Work Your Butt With the Glutes, Hips, and Thighs

Verywell / Ben Goldstein  

The gluteal muscles are a powerful muscle group in the buttock area that help maintain overall posture, as well as support and stabilize movement involving the thigh and hip. These muscles play a major role in certain movements and physical activities, such as standing up from a seated or bent position, hiking, and walking up stairs.

Performing butt, hip, and thigh exercises can help you target your glutes and build strength in these important muscles.


The gluteus maximus, the most visible gluteal muscle, is the largest and most powerful muscle in the body. Underneath the gluteus maximus are two other muscles, known as the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

These muscles are responsible for a variety of hip movements, like hip extension, or rotating the thigh outward, as well as hip abduction, or moving the leg away from the body. They also contribute to maintaining posture and other movements, like jumping, throwing, walking, running, climbing, as well as going from a bent position to standing. Carrying and throwing objects also involves these muscles.

Benefits of Strength Training Your Lower Body

Aside from wanting a strong, shapely butt, it's important to train your lower body because it is involved in so many daily movements, including sitting, standing, squatting, and walking. Strength training exercises can also make you stronger for activities you may perform less frequently, such as working in the yard, climbing stairs, and running.

In addition, research notes that weak glute muscles may be associated with decreased physical performance, as well as long-term pain and injury, especially in the lower back, ankle, hip, and knee. Using targeted exercises to strengthen the glute muscles may help prevent and reduce the risk of injury and pain, while also helping you maintain your overall physical fitness.

Regular strength training is also associated with a reduced risk of many serious health conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Performing targeted exercises for the glute muscles may be particularly important for certain individuals, such as those who have had hip replacement surgery, those who are recovering from injury, as well as those with hip osteoarthritis, a type of wear and tear arthritis that impacts the hip.

Frequency for Strength Training

When strength training, the American College of Sports Medicine generally recommends:

  • Working your lower body up to 3 days a week
  • Performing up to 3 sets of 8-12 reps, ensuring you are moving the weights slowly and steadily
  • Making sure you use enough weight that you can only complete the desired number of reps, while still maintaining good form
  • Progressively working up to lifting heavier weights throughout your workout

Sample Glute Strength Workout

The most common exercises for the butt, hips, and thighs are squats, lunges, and deadlifts. Many of these moves not only help strengthen the glutes, but also work other parts of the body, such as the core, legs, and lower back. Be sure to include a warm-up and a cool-down in your workout.


Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Deadlifts are great for strengthening the butt, the lower back, and the hamstrings. To do this exercise, you will need a lightweight barbell, vertical kettlebell, or dumbbell. Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the ground, with toes beneath the bar. Toes can point forward or slightly outward.

  1. Holding your abs taut, bend at the knee and squat down.
  2. Using a mixed or overhand grip, grab the barbell just outside the line of your knee. If using a kettlebell or dumbbell, use both hands to grip the object. Be mindful not to round your shoulders or back during this move.
  3. As you exhale, push upwards from the legs, particularly the knees, and lift the barbell to about the thighs. Move your shoulders back without arching your back.
  4. Keeping your back straight, lower the barbell back down.
  5. Perform the desired amount of reps.

Dumbbell Squats

woman performing dumbbell squat

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This is the perfect exercise for engaging all of the muscles of the lower body, including the glutes. It also has the added bonus of working the core and upper body a bit. To perform this exercise, you will need a medium or heavy dumbbell or kettlebell.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the dumbbell or kettlebell at chest-height with both hands.
  2. Making sure to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed, bend the knees until your reach a squatted position, with knees at a 90 degree angle.
  3. Move the hips back, tighten your glutes and legs, and slowly stand back up.
  4. Do up to 3 sets of 10-16 reps, while maintaining good form.

Quadruped Hip Extension

woman performing a quadruped hip extension

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Performing the quadruped hip extension, an isolation exercise, is a great way to round out your butt workout. This move works the hip extensors, a powerful group of muscles, including the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings, which are involved in many daily movements, such as walking and standing.

For this exercise, also known as glute kickbacks, you'll need a yoga mat.

  1. Get on all fours on the yoga mat, with hands beneath the shoulders and knees in line with the hips.
  2. Tighten your core and keep your back straight as you shift your weight slightly to the right.
  3. With the knee bent at a 90 degree angle, exhale and press your left foot up, extending your hip.
  4. Slowly lower your knee back to the floor.
  5. Perform a set of reps on 1 side before switching to the opposite leg.


Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Lunges work nearly every muscle in the lower body. Since they are done in a staggered stance, each leg will get the added benefit of a little more targeted work. Begin by standing with your right foot about 2 feet in front of your left foot.

  1. Place your hands on your hips as you engage your abs and maintain a straight back, with the shoulders back.
  2. Bend the knees and slowly lower your body down until the back knee nearly touches the ground.
  3. Slowly press back up and focus your weight on the heel of the front foot.
  4. Perform the desired number of reps on 1 side before switching to the opposite leg.

Weighted Step Ups

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Step ups really focus on working the glutes and upper leg. For this exercise you'll need dumbbells, as well as a step or plyo box. Begin standing in front of the step or plyo box, holding a set of dumbbells at shoulder height.

  1. Holding the dumbbells steady, step up with the right foot. Keeping your weight in your heel, straighten your right leg.
  2. Step up with your left foot to meet the right foot on the step or plyo box.
  3. Step down with your left foot, while bending your right knee slightly.
  4. Bring the right foot back down.
  5. Repeat the desired number of reps before switching to the opposite leg.

Cardio Workouts

There are numerous options for cardio workouts that will help strengthen your butt. This can be done along with strength training to really work your glutes and maximize your results.


Walking activates your glutes and hamstrings, particularly as you walk up an incline, like a hill. If you're on a treadmill, increase your incline periodically, or if outdoors, find a medium-grade hill and walk up it as fast as you can to engage your glute muscles.


Sprinting is a powerful activity that requires incredible strength. Introducing sprinting, which is also called "fartlek training," into your routine can help build up your glute strength. When you walk or run, choose an object about 50-100m in the distance and sprint to it as fast as you can. Slow to a walk until you're fully recovered and repeat about 5 to 6 times.


Riding a bike is incredible exercise for your hips, thighs, and glutes. This can be done outside, or indoors on a stationary bike

On your next cycling workout, get your glutes involved by leading with your heel when you push down on the pedals. On the upswing, pull up on the pedal (if you have foot straps) to make sure you're using every part of your legs during your workout. You can also increase your resistance, lift your butt off the seat, and slowly pedal using only your legs, without your upper body moving or bouncing.

Other Ideas

Other great cardio exercises that strengthen your butt include kickboxing and stair climbing. In kickboxing, all those kicks (side, roundhouse, back, and front) will target your butt, quadriceps, and hamstrings. They will also help you with your balance and flexibility. Using the Stairmaster or Step Mill will also engage the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

Strengthening your glutes is associated with many health and wellness benefits that may positively impact your quality of life. If you have been recently injured, are pregnant, or are beginning a new exercise program, check in with your healthcare provider to ensure that certain exercises are safe for you to perform. If you'd like additional support strengthening your glutes, consider connecting with a personal trainer who can offer further guidance.

5 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.
  1. Buckthorpe M, Stride M, Villa FD. Assessing and treating gluteus maximus weakness - a clinical commentaryInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2019;14(4):655-669.

  2. Moore D, Semciw AI, Pizzari T. A systematic review and meta-analysis of common exercises that generate highest muscle activity in the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus segments. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2020;15(6):856-881. doi:10.26603/ijspt20200856

  3. Momma H, Kawakami R, Honda T, Sawada SS. Muscle-strengthening activities are associated with lower risk and mortality in major non-communicable diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studiesBr J Sports Med. 2022;56(13):755-763.

  4. American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM guidelines for strength training.

  5. Macadam P, Feser EH. Examination of gluteus maximus electromyographic excitation associated with dynamic hip extension during body weight exercise: a systemic review. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2019;14(1):14-31.

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."