A Strength Coach Ranked Glute Exercises From Worst to Best

·4-min read

Following recent videos where he ranked the best and worst exercises for building strength and muscle in your back and biceps, Athlean-X founder and trainer Jeff Cavaliere lists glute exercises and judges them by how much you can add progressive overload and achieve muscle hypertrophy to grow a juicier booty—without risking pain or injury.

Worst

Heel Press

"It's very much incapable of the overload that we seek in order to build muscle," says Cavaliere. "You're doing mostly a bodyweight movement here, and it's also very limited in its range of motion."

Step Mill

A lot of the time, these machines are powered, meaning that as you're stepping down, the leg is being brought back down into full extension by the moving step, not by your own muscles. The only muscles really being worked here are the hip flexors, not the glutes.

Leg Press

While this is a popular alternative to the squat among people with knee problems, but as a glute developer, Cavaliere believes it's a "horrible exercise." This is because once again, there's a lot of hip flexion going on, rather than engagement of the glutes.

Better

Dumbbell Reverse Sprinter Lunge

This move might involve a similar chest-to-thigh position to the leg press, but the alternating leg movements relieve some of the posterior tilt of the other exercise, making it safer.

Cuff Kickback

This introduces an element of resistance that was missing from the heel press, making progressive overload possible. "Being on your feet proprioceptively allows you to move your leg back easier in a straighter line," says Cavaliere. "So while it's still a small range of motion, it's one you can perform more effectively."

Romanian Deadlift (Dumbbell Single Leg)

Cavaliere likes this move for its versatility, because you can focus more on the glutes by bending at the knee slightly, or on the hamstrings by keeping the leg straighter—however, he acknowledges that balance can be an issue here which is why it doesn't place higher up the list.

Better Still

Romanian Deadlift (Single Leg)

"It gives us all the benefits we've just talked about, with more stability," says Cavaliere. "The cable gives us more control in the frontal plane... It takes an exercise that was supposed to be driving glutes and hamstring gains and actually allows it to do so without having your balance undercut you."

Seated Hamstring Curl

Unlike the prone version of this move, the seated variation allows you to build your hamstrings through isolated knee flexion and overload, without the knees driving into hip flexion which can lead to back spasms.

Banded Step Through

"This exercise gives you more range of motion, and more resistance through hip extension," says Cavaliere. "Once again, the bands will give you an opportunity to progressively overload to a higher resistance band, allowing you to continue to progress the exercise as needed."

Kettlebell Swing

"This is one of the best ways to train the glutes, and to do so explosively," he says. "But it also automatically guarantees that you learn to hinge properly. And the hinge is the foundation of glute activation."

Almost Best

Pull Through

This cable movement improves upon the kettlebell swing by allowing you to load up the exercise with more weight. "This is reinforcing all the good things about the swing through that hip hinge overload," says Cavaliere.

Dumbbell Leaning Forward Step Up

In addition to being able to load up this exercise, you can also maximise your glutes engagement by tilting the torso slightly forward at the beginning of the movement. "What this does is it pre-loads the glutes," Cavaliere explains.

Glute Ham Raise / Slick Floor Bridge Curl

Both of these exercises involve a coordinated effort between the hamstring and the glutes, with the floor bridge curl providing an equipment-free bodyweight alternative if you don't have access to the appropriate machine.

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

If you're certain that you don't have any underlying imbalances, then this classic version of the RDL will provide the best chance at overloading the exercise and building your glutes, with the benefit of added stability as both of your feet are firmly on the ground.

Low Bar Squat

No list of lower body exercises would be complete without the squat, and Cavaliere starts with this low bar variation. "By simply carrying the bar lower on those lower rear delts, you're going to have to pitch your torso forward at an angle," he says. "What this does is recruit those posterior chain muscles more effectively, and carries down into the bottom portion of the squat."

Best

Barbell Hip Thrust

"This exercise simply checks all the boxes when it comes to glute development," says Cavaliere. "You can progressively overload it very easily, you can perform it safely, and it is going to provide muscle hypertrophy that you're looking for."

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