2016 was dubbed by many as the year of the butt. But so was 2015. And 2014… 2013…
So we can deduce from this derriere deja vu that having a proud, strong, toned, lifted, and all around shapely booty is not a fad we should expect to see fade anytime soon. But pumping up your buns isn’t just about building a physique that’s en vogue; strong glutes are a boon for overall health, helping to reinforce good posture, prevent back pain, and improve athletic performance. And because they contain the largest muscle in the human body—the gluteus maximus—targeting your glutes can help maximize your caloric burn.
If any of those benefits appeal to you (and at least one or two should) you’ll be wondering about the best strategy for targeting your rear in your workouts. “The best glute building programs include a variety of exercises,” says Rob Sulaver, C.S.C.S., CEO and founder of Bandana Training. “There is no one perfect exercise that will give you the bubble butt of your dreams.” But the following four moves are on most trainers’ shortlists of best butt lift exercises, and can be done with little to no equipment.
4 Best Butt Lift Exercises Using Body Weight
It’s the first word out of many fitness professionals’ mouths when asked about bolstering bootyliciousness, and its popularity is well deserved. It’s an extremely effective butt builder, and if you’re a strength-training newbie, you can start with bodyweight squats in the comfort of your own home—no equipment necessary!
“To maximize the effectiveness of the squat, you have to feel your glutes throughout the movement,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody’s fitness and nutrition content manager. “Actively engage them—don’t just drop down and stand back up mindlessly.”
To perform the bodyweight squat, stand with your feet hip to shoulder-width apart with your arms by your sides. Keeping you back flat, push your hips back (imagine you’re closing a door with your butt) and then “sit back” into the movement as you raise your arms in front of you. Feel your glutes stretch as you lower your body until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Pause, and then stand back up, contracting your glutes forcefully as you return to the starting position.
Make it harder: Do the dumbbell squat, holding a pair of weights at arm’s length by your sides as you perform the exercise.
Quadruped Hip Extension
This exercise is a great butt-building movement that requires nothing in the way of equipment. Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Keeping your right knee bent 90 degrees, raise your right leg behind you until your upper leg is in line with your torso (your lower leg should point toward the ceiling). Hold for 10 seconds, and return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg. Continue alternating sides.
Make it harder: If you have a workout partner, you can have them apply light pressure to your heel as you push up to increase the challenge and the butt-sculpting payoff. No partner? Ankle weights will also do the trick if you have access to them.
“If you don’t have a partner or ankle weights, don’t worry about it—most people will find this exercise challenging without added resistance,” says Thieme, adding that it’s also an ideal exercise for ‘re-activating’ your glutes if you work a desk job. “If you have niggling aches that are caused or exacerbated by sitting all day, this exercise is a must-do.”
For NYC trainer Dominique Hall’s money, the step-up is a dependable booty-building move. The reason: Working one limb at a time—what fitness pros call “unilateral training”—creates instability, which can not only increase muscle activation throughout your body (especially in your glutes and other core muscles), but also help iron out muscle imbalances.
Set up for this booty blaster by placing your left foot on a box or bench. Your hip, knee, and ankle should all be bent 90 degrees. Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, push your body up with your left leg until it’s straight (keep your right foot elevated). Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, and then lower your body back to the starting position under control. Perform equal reps on both legs.
“Make your pace on the way up a one-count, and your pace on the way down a three-count,” recommends Hall, adding that the slower you go down, the longer you’ll keep your muscles under tension, optimizing a key growth trigger.
Wanna switch things up? Stand with your left side to the bench instead of facing it head-on, and step up laterally. “The change of direction will hit your glutes in a different way,” says Hall.
Make it harder: Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length by your sides as you perform the exercise.
Sulaver is a big fan of the glute bridge, which most people can master fairly quickly. “It’s a simple move that can provide a great deal of muscle activation,” he says. “You’re going to feel that booty working hard.”
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, arms by your sides, and palms facing down. Squeeze your glutes, raising your butt off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Pause, and then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
Make it harder: Although typically a bodyweight exercise, you can increase the challenge by placing a weight on your hips (a sandbag is ideal, but a dumbbell or a barbell will also work). Another way to boost the intensity: Perform the move with both feet on a bench instead of the floor, or place just one foot on the bench while keeping the other elevated (a move called the elevated single-leg hip raise).
Next on your tour of best butt lift exercises: the strategic, targeted sculpting routines and nutrition plan of Leandro Carvalho’s Brazil Butt Lift program. You can find it, along with hundreds of other workouts, streaming now at Beachbody On Demand!