Forget barbells — you need just 1 dumbbell and 6 moves to build bigger glutes

woman doing a glute bridge with a dumbbell
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Want to train your glutes but don't want the fuss of setting up a barbell with weight plates? Don't worry. Despite what you may have heard in the barbell vs. dumbbells debate, both weight styles accommodate progressive overload training, meaning you can make strength gains and build muscle with both. 

Thanks to fitness trainer Eliza Katoa, we've found a dumbbell-only lower body workout specially designed to develop strength and muscle in your glutes. Progressive overload is a training technique that involves gradually increasing the demands of your workouts. If this is something you want to use in your lower body sessions to boost your glute building goals, we recommend working with a set of the best adjustable dumbbells as they allow you to move up or down weight from one model.

Before we take a look at Katoa's six-move routine, make sure to check in with a personal trainer or medical professional if you are experiencing any injuries or in the recovery stage of one. Strength training can be demanding on the body and you will get the best results when you are injury and pain free.

What is the workout?

There are six exercises to work through, all of which have a lower body focus but pay particular attention to the glutes. While Katoa doesn't specify how many reps to perform for each exercise, a good range to stick to with for this kind of weight training is around eight to ten reps. Also, aim to allow yourself 45-60 seconds of rest in between each exercise.

There is one exercise in this routine that requires one of the best resistance bands but don't worry if you don't own one. The exercise still makes a good addition to this glute strengthening workout even if you are just using your body weight to work against.

Now let's delve into each exercise and its benefits.

First, dumbbell sumo squats primarily engage the glutes, inner thighs, and quadriceps. By incorporating dumbbells into this move, you add resistance, increase muscle engagement and promote muscle growth. Strengthening the glutes through exercises like sumo squats is also important for enhancing stability and generating power during movements such as running, jumping, and squatting.

Moving on, the feet-elevated dumbbell glute bridge is another effective exercise for targeting the glute muscles. Elevating the feet increases the range of motion, intensifies the workout and maximizes glute activation.

Meanwhile, the assisted single leg Romanian deadlifts focus on unilateral strength and stability, working each leg individually. This exercise targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles, enhancing overall lower body strength and balance. Strong glutes and hamstrings are essential for maintaining proper form and generating power during movements such as running or hiking, particularly uphill or on uneven terrain. 

Looking for more ways to better your runs? Here’s a list of other important strength exercises for runners.

a runner taking a big stride

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The standing mini-band straight leg abductions isolate the gluteus medius, a key muscle for hip stability and lateral movement. Strengthening this muscle helps prevent injuries related to hip and knee instability and improves performance in activities that require lateral movement, such as agility drills and sports like basketball and soccer.

Floor lying dumbbell hamstring curls target the hamstrings, which work in harmony with the glutes to support hip extension and knee flexion. Finally, dumbbell step-ups engage the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings while also improving balance and coordination. This exercise mimics real-life movements like climbing stairs or stepping up onto a platform, making it highly functional for daily activities and sports performance.

So, whether you're a runner, athlete, or simply looking to improve your general strength levels, strong glutes are essential for overall fitness and performance and this workout is a great way way to engage those muscles.

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.


Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.


She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.