6 Barbell Glute Exercises Focused on Increasing Your Strength 

woman performing barbell hip thrust

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When you build strong glutes, you increase your power and athletic performance while improving your daily functional movement patterns like walking, lifting groceries, kids or other objects, running, climbing stairs or hills, and any other activities that use your lower body. Strong glutes also increase lumbo-pelvic stability, which keeps your lower back and pelvis properly aligned and prevents low back strain, and reduces injury risk.

One extremely effective method for building glute and general lower body strength are barbell glute exercises. You'll be able to lift heavier weights more efficiently using a barbell, especially for the large muscle groups recruited during glute training, such as the glutes themselves, quadriceps, and hamstrings.

When it comes to barbell glute exercises, there are a few that are glute dominant, meaning the glutes are the primary movers. Others are quadriceps or hamstrings dominant but still require the glutes to assist in the movement. Adding all three types of barbell exercises to your strength training program is beneficial for glute and lower body strength. Here is what you need to know about barbell glute exercises.

Why a Barbell?  

Barbells are a highly effective tool for building strength. Research shows that barbell exercises allow you to lift 10% to 20% more weight than dumbbells, which helps your body to make adaptations to support lifting heavier weights over time.

When you use barbells, your body doesn't have to work as hard to stabilize the weight compared to dumbbells. This is what makes it easier to lift a heavier amount of weight without energy and strength being diverted to stabilization.

When it comes to big muscle groups, such as the glutes (the biggest muscles in the body), you will need to lift weights that are sufficiently challenging and progress them over time—especially if your goal is to build strength. Effective strength-building routines require training in the lower rep ranges of under 10 reps per set, often limiting reps to under five per set.

According to research by renowned strength and hypertrophy training expert Dr. Brad Shoenfeld, published in Sports, a low repetition scheme with heavy loads from one to five repetitions per set with 80% to 100% of one-repetition maximum (1RM) optimizes strength increases.

Also, when testing your one-rep max, you'll need heavy enough weights that you will only be able to perform one rep. Often, dumbbells become too light for these purposes, and lifting dumbbells off the floor to perform various movements can strain your back and may be too heavy to get into place properly.

Barbell Glute Exercises

Below are the top barbell glute exercises for building strong glutes and lower body muscles. The list starts with glute-dominant exercises and moves on to those that use the glutes as assistant muscles. Adding each type of exercise into your program is a wise choice for muscular balance and functional strength.

For barbell hip thrusts and glute bridges, you'll likely want to have a bar pad placed on the bar to prevent potential pain and bruising on your pelvic bones. These types of pads are easy to find online and may be available at your gym. If you can't find one, try using a thick folded exercise or yoga mat under the bar, across your hips.

How many repetitions you perform for each exercise depends on your current program and level of strength and competency in each of these movements. If you have not built strength in these movements or you are new to them, aim for higher rep ranges of 10 or more until you are proficient at the exercise and can use a heavier load. Once you are able to perform the movements well, aim for lower rep ranges. For building optimal strength, try the one- to five-rep range.

Hip Thrusts

Hip thrusts are at the top of the list when it comes to barbell glute exercises. That's because hip thrusts are a glute-dominant exercise, meaning the glutes are the primary mover and experience the most activation during the movement. Research shows that barbell hip thrusts provide a higher degree of glute muscle fiber activation than deadlifts, hex bar deadlifts, and squats, among other exercises.

  1. Sit with your back to the long side of a padded bench and the barbell loaded. Your legs should be straight so you can roll the barbell over them to your hips.
  2. Position the bar just above your pubic bone (use a bar pad).
  3. Ensure your bench is stable and secure by placing it against a wall or with weights behind the feet.
  4. Slide your feet in toward your glutes.
  5. Position the bottoms of your shoulder blades on the front edge of the bench.
  6. Push through your heels and thrust the bar up by extending your hips. When you come to the top, your shins should be vertical. Your knees should track over your feet.
  7. Keep your ribs and sternum down, and posteriorly tilt your pelvis at the top while contracting your glutes.
  8. Tuck your chin and keep your head forward.
  9. Reverse the motion, slowly. Depending on the bench height and anatomy, your glutes may not touch the floor.
  10. Repeat for desired reps.

Choose a bench that allows your shoulders, hips, and knees to be in line when you get to the top of the movement. This is likely a 14-inch bench height, but you may need a 12-inch one if you are on the shorter side (5'2" or less) or have long legs and a short torso. If you can't find a tall enough bench, try placing some blocks or weight plates under your feet.

Glute Bridge

Glute bridges are another glute-dominant exercise similar to the hip thrust but performed with your back on the floor instead of on a bench. The instructions below are for the feet-on-the-floor version, but you can also perform this with elevated feet. Other options include single-leg barbell glute bridges or adding a loop band around your thighs for added resistance.

  1. Sit on the ground with your legs straight in front of you.
  2. Roll the loaded barbell over your legs until it is centered on your hips.
  3. Grip the bar in a wide grip with a slight elbow bend.
  4. Slide your feet back toward your glutes so your ankles are stacked underneath your knees.
  5. Drive your heels into the floor while thrusting your hips up to raise the bar.
  6. Use your arms to push on the barbell, so it doesn't roll forward with gravity.
  7. Squeeze your glutes once your hips are fully extended.
  8. Lower your hips while continuing to push the barbell to keep it in place, centered over your hips.
  9. Repeat for desired reps.

Kneeling Squat

Barbell kneeling squats are also known as upright hip thrusts. They are performed on your knees with a barbell across your shoulders as for a typical barbell squat. This exercise is best performed with slightly higher reps than other strength-based barbell exercises. Try using a weight that will challenge you by eight to 10 reps.

  1. Set a barbell in a rack so that you can unrack it on your shoulders while on your knees.
  2. Place a pad on the floor for your knees.
  3. Get under the bar and unrack it while on your knees, keeping a straight spine and a posterior pelvic tilt, squeezing your glutes, and bracing your core. Your hands should be on the bar as you would place them during a squat with an overhand grip.
  4. Hinge your hips to sit back.
  5. Focus on the mind-muscle connection to use your glutes to extend your hips and return to an upright position. Posteriorly tilt your pelvis and squeeze your glutes at the top.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.


Squats are a quad-dominant exercise, but they still call on the glutes to assist. Plus, there are ways to alter your stance and movement pattern to focus better on the glutes during the barbell squat. Try adding a looped resistance band around your shins, pushing your thighs out against it while squatting to activate your glutes. Other ways to activate your glutes better are to ensure you are squatting below parallel and to try widening your stance, including using the sumo stance.

Research published in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology found that using a loop band on your shins during squats helps you open your hips and stack your joints in a superior way to promote glute activation.

  1. Stand in a squat rack with a barbell loaded and racked just below shoulder height.
  2. Get under the bar and lift up to unrack it.
  3. Take a step back with both feet, placing them in your preferred squat stance.
  4. Brace your spine by taking a deep breath in and tightening your core.
  5. Gaze forward and hinge your hips, bending your knees and pushing your glutes back to lower.
  6. Keep your spine neutral and drop your hips below the crease of your knees, if you can do so without butt wink (flexing the spine).
  7. Push through your feet to reverse the motion and return to standing.
  8. Repeat for desired reps. This exercise is ideal for performing low reps with heavy weights when aiming to build strength.

Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a deadlift variation using a broader foot stance. The wider feet, hip, and knee angle used in a sumo deadlift activates the quadriceps and glutes more than during a conventional deadlift.

  1. Stand in front of a loaded barbell in a wide stance with your toes pointed slightly out. Your stance should be wide enough for your arms to be inside of your knees.
  2. Turn your quadriceps, rotating your femurs open in your hip sockets to line up your knees with your feet and toes.
  3. Grasp the bar with an overhand or mixed grip, slide your shoulder blades back and down and lock them into place.
  4. Inhale and push the floor away with your feet while pulling the bar up.
  5. Keep your chest high and your hips down.
  6. Pull the bar along your shins, keeping it as close to your body as you can while you extend your hips and raise up.
  7. Squeeze your glutes at the top position, locking out your hips and knees.
  8. Reverse the movement slowly while keeping the bar close to your body.
  9. Repeat for desired reps, choosing a low rep range to build strength.


Barbell step-ups are an advanced movement for those who already know how to do bodyweight and dumbbell step-ups. Due to a higher level of balance needed to use a barbell, only perform this exercise in a safety rack with a spotter. If you are a smaller or less strong individual, try using a pre-loaded barbell with a smaller shaft rather than a typical Olympic barbell and weight plates.

Unlike the above exercises on this list, you should not perform barbell step-ups in the one- to five-rep range due to the extreme amount of weight you would be using, and the risks involved in maintaining balance during this unilateral movement. Instead, stick to higher rep ranges for the barbell step up of around eight to 10 or more reps.

  1. Place a loaded barbell in the rack and a step in front of you.
  2. Step under the barbell and grasp it overhand; unrack it facing the step.
  3. Step your working leg onto the step with your whole foot flat and solid.
  4. Push through your working foot to raise up, not relying too heavily on your back leg.
  5. Keep your knee aligned over your foot.
  6. Keep your spine neutral and lean slightly forward to maintain balance.
  7. Raise until you reach full knee and hip extension at the top of the movement.
  8. Contract your glutes.
  9. Reverse the motion slowly and repeat on the other side.
  10. Aim for 8 to 10 reps or more.

Safety Tips

It would be best if you warmed up before attempting heavy lifting exercises by performing bodyweight versions of what you'll be doing with the barbell. You may also want to add some barbell warm-up sets using a lighter weight than you will for your working sets.

If you have trouble connecting to your glutes and feeling the muscles correctly due to glute inactivity or being sedentary, try adding some glute activation exercises to your warm-up routine. Try bodyweight glute bridges, banded lateral walks, banded hip abductions, and bodyweight squats.

Perform these advanced barbell glute exercises with the correct form, and seek the guidance of a trainer if you don't know how to perform them or are concerned about your form. Use a spotter for heavy exercises or, at the very least, ensure you are not working out alone in case of an accident. Never push past pain; refrain from performing these movements if you have an injury or pain beyond what's expected from challenging the muscles during strenuous physical exercise.

A Word From Verywell

Building glute strength will help power your workouts, athletic pursuits, and daily activities. Strong glutes help support your spine and knees, preventing low back pain and knee injuries.

To build strength, barbell glute exercises are ideal as you can use heavy weights that are optimal for increasing strength gains. If you are unsure how to perform any of these movements, seek guidance from a certified personal trainer.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many days a week should you work out glutes?

    You should work out your glutes twice per week on average. Some people may require more days per week, depending on their experience and training level as well as their goals. How many days you train glutes also depends on how many sets and reps you are doing for each session.

    More volume over time is best for building muscle size in your glutes. If you are unsure, a trainer can help you create a suitable program designed for your needs.

  • What equipment at the gym is best for glutes?

    The best equipment at the gym for glutes are barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and cable machines. Bands can help you activate the glute muscles and are suitable for accessory isolation work but aren't ideal for using alone as glute building or strengthening tools. The leg press, hack squat, smith machine, and other glute-isolation machines are also useful for glute work.

  • Can I train glutes every day?

    It is not a good idea to train glutes every day. Your glutes, like any other muscle, need recovery time in order to grow and become stronger. Working them every day will interfere with the recovery and building process.

    Keep in mind that any lower body exercise will work the glutes, not just glute isolation exercises, so try to space lower body workouts apart by at least 48 hours.

8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.