As Sir Mix-A-Lot once said, “I like big butts and I cannot lie.” Ever since Queen Bae and Jenny from the Block burst onto the scene, many of female personal training clients have flooded intake forms with building the butt (glutes) as one of the number one aesthetic goals. And in the day in age of social media, that desire to have a good-looking butt has only been exacerbated. But hey fellas, I do not want to exclude you from this conversation, the ladies like a good-looking butt on a man as well. So, in good CK Health and Wellness fashion we will not only talk about the best glute building exercises but also discuss why these exercises are important for both strength and functional human movement. These aren’t the sexy machine or booty band exercises seen on social media. These are the most neglected, yet most effective exercises that people bypass because they take practice to execute with perfect form. When perfected, they build the most muscles in the legs and hips while building functional strength and ridding the body of chronic pain.
Awe yes, the king of all exercises. The one that provides the most bang for the buck when it comes to strengthening the lower body. Not only do squats hit the glutes, they also work the quads, hamstrings, and calves. You can’t have a nice-looking butt without great looking legs. This provides symmetry, and according to surveys, balance is one of the most desired aesthetic traits.
Being able to squat deep with strength, stability and control provides relief to the knees, ankles, hips and back. On top of pain relief, squatting is the one of if the most functional human movements one can perform. If you ever look at an infant or someone from a third world country who don’t sit in chairs often, you can usually find them sitting a nice comfortable squat. I don’t care if you are three, 30 or 85 years old, if you train the squat, you will reap all of the benefits it holds including the donk you seek.
If squat is king, the deadlift is its right-hand man. A proper deadlift trains the function of the glutes. This being hinging at the hips, aka, hip flexion. The literal job of gluteus maximus (the big meaty part of the butt). This is seen as the picking something off the ground exercise. You hinge over at the hips and pull the load upwards to an upright position.
Too many times during an assessment with a potential client, I get, I cannot deadlift because of my back. My response to him or her is, “Based off that statement, being able to deadlift is one of the most important things you can do for your back.” A proper deadlift not only strengthens the glutes, it also works the entire posterior chain. This includes everything on the back of the body from the calves to the upper back. And with us living in the sitting world that we do, it has been more imperative for us to have a strong deadlift in order to combat the computer posture that the large majority of us have, including myself to some degree. In my opinion, there is no exercise that brings the back of the body together than the deadlift.
Next to the squat, there is not one more functional exercise than the lunge. As humans, we do not walk two feet at a time. Otherwise, we would be hopping from point A to point B. The lunge is a unilateral exercise, meaning that one side of the body is being worked at a time. Like a squat, the ankles, knees and hips are working in unison to engage the calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. I usually have clients start with working backwards and focusing on one side at a time. After getting stable and stronger working one side at a time, you would then progress to doing alternating lunges.
One of the most valuable aspects of lunges is the fact that since it’s a unilateral movement, it gives some insight of where your imbalances may lay. I like using lunges both for clients and myself when addressing disparities in strength between the left and right leg. The trick is that you begin your sets with your weaker side and then limit your stronger side to the weaker side’s abilities. This mean that if your right leg is weaker than the left, you begin the exercise with the right side and whatever the limitations on the right side are, where it is weight or reps, your left is only allowed to stay within those parameters. It is a tedious process, but if you stick with it, the gap between your sides will shrink, and you will build a nice symmetrical look and strength to your legs and butt.
This is one of the more provocative looking exercises that you will find. To set up a hip thruster, you first sit on the ground with your back leaning up against a bench or box with a barbell or dumbbells on your lap with your knees bent up like a bridge. From there, you press through your feet, lifting your hips upwards. The key is to squeeze the glutes at the top of the movement. A hip thruster, like the deadlift, is an exercise that has a great emphasis on the glutes driving the movement. Along with extreme glute involvement, the hamstrings get some great work as well.
So, there you have it. If you want to build a symmetrical and aesthetically appealing great behind, home in on these key four movements. You now have the four most effective exercise for building that butt you have always desired. The squat, deadlift, lunge, and hip thrust are foundation skills that have many variations such as the split squat, sumo deadlift, side lunge, banded hip thrust and many more. One last point to make. Treat all these movements as skills. This means take your time and master them. If you do this, you find yourself with the booty you have been seeking. Happy building!