Call it the Kardashian effect, blame it on the fitness and swimwear models taking over your Instagram feed, or thank the self-love movements encouraging us all to embrace our bodies. One thing is for sure: a round, peachy butt is en vogue right now.
But beyond whatever is trending, did you know that a strong butt is actually good for you?
“Rather than focusing on trying to look like an Insta-famous fitness model, focus on the fact that strong, muscular glutes burn up calories even at rest (improving metabolic rate), they support the hips, knees, pelvis and spine to be in optimal alignment, and enable you to walk, run, jump, dance and climb for life,” says Cat Woods, founder of Ballet Sculpt and yoga, barre and Pilates instructor in Melbourne.
While we could just tell you to squat, squat and squat some more to improve your butt tone, we instead enlisted the help of several fitness experts – all specialising in different fields – to share their favourite exercises guaranteed to firm up those glutes.
Just remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The pistol squat
Recommended by Woods, the pistol squat is basically a one-legged squat done with your feet positioned hip distance apart and an upright torso.
How to do the pistol squat: “To do it at home, stand firmly on the left foot. Raise the right leg as straight as possible off the floor and, with the left foot anchoring you, sit the hips far back and down as you lower the hips as low as you can sit with the right leg off the floor and chest upright. Extending the arms can help to[maintain your] balance. Push off the left foot to fire the gluteal muscles and return to standing,” says Woods. Switch legs, and repeat!
How often you should do the pistol squat: This one isn’t for your daily routine, according to Woods. “For the muscles to absorb the work and to recover and strengthen, ideally leave at least a day between doing this move. The body, and the glutes included, benefit from a variety of challenges so keep up the diversity.”
Up the ante: If you’re looking to challenge yourself, Woods recommends using a weight plate, kettlebell or medicine ball during the exercise.
The lateral band walk
As the official Fitbit ambassador and a personal trainer, Drew Harrisberg knows how to get your heart rate up, and this squat-meets-crab-walk will certainly get you there. It sounds simple, but according to Harrisberg the repetition of this small movement is actually a dynamic isometric exercise that focuses on glutes, hip abductors and quads.
How to do the lateral band walk: Harrisberg says, “Place a resistance band around your ankles or knees and hold a one-quarter squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart to create tension through the band. Take a step to the side whilst maintaining band tension. Step the other leg across, but make sure to maintain tension through the band. Always remember to rotate your knees out. We never want our knees caving in during any movements.”
How often you should do the lateral band walk: If you’re looking to feel the burn, Harrisberg recommends 15-30 reps, but also suggests grouping different exercises together in a ‘super set’. He also notes that research suggests you should rest for at least 24 hours between muscle groups if you feel sore after your butt session.
Up the ante: “A key principle in any training adaptations is progressive overload. In other words, you have to keep shocking your muscles into growth otherwise they stop adapting and you will plateau,” says Harrisberg. Some of his tips include increasing the weight you’re holding, increase the set, increase the reps, up the tempo, and even try reducing your rest period duration (Harrisberg uses his Fitbit to time his rest periods).
The glute bridge (or hip thrust)
The go-to butt burner from trainer, founder of 28 by Sam Wood, and ex-The Bachelor star, Sam Wood involves some mat action, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy. Pairing upward thrusts, resistance and even weights will have your butt feeling a little worse for wear in no time.
How to do the glute bridge: Wood recommends to “Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Drop your hips slowly, keeping your chin and rib cage down. Drop the hips as low as you can without moving your feet or changing chin/rib posture. Following this, thrust your hips high and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.” Sounds easy, right? Just try a few reps!
How often you should do the glute bridge: Wood suggests aiming for 30 reps in your set, and trying to do it fairly often. “We should try and fire up those glutes as much as possible as we spend so much time sitting and in poor posture so daily would be fine,” he says.
Up the ante: Once you’re in the hip bridge/glute thrust zone, make it a bit harder by adding some resistance. “[Resistance] bands! Or superset it with a lunge or squat pulse to really get a burn,” says Wood. You can also try adding weight with a bar across your lap or a band pulling you back to the ground.
The butt dance
Fitness entrepreneur and Barre Body founder Emma Seibold is all about combining function and fun with this firming exercise.
How to do the butt dance: “Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (exercising lying down is always a winner!). Start to flatten your lower back into the floor and roll your hips off the ground, squeezing your glutes. Instead of lifting your hips all the way up to a bridge, just have them about a fist distance off the floor. Keep your ribs flat on the ground. Now, keeping your hips in the air, swing them from side to side. Keep tucking your tailbone under and you’ll feel a burn pretty quickly,” says Seibold.
How often to do the butt dance: Seibold recommends doing three sets of 20, and trying to do it whenever you get a spare five minutes.
Up the ante: Seibold has a few suggestions on how you can feel the burn even more once you’ve perfected this move. “You don’t need any props, but if you like you can tie a resistance band around your thighs or pop a ball between your knees for a little challenge.
Try it with your heels [pushed] together and your knees wide, like a frog position. You can put your feet up on a bench or barre to make it stronger or try balancing on the balls of your feet by raising your heels. Or, just add reps to keep the burn going.”
Squat with a kick back
Former professional NRL rugby player and owner of Flow Athletic, Ben Lucas, knows your go-to butt toner would be a squat, so his advice is to challenge yourself with a one-legged version.
How to do the squat with a kick back: Here’s Lucas’s tips on nailing the tricky exercise: “Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Now sit back into a squat. You may want to hold your hands in front of you for balance. Bring your left leg straight behind you while you extend your arms forward. As you do this, bend into your standing leg (the right one). You want to bend at the knee but push the butt back so you can work that area. Also, try to make sure your hips are square. Think of them as headlights pointing towards the ground. Return to squat position and then repeat on the other side. Hold each one for around 5-10 seconds if you can, but make sure your abs are tight and you are stretching your leg and butt back as much as possible to get the most out of the exercise.”
How often you should do the squat with a kick back: Aim for 10-12 reps and repeat two to four times. “If you can find the time to do this exercise daily you will not only see the results in your physique but overall fitness,” says Lucas.
Up the ante: “You can add a loop resistance band. Stand on the band with your standing leg and hold the other side of the band with your hand. This will add resistance as you go from squat to kick back. Stay on the same leg, don’t alternate if you do this one. Do 12 on one leg and 12 on the other,” says Lucas.
The ‘perky cheeks’ deadlift
Functional movement trainer Kirsten Scott lists this as one of her top favourite “booty” exercises, so get your resistance band and kettlebell ready for a serious workout.
How to do the ‘perky cheeks’ deadlift: “Keep the band still around the legs above the knees. Grab a kettlebell, bend your knees slightly, and hinge forward from your hips until your chest is almost parallel to the floor, keeping your back naturally straight and your abs in tight. You should feel a slight stretch in your hamstring when in the ‘down’ position. Maintaining a straight spine, engage your glutes to bring your body back up to start position.
How often should you do the ‘perky cheeks’ deadlift: Scott suggests aiming for 20 reps in total for this one. Try it do it every other day to give your butt muscles some time to recover.
No matter the kind of glute workout, there was one thing consistent amongst all the trainers: take it slow and get your form right. This will help prevent injury and ensure you’re getting maximum results!
Want to give your butt a break? Here are 5 ways to tone your abs with an exercise ball.
Do you have a go-to butt firming exercise? Please share with us in the comments section below.
Main image credit: @jlo
Carli was BEAUTYcrew’s Editor from launch in 2016 until May 2020. You can find her words right here on BEAUTYcrew, and previously on beautyheaven.