The 6 Best Butt Exercises for Athletes

The butt muscles, specifically the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, are some of the most important muscles for generating speed and power during many athletic movements. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body as well as one of the most powerful, and it plays a major role in running and jumping. For an athlete, a strong backside is essential for preventing injuries, maximizing acceleration and power, and improving overall sports performance.

Many people today, including both athletes and non-athletes, have poorly functioning glutes due to the excessive amount of time we all spend sitting. Extended periods of time spent in a seated position can harm your health in a variety of ways, including weakened, inactive glutes, tight hamstrings and tight hip flexors. During exercise, poorly functioning glutes can cause the hamstrings and the lower back muscles to become overused and more prone to injury. To avoid such pitfalls, it's helpful to actively engage and strengthen the butt muscles so they can do what they're meant to do.

Athletes in almost every sport can benefit from actively engaging and strengthening the glutes. But before diving into glute strengthening exercises, it's helpful to do a few glute activation exercises to essentially "wake up the glutes" and get your backside firing properly. Once activated, the glutes can more easily respond to a variety of targeted strengthening exercises, including the following.


Walking Lunges

Young woman stretching
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The walking lunge is another great glute strengthener that can be done with or without added weight. Once you have practiced the basic movement pattern, performing the walking lunge while holding dumbbells not only builds glute strength, but it also engages the quads, hamstrings, and core stabilizers while it improves hip flexibility.


Weighted Step Ups

Weighted Step Up

The weighted step up is a straight-forward exercise for targeting the glutes while minimizing the stress on the knee joint. By starting with a lower bench and little to no weight, you can slowly build up glute strength and power. By working each leg individually, you can avoid favoring one side as might happen during the full squat movement. As the step up becomes easier and you have more control of the movement, simply add height to the step and add weight.

You can use dumbbells, a barbell, or a weighted vest to increase the resistance of this exercise. The key to a good step up is to maintain control and keep your knee tracking forward rather than caving inward.​


Single Leg Bridge Exercise

Single leg bridge

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Another excellent butt exercise that isolates each side while providing glute activation is the single leg bridge. If you are just getting started, you may want to use the standard bridge exercise until you build enough strength and stability to do a single leg bridge without compromising your form. You can tell if you aren't quite ready for the single leg bridge if you see your hips sinking to one side during the movement.


Hip Extension on Exercise Ball

Hip Extension on Exercise Ball
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Doing a hip extension on an exercise ball is deceptively challenging. It looks simple and straight-forward, but the stability required to master this move takes a bit of practice. Performed properly, it targets glutes, hips, and hamstrings while engaging a variety of smaller stabilizers through the hips, back, and core. To decrease the difficulty when you first begin, roll forward farther to support more of the hips and pelvis. As you improve, you can increase the difficulty by rolling back a bit to increase the leg extension.


Overhead Lunge

overhead lunges
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Practicing an overhead lunge, with or without the additional weights, is a good way to activate the glutes as you improve your balance and proprioception. By focusing on a smooth, controlled and steady motion throughout the movement, you will engage a variety of muscles from head to toe, while also increasing ankle strength and flexibility.


Full Squats

Female gym performing back squat
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The full squat is the king of all power exercises. You can begin with no weight or a very small amount of weight in order to learn the correct movement patterns. Over time you can slowly add more resistance to the movement. The squat not only builds powerful glutes but done properly it will improve hip and ankle mobility, often lacking in athletes.

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