Top 7 Exercises for Building a Better Butt

by | Sep 27, 2020 | Training

Did you know that 5 years ago, butt implants took over as the plastic surgeon’s fastest-growing procedure?

You can thank celebrities for that one!

One day it’s a normal, round butt, then BAM! that thing is HUGE!

For YEARS, no DECADES, actually more like CENTURIES women have wanted the SMALLEST possible butt…

Now, researchers consistently find in surveys that woman prefer a curvier, shapelier butt.

For those of us born with a bigger back end, it kind of evens the playing field (thank goodness!).

But is plastic surgery REALLY the only way to achieve a curvier, shapelier butt?


Let me introduce you to the Top 7 Exercises for Building a Better Butt.

Now, let me preface this by saying you will not find squats or deadlifts in this list…

That’s not to say those exercises aren’t good at building your butt!

These 7 exercises you’re about to dive into are what I consider to be the top exercises because they’re all GLUTE DOMINANT, which is the group of muscles that make up your BUTT.

Squats are a Quad-Dominant exercise, and deadlifts are a Hamstring-Dominant exercise.

Still great at building your butt, but they’re not the TOP exercises.

Anyway, now I’m really going to introduce you to the Top 7 Exercises for Building a Better Butt.

Hip Thrust

The hip thrust truly is an up and coming exercise thanks in large part to “The Glute Guy” Bret Contreras. Bret actually invented the hip thrust because he was looking for a way to get MORE out of a glute bridge. He felt that he could get a LARGER range of motion, thus engaging the glutes more.

He was right!

The simplest way to think of a hip thrust is to think of it as a back elevated glute bridge.

As you can see in these pictures, my mid-back is pressed up against a 14” box. My feet are still shoulder width apart and planted on the floor. From this position, I’m going to squeeze my glutes and extend the hips fully, or as I like to say up to a tabletop position. From here, I’m going to hinge at the hips, and slowly lower back down to the floor.

Check out a video demonstration of the exercise by clicking HERE!

Now, you might be wondering WHY the hip thrust reigns supreme in the Top Butt Building Exercises, so here are 10 reasons why I (and many other coaches) believe it as such:

  1. The glutes are under constant tension.
  2. It moves the hips through a large range of motion.
  3. In the top position, there is HIGH tension and the glutes are at the point of peak activation.
  4. Bending the knee reduces hamstring activation, thus increasing glute activation.
  5. The 3 points of contact (back and both feet) puts you in a very stable position and can make for easy learning.
  6. It is suited for all body types.
  7. It allows for heavy lifting and a variety of set and rep schemes.
  8. It’s easy on the low back when correctly performed.
  9. It is a great confidence builder due to the high reps and loads that can be lifted, especially for beginners and females.
  10. It’s a versatile exercise due to the types of load, equipment, and stances one can use.

Let’s talk some important coaching cues you’ll want to keep in mind as you incorporate this exercise:

  • Tuck the chin and keep your eyes forward.
  • Set up on a bench, box, or chair that is 12-16” in height.
  • Sit with the back against the bench just below the shoulder blades or at the bottom of the bra line.
  • Pull your ribs down towards your hips.
  • Plant the feet roughly shoulder-width apart and press through the middle of the foot.
  • Allow the knees to track over your feet and the shins to be vertical at the top position.
  • Reach full hip extension, posteriorly tilt your pelvis, and contract your glutes maximally.

As one of the benefits of the hip thrust are its numerous variations in set up and equipment, so here are a list of Hip Thrust variations:

Glute Bridges

If hip thrusts are king, then glute bridges are definitely the queen.

The slightly different variation in set up changes may slightly reduce the tension and peak glute activation, but don’t let that fool you, they still create a HUGE burn when correctly performed.

The glute bridge is a foundational exercise in all of my programs because quite honestly, if you cannot perform a glute bridge, you have no business performing exercises like the hip thrust, squat, or deadlift.

As you can see in these pictures, I’m lying on the floor with my feet planted firmly at a shoulder-width distance. My back is flat on the floor, and in the knee-bended position, my kneecaps are pointed up towards the ceiling. From this position, I’m going to press down through the middle of my foot, squeeze my glutes together, and raise the hips to a fully extended position. From here, I’m going to slowly lower them down to the floor by hinging at the hips.

For a video demonstration of the Glute Bridge, Click Here!

The biggest problem with the Glute Bridge these days is that because it’s a very simple and basic exercise, many have a tendency to think they’re too advanced for this exercise.

Well, I’m here to say that EVERYONE (including you who is reading this saying you’re the exception to this) can benefit from the Glute Bridge. Here’s why it’s so beneficial:

  • The Glute Bridge is so simple to perform while still generating big-time glute activation.
  • They’re excellent low-load exercises, which means your risk for injury is reduced AND you can still prep and activate your glutes.
  • It’s another versatile exercise due to the types of load, equipment, and stances one can use.
  • It’s suitable for all skill levels and is an excellent confidence booster.
  • It’s easy on the low back and lower extremity joints when correctly performed.
  • It doesn’t overload the quads (typically the dominant muscle group even if we don’t want it to be) and keeps the focus in the glutes.

Are you sold on it yet?

Let’s talk some coaching cues before I show you some variations.

  • Tuck your chin and maintain your head in a neutral spine position.
  • Set your feet in a shoulder-distance apart stance and press through the middle of the foot as you extend the hips.
  • Tuck your ribs down towards the hips and pull the belly button towards the spine.
  • Push your knees out to track over the middle toes.
  • Extend the hips fully with a posterior pelvic tilt and squeeze the glutes as tight as possible!

Now the fun part, all the variations of Glute Bridges:

Quadruped Hip Extensions

The Hip Thrust and Glute Bridge are what coaches consider compound movements, which basically means there are a lot of moving parts and variations.

The Quadruped Hip Extension (and quite frankly the rest of the exercises in this list) is not a compound exercise, and because of its simplicity and lack of a regard as a compound exercise, it’s typically tossed to the side and forgotten.


The Quadruped Hip Extension is a great exercise for building your glutes because it actually isolates your glutes.

No matter how hard you try, Hip Thrusts and Glute Bridges will ALWAYS require the assistance and activation of other muscle groups.

While the Quadruped Hip Extension uses muscles to hold you up and stabilize you in the position, the actual movement is pretty isolated to the glutes.

That means MAJOR booty gains!

In these pictures you can see I’m set up on a quadruped position (on all 4’s). My hands are placed directly under the shoulders, and hips are directly over the knees. From this position, I’m going to maintain a 90-degree bend in the knee as I drive the heel up towards the ceiling and extend the hip. From here, I’ll slowly lower the leg back down to the starting position.

Check out a video demonstration, HERE!

Here are some reasons I love programming the Quadruped Hip Extension:

It truly teaches you how to activate your glutes during hip extension.

  1. The sensation of glute activation can be transferred to more compound hip extension movements (Hip Thrust & Glute Bridge).
  2. There’s minimal risk of injury.
  3. It’s suitable for ANY skill level and serves as an excellent teaching tool.

Now for some important coaching cues:

  • Keep your hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips.
  • Maintain a neutral spine by tucking the ribs towards the hips and pulling the belly button in towards the spine.
  • Keep a 90-degree bend in the knee and a flexed foot (takes out the hamstring).
  • Reach full hip extension and squeeze the glutes to maximum activation.

Now, the Quadruped Hip Extension isn’t a SUPER variable exercise, but here are some ways to vary it:

Upright Hip Thrusts

The Upright Hip Thrust is definitely one of those exercises you see someone else doing at the gym and REALLY question what the heck they’re actually doing…

But once I have clients do it, all silliness gets put aside because there’s some major glute activation.

Unlike the conventional Hip Thrust, the Upright Hip Thrust is more of an accessory exercise because you can’t use as much load as you’re limited by your balance.

In these pictures, you can see a band looped around my hips (you can also use a cable machine if you’re in a bigger box gym) in a kneeling position. From this position, I’m going to push my hips back to hinge at the hips. At the end position, I’m going to squeeze the glutes, drive the hips forward, and fully extend the hips.

It is important to note this exercise can also be performed from a standing position.

Also, if you do not have a long band or hip pocket cable extension, you can perform with the band or cable held between the legs.

CLICK HERE to see a video demonstration of this exercise.

Here are some coaching cues for you to use:

  1. Place the band across the hip bones.
  2. Hinge at the hips and push them back.
  3. Squeeze the glutes and extend to full hip extension with a posterior pelvic tilt.
  4. Hold onto a stable surface, poll, or a coach’s hands for stability and prevention of hyperextension of the low back.

There aren’t TOO many variations, but here are some of my favorites in programming:

Standing Hip Thrust


Kickback variations are the classic “butt lift” exercises. They target the upper and lower glute, which makes them a great volume exercise to build a better butt.

There are a lot of variations in position to perform the kickbacks but take a look at these pictures for demonstration of a standing kickback.

Loop a band or cable around the middle of the foot, and hold on to a wall, pole, or coach’s hands for stability. Keep a slight bend in the knee as you lead the heel straight back and extend the hip. Pause at the end range, then lead the foot back to the starting position.

Take a look at THIS VIDEO for a demonstration!

While there isn’t a great deal of risk for injury with Kickbacks, there are a few ways it can go wrong so pay attention to these coaching cues:

  1. Set the cable to the lowest setting or loop a band around the bottom of a rack.
  2. Grab hold of something stable with a slight torso angle.
  3. Maintain a neutral spine position and a slight bend in the knee.
  4. Squeeze your glutes as you lead the leg back and extend the hip.

There are surprisingly a number of variations of Kickbacks, so check out the ones I enjoy putting into client programs:

Hip Abduction Exercises

Up to this point the top butt building exercises have been hip extension exercises, but the hip does more than extend the hip.

Hip Abduction Exercises are your classic side-butt builders. Think of these as booty fillers or exercises that add size to upper and side portions of your glutes.

There are A LOT of Hip Abduction Exercises, but take a look at these pictures to better understand the movement in one of the simplest Hip Abduction Exercises – the Side Lying Leg Raise.

Lie on your side with your shoulders, hips, ankles, and feet stacked on top of each other. Lead with the heel of the top leg to raise the leg straight up to a 45-degree angle. Be sure the hips don’t roll forward or backwards, and slowly lower the leg back down.

Here’s a demonstration of a the Side Lying Leg Raise!

Because there are so many variations, it’s hard to provide general coaching cues, but here are a few general guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Rest Between Legs – During Hip Abduction Exercises you’re still working the immobile leg, so it’s important you allow it adequate recovery and don’t just rush into the next leg.
  • Roll Onto the Lateral Edges of the Feet – This simple act paired with pushing the knees out turns on the abductor muscles.
  • Keep Your Feet Straight or Turned In Slightly – Again, pair this with the act of pushing the knees out turns on the abductors and activates the glutes.

Hip Abduction Exercises are divided into 2 categories:

Hip External Rotation Exercises

Last, but not least, the Hip External Rotation Exercises.

Again, these exercises target the dreaded side butt.

And once again, there are MANY variations of Hip External Rotation Exercises.

But the cool part about these exercises is that they incorporate the rest of the body, especially your obliques and the glute max of the opposing leg.

There’s one major problem though…

Hip External Rotation Exercises have a very limited range of motion.

Here are a few different variations:

Now that we’ve covered the Top 7 Exercises to Build a Better Butt, it’s important to remember that exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges are still important for building your butt. They just aren’t the BEST exercises.

If you’re serious about building your butt, you want these exercises in your program.

But here’s the thing, just KNOWING the exercises that build your butt doesn’t guarantee a better butt.

You need a well-organized program that puts these in the proper sets, reps, and variations to get you results.

If you’re serious about building a better butt, you need to take advantage of these 2 opportunities:

30 Day Core Blaster Challenge – 30 Days of core (which includes the glutes) exercises planned out for you in a number of variations, sets, and reps. The best part? This is ALL for Breast Cancer Awareness, so you buy this program for life AND Complete Performance donates ALL proceeds to Breast Cancer Awareness.

  • CLICK HERE to sign up for the 30 Day Core Blaster Challenge!

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About The Author

Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.

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