A fit bottom isn’t just about looking good in a pair of jeans or a bathing suit on the beach this summer. As the largest group of muscles in your body, your glutes are key to better sports performance and making everyday tasks easier. Think squatting down to pick up a box from the floor and walking it up a flight of stairs.
So how can you start strengthening your glutes?
Barre makes an excellent workout for strengthening your backside since it’s able to hone in on large and small muscle groups. “The repeated muscle contractions and different ranges of motion in barre help ensure you’re working the deep stabilizing muscles in the hip that are hard to target,” says Katelyn DiGiorgio, VP of training and technique at Pure Barre.
From hip extension to abduction to rotation, barre’s low-impact exercises force you to move with control so you engage all gluteal muscles — and the muscles that support them like your core. “In [glute] focused work, we’ll do exercises in turnout and in parallel. By making these subtle changes, we isolate both the left and right sides of your glutes,” DiGiorgio says.
For example, DiGiorgio says exercises performed with your feet parallel focus on strengthening the gluteus maximus, the largest glute muscle, while exercises with your feet turned out emphasize your gluteus medius.
Ready to embrace the shake? DiGiorgio walks us through five signature exercises to strengthen and sculpt your butt. All you need is an exercise mat and a chair to do this workout at home.
This classic barre exercise will challenge all three gluteal muscles, including your thighs. The hip abduction (moving your leg away from the midline) portion of this exercise works your inner and outer thighs as well as your internal and external obliques. To get the most out of this barre exercise, the movement needs to come from your hips.
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How to do it: Stand with your left side to the chair at elbow’s distance. Bring your heels together and slightly turn your toes out to the sides. Keep your left hand on the chair and extend your right hand in front of you to make a fist. Slightly bend your left knee and rotate your right hip open to the side. Bend your right heel in toward your glutes and flex the right foot. Be sure to tuck your hips. Tucking your hips means engaging your abs and pointing your tailbone down so that your hips rotate forward slightly. This allows you to maintain a neutral spine. Lower your right leg to bring your right knee towards your left knee, and lift your right leg back up. Do 16 reps before keeping your right leg lifted and pressing your foot back for 16 reps. Repeat on the left side.
Talk about hamstring curls! In addition to sculpting your butt, this move challenges your obliques and transverse abdominis, aka your waist-cinching muscles. Your shoulders and biceps are also engaged to help you maintain the quadruped position.
How to do it: Get into a tabletop position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder distance apart. Open your left leg out to the side at hip height and bend your left knee. Point your left toes, pull your heel towards your glutes and tuck your hips. You can soften your elbows with a slight bend if you need to. Press your left knee forward for 32 reps. Then, extend your left leg straight out to the side. Keeping your left toes pointed, pull your left heel towards your glutes (hamstring curl) for 16 reps. Repeat on the right side.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this exercise! Slow and controlled hamstring curls will help you engage all the glute muscles and maintain form. Recruit your ab muscles to help you maintain a neutral spine and keep your hips square.
How to do it: Stand with your right side to the chair at elbow distance and your feet hip-distance apart. Hold onto the chair with your right hand and keep your left hand on your hip. Slightly bend your right knee for support. Then, bend your left leg behind you, pulling your left heel toward your glutes. Flex your left food and tuck your hips under. Curl your left heel towards your glutes for 32 reps and then press your left heel back for 32 reps. Repeat on the right side.
By working one leg at a time, you’re testing your balance and the strength of your ankle ligaments. This semi-fold exercise targets your gluteus maximus as well as your hamstrings and lower ab muscles.
How to do it: Stack your forearms over the chair and rest your forehead on them. Keep your back flat. Stand with a slight bend in your left knee and extend your right leg behind you so it’s parallel to the ground and then bend your right knee at hip height. Point your right toes. Press your right toes up for 16 reps. Then, extend your right leg straight for two counts and bend your knee to bring your right heel towards your glutes for two counts. This is one rep. Do eight reps before repeating on your left side.
Think of this exercise as a next-level bridge. Keeping your toes off the ground challenges your glutes even more and forces you to recruit your lower-back muscles and hamstrings to keep your hips lifted. Your triceps should also be engaged when you actively press down on the mat.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and your feet hip-distance apart, knees bent. Keep your heels on the mat as you lift your toes off and flex your feet. Squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips up into a low bridge. Keeping your toes off the mat and flexed, lower and lift your hips for eight reps. Then, flatten your feet on the mat and lower and lift your hips for eight more reps.