“What are the best butt exercises I can do for strengthening my glutes,” is a common question asked at the SELF office. And the answer is….there are many. While picking an absolute favorite is challenging, Jill Penfold, LA-based personal trainer and creator of the 12-week LA Bride Body program, has shared three ridiculously effective butt exercises that get the job done—and the moves don’t require any equipment.
While there are plenty of aesthetic reasons why working your backside pays off (hello, firmer butt!), there’s more to it than just that. A strong butt is a healthy butt, one that can help ward off injuries by keeping your posterior chain (AKA the backside of your body) strong and balanced, help you run your fastest mile, and can help prevent nagging knee pain. Plus your glutes are BIG muscles—and lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest.
This butt workout only has three moves, but it’s not going to be easy.
The key to these butt exercises is moving slowly and precisely. Don’t rush through the reps, instead focus on keeping your abs tight (to help with balance) and actively think about squeezing and engaging your butt during the exercise, Penfold says.
How to do the workout: Do 12-15 reps of each exercise below. Rest for 90 seconds then repeat the circuit three more times.
1. Side Step Squat — 12 to 15 reps on each side
This move is a variation of the go-to bodyweight butt move, the squat. By using a lateral motion it’s also engaging the muscles of your inner and outer thighs, Penfold explains.
- Stand tall with your feet together and hands on your hips.
- Step your right foot to the right, so your feet are just wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees and drop your butt back and down to lower into a squat.
- Straighten your knees and bring your foot back to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg.
- Do 12 to 15 reps on each side.
Tip: Challenge yourself by adding a pause at the bottom each squat, explains Penfold. “Count to three then stand up and start the next rep.”
2. Single-Leg Glute Bridge — 12 to 15 reps on each side
“This move helps to strengthen your glutes and pelvic floor muscles,” says Penfold. Holding a single leg in the air challenges your balance and forces you to use your core and hip muscles to stabilize, she adds.
- Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Lift left leg straight out and squeeze glutes, driving hips up.
- Keep your leg lifted and lower your hips back down. Do 12 to 15 reps on each side.
Tip: Give your butt a good squeeze at the top of the exercise when your hips are in the air to really engage the muscles.
3. Curtsy Kick — 12 to 15 reps on each side
Glutes, hips, thighs…this exercise works them all, explains Penfold. Take your time and focus on precision, she adds. “Press your toes into the floor to get a handle on your balance.”
- Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
- Step left leg diagonally behind right leg and bend knees to lower into a lunge. Keep spine long, shoulders rolled down, and back and abs tight.
- Push through right heel to stand, and sweep left leg out to side.
- Immediately move into the next rep. Do 12 to 15 reps on each side.
Tip: Aim for accuracy. Penfold recommends setting up a target that your foot needs to be above during the side kick. This can be anything from a small box or a basketball.
Now rest 90 seconds. Do this circuit a total of 4 times.
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