Building a stronger posterior helps you avoid injuries, achieve better athletic performance, and get a toned and sculpted butt.
Besides following a weight-loss diet to reduce body fat, you can add glute mass-building exercises to your workout program to get a toned backside. So, what are the best glute isolation exercises to shape up your booty?
There are many glute isolation exercises to achieve stronger posteriors. Hip thrusts, lunges, squats, hamstring curls, donkey kicks, fire hydrants, side circles, and hip abductions are different ways to activate your glutes. They have different variations that can add more challenges to your glute workout.
This post will discuss these glute isolation exercises, provide step-by-step guidance on how to do them, and explain their variations.
9 Isolation Exercises to Target Glute Muscles
1. Hip Thrust
Hip thrusts are perfect for thin people with narrow hips, especially made for glute development. They help you develop wider hips by getting athletic and strong glutes.
This move has a few variations, such as the elevated back, the extended leg, and the hip thrust using barbells.
The hip thrust targets the glute muscles and the hamstrings. And its most important benefit is your body being in the horizontal position.
Once your body comes out of the neutral (standing) position, you get a full range of motion and can exert maximum tension on your glutes.
The hip thrust with barbells is a much safer alternative to squats with barbells, another excellent way to build strength in the glutes.
However, it can be challenging for people with upper body pain because it loads this area.
This video shows you how to do different forms of hip thrust.
Basic Hip Thrust
The basic hip thrust is a glute warm-up exercise, preparing the gluteal muscles for advanced moves:
- Lie on your back, your legs hip-width apart, and put your fingers six inches away from your fingertips.
- Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips, using your feet and shoulder blades to maintain balance.
- Hold for two or three seconds, and go back down.
- Perform two sets of 10 reps.
Hip Thrusts Using Barbells
The weights help fire up your lower abs by adding extra loads to the pelvic area and build stronger glutes:
- Put a barbell above your pelvic area.
- Lie down and put your feet under your knees, making sure your core is engaged.
- Lift your hips upward, creating a straight line from the knees to shoulders and a full hip extension.
- Squeeze your glutes to engage them fully.
- Do two sets of 10 reps.
Leg Extended Hip Thrust
This variation is the best type for hip motion and glute activation:
- Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your arms by your sides, with the palms facing down.
- Thrust your hips by straightening one leg and squeezing your glutes.
- Pause for two seconds and go back down.
- Do the same with the other leg.
Back Elevated Hip Thrust
This variation needs an elevated surface such as a bench or a couch. Make sure it’s not higher than your knees.
- Place your feet on the ground while fixing your upper back (head and shoulders) on the bench.
- Make sure your body is parallel with the ground.
- Move up your hips, squeezing your glutes.
- Slowly move back to the starting position.
- Repeat for ten sets.
Feet Elevated Hip Thrust
This variation also needs a bench or couch. Ensure the elevated surface rests against a wall to keep it fixed when you’re doing the isolation exercises.
- Lie down on the ground and place your feet on the bench.
- Push your hips up by exerting pressure on your heels.
- Squeeze the hips, stay on top for a few seconds, and go back down.
- Repeat for two sets of 10 reps.
In all the hip thrust variations, your foot placement plays an important role.
It doesn’t matter if your feet are a little more or less than the hips’ width apart, but if they’re close or away from the body, you’ll find the glute exercise more challenging.
If your feet are too close to your body, the tension will show up in your quadriceps. Move them away from your body to transfer the pressure to your glutes and hamstrings.
But if you move them too far away, you won’t get the focused workload on the glutes, shifting them to hamstrings.
To make your basic hip thrust more challenging, you can add a band and put it around your lower thighs.
2. Donkey Kicks
Donkey kicks are among the best glute exercises that would give you a tighter rear end because they target your glutes in various ways.
They have many variations, with the traditional execution being ideal for beginners.
The key to doing successful donkey kicks is to avoid sagging backs and focusing all the workload on the glutes.
- Start by getting into a quadruped position, sitting on all fours, keeping the knees hip-width apart and the neck and shoulders in a neutral position.
- Move your right leg off the ground and lift it behind you, keeping a neutral spine position.
- Bend your knee so that the bottom of your foot faces the ceiling.
- Press your foot using your knees and move it further toward the ceiling. Squeeze the glutes at the top but make sure your pelvis is pointing toward the ground.
- Don’t extend your leg too far, or your low back will arch too much.
- Go back to the starting position.
- Perform 4 to 5 sets of 20 reps for each leg.
Watch the video below to see how to perform donkey kicks.
Straight Leg Donkey Kicks
This variation adds more difficulty to the basic donkey kick, as shown in this video.
- Start by sitting on all fours, with the same knees, hands, neck, and spine positions as the standard donkey kick.
- Lift your right foot off the ground, driving your toes back in a straight line. Use your glute to extend your leg as high as possible, maintaining the pelvis and hips parallel to the ground.
- While your foot is at the top position, move your toes in a semi-circle shape.
- Lift your foot back to the ground, move your knee toward your chest, and hold for 1 second.
- Return to the starting position
- Do 4 to 5 sets of 15 to 20 reps on each leg.
A more advanced version of donkey kicks involves using light resistance bands. To perform this variation:
- Assume your starting position on all fours, grabbing the band handles with your hands.
- Bend your elbows and put your hands directly below your face.
- Position your right foot into the band’s other end.
- Push your hooked leg out by stretching the band.
- Draw the leg into your chest.
- Perform 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps for each leg.
If you’ve done the move a lot and are comfortable with it, you can add weight to donkey kicks using the smith machine. To perform this move:
- Set the machine’s bar low enough to put your foot’s arch on it, sitting on all fours.
- Your working leg should be parallel to the ground.
- Extend your knee by exerting pressure from your glutes and move the bar up slowly.
- Go back to the starting position and repeat 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps for each leg.
Squats are a staple of most lower body exercises that target the glutes, thighs, and calves.
If you’re a beginner, start with basic squats because they don’t need any weights or equipment, as shown in the video. If you have knee problems or are overweight, it’s better to use a chair as a support.
The key to doing proper squat variations is to stand up slowly without locking the knees.
For basic squats:
- Stand with your feet hip-or shoulder-width apart.
- Lower your body into a squat by bending your knees.
- Keep your head up and your upper body straight.
- Send your hips back while keeping your torso contracted for 2 seconds.
- Go back to the standing position.
- Do two sets of 10 reps.
You could also use dumbbells to add some upper body challenges to your glute workout.
Hold the dumbbell in front of your chest, keeping your neck and shoulders relaxed. Bend your knees and lower your body until your knees reach 90-degree angles.
Make sure to keep your back’s natural arch. Keep your hips back as if you want to sit on a chair.
An even more challenging version uses a barbell and holds it above the shoulders, at the trapezius muscles.
It adds challenge to your glute workouts, provided you do it correctly. Make sure to maintain a 90-degree angle at your knees and not lose the natural arch of your back.
Since barbell squats add more pressure to your spine, don’t do them if you have back pains.
You could also do front barbell squats where you place the barbell on the front of your shoulders. Since you hold the barbell with an underhand grip, it involves more wrist and shoulder mobility.
Kneeling squats are another variation that involves kneeling on a rolled mat and slowly lowering your body to sit down on your feet.
Then, you return to the starting position by extending your hips and squeezing your glutes.
The wall sit is a variation of basic squats, but it involves fewer ranges of motion. That’s because you hold an isometric position by leaning against the wall.
This exercise doesn’t require any equipment and has a great influence on your glute strength.
It just involves standing in front of a wall and leaning against it. Slide down until you make a 90-angle at your knees.
Contract your abs and hold for 20 to 60 seconds. Go back slowly to the standing position and repeat ten times. You could also use weights to add more intensity.
Watch the video below to see how it goes.
Luges are one of the classic and best glute exercises today. The best thing about them is that they have many varieties, each working on different muscles, depending on the lunge’s direction.
You can do it forward, backward, sideways, and even diagonally.
To strengthen your glutes, it’s not enough to perform backward, forward, and traditional lunges. That’s because we have three main glutes muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
The gluteus maximus is the largest glute muscle that activates with the forward and backward lunges.
However, side-to-side lunges engage the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. To perform lunges:
- Assume the starting position by putting one leg forward and the other back called staggered feet position.
- Lunge down by bending both needs, with the back knee going further down toward the floor.
- Stand back up by pressing into your heels.
- Do the activity for three sets of 12 to 16 reps.
Your hip and ankle mobility can affect the quality of your lunges: how deeply you can lunge.
The more lunges you perform, the greater range of motion you can develop, strengthening the glutes.
To make sure you’re performing the lunges correctly, try not to move your knees past your toes. Plus, always keep your back straight and avoid bending or arching it.
And if your knees hurt when you perform lunges, skip regular lunges because they put pressure on your knees due to the forward movements. You could try backward lunges and see how it works for you.
In addition to the glute’s muscles, lateral lunges target your core, hamstrings, inner thighs, and quadriceps. To perform side lunges:
- Start by putting your feet together and placing your hands on your hips.
- Take a big step by putting one leg to the right or left. When your foot meets the floor, lean forward at the hips, pushing your butt back and bending your working knee to go deeper into a lunge.
- Pause for 1 second, push off your working leg, and go back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the same leg until you complete one set or reverse the legs alternatively.
This video shows you how to activate and squeeze your glutes properly.
5. Fire Hydrants
Also known as quadruped hip abductions, the fire hydrant move is a bodyweight workout program that targets the gluteus maximus.
As shown in the video, you don’t need any equipment for fire hydrants since it’s a bodyweight exercise.
- Get into the starting position on your hands and knees.
- Put your shoulders directly above your hands, with your hips directly above your knees.
- Keeping your knee at 90 degrees, lift your working leg out and away from your body.
- Stop when your leg reaches the hip height.
- Squeeze your glutes and go back to the starting position.
- After three sets of 10 reps, reverse the leg.
To perform this move correctly, try to keep your core stable. If you want to activate your glutes, nothing should be moving except for your hips.
You could also wrap a resistance band above your knee for more difficulty.
Another challenging modification to fire hydrants is to add a kick to the movement.
It’ll intensify the normal fire hydrant and further strengthen your glutes. It’s more of a leg extension than a kick, so don’t throw your leg away in the air.
When you lift your leg out, extend your leg by straightening your knee. Then, bend your knee to 90 degrees and return to the starting position.
Make sure to straighten your working leg completely to activate the glutes correctly.
6. Side Leg Circles
The side leg circles and their variations are a surefire way to isolate your glutes and feel the burn.
- Start on your hands and knees, placing your shoulders directly above your hands.
- Extend your right leg to the side, keeping your knees straight by pointing your toes forward.
- Lift your leg from the hip and move it in a circular motion by squeezing your glutes.
- After doing 10 to 15 circles in a clockwise direction, reverse the direction and do 10-15 more reps counterclockwise.
- Then, switch the legs and do the same.
In this video, you’ll see how to do side leg circles correctly.
Keep your hips fixed and steady during leg circles. If you have knee problems and can’t kneel to start the exercise, you can lie on one side, place your upper arm on the floor, and rest your head on your hand.
To take it up a notch, instead of putting both your hands on the ground, put one hand on your hip.
7. Lying Hip Abductions
Lying hip abduction is a simple exercise that targets gluteus medius and minimus with many variations, with or without equipment.
So, you can easily incorporate it into your routine and do it anywhere. To perform hip abductions:
- Lie down on one side, extend the legs so that they’re parallel with the hips.
- Rest your head on your lower arm.
- Place your feet in a neutral position, making a 90-degree angle with your legs.
- Raise your leg above the hip joint until you feel a burn or tension in your hips.
- Pause and hold that position for two seconds.
- Slowly return to the starting position without bending the knee.
- After ten sets, flip over to the opposite side and switch the legs.
Remember not to raise your leg higher than your hip joints since the glutes come out of isolation, engaging other muscles.
This exercise is simple (as shown in the video), so you may be tempted to do it too quickly. However, you should take your time with this movement to prevent injury and build muscle strength.
And most importantly, keep your neck and spine in neutral positions and don’t raise your head to avoid straining your neck.
To add to the challenge, you can use resistance bands and ankle weights, perform the movement while standing, or use a cable machine.
8. Lateral Band Walk
The lateral band walk is a perfect way to activate your glutes, although it looks a bit strange. It specifically targets the gluteus medius, preventing knee pain and injury by reducing lateral pressure on the knees.
Before doing this exercise, make sure to choose the right resistance band according to your level.
Resistance bands come in different colors that indicate their strength levels. Yellow, green, blue, and black are easy, moderate, hard, and hardest resistance levels.
To perform this movement:
- Put the band above your ankle and make sure it’s flat.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart in a way that the band isn’t stretched but taut.
- Go down into a semi-squat position by bending your knees.
- Distribute your body weight evenly over each foot while keeping them in line with your shoulders.
- Keep the semi-squat position and take a step on one side by pressing the opposite leg. Move the working leg sideways, in and out, and repeat ten times.
- Switch the legs and repeat the side steps for ten reps.
Remember to keep your hips level and avoid tilting them. If you perform the move correctly, you’ll feel the burn in your hips.
Don’t sway or bounce while doing this movement. Move smoothly to maintain the glute isolation pattern.
9. Hamstring Curls
Hamstring curls are a great glute isolation exercise with different variations and difficulty levels. In all the variations, you should keep your back neutral without arching your lower back.
Contracting your abs helps you avoid bending your spine and preventing back pain.
As you can see in this video, you can do hamstring curls standing, seated, using balls and dumbbells. To do the standing hamstring curls:
- Start by standing with the feet hip-width apart, placing your hands on a chair or your waist.
- Shift your weight onto one leg, bend the opposite knee, and bring your heel up toward the butt.
- Your thighs should be parallel with each other.
- Lower the working foot slowly, and repeat 12 to 15 times.
- Reverse the legs and do the same.
Alternatively, you could perform seated hamstring curls by sitting on a chair and putting a resistance band around your ankles. Tie the other end of the band to a fixed object, such as a pole or exercise machine.
Keeping your feet together, pull back your heels by bending your knees. Return to the starting position and repeat 15 times.
To do the prone hamstring curl, lie down on your stomach, bend your working knee and bring your heel up toward your butt as high as you can. Don’t move your thighs and hips.
You can do this movement with resistance bands tied to a sturdy object, dumbbells held between your ankles, or just using your body weight.
The best glute isolation exercises are the ones that target your glute muscles, namely gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
They isolate your glutes and help you achieve better athletic performance, and shape up your booty by developing strong gluteal muscles.
Here are the best glute isolation exercises you can do with or without equipment:
- Donkey kickbacks
- Fire hydrants
- Banded sideway walks
- Leg side circles
- Hamstring curls
To make sure you do these exercises correctly, don’t arch your back and stop whenever you feel pain in discomfort, especially your back and knees.
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