While working toward aesthetic goals is fine, the functionality of the gluteal muscles should be the priority in exercise program design. The gluteal muscles—namely the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus—work together to help us perform daily activities such as standing, sitting and walking.
Strong gluteal muscles are essential for pelvic stability, good posture and proper alignment and body mechanics during physical activity. Here are 10 exercises you can use with your personal trainer to develop stronger gluteal muscles (click on each exercise to follow a link showcasing proper form):
Equipment needed: none
Action: Lie in a supine position with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Place the feet hip distance apart. Tighten the core and move into a slight posterior pelvic tilt. Exhale, contract the glutes and press the hips up and away from the floor. Inhale and lower the hips to the starting position. Complete 12 repetitions; rest and repeat for a total of two to four sets.
Equipment needed: none
Action: Come to a side-lying position on the floor with the legs extended and the hips neutral. Rest your lower arm under the head for support and align the head with the spine. Exhale and raise the top leg while keeping the foot flexed. Inhale and lower the leg with control. Complete 12 repetitions and then repeat on the opposite side. Perform six sets total (three per leg).
Equipment needed: Platform such as an aerobic step or plyometric box
Action – Upward phase: Stand facing a platform with your feet directly under your hips. Place your right foot on the platform and push off with your trail leg (left foot). Keep the torso upright and the foot, ankle and knee aligned while stepping up. Downward phase: Shift your weight forward slightly and load your right leg. Step backwards with your left foot and then your right foot to return to the starting position. Complete 12 repetitions and then repeat on the left side. Alternate lead legs for a total of six sets (three on each leg).
4. Front Squat
Equipment needed: Two dumbbells
Action: Rest a dumbbell on the front edge of each shoulder and stand tall with the feet a little wider than hip-distance apart. Inhale and tighten the core as you shift your weight back into the heels while bending at the hips, knees and ankles. Lower down into a squatting position while driving the hips back and keeping the chest lifted. Exhale and press your feet into the floor while straightening the legs to return to a standing position. Complete 10 repetitions, rest and repeat for a total of two to three sets.
5. Goblet Squat
Equipment needed: Dumbbell or kettlebell
Action: Stand with the feet wide and the hips slightly externally rotated. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of the chest while keeping the elbows close to the body. Bend at the hips, knees and ankles to lower down into a squat. Continue until the hips are slightly lower than the knees. To stand, push the feet into the floor and return to the starting position. Complete 10 repetitions, rest and repeat for a total of two to three sets.
Equipment needed: Dumbbells
Action: Stand with the feet under the hips with a dumbbell in each hand. Inhale and press the left foot into the floor. Next, externally rotate the right leg to step out and back with the right foot. Exhale and push off of the right foot and return to the starting position. Alternate legs for a total of 20 repetitions. Rest and repeat for a total of two to three sets.
7. Back Squat
Equipment Needed: Barbell
Action: Place the bar comfortably across the back of the shoulders so that it rests on the upper trapezius muscle (upper back). Stand with the feet under the hips with the toes pointing forward. Bend at the hips, knees and ankles to lower down into a squatting position. Keep the chest lifted and the torso upright throughout each phase of the exercise. (At the bottom of the squat, the spine and tibia bone should be parallel.) Return to the starting position by extending the knees, hips and ankles . Select a challenging enough weight that allows for 8-10 repetitions. Rest and repeat for a total of three sets.
Equipment Needed: Medicine ball
Action: Stand with the feet under the hips while holding a medicine ball directly in front of the chest with the elbows close to the body. Step the right foot out wide to the 3 o’clock position. Press into the right foot and drive the hips back to lower down into a lateral lunge. Press firmly into both feet to stand and return to the starting position. Next, step forward with the right foot and across the midline of the body (to the 11 o’clock position) while lowering into a lunge. Simultaneously, rotate the torso to your right to increase the load on the gluteal muscles. Exhale and return to the starting position. This is one repetition. Complete eight repetitions on the right leg and then switch legs. Complete a total of three sets on each leg.
9. Split Squat
Equipment Needed: Bench, dumbbell
Action: Assume a split stance with the right foot forward and the left foot elevated on a bench placed behind you. Hold a dumbbell in front of the chest with the elbows close to the body. Inhale and lower the left knee (back knee) toward the floor while keeping the torso upright. Exhale and push the right foot (front foot) into the floor to return to the starting position. Complete 10 repetitions and then switch legs. Complete three sets on each leg.
10. Lunge Jumps
Equipment Needed: none
Action: Assume a split stance with the right foot forward and the left foot back. Lower down into a lunge and then immediately push off the floor to jump upward while switching your foot position. Complete 16 repetitions total, alternating legs with each jump. Rest and repeat for a total of three sets.
Other exercises to try:
- Barbell Hip Thrust
- Quadrupled Hip Extension
- Romanian Deadlift
- Conventional or Hex-bar Deadlift
- Modified Single Leg Squat