If you want a firm, toned booty to be proud of, it’s time to get off the cardio and glute machines at your gym and go back to basics. Why? The glutes are the biggest muscles in your body, so using them during your workout jacks up your heart rate, blasts calories, and builds the most lean muscle.
Three exercises are all you need to build round glutes, as well as lean hips and firm hamstrings: the squat, the lunge and the deadlift. These exercises allow you to use enough weight to build the type of muscle tissue that ultimately gives these areas the shape we crave.
The key here is intensity. Nothing lifts and firms the glutes like lifting heavy, so pick your weights wisely. You’ll want to stay in an 8 to 10-rep range, and you should be lifting enough weight that your form is threatened on the last two reps. This means you’re struggling, your legs are shaking, you might let out a grunt or two, and you aren’t sure you’ll be able to make those last two reps every. single. set.
Don’t be afraid of so-called bulking up: women generally don’t have enough testosterone in their bodies to achieve hypertrophy any way, but it’s impossible to widen the butt from weight training alone. Your glutes will only lift and round (which is exactly what you want!) — muscles don’t grow outward from your thighs, only fat does.
Do two (or three) sets of 10 reps of each of the below exercises, two times per week.
1. Barbell Squats
If you do one move for the glutes, make it the squat. Use the squat rack for safety purposes.
- Start with the bar on the rack just below shoulder level and load the weight.
- Step under the bar and place the back of your shoulders across the center.
- Grasp the bar on each side of your shoulders and lift the bar off the rack.
- Take a few steps forward so you don’t hit anything as you squat.
- Position your feet shoulder width apart and turn your toes slightly out.
- (Women’s hips, and their center of gravity are different than a man’s. men should squat with a narrower stance.)
- To begin: Keeping your core braced and your chest up, flex through the knees and hips to lower your hip toward the ground.
- Make sure your knees track over your toes instead of traveling inward.
- Continue to lower until the angle in your knee is slightly less than 90-degrees.
- Extend through the hips and knees to return to standing, being sure to drive through the heels of your feet instead of the toes.
- This will ensure the glutes are activated and take the pressure off your knees.
2. Barbell Lunges
Lunges, especially with weight, require a lot of balance, so start with a lighter weight until you feel stable.
- Place a loaded barbell across both shoulders.
- To begin: Step forward with your right leg.
- Flex through both knees to lower your hips toward the ground.
- Both knees should be at a 90-degree angle, with your weight evenly distributed between your front heel and back toe.
- Drive up through the right heel, extend through the knee and step forward with the left foot, immediately lowering into another lunge.
- Alternate lunging with your left and right foot, being sure not to let your front knee pass over your front toe.
3. Stiff-Leg Deadlifts
Remember: The “stiff” in stiff leg deadlifts refers to the fact that the angle in your knees will not change throughout the exercise, not that your knees are locked out.
- Grasp a barbell with hands shoulder width apart.
- Stand up straight, feet shoulder width apart or slightly narrower, knees slightly bent, barbell resting at your thighs; this is your starting position.
- Keeping the angle in your knees the same and your back straight, slowly lower the barbell down the front of your body toward the ground, hinging at the waist.
- Keep lowering until you feel a significant stretch through the hamstrings and pause.
- From there, extend through the hips, bringing the barbell back up to the front of your thighs, standing up straight.
- Exhale on the exertion, or the upward movement.
- The barbell should not rest on the ground in between reps, unless your hamstrings are extremely flexible and you can get it that low without further bending your knees.
- The movement should be slow and controlled.