Exercises Scientifically Proven to Work Your Butt

Squats, Lunges, Step Ups, and Hip Extensions to Work the Glutes

If you're looking for the most effective butt exercises, The American Council on Exercise has the answer for you. They commissioned a study designed to determine which exercises target the glutes most effectively. Many of these exercises target other muscles in the lower body, making this a great overall lower body workout.

See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses, or other conditions, and modify any exercise that causes pain or discomfort.


You will need various weighted dumbbells and a step or platform. Check the exercises you prefer to determine what you will need to have at hand.

Workout Instructions

  • Warm-up with 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio.
  • Perform this workout in a circuit style, doing one exercise after the other with little or no rest in between exercises.
  • Complete the circuit 1 to 3 times.


Smiling man doing squats with dumbbells in gymnasium
Robert Daly/Getty Images

Squats are probably the best lower body exercise there is, and not just because they work the glutes. Squats are functional, targeting every muscle in the lower body and mimicking a move you do every day.

  1. Heavier weights can be appropriate for this exercise.
  2. Hold weights in each hand. You can hold the weights either at your sides or on your shoulders.
  3. Begin with feet about hip-distance apart.
  4. Bend the knees and lower into a squat, sending the hips back behind you like you're sticking your butt out.
  5. Go as low as you can, then squeeze your butt to stand.
  6. Repeat for 8 to 16 reps.

Helpful Tip

Think of sending your butt back to you when you squat, putting the emphasis on your glutes and thighs instead of on the knees.


Caucasian women exercising in gym
Erik Isakson/Getty Images

Lunges work everything, not just the glutes. If you focus while you're doing them, you'll feel the glute of the front leg working along with the quad of the back leg. Add heavier weights, and you've got a great glute exercise.

  1. Stand in a split stance, feet about 3 or so feet apart, and hold weights.
  2. Bend both knees, lowering into a lunge while keeping the front knee behind the toe.
  3. Lift back up and repeat before switching sides.
  4. Repeat for 8 to 16 reps on each side.

Helpful Tip: If lunges hurt your knees, try an alternative to lunges. These include assisted lunges, using a smaller range of motion, and elevating your front foot on a step or small platform.

One-Legged Ball Squats

If you think squats and lunges are great for the glutes, wait until you try these one-legged squats. The idea here is to keep the squats shallow—you'll realize you can't go as far as regular squats pretty darn quick. Also, keep the weight on your heels to really target the glutes.

  1. With a ball supporting the back, lean against it and lift one foot off the floor. You can either lift it entirely off the floor, or you can lightly rest the toe on the floor for balance.
  2. You can hold weights if you can get into the position safely.
  3. With your weight firmly in the heel, bend the knee into a squat, only going as far down as you safely can.
  4. Push your foot into the ground and return to standing.
  5. Repeat for 8 to 16 reps before switching sides.

Step Ups

Step-ups target the glutes, and you'll really feel this move if you use a high step or platform, one where your knee starts at a 90-degree angle. You can use a bench at the gym for this, but if it's padded, you'll want to be careful not to fall.

  1. Hold weights (heavier ones are appropriate for this exercise) and stand in front of a step or platform.
  2. Place the right foot on the step.
  3. Pressing through the heel, step up onto the step, bringing the left foot next to the right.
  4. Briefly, touch the left toes to the step and then step down, keeping the right foot on the step.
  5. You can add a slight squat at the bottom for a bonus glute exercise.
  6. Repeat for 8 to 16 reps and switch sides.

Helpful Tip

Press through the heel of the foot on the step to really engage the glutes.

Hip Extensions

Also known as donkey kicks, quadruped hip extensions are among the top exercises to target the largest muscle in the lower body—the gluteus maximus.

  1. Get on your forearms and knees and keep the abs braced and back straight.
  2. Place a weight (this is optional) behind the right knee and squeeze it to hold in place.
  3. Now, keeping that knee bent, lift the leg so that it's parallel to the floor. At this point, the bottom of the foot faces the ceiling, and the hip, thigh, and knee are all in alignment and parallel to the floor.
  4. Lower your knee back down to the ground.
  5. Repeat for 8 to 16 reps.
1 Source
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.
  1. American Council on Exercise. Glutes to the Max.

Additional Reading
  • Anders M. Glutes to the Max. ACE Fitness Matters. January/February 2006.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."