Strength Techniques and Strategies Print The Best Exercises for Activating Your Glutes Research helps pinpoint the best exercises to build your glutes By Elizabeth Quinn Updated April 08, 2019 Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician More in Strength Techniques and Strategies Beginners Injury Prevention Reducing Fat Strength Training Total Body Workouts Programs for Sports Abs You will find many tips on strengthening the gluteus muscles, the large and powerful muscles of the butt. However, research presented in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy helps clear up some of the confusion about the "best butt exercises" commonly used in a rehab or therapeutic setting. The authors of this study used electromyography to quantify and compare signal amplitude as the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles fired, in order to determine which therapeutic exercises most effectively recruit the glutes. The Importance of the Gluteus Muscles It's not surprising that weak glutes can lead to a variety of problems, including back, hip, and knee pain and injuries. But what is surprising is how many people, even recreational athletes, have weak glutes. The reason is that today many of us spend a lot of time sitting. Sitting for extended periods of time can result in tight, shortened hip flexors and hamstrings, and weak glutes that fail to fire properly. Athletes with lower body injuries who visit a physical therapist often take home a list of exercises to get the glutes firing. This research helps sort out which of those exercises really work. Comparing Glute Activation in Common Exercises Researchers measured the actual muscle firing of the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius during common gluteus rehab and therapeutic exercises. With the use of electromyography, they were able to identify which movements activated the butt muscles to the highest percent. These results can help sports medicine specialists, physical therapists, and even athletes decide which exercises to include or drop from a rehab, pre-hab, or a basic training program. The ultimate goal of these exercises is to get the glutes to fire properly, build a strong backside, prevent lower extremity injuries, and maintain proper alignment and biomechanics. Based on this research, the exercises that produced the highest amount of electromyographic activity in the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus include some basic exercises that anyone can do with little or no equipment. Best Butt Exercises for the Gluteus Maximus These exercises produce the highest percentage of electromyographic activity in gluteus maximus muscle group. One-leg squat: 59 percent activationOne-leg deadlift: 59 percent activationSideways, front, and transverse lunges: 41 to 49 percent activation Best Butt Exercises for the Gluteus Medius These exercises produce the highest percentage of electromyographic activity in the gluteus medius muscle group. Side-lying hip abduction: 81 percent activationOne-leg squat: 64 percent activationLateral band walk: 61 percent activationOne-leg deadlift: 58 percent activation Designing a Glute Activation Exercise Routine Depending upon your overall fitness goals, you can use this information in a variety of ways. You can perform all the exercises on a rotating basis to get a variety of movements while still targeting the glutes. Or you can focus on the exercises at the top of the list to get the most "bang for your buck" and build the muscle strength in a maximal and isolated way. Based on the results, the one-leg squat and one-leg deadlift exercises are a good all-around way to target both the gluteus maximus and medius at the same time. To target the gluteus medius, perform side-lying hip abductions. This is the most effective way to strengthen the gluteus medius, which plays a significant role in keeping the hips and pelvis aligned. This is an important and often overlooked way to prevent knee pain. In short, everyone can benefit from adding side-lying hip abduction to their routine. The overhead lunge and the lunge with a twist are two more exercises that can be helpful for preventing and rehabbing lower body aches and pains. When done slowly, and with controlled movements, lunges place less stress on the joints and are generally easier and safer than plyometric jumping exercises or deep one-leg squats. 1 One-Leg Squat Hero Images/Getty Images Single leg squats produced 59 percent activation in the gluteus maximus and 64 percent activation in the gluteus medius, if you do one properly. How to Master the Single-Leg Squat 2 Single Leg Deadlift Credit: Caiaimage/Trevor Adeline The researchers found that the single leg deadlift produced 59 percent activation in the gluteus maximus and 58 percent activation in the glute medius. 3 Lunges Erik Isakson/Getty Images Sideways, front, and transverse lunges produced between 41 to 49 percent activation in the gluteus maximus in the study. 12 Tough Lunges for the Hips, Glutes, and Thighs 4 Lateral Band Walk Credit: Maria Fuchs According to the research, lateral band walking produced 61 percent activation in the gluteus medius. 5 Side-Lying Hip Abduction The study found that side-lying hip abduction produced 81 percent activation in the gluteus medius. 9 Best Glute Exercises for a Stronger Butt Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Get exercise tips to make your workouts less work and more fun. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Distefano LJ, Blackburn JT, Marshall SW, Padua DA. Gluteal Muscle Activation During Common Therapeutic Exercises. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2009;39(7):532-540. doi:10.2519/jospt.2009.2796. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2009.2796.