Glutes workout: 5 best exercises to target the biggest muscle in the body

A picture of a woman doing a single-leg glute bridge in her bedroom
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re really looking to work your glutes, you’ve probably already added squats to your workout routine. Yet not all exercises are created equal, and to really target the different parts of your glutes, you should be mixing things up (and no, we don’t mean doing a squat challenge). 

Your glutes are the biggest muscle in your body and if your goal is to really build your glutes, you’ll need to target all the different parts of the muscle. By this we mean the gluteus medius, which is the highest of the glute muscles and is responsible for hip movement, for example when you step up onto something. Next is the gluteus minimus, which sits below the gluteus medius and also supports the hip, helping with walking and rotating the legs. The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three glute muscles, and is responsible for the rotation of the hip and the lateral rotation of the thigh. The gluteus maximus is also responsible for the shape of the butt, so is often one to target if you have a more aesthetic goal. 

Of course, even if your goals aren’t to tone or build your glute muscles, keeping them strong is still important. Your glutes are responsible for powering the legs when we jump, walk, and run, so runners especially should make sure they are working on their glute strength if they are looking to PR at their next race. 

5 exercises that really target your glutes: 

Looking to target your glute muscles? Add these exercises to your workout routine. 

1. Glute bridges 

A simple exercise you can do with just your body weight, glute bridges target the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus, while also working the core. To do a glute bridge, lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Engaging your core (think about sucking your belly button in towards your spine), lift your hips up so your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then lower your hips back down to the starting position — that’s one rep. Aim for two sets of 10 repetitions. 

To make the move harder, put a weighted bar across your hips. Alternatively, put a resistance band around your legs, above the knee, or elevate your feet by putting them on a box or step to increase the range of motion. Finally, to really target your glutes, try adding single-leg glute bridges to your routine. 

2. Banded glute kickbacks 

When done with the correct form, glute kickbacks target all of the different muscles in the glutes, as well as the hamstrings, and core. To do a glute kickback, you’ll need to use a resistance band looped around your ankles (don’t have one? We’ve rounded up the best resistance bands on the market here). Standing with your legs hip-width apart and your core engaged, you’ll want to be facing a wall or a chair to hold onto for assistance should you need it. Kick your right leg out and back behind you, balancing on your left leg. Ensure your right leg remains straight and goes out behind you, not to the side. Pause at the top, then lower back to the starting position. That’s one rep. Aim for two sets of 10 repetitions on each side. 

To make the move harder, increase the strength of the resistance band. Alternatively, you can use a cable machine at the gym with an ankle strap attachment for this move. 

3. Fire hydrant 

This slightly bizarrely named exercise is a glute killer. Fire hydrants target the gluteus maximus, as well as working the hips, and core, and can be done from just about anywhere. To do a fire hydrant, get onto all fours, with your knees below your hips and your arms below your shoulders. Brace your core and raise your right bent knee out to the side, keeping the knee bent. Stop at hip height, pause, and then lower the knee back to the starting position. That’s one rep. Repeat on the other side. Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions on each side. 

To make the fire hydrant exercise harder, add pulses to the move, so when your leg is in the final position, after the pause, pump the foot up towards the sky for 10 reps, then lower it back down to the starting position. 

4. Banded squats

Ahh, back to the classic squat, but this time, with added resistance. Squats typically target the gluteus maximus but also work the hip flexors and quads if done correctly. The addition of a resistance band increases the intensity of the squat. You could also add kettlebells, or dumbbells to make this move harder (we’ve hand-picked the best adjustable dumbbells for your home gym here). 

To do a banded squat, start with a looped resistance band around your thighs, just above your knee. Make sure the resistance band isn’t on the knee joint itself. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and squat down and back into a sitting position, while bending your knees. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause for a second, then return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Aim for three sets of 15 reps. 

5. Bulgarian split squats

Bulgarian split squats aren’t the easiest exercise out there, but they are great at targeting the muscles in the lower leg. When performed correctly, Bulgarian split squats target the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. To make the move harder, hold a kettlebell to your chest, or dumbbells in your hands as you perform this exercise, but if you’re new to the move, be sure to practice with just your bodyweight until you get your technique right. 

To do a Bulgarian split squat, stand in front of a knee high platform, like a box or chair and take a few steps forward so you are two to three feet away. Extend your right leg out behind you and put your toes on the bench. Keeping your torso upright, slowly lower your right knee to the floor, before standing back up to the starting position. That’s one rep. Aim for three sets of 10-15 repititions on each leg.

If you're looking for another simple exercise that targets the quads and calves as well as the glutes, check out our guide on how to do a wall sit

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.