5 Best Exercises for Weak Glutes and Tight Hips You Can do at Home

Have you slipped behind on your workout routine lately?

You’re not alone.

Lack of time, too many hours at a desk job, and long commutes all take their toll.

Glute and hip exercises you can do quickly without going to a gym are a great way to start back up for any beginner.

Strong glutes can lower the risk of injury, enhance lower body leg exercises, and (let’s face it) have great backside aesthetics!

A strong butt can also ward off the dreaded “dead butt syndrome,” also known as gluteal amnesia.

Sitting too much, according to an article by the Cleveland Clinic, can cause weak glutes and tight hip flexors, creating a muscle imbalance (1).

This combo of weak glutes and imbalanced hip activation can cause a “use it or lose it” scenario…so seeking medical advice, if you notice these symptoms, is a good idea.

What Are Glutes?

GLutes

The glutes are a muscle group trio that assemble the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.

The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle and (arguably) the strongest in the body (2).

It makes up what we often consider the buttocks or butt and plays a key role in extending and laterally rotating the hip.

The gluteus medius is the mid-sized glute muscle, and it is mostly tucked in under the top of the gluteus maximus.

It is an important muscle for walking, knee stability, and — despite its size — helps protect proper posture and the lower back. Its main function is hip abduction.

The gluteus minimus is the smallest glute muscle located right under the gluteus medius.

It is primarily a helper muscle for pelvis stabilization and hip abduction.

Now let’s get to the Best butt exercises to strengthen your glutes and hips.

5 Best Glute Exercises

Focussing on your glutes is a great way to build a workout or supplement an existing routine, even if you’re not a weight lifter.

Remember: Even the best exercises can be counterproductive without the proper form.

So, to help, here are the five best glutes and hip exercise you can do at home!

1. Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are one of the best butt exercises.

They blast your glutes by focussing almost exclusively on hip extension.

With the back fully supported, this makes it one of the best joint moves for low back pain.

This hip hinge exercise also recruits supporting muscles like your hamstrings, quads (quadriceps), and abs.

This exercise can be done with absolutely no equipment, although a mat can help.

However, a single leg bridge or placing a dumbbell or kettlebell (kettlebell handle up) on your lower abdominals can increase resistance.

Glute Bridge With Mini-Band

Using a mini-band with this exercise is a great way to strengthen your glutes and loosen up your hips at the same time.

  • Place a mini-band right above your knees. Lie flat on your back, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
  • Contract the gluten muscles and push through your heels to lift up the hips up toward the ceiling. As you come up, keep the tension in the band by keeping your knees spread.
  • Keep your body in a straight line from the shoulders to the knees. Slowly return to the original position and repeat.

Glute Bridge – Without Resistance Band

  • Lay face-up on the floor or mat with your hands comfortably to your sides (palms flat on the floor).
  • Bend both your right knee and left knee and slide your heels up toward your buttocks.
  • Maintaining the bend in your knees, plant your right foot and left foot the entire time, and push your hips toward the ceiling.
  • Attempt to make one straight line from your chest to your knees, squeezing your glutes.
  • Hinge your hips back to the floor and repeat.

Rep count: Start with 2-3 sets of 8-10. Work up to 3 sets of 15-20. Move on to the next exercise.

2. Bodyweight Squat

The squat, a great exercise in any weight lifter’s routine, brings all of the primary lower body muscles together.

In addition to the glutes, the squat also targets the quads (quadriceps), hamstrings, and abdominals.

A minor tweak can make targeting the glutes during the squat easy — rather than the quadriceps.

Think of the soles of your feet, and just push the movement through the heel rather than the balls of your feet.

An added bonus is that this requires less ankle flexibility.

Also, hip thrust at the top of the movement for extra glute activation.

The proper squat form is key, so make sure to read the instructions below:

  • Start in a standing position, looking ahead with your upper body upright, and feet shoulder-width apart (or wider for comfort), toes pointed slightly outward. (The exact squat position differs for everyone.)
  • Inhale and push your hips backward and hinge your upper torso forwards. As if sitting in a chair, lower your body while maintaining an upright torso angle.
  • Push your left knee and right knee away from each other, and don’t let them shoot out past your toes.
  • Stop once your knees are at a 90-degree angle (or more range of motion as tolerable), return back to standing, and exhale (don’t forget to hip thrust at the top of the movement for more glute activation).

Rep count: Start with 2 sets of 6-8. Work up to 3 sets of 10-12. Move on to the next exercise.

3. Bulgarian Split Squats

The Bulgarian split squat adds instability by requiring each hip joint to work independently.

This split squat targets the abs, quads (quadriceps), glutes, and hip adductors (inner thigh).

Like the squat, pushing through your heels will focus more on the glutes.

All you need is a sturdy chair or front of a couch for this squat variation, but a pair of dumbbells, kettlebells, or using a resistance band will increase difficulty.

  • Stand several feet in front of a chair or bench, facing away, with your feet shoulder-width apart, move your right foot and left foot into a staggered stance.
  • Lift your right foot backward and rest it on the chair or bench behind you, keeping your left leg forwards as the lead leg (the back foot is just for balance).
  • Lower yourself straight down until your back knee touches the floor. Your front shin should have a slight bend forwards in this bottom position, and your torso matching it.
  • Push through your heel (for greater glute activation) and raise yourself straight up.
  • Complete the desired rep count and then switch sides to repeat. (If you started with right foot back and left leg forward, switch sides to left foot back and right leg forward.)

Rep count: Start with 2 sets of 6-8. Work up to 3 sets of 10-12. (Don’t forget to alternate sides.) Move on to the next exercise.

4. Romanian Deadlift

This deadlift variation blasts the posterior chain.

This includes the muscles up the back of your legs and spine, like the calves, hamstring, glutes, spinal erectors, and upper back muscles.

This explosive exercise takes it easy on the knees while building a stronger backside. 

Strengthening the posterior chain helps promote proper posture while reducing the chance of lower back injury (3).

All about the hip hinge, the Romanian deadlift is one of the most underrated bodyweight exercises (no barbell scraped shins on this one). 

But using a barbell, pair of dumbbells, kettlebells, or a resistance band will all increase difficulty.

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart, shoulder blades down and back.
  • Hip hinge: Keeping your spine neutral (straight line from tailbone to upper back), push your buttocks backward, as if trying to touch your butt to the wall behind you.
  • Once you have a stretch in your hamstrings and calves (your shins should be straight up and down ankle to knee) activate your glutes and return to the top of the movement (hip thrust).

Rep count: Start with 2 sets of 6-8. Work up to 3 sets of 10-12. Move on to the next exercise.

5. Fire Hydrant

Fire hydrants (also known as leg lifts) round out any glute routine by directly targeting the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

The two minor glute muscles can be harder to single out since the gluteus maximus is so powerful.

Targeting abduction (a favorite among physical therapists) hits the outer thighs and improves stability, coordination, and lower back support.

No equipment is needed for the fire hydrant, but a soft mat can add to comfort.

  • The start position is on all fours with your hands under your shoulders (elbow straight) and your knees at a 90-degree angle with your hips. (Make your hands into a fist if your wrists bother you with palms flat.)
  • Tuck in the belly button to brace the core for the whole movement, and lift one knee out straight to the side (like a dog using a fire hydrant) about 45 degrees.
  • Stop the motion before your torso rotates (paying special attention to the lower torso) and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on one side for the desired count and then switch sides.

Rep count: Start with 2 sets of 8-10. Work up to 3 sets of 12-15. (Don’t forget to alternate sides.) The number of sets can increase more for this exercise since its focus is more on endurance work. Move on to the next exercise.

How to Build a Stronger, Bigger Butt

Building a stronger backside, healthy thighs, and bigger booty are great goals to have.

Well, the right exercises can accomplish this — and this is especially so for building your booty!

But there are some additional things to consider when finding the best way to make your very own butt workout.

Progressive overload (lightweight increasing to heavyweight over time) is a necessary stimulus in a glute workout. 

Adjusting rep range and rep scheme is one way to increase workload.

Some notable rep options are pyramid reps, drop sets, and supersets.

Adding exercise variations is another great way to promote stimulus in progressive overload.

Squat variations include the goblet squat (using a dumbbell or kettlebell), back squat, sumo squat, and single-leg squat.

Lunge variations include the reverse lunge (also called backward lunges), forward lunge, curtsy lunge, side lunge, and weighted lunge.

Deadlift variations include the single-leg deadlift, dumbbell deadlift, and sumo deadlift.

And instead of fire hydrants, clamshells or side leg lifts are both popular hip abduction variations.

Also, additional equipment ideas include a stability ball, cable machine, barbell, resistance band, kettlebells, or a pair of dumbbells to give you more options for progressive overload.

Specific muscle focus is a great move in customizing a workout to hit different muscles in different ways.

The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle (and one of the most powerful muscles). 

So it’s a good idea to focus on this large muscle for a bigger butt.

Since the gluteus maximus is the primary hip extender, you’ll want to focus on hip extension with effective exercises like the glute bridge, squat, and Romanian deadlift.

The medius and minimus round out a customized booty workout (so don’t forget about them).

These minor glutes respond well to isolation exercises and focus on the outer thighs, inner thighs, and side glutes.

But — keep in mind — due to their smaller size they’ll minimally increase the overall size of the hips, thighs, or booty.

Rest days and nutrition are when and how muscle growth actually takes place.

Essential rest tips, according to the Mayo Clinic, include hydrating well, getting your sleep in, and continuing to move (4).

They also recommend reducing fat and fuelling up on healthy carbs and protein after your workout.

Following these tips may also reduce soreness.

The Final Take

Starting a glute and hip routine is a no-brainer, even if you’re a beginner to glute workouts.

Use this new booty knowledge as motivation.

A stronger backside is both functional and fashionable — so why not have it all?!

It may feel like a big step, but you can start small with these glute exercises at home. And there’s no need to be an experienced weight lifter.

Build them into your current day-to-day activity or use them to make something entirely new.

Let your new knowledge of the glute system motivate you toward a strong butt!

It will be no time until you realize less low back pain, increased performance benefits, and a better-looking booty.

Trust us, people will notice.

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References

  1. “No Joke: Your Desk Job Promotes ‘Dead Butt’ Syndrome.” Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, 28 Aug. 2020, health.clevelandclinic.org/no-joke-your-desk-job-promotes-dead-butt-syndrome/.
  2. “What Is the Strongest Muscle in the Human Body?” The Library of Congress, The Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/biology-and-human-anatomy/item/what-is-the-strongest-muscle-in-the-human-body/.
  3. Lane, Charity L, and John M Mayer. “Why You Should Properly Train the Posterior Chain.” USF Health, University of South Florida, June 2016, health.usf.edu/-/media/Files/Medicine/Lincoln-Chair/lane-mayer-2016.ashx.
  4. “The Best Ways to Bounce Back After a Tough Workout.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Nov. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/the-best-ways-to-bounce-back-after-a-tough-workout/art-20390078.

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