The gluteal muscles -- gluteus maximus, medius and minimus -- do more than give your butt its shape. Your glutes enable extension and rotation of your leg, help stabilize your pelvis and provide explosive power for sports and other activities. Boosting glute strength might even help prevent or alleviate lower-back pain. Given the importance of a powerful butt, it's smart to include targeted glute exercises in your overall fitness routine.
A Sensible Glute Workout
Before working your glutes, warm up with three to five minutes of light cardiovascular activity and dynamic stretching. March or jog lightly in place, jump rope or do half-jacks to increase circulation and increase your core body temperature. When you break a light sweat, do some lower-body dynamic stretches -- such as straight-leg kicks to the front and side and across the body -- to prepare your butt, hip and leg muscles for intense activity.
After your warm-up, perform one or more butt exercises, completing one to three sets of eight to 12 reps of each exercise. For exercises that work one side of your butt at a time, perform an equal number of sets and reps on both sides.
Wrap up your routine with a sustained glute stretch to preserve flexibility. Lying on your back, cross your right foot over your left thigh, opening your right knee to the right. Grasp your left thigh with both hands and gently pull it toward your chest. When you feel light tension along your right buttock and outer hip, hold the position for up to 30 seconds. Repeat up to three times and switch sides.
Squats and lunges are the go-to exercise for boosting butt strength. Both are extremely effective at firing up the glutes. However, if knee issues, back problems or lack of flexibility make squats and lunges too difficult, the American Council on Exercise recommends several excellent alternatives, including step-ups and bent-knee leg lifts from a hands-and-knees position.
Even if you can perform squats and lunges with impeccable form, there are reasons to vary your butt routine. Mixing up your regimen by adding glute bridges, clams or straight-leg deadlifts keeps workouts interesting, helps you avoid overuse injury and works different muscle fibers in and around the butt.
As a general rule, you should start with the most basic variation of each exercise and avoid using additional weight. Once you've mastered the basic version of an exercise and can perform 12 reps with perfect form, it's time to up the intensity. You can do so by adding weight, changing your stance or working on an unstable surface. Try holding a barbell across your shoulders when you do your lunges; switch from two-legged to one-legged squats; wear ankle weights when you do leg lifts on all-fours; hold a dumbbell in each hand for lunges or step-ups; position a weight plate on your torso or place your toes on a stability ball while doing glute bridges.
For best results, work your glutes two or three times a week on alternate days, allowing 48 hours of rest between butt sessions to let glute muscles heal and repair themselves. If you're working your upper and lower body in a single session, focus on your upper body first, then your butt and legs and then your calves. To get the most out of your workouts, consciously squeeze your buttocks together at the top of the movement. When you perform squats or deadlifts, press through your heels to maximize butt-muscle involvement.