Have you ever noticed that most glute training focuses primarily on squats and hip thrusts?
Don’t get me wrong, both are fantastic exercises and they will definitely help your glutes to grow.
However, in order to produce a bigger, rounder, stronger butt it makes sense to specifically focus individually on each of the 3 areas of the glutes.
So, in this article I’ll briefly introduce you to these 3 “areas”, while also providing the movement patterns and exercises that best target each individual glute muscle.
Here’s the best exercises to train each individual area of the glutes:
- Lower Glutes – Squat variations, step ups, and deadlift variations.
- Upper Glutes – Cable kickbacks and hip thrusts
- Upper Side Glutes (gluteus medius) – Lateral banded walks, seated machine abductions, and curtsy lunges.
The Anatomy of the Glutes
The video below has a quick explanation of all the gluteal muscles.
However, the 3 main muscles that we are most familiar with are the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and the gluteus minimus.
The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three muscles.
It is thick and fleshy and shapes the majority of the butt and hip area.
The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the three gluteal muscles, it’s located just beneath the gluteus maximus.
Furthermore, the gluteus minimus is mainly responsible for hip stabilization and the abduction of the hip.
Finally, we have the gluteus medius which is located at the top and side of the butt.
Once more, the gluteus medius has a primary function of hip abduction.
Now, for the remainder of this article I will talk about specifically training the lower, upper, and upper-side glutes.
Basically, while the actual anatomy of the glutes is extremely useful to know, I understand that you simply want to know the best exercises to target all the glute muscles.
And that is what I will reveal now.
The Best Exercises to Target the Lower Glutes
When it comes to the lower glutes there are two types of exercises that activate this area the best.
Furthermore, this will generally involve your torso being upright for the majority of the exercise, while performing an up-and-down movement.
The first type of exercise would be any type of lower body press.
So, exercises such as barbell squats, split squats, and step ups.
All three types of lower body press require you to push through the feet, especially the heels in order to activate the lower glutes.
And with single-leg exercises, such as split squats and step ups, you should be “pressing” through the front foot and heel.
The second type of exercise that best activates the lower glutes are deadlift variations, mainly the conventional deadlift and the Romanian deadlift.
Once more, the movement pattern is up-and-down, whereas your torso is upright at the top of the movement.
As you can probably tell now, the best way to train the lower glutes is mainly through heavy compound exercises.
And while squats and deadlifts are typically viewed as the best glutes exercises I really have a special love for step ups.
If you’re able to go heavy and can really slowly control your descent you’ll definitely feel that lower glute burn.
The Best Exercises to Target the Upper Glutes
When it comes to the upper glutes the best exercises are those that are typically most commonly associated with training the glutes.
These are cable kickbacks and hip thrusts.
Cable kickbacks actually work all the 3 main gluteus muscles as mentioned earlier, but they do a fantastic job of activating the upper glutes especially.
Often referred to as donkey cable kickbacks, this is definitely one of the foremost exercises for creating a fuller and bigger butt.
This is obviously why cable kickbacks are such a popular exercise.
Next, we have hip thrusts, which I would guess many people view as the primary glute exercise, and with good reason too, they work.
Plus, with regular training you should eventually be able to perform hip thrusts with more weight than squats, and perhaps even deadlifts too.
Foot placement is extremely important, as many trainees report that they can’t feel the target muscle working.
This is especially true when it comes to feeling hip thrusts in your hamstrings.
The Best Exercises to Target the Upper Side Glutes
Finally we have the upper side glutes known as the gluteus medius.
Unfortunately, the gluteus medius is often the most ignored of the gluteal muscles, but it actually provides one of the greatest overall benefits to the body in general.
Training the upper side of the glutes stabilizes the pelvis.
This in turn also stabilizes the legs, hips, and lower back.
Now, while this may not sound all that important, this stability enables you to perform various exercises without having to worry about injury.
Basically, training the upper side glutes is extremely important to your overall fitness and wellbeing.
The best way to train this area of the glutes is with exercises that require you to move your legs laterally to the side.
This includes exercises such as lateral banded walks, curtsy lunges, and seated machine abductions.
You’ll tend to really feel these exercises in the gluteus medius, as it is such an undertrained muscle.
So, there you have it, the best exercises that target all three areas of the glutes.
- Lower body presses and deadlift variations for the lower glutes.
- Cable kickbacks and hip thrusts for the upper glutes.
- Lateral banded walks, curtsy lunges, and seated machine abductions for the upper side glutes.
In order to complete the “perfect” glute workout you should use 1-2 exercises for each specific area.
In fact, if you’re pushed for time you can simply perform one exercise from each category, thus meaning you can train your glutes with just 3 exercises.
Now that we’ve dealt with your lower body make sure to check out my article about bodybuilding back exercises for mass.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.