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Trainers Share Their Preferred Exercises for Isolating Glutes

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  • Post last modified:September 25, 2023

If you’ve ever looked for a workout specifically targeting your buttocks in order to focus on enhancing your peach, you’re definitely not alone. The hashtag #gluteworkout has over 980k posts on Instagram and has accumulated 746 million views on TikTok. If you’re interested in “bubble butt,” “booty blaster,” or “juicy glute” workouts, they’re just a few taps away.

These workouts may include compound exercises, glute isolation exercises, or a combination of both. “Compound movements [such as squats or deadlifts] are movements that involve more than one joint,” says Lexi Moreno, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and performance coach on the app Future. This allows compound exercises to target multiple muscle groups simultaneously. They’re more effective for building functional strength and power and provide the best results.

On the other hand, isolation exercises focus on the movement of a single joint and therefore target fewer muscles during the exercise. Technically, the term “glute isolation” is contradictory. “It is impossible to solely isolate the group of muscles we refer to as the glutes,” explains Moreno. “Muscles that make up the quads, hamstrings, and trunk are involved in one way or another. However, certain exercises recruit the glutes more than others.”

While focusing on butt exercises may seem like a smart strategy for building your desired booty, relying solely on glute isolation exercises is inefficient, to put it simply. Take the squat, a classic compound exercise that targets the glutes while also engaging the quads, hamstrings, and core muscles. The deadlift is another example, as it works almost all the muscles on the backside of your body, along with the quads, lats, and biceps, according to certified personal trainer Mike Matthews, author of Muscle for Life.

Now, imagine replacing these compound exercises with isolation movements that separately target each of those muscles. You quickly realize that you’ll be spending significantly more time in the gym, as Matthews explains. “You’re now looking at literally twice the amount of time to train,” he adds.

In fact, if you’re a beginner, it may be more beneficial to skip glute isolation exercises altogether, suggests Matthews. “People who are just starting out really only need to focus on fundamental, lower body training to provide optimal stimulus for their glutes,” he advises. “It’s not productive for beginners to perform, for example, 10 to 12 challenging sets per week for the lower body through squatting, deadlifting, lunging, and then do another 10 sets for glutes. It would only mean spending more time in the gym without any additional muscle gain.

Matthews opines that glute isolation exercises can be valuable to intermediate to advanced individuals who have been consistently training for over a year but still desire to enhance their glute development. Including “a bit of additional glute training volume just to accelerate the growth of that muscle group a bit” can be beneficial in these cases, according to him. Reminder: training volume = repetitions x sets x weight. You can achieve that extra volume by incorporating sets of exercises that aim to reach muscle failure — when you are unable to perform even one more repetition by the end — within your weekly workout sessions, explains Matthews. (

When uncertain, a trainer can assist you in determining which glute-focused exercises you should incorporate and how frequently, depending on your objective. To provide you with an idea of what some popular glute exercises might resemble, take a glance at these glute isolation exercises from Moreno and Matthews.

Finest Glute Isolation Exercises

How it operates: Add these glute isolation exercises to your lower-body training days, which also include compound movements. Execute each exercise up to twice per week.

What you will require: a mini resistance band and dumbbells or a barbell. (While these tools are optional, they can provide additional resistance or load if you aim to increase your volume and/or aid in activating inactive glutes to ensure sufficient engagement of those muscles throughout the exercise.)

Glute Bridge

A. Lie on your back, with your feet hip-width apart, abs activated, and arms extended with palms resting flat on the floor. For (optional) greater intensity, position a mini resistance band above your knees or place a dumbbell or barbell on top of your hips.

B. While keeping your shoulders and feet on the ground, contract your glutes and raise your hips towards the ceiling until your body forms a straight line from your chest to your knees.

C. Pause briefly, then gradually lower your hips back down to the starting position.

Complete 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

Glute Kickback

A. Attach an ankle strap to a cable machine and wrap it around one ankle. Choose enough weight to allow for only 1 or 2 additional good repetitions at the end of the set (coming close to muscle failure but not reaching it). Lean slightly forward and maintain a straight back and engaged core throughout the entire movement.

B. Engage your glutes and kick the leg attached to the machine up and back with control. Pause at the highest point, then lower your leg back down to return to the starting position.

Tip: You can also perform this glute isolation exercise at home with a long resistance band. Begin on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Securely loop the middle of the resistance band around one heel and anchor the other ends in your hands. Engage your glutes and kick your leg back with control. Pause at the highest point, then lower your leg back down to return to the starting position.

Complete 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions. Switch sides; repeat.

Bulgarian Split Lunge

A. Stand on one leg with the other leg extended backward, top of the foot resting on a bench, and a dumbbell in each hand by the sides. Select a weight that allows for only 1 or 2 additional good reps at the end of the set (approaching muscle failure but not reaching it).

B. Descend into a lunge on the standing leg while keeping the chest lifted and the standing knee aligned with the foot. If possible, lower until the front thigh is parallel to the ground.

C. Activate the glutes to straighten (but not completely lock) the standing leg.

Complete 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions. Switch sides and repeat.

Hip Outward Movement

A. Begin in a seated position on a hip abduction machine or on a bench with a small resistance band wrapped around the knees, keeping the legs together.

B. Maintaining a 90-degree angle in the knees, contract the glutes and push the legs away from each other. Pause, continuing to contract the glutes, then bring the legs back together with control to return to the starting position.

Perform 2 sets of 20 repetitions.

Side Step with Small Resistance Band

A. Place a small resistance band just above the knees. Bend the knees and shift the hips back as if sitting in a chair.

B. Step the right foot out wide to the side, then bring the left foot halfway in while maintaining tension on the band.

D. From there, step out with the left foot and bring the right foot halfway in.

E. Continue to alternate stepping back and forth, ensuring to remain in a deep squat throughout the entire exercise.

Complete 2 sets of 20 repetitions.

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