable dumbbells at home.
- Using heavy household items instead of weights. I've used milk jugs, sand bags, and even a backpack filled with books as weights!
Eat Well, Rest Up, Stay Consistent to Maximize Glute Gains
In addition to training the right muscles, you have to eat enough protein (and calories!) in order to gain muscle. You also should try to get enough sleep every night and be careful not to overtrain—you shouldn't train your glutes more than 3-4 times a week.
Find a Routine and Stick to It
I didn't start making gains in my glutes (or in any of my muscle groups, really) until I chose a routine and stuck to it. I started weightlifting with Bret Contreras' Strong Curves program. At the time, I didn't really care about having a bigger butt—it was just that, compared to other programs, it was beginner-friendly and easy to follow.
Over the course of the 12-week routine I learned a lot about my butt and became super aware of how important it is in my daily life. I also gained 2 inches around my hips. I have since repeated the program several times. Staying consistent was the only thing that helped me make gains both in size and strength. I am not affiliated with the Strong Curves program in anyway—I just used it and saw good results. You can do any program or create your own, as long as you stick to it.
Other Ways to Make Your Butt Look Bigger
A lot of our muscle build boils down to genetics. Some people have a naturally bigger butt than others, and others still are genetically dispositioned to grow their glute muscles easily. However, having a juicy...um, badonkadonk...is not just about size. It's also about proportions and lift.
Work the Muscles Around Your Glutes
All of the exercises listed above will work the muscles around your glutes as well—hamstrings and quads, mainly—which will help round out and lift your booty. Even if it doesn't grow in inches, it will still look nicer. Hamstring exercises, such as reverse hamstring extensions and nordic hamstring curls, are especially good for getting that booty 'lift'.
Work Your Upper Body to Emphasize the Hourglass Shape
It's important to remember to work your upper body as well—having toned arm, shoulder, and back muscles will emphasize the "hourglass" shape, which will make your waist look thinner (which in turn makes your butt appear bigger). Working your lats by doing pull-ups and lat pull-downs is especially helpful for this. Having a strong back and arms is super important in your daily life, so don't neglect this!
Find Your Angles and the Right Clothes
A lot of what you see on Instagram and other forms of social media comes down to angles, clothes, and editing. Instagram fitness models and influencers know what angles and lighting make their butt look bigger so they can sell you the dream of getting the same. They wear certain leggings and clothes that emphasize the shape of their butt.
You can learn these tricks if you want, but don't feel like you have to! What's really important is creating the strongest, healthiest, and most confident version of yourself.
- Contreras, B., & Cordoza, G. Glute Lab: The Art and Science of Strength and Physique Training. Victory Belt Publishing. 2019.
- Contreras, B., & Davis, K. Strong Curves: A Woman's Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body. Las Vegas: Victory Belt Publishing. 2013.
- Neto WK, Soares EG, Vieira TL, et al. Gluteus maximus activation during common strength and hypertrophy exercises: A systematic review. J Sports Sci Med. 2020.
- Stastny P, Tufano JJ, Golas A, Petr M. Strengthening the gluteus medius using various bodyweight and resistance exercises. Strength Cond J. 2016.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.