Glute Building Tips

It seems that female fitness Instagram has been all about the glutes this year. The exercises get crazier, and the implants and Photoshop get more obvious… but what actually works?




When we speak of ‘glutes’ we are actually referring to 3 muscles; the glute maximus, medius and minimus. The largest, most superficial muscle of the three is, of course, glute max, which probably receives the most attention in your training.

The glute muscles have a variety of attachments, therefore meaning that they can perform several functions.

  • Hip extension
  • Hip external rotation
  • Hip transverse abduction
  • Anterior pelvic tilt

Meaning that they can be trained with a huge range of movements, compared to other muscles.



Top 5 Exercises:

Some activation work may be necessary, for example if you consider yourself quad dominant. This would involve light work to get some blood and ‘pump’ to the muscle and establish a mind-muscle connection without being detrimental to working sets. Regardless, an amount of warming up is essential before a heavy lower body workout to warm the joints and prevent injury. 5-10 minutes of non-impact cardio (such as stationary bike or cross trainer) is a good place to start.

  • Hip thrust

The most effective way to do these is with a heavy barbell and bumper plates, although this is not easily set up in all gyms. Single leg variations, or using a heavy dumbbell/preloaded barbell can work well in a higher rep scheme. Unlike a squat or lunge, the glute is most worked at the top of the movement.

  • Deadlifts (stiff legged and sumo in particular)

A great one to develop the entire posterior chain.

  • Squats

To get as much glute recruitment as possible, squat to depth, adopt a wider stance with toes pointed slightly out, and experiment with low bar positioning.

  • Split squats

Smith machine, barbell, dumbells, these are great to work out imbalances and really feel the glutes working

  • Hip abduction

Hip abduction variations (for example; machine, cable or banded) are the only specific way to train the glutes laterally. Unlike the previous exercises, they cannot be loaded heavily, but aesthetically they help to fill the ‘outer glute’ which gives the most appealing shape, think of bikini competitors who have glutes which show in the front pose.




Eat, eat, eat! Most of the people that you will see, away from the stage, with good glutes have the advantage of being genetically predisposed to holding fat in that area. In addition, we need food to build muscle. Common sense would dictate that to build something, we need the materials to do so. You cannot diet in a huge deficit and expect your body to be creating a tonne of new muscle.

Consuming adequate protein is essential to muscle growth, 1g/lb of bodyweight is a good rule of thumb for trained individuals, but some nutritionists would argue that you can make progress with less. Experiment and find what you respond best to!


protein bars

high protein foods




Takeaway points:

  • The glutes are some of the biggest, strongest muscles in the body- challenge them with heavy weight
  • Incorporate laterally, vertically and horizontally loaded exercises
  • Eat to grow!

About the Author

Savannah Westerby, BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition. IG:@savannahwesterby
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