The squat is constantly touted for its glute-building abilities, but honestly, squats aren't your only option when it comes to butt exercises. Below are nine glute moves you should be doing for a strong, shapely backside that will help you run faster, prevent lower back pain, and lift more ... and none of them are squats!
1. Frog Bridges
This exercise is a great move to get those glutes working. Lie on your back and place the bottom of your feet together, letting your knees fall open toward the ground. With your arms down by your sides, bend your elbows so only your upper arms are against the ground.
Perform the pelvic tilt to engage your abs and then, driving through your upper arms and the outsides of your feet, bridge up while keeping your knees open. Squeeze your glutes as you lift and contract them at the top. Then lower back down and repeat.
2. Feet-Raised Hip Thruster
You'll need two boxes or benches so that you can place your back and feet both up. Place your upper back on the bench and your heels up on the box with your butt on the ground and your knees bent to about 90 degrees.
Then, driving up through your heels and your upper back, press your hips up and squeeze your glutes to lift your butt up off the ground. Lift up and fully extend your hips, holding for a second at the top before lowering back down. Squeeze your glutes and press straight up, almost as though you are sort of driving your knees forward toward your toes.
Make sure your knees don’t fall apart at the top but stay in line with your hips and ankles. Advanced exercisers will want to attempt the single-leg variation.
3. Glute Bridge And Curl
Place a towel or slider under each foot and lie on your back with your feet in close to your butt. Brace your abs and bridge up, engaging your glutes as you drive down through your upper arms and back. Keeping your glutes engaged, slide your feet out away from your butt, straightening your legs out in front of you as far as you can.
Once you’ve straightened your legs out fully, curl your heels back in, bridging your hips back up as you return to the glute bridge. Really pull your heels back in with your hamstrings by driving your heels into the sliders and dragging them back in. Do not let your hips sag toward the ground as you slide out or come back in. Make sure your abs stay tight to protect your lower back. Beginners may need to start by sliding only one foot out at a time.
4. Reverse Hypers
Lie face-down on a bench, box, or table with your hips right on the edge of the bench. Hold on to the bench or something in front of you, but make sure you don’t tense your neck and shoulders as you hold on.
Place your heels together, flex your feet, and bend your knees to almost 90 degrees. You can also slightly turn your toes out. With your knees bent, kick your heels back and out toward the wall behind you, squeezing your glutes as you press your hips down into the bench.
Make sure that you squeeze your glutes as you kick back and don’t hyperextend your low back or swing your legs just to get up higher. Lift so that your quads are about parallel to the ground; pause and lower back down. The range of motion isn’t as important as simply getting your glutes engaged and working.
5. Side Plank Clams
Set up on one side propped up on your forearm with your elbow underneath your shoulder. Bend your knees so that your feet and lower legs are behind you. You can place your top hand on your hip or reach it up toward the ceiling. Propped up on your elbow with your knees stacked, lift your bottom hip up off the ground, driving through your knee and forearm.
As you move into this side plank position, lift your top leg up and toward the ceiling, keeping the knee bent. Open your legs up, lifting your top leg up as high as you can then lower the leg back down. When you lift, don’t rotate open. Lift your leg straight up to the side. As you lower the leg back down, lower your hip back down to the ground and repeat.
6. Step Downs
Start standing on a bench or box with one foot close to the edge so that you can step off to the side with your other foot. From this position, slowly bend your knee and hinge forward at the hips, sitting your butt back as you drop the foot on the side down toward the ground. Do not round over and make sure to push your butt back as you bend your standing knee to drop your foot toward the ground. Lightly graze your toe on the ground, but make sure you do not drop it all the way down so that you can push off of it.
Sink as low as you can then drive right back up to standing. Make sure you are only driving through your standing heel and not using your foot to push up off the ground. Really use your glute and drive through your heel. Stand up tall and squeeze your glutes at the top before repeating.
7. Single-Leg Deadlift Hops
Stand tall on one foot with the toe of your other foot just lightly touching the ground for balance. Hinge over at the hips and push your butt back as you lean forward and lift the other leg back toward the wall behind you. Keep your back flat; bring the opposite arm forward to help you balance.
Then quickly drive back up to standing, exploding up off the ground as you come back up. Swing your arms as you jump up and drive the knee of your lifted leg up and forward. Using your arms can help propel you up higher in the jump and also help you balance when you land. Land back on the same standing leg and quickly repeat the hinge and jump. Make sure to slightly bend the knee and load your glutes when you land. Complete all reps on one side before switching.
8. Half Squat, Half Deadlift
Start by standing on one leg and then bend your standing knee as you hinge over and let your other leg kick back. Keep your back flat and push your butt back as you hinge over at the hips and bend your knee to squat down. As you sink down, try to get low enough to touch the ground with your arms. Keep your back flat.
To make the move harder, add weights or take a 3- to 5-second count to sink down. Once you’ve gone as low as you can, drive back up to standing. Try not to touch your left toe down until fully standing. Then repeat the movement on that side.
9. Kettlebell Swings
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and place the kettlebell down on the ground slightly in front of you. Hinge over, bending your knees slightly and pushing your butt back as you reach your arms out and place both hands on the kettlebell handle, tilting the kettlebell back toward you. Keeping your back flat, hike the kettlebell back between your legs as you would a football. Pull it back and up between your legs toward your butt.
To power the kettlebell up and forward, squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward as you stand up. Pop your hips forward and propel the kettlebell up off your hips. Focus on squeezing your glutes as you stand tall.
As the kettlebell begins to swing back down, wait for your forearms to connect with your hips before you hinge back over. Hinge forward before the kettlebell comes back down or you will load your low back. As your forearms connect and you hinge over, sit your butt back and lean forward to counterbalance the kettlebell going back through your legs. Let the kettlebell reach through toward the wall behind you. Then repeat, propelling the kettlebell back up. Keep your chest pressed out and don’t turn this into a squat. Focus on your glutes driving the move!
Cover Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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