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These Are the Best Glute Workouts—and There’s Not a Squat in Sight

Tehrene Firman

Tehrene FirmanOctober 22, 2019

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Squats are a sure-fire way to make your glutes burn. There’s no denying that. I mean, you can feel your muscles working every single time you lower down and raise back up. With that being said, dropping it low over and over again can get a little boring after a while, so it never hurts to switch things up. Some of the best exercises for glutes don’t include a single squat.

If you’re dealing with a major case of squat fatigue (same!), there are plenty of other ways to give your booty just as great of a workout. Whether you’re into glute bridges or donkey kicks, these are some of the best exercises to do when you need a break from squats.

The 12 best exercises for glutes that aren’t squats

1. GLUTE BRIDGE

Needed equipment: none

Activated muscles: glutes, hamstrings, core

  1. Lie on your back with your knees over your ankles and lower back firmly pressed into the mat.
  2. Lift your hips, keeping your core and glutes engaged, and pause at the top.
  3. Lower your hips down and kiss the ground before lifting back up again.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 15 reps.

Variation:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees over your ankles and lower back firmly pressed into the mat.
  2. Straighten your right leg and position it toward the ceiling.
  3. Lift your hips, keeping your core and glutes engaged, and pause at the top.
  4. Lower your hips down and kiss the ground before lifting back up again.
  5. Complete 3 sets of 15 reps.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a lower back injury.

2. Single-leg deadlift

Needed equipment: dumbbells (optional)

Activated muscles: glutes, hamstrings, core

  1. Standing on your right leg, slowly lift your left leg in the air behind you as you hinge forward.
  2. Keep a straight back and reach your hands toward the ground in front of you.
  3. Return to your starting position.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Variation: 

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a weight amount of your choosing.
  2. Standing on your right leg, slowly lift your left leg in the air behind you as you hinge forward.
  3. Keep a straight back and reach your hands toward the floor, stopping at your knees.
  4. Return to your starting position.
  5. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a lower back injury.

3. TABLE TOP WITH side LEG LIFT

Needed equipment: none

Activated muscles: outer glutes, shoulders

  1. Get into a table top position with your shoulders directly over your wrists.
  2. Keeping your back straight, lift your right leg to your right side until it reaches a 90-degree angle.
  3. Lower your leg back down so your knee is hovering above the floor.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Variation: 

  1. Get into a table top position with your shoulders directly over your wrists.
  2. Extend your right leg straight out to your side, tapping your foot on the floor.
  3. Return your leg to your starting position.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a knee or hip injury.

4. Single-leg plank

Needed equipment: none

Activated muscles: glutes, core, arms, shoulders

  1. Get into a plank position on your mat with your shoulders directly over your elbows.
  2. Keeping your back straight, raise your right leg straight up off the floor and hold for 30 seconds.
  3. Bring your foot back down to the floor.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Variation: 

  1. Get into a plank position on your mat with your shoulders directly over your elbows.
  2. Keeping your back straight, raise your right leg straight up off the floor and hold for 15 seconds.
  3. Bring your leg to the corner of your mat for another 15 seconds.
  4. Return your leg to center, bring it back down to the floor.
  5. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a knee injury.

5. SIDE LUNGE

Needed equipment: none

Activated muscles: glutes, quads

  1. Step out to your right and hinge forward, making sure your hips are following the extending leg.
  2. Come back up to your starting position, shifting your weight back into your working heel.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Variation: 

  1. Step out to your right and hinge forward, making sure your hips are following the extending leg.
  2. When you come back up to your starting position, bring your right knee to a 90-degree angle.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a knee injury.

6. Alternating step-ups

Needed equipment: bench, box, or steps and weights (optional)

Activated muscles: glutes, quads, hamstrings

  1. Step up onto a bench, box, or another sturdy base with your right leg, making sure your knee is is aligned with your hip at 90-degree angle. Then, follow with your left leg.
  2. Carefully step down with your right leg followed by your left. Repeat on the opposite side, alternating back and forth.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

Variation: 

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a weight amount of your choosing.
  2. Step up onto a bench, box, or another sturdy base with your right leg, making sure your knee is is aligned with your hip at 90-degree angle. Then, follow with your left leg.
  3. Carefully step down with your right leg followed by your left. Repeat on the opposite side, alternating back and forth.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a knee, hip, or ankle injury.

7. Donkey kicks

Needed equipment: none

Activated muscles: glutes, core, shoulders

  1. Get into a table top position with your shoulders directly over your wrists.
  2. Keeping your back straight, lift your right leg behind you until your knee and hips are at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Lower your leg back down so your knee is hovering above the floor.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Variation:

  1. Start in a table top position with your shoulders directly over your wrists.
  2. Extend your leg straight behind you with your foot resting lightly on the floor.
  3. Squeeze your glutes, lifting your leg until it’s parallel to the floor.
  4. Slowly bring your foot back to the floor.
  5. Complete 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a lower back injury.

8. Superman glutes pulses

Needed equipment: none

Activated muscles: glutes, lower back

Instructions:

  1. Lie on your mat face-down. Squeezing your lower back and glutes, raise your legs behind you.
  2. Allowing your arms to slightly hold you up, pulse your feet together 10 times, then lower.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.

Variation:

  1. Start with all fours on the mat.
  2. Slowly alternate between lifting your right arm and left leg, then your left arm and right leg.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a lower back injury.

9. Clamshells

Needed equipment: none

Activated muscles: glutes

Instructions:

  1. Lie on your side with your hips and knees bent. Your heels should be in line with your head.
  2. Keeping your heels together, raise your top knee toward the ceiling, then lower.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Variation:

  1. Lie on your side with your hips and knees bent. Your heels should be in line with your head.
  2. Keeping your feet together, elevate them off the floor. Keep your knees glued to the floor.
  3. Starting with your knees together, slowly raise your top leg, then bring it back down. Your heels should remain glued together the entire time.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a lower back or hip injury.

10. Lateral leg lifts

Needed equipment: dumbbell (optional)

Activated muscles: glutes, thighs

Instructions:

  1. Lie on your side with your bottom leg slightly bent and in front of your body.
  2. Lift your upper leg a few feet toward the ceiling, then lower.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Variation:

  1. Lie on your side with your bottom leg slightly bent and in front of your body.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in place right above the knee of your upper leg.
  3. Lift your upper leg a couple feet toward the ceiling, then lower it, tapping your foot on the floor.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a lower back or hip injury.

11. Pretzels

Needed equipment: none

Activated muscles: glutes, outer thighs, obliques

Instructions:

  1. Sit on the floor with your right leg bent in front of you and your left bent behind you, as shown in the video above.
  2. Leaning forward with your hands on the floor, lift your back knee a few inches off the floor, then slowly return it to the floor.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Variation:

  1. Sit on the floor with your right leg bent in front of you and your left bent behind you, as shown in the video above.
  2. Bring your arms in front of you, circling them like a ballerina with your fingertips touching.
  3. Lift your back knee a few inches off the floor, then slowly return it to the floor.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a lower back or hip injury.

12. Leg circles

Needed equipment: none

Activated muscles: glutes, thighs, quads, hamstrings

Instructions:

  1. Lie on your side with your straight legs at a slight angle in front of you.
  2. Make 10 slow, medium-sized circles with your top leg, then repeat with 10 slow circles in the opposite direction.
  3. Complete 3 sets on each side.

Variation:

  1. Put on a pair of ankle weights and lie on your side with your straight legs at a slight angle in front of you.
  2. Make 10 slow, medium-sized circles with your top leg, then repeat with 10 slow circles in the opposite direction.
  3. Complete 3 sets on each side.

When to avoid the exercise: If you have a lower back or hip injury.

Change things up with this Pilates ring workout that targets your booty and core. Then check out the “big four for booty” toning exercises everyone should know about.

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