Upper Glute Workout: 8 Best Exercises to Sculpt Those Butt Muscles

Photo: Stocksy Photographer: Dragonfly Production
Have you ever felt like you have a glute imbalance? Maybe you've explored how to get a shelf on your upper glutes. And, in the process, there’s a very good chance that you’ve uncovered what are thought to be the best exercises to grow glutes, whether it’s squats, lunges, or an intense side butt workout. When you're doing your favorite booty workouts, though, how often are you actually getting a decent upper glute workout? "This area is often ignored," says Holly Roser, certified personal trainer and owner of Holly Roser Fitness. And that's a shame. "Your gluteus medius—aka the upper glutes area—is responsible for internal and external rotation of the hip joint, abduction, and stabilizing the hip while working out."

Experts In This Article
  • Bianca Vesco, Nashville-based certified personal trainer and fitness instructor
  • Holly Roser, CPT, personal trainer and owner of Holly Roser Fitness
  • Rachelle Reed, PhD, exercise physiologist and part-time teaching faculty at the University of Georgia

In other words, you don’t want to overlook your upper glutes. Keep reading to find out why—and to learn how to strengthen them from here on out.

What are the benefits of an upper glute workout?

When you do upper glute exercises to strengthen the area, Roser says you'll experience numerous benefits—not just in the way you feel, but also when it comes to your athletic abilities. "You'll reduce lower back pain, knee pain, and the risk of ankle sprains, as this important muscle is a strong stabilizer," she says. "You'll also notice you'll have a faster running speed and be able to increase the resistance used in your workouts."

The reason? Stronger upper glutes lead to more overall bodily stability.

“Besides keeping our hips level and stable, our upper glutes have a very important job in our overall biomechanics, stability and balance,” says Nashville-based certified personal trainer Bianca Vesco. “When we walk and or run, our upper glutes aid in stabilizing our pelvis. They also play a critical role in maintaining an efficient and safe lower body.”

While all these benefits are great, there's one more: you'll also notice a more lifted and pronounced booty, says Roser.

What are your workout goals for your upper glutes?

Now that you know all the benefits of working out your upper glutes, you may feel eager to dive right in. Before doing so, take a moment to consider your upper glute goals. Do you want to tone, build muscle, maintain a shelf, or build a shelf? According to Vesco, you’ll want to tailor your routine to fit your fitness dreams. “Are you trying to build muscle mass and strength by lifting heavy weights?” she asks. “Are you correcting an imbalance or rehabbing an injury with a resistance band?” In either scenario, you can expect upper glute benefits. The way you go about them just differs.

Rachelle Reed, PhD, an exercise physiologist, expands on this, noting that depending on your goal, the tempo, rest period durations, and volume of each upper glute exercise will vary. “Muscular endurance training, for instance, is typically prescribed using a lighter load, with higher rep count (15+ reps) and one to two minutes of rest between sets,” she explains. “In contrast, muscular hypertrophy training uses either moderate to heavy loading with one to 12 reps and one to three minutes of rest.”

What exercises can I do to train the upper part of the glutes?

Although you can work your glutes by walking, running, and other everyday functional movements, there are some exercises that can really boost booty gains. With that in mind, keep reading for 9 upper glute workout moves that are sure to make your buns burn.

1. Clam Shell

1. Start on your right side with your knees bent, leaning your head on your right arm to support your neck.
2. Keep your heels together—they should be touching each other the entire time. Place your left hand on your pelvis throughout the exercise.
3. Without allowing your back to arch, lift your left knee apart from your right knee and lower.
4. Do 2 sets of 25 reps.

2. Curtsy Squat

1. Start with your shoulders back and core engaged.
2. Drop your right foot diagonally behind your left foot, keeping your front foot pointed straight ahead. Make sure your knee is dropping down far enough so your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your knees are forming 90-degree angles.
3. Return to standing and repeat for 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.

3. Sumo Squat

1. Start standing with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders and a slight turn out in your toes.
2. Sit down like you would in a regular squat.
3. Let your knees track diagonally out toward the direction of your toes as you lower.
4. Return back to stand.
5. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

4. Lateral Lunge

1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
2. Take a big step to the side with your left leg, bending the left knee over the toes, slight hinge in the spine.
3. Press off the left foot to move back to center where you started.
4. Do 12-15 reps, then repeat on the right side—or go back and forth between sides.

5. Banded Walk

1. Start with a resistance band around your shins with a tension that's comfortably challenging.
2. Set your feet hip-width apart and drop your body down into a squat position as if you were sitting in a chair.
3. Step your right foot to the side in line with your other foot. Step together and repeat.
4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps in each direction.

6. Dumbbell Front Squat

1. Hold one dumbbell in each hand, up towards shoulder height.
2. With your feet approximately hip-width apart, descend into your squat position.
3. Return to standing.
4. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

7. Sumo Deadlift

1. Start with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders and a slight turn out in your toes, with your knees bent and pushed out on the same angle as your toes. Your torso should be a bit more upright than it is in a traditional deadlift.
2. With the weight between your legs, bend down to grasp it and slowly come up to stand, activating your glutes in the process.
3. Slowly lower yourself back down.
4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

8. Side Leg Lifts

1. Lie on your right side with your feet stacked on top of each other. Lean your head to your right arm.
2. Keeping your legs straight, lift your left leg off the ground without letting your pelvis tilt. Bring it back down.
3. If you're having a hard time keeping your legs from coming forward, you can lean against a wall and have your top leg slide to correct any slanting of your body that might occur.
4. Do 2 sets of 25 reps on each leg.

8. Single Leg Hip Thrust

1. Set up a flat bench, soft box, (or couch if you’re at home), and put yourself on the bench so that the bottom of your shoulder blades are on the bench, your feet are on the floor. Your butt should not be able to touch the floor here.
2. Lift one leg off the ground, and push through the heel of the foot that is on the ground, while you push your hips up to the ceiling by squeezing your glutes.
3. Lower your hips back towards the floor.
4. Do two sets of 25 reps per side.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I give my upper butt a natural curve?

Be consistent—and patient. “If you’re looking to build a stronger, more muscular butt, it’s going to take some time,” Vesco admits. “You have to lift heavy with a plan, you have to eat more to fuel those lifts, you have to stay consistent in the gym, and you have to show yourself grace. Rome wasn’t built overnight and neither is a bigger booty!”

How do I know if my upper glute workout is working?

Remember: upper glute gains take time. As such, you may feel like your hard work isn’t accounting for much, but Vesco reminds us that there are studies that suggest optimal glute growth can take between 18 months and two years to really witness. “The work is never over and consistency always gives you the possibility to expedite that process,” she adds. “However, training for life is a lifelong journey and taking care of your glutes and overall leg strength is a sure fire way to make sure you’re still strong and able bodied at 80 years old. Strong glutes, strong legs, strong life.”

Can you work out your glutes two days in a row?

TL;DR: it depends on your skill level and overall fitness. “There are many aspects to consider when discussing exercise recovery including training or exercise volume and frequency, adequate sleep, proper nutrition, training periodization, rest days, and more,” Reed explains. “Recovery is an important part of a training program and aims to restore the body to homeostasis (balanced) and occurs during the time outside of an exercise training session.”

With that in mind, Reed says that if you’re new to resistance training—and especially if you’re performing large muscle, multi-joint exercises like squats, lunges, deadlifts, and hip thrusts—a 24- to 48-hour rest period is ideal. “Basically, monitor your perceived soreness levels,” she says. “DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) can start and last anywhere from 24 to 72 hours or more depending on a variety of factors. So, your best bet is to start slow and monitor how you feel. After a few sessions you will understand how your body is reacting.”

Once you become more experienced with upper glute workouts, Reed says it’s totally fine to train back-to-back—though, she still recommends switching it up for the most noticeable gains. “The most effective programs will mix different movement patterns, loading, and other techniques to progress efficiently and safely,” she says. “The main point to note while going for booty gain will be you are aiming for hypertrophy (increasing muscle size/volume) and adequate, but appropriate for your fitness level, loading will be highly important.”

How many times a week should I workout to grow a butt?

There’s no one set answer. “How often you should perform these exercises depends on how heavy you’re lifting for them,” Vesco says. “Heavy lifts for muscle growth and strength should only be done one to two times per week. It is too hard to suggest how often anyone should perform exercises since we all have different bodies with different fitness levels and individual goals.”

Can you change the shape of glutes through exercise?

Yes, but it will take time. “Anyone can change the shape of their butt, but it depends on how drastic you want that change to be,” Vesco says. “We all have our own goals and standards but if your goal is to grow a bigger booty, you need to focus on the entire backside, not just the upper glutes. Building strength in the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus will get you there much faster.”

Additionally, it’s important not to overwork your glutes in hopes of faster results. “You definitely need to stimulate the muscles to help them grow, but training them too much can be counterproductive if you don’t give them time to rest, repair, and rebuild,” Vesco says.

What are the most useless exercises for building your glutes?

“Bicep curls!” Vesco laughs, jokingly. “‘Building’ can mean a lot of things for a lot of people but if you want to actually increase the size of your backside, you have to lift heavy weights consistently.” While resistance bands, ankle weights, and kickbacks can be beneficial in toning your backside, Vesco says that they won’t work to increase muscle mass.

Now, work the rest of your booty with this full glute resistance band workout:

The Wellness Intel You Need—Without the BS You Don't
Sign up today to have the latest (and greatest) well-being news and expert-approved tips delivered straight to your inbox.

Loading More Posts...