Top 5 Exercises for Building a Better Butt: No Squats!

Updated on January 12, 2018
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Emma is a high school senior from New York. She is passionate about fitness and in her free time enjoys researching unsolved mysteries.

Finding the right exercises is a key part of staying motivated to get to the gym and work on growing the glutes. The exercises shown below give maximum results when performed with a weight that is challenging, but manageable. Do not push yourself to the point of injury; However, you should push yourself to choose a weight so that the last several reps of each set of exercises become moderately challenging. I recommend choosing 3-4 of the exercises below, and performing them for 4 sets of 8-12 reps if growth and size are the main goal.

The majority of these exercises are compound movements, meaning that they incorporate several muscle groups to complete the exercise. This means that these movements will allow you to effectively increase the weight you are using over time (again, which is ideal for creating growth). In order to make sure that the glute muscles are still being targeted, you should incorporate isolation movements before your compound movements (to activate the muscles and feel them working throughout the rest of the workout), as well as after (in order to get a final burn in the glutes). Examples of glute isolation movements include: glute bridges, single-leg glute bridges, donkey kickbacks, hip abductions, cable kickbacks, frog glute pumps, fire hydrants, and lateral steps with a resistance band above the knees.

I have personally incorporated all of these movements in my own workout routine (my results have been included at the bottom of the article).

1. Hip Thrusts - the King of all Glute Exercises


Popularized by "The Glute Guy" himself (a.k.a. Bret Contreras - go check out some of the information he has put out after this article!), the hip thrust should be a staple movement in anyone's routine looking to build mass on the glute muscles (or strength!).

In order to effectively perform this movement:

1. Gather a bench and load a barbell to the appropriate weight (experiment with which weight works for you - many people are stronger in this movement than they believe themselves to be). It is ideal to rest the bench against something sturdy, as it may want to slide backward while performing the movement.

2. Sit on the ground with the mid-upper back resting against the edge of the bench, and legs extended.

3. Roll the loaded barbell over the legs, then bend the legs so that your positioning resembles figure A. Experiment with placement of the feet - moving your feet closer to the bench will often better target the glutes, and moving your feet further from the bench will often better target the hamstrings (this may not be the case for every individual).

4. Focus on pushing the weight upward with the glute muscles. You should feel the strongest contact with the ground through your heels, not your toes (lifting your toes off the ground so that only the heel remains planted can help to create this habit). Doing so will help with using the glutes to power this movement. Focus on tucking the hips forward and upward, fully achieving a hard squeeze at the top. Slowly lower the weight, then repeat.

2. Deadlifts

The deadlift is another staple movement for those looking to build the glutes. This movement should be performed with caution. Do not push yourself to go heavy in weight while learning to perform this movement. Perfect your form, then allow yourself to gradually increase the load.

To perform this movement:

1. Walk to the loaded bar, placing your feet about shoulder-width or whatever width is most comfortable for you.

2. Bend through your knees to reach the bar, allowing your trunk to lean forward slightly. Place your hands at about shoulder-width, and roll the bar closer until it touches the shins.

3. Lift your chest slightly and straighten your back. You want to avoid creating an arch, as this could cause injury. The spine should outwardly appear to be in a straight line - following its natural curve.

4. Take a big breath, hold it, and pull the weight upward to what resembles a standing position. You should focus on using the glute muscles to hinge and pull the weight upward. At the top, squeeze the glutes.

3. Cable Pull-Throughs

The cable pull-through exercise stands as one of my all-time favorite exercises. With a strong mind-to-muscle connection to recruit the glute muscles, this one burns. To perform cable pull-throughs:

1. Set the pulley attachment on the cable machine to its lowest height option. From there, you can play around with moving the attachment higher and see what works best for you. I personally prefer the lowest setting, but every individual will be different.

2. Secure a rope attachment (as pictured), or any other attachment that is not too bulky and will not cause pain against the legs (experiment with this as well).

3. Plant the feet, bend the knees, and lean backward and downward to grab a hold of the attachment (again, refer to the picture above). Walk forward only a few steps.

4. From the position pictured above, focus contact in the glutes and drive the hips forward in the same motion as a hip thrust. The finishing position will look like that of the deadlift - in a standing position and a strong glute squeeze.

A final note on this exercise: make sure to only use the glute muscles to drive the weight of this movement. The upper body should simply pivot. Its only purpose is to hold on to the weight, not to lift it.

4. Glute-Focused Back Extensions (Hyperextensions)

The back extension is a great movement that does not apply stress to the knees. To perform this movement:

1. You'll need a setup like the top image pictured above. If this setup is not available to you, a normal bench may work as a substitute (as shown in the second image).

2. Position yourself so that your hips will be the pivot point at which your upper body will hinge downward. Begin in this downward position.

3. Use the glute and hamstring muscles to pull the upper body to a parallel or slightly above parallel position. You may choose to hold a dumbbell or plate to your chest to increase the difficulty of this movement. Squeeze the glutes at the top of the movement.

5. Diagonal Walking Lunges

The walking lunge is a movement that most people are familiar with - however, not everyone knows how to feel the glutes during this exercise. To perform walking lunges:

1. Start from a standing position.

2. Lunge forward with one leg (for the sake of demonstration, imagine lunging with the right leg first), leaning the upper body slightly forward to feel a stretch in the glute muscle. You should position the leg which you are lunging with further outward from the center of your path, creating a diagonal movement (lunge to your right as opposed to lunging forward). Use the (right) glute to return to a standing position.

3. Lunge now with the opposite leg, also lunging further outward than a conventional walking lunge. Use the (left) glute to return to a standing position.

To increase the difficulty of this movement, you could opt to hold dumbbells in each hand, or a barbell resting behind the neck. Adding an extra pulse or pause to the bottom of each lunge will also increase difficulty, and may aid in feeling the movement better in the glutes.

Will you start incorporating these movements into your leg/glute training sessions?

See results

My Results

© 2018 Emma G T


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    • Tomaz Jelenko profile image

      Tomaz Jelenko 3 months ago from Slovenia

      Good choice of exercises, appropriate for men as well! :)