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Research Finds the Best Butt (Glute) Exercises

Study ranks the best and worst exercises for activating the glutes


Updated May 17, 2014

Squat with kettle bell
Adrianna Williams/The Image Bank/Getty Images

What are the best butt exercises? According to the American Council on Exercise and the exercise scientists at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, most effective exercises for working the gluteus muscles and building a stronger butt can be measured. They used electromyographic (EMG) analysis to measure muscle activation of eight common glute exercises. Their finding are pretty interesting. If you are looking for the best ways to target your glutes, here are their recommendations.

Keep in mind that if you sit much of the day, you may have inactive and weak glutes, along with tight hamstrings and hip flexors. Before diving into these glute strengthening exercises, it's helpful to do Glute Activation Exercises to get your backside firing properly before your workout.


Best Butt Exercises

  1. Quadruped Hip Extensions
  2. Lunges
    Also see: Overhead Lunge | Walking Dumbbell Lunge
  3. Step Ups
  4. Squats
  5. Four-Way Hip Extensions
  6. One-Legged Squat

Best Exercise for Gluteus maximus

Their findings showed that even though squats generated significantly more muscle activation than both the horizontal and vertical leg presses, there was no significant difference in EMG activity when compared to the other exercises.

Best Exercise for Gluteus medius

The quadruped hip extensions, step ups and lunges generated significantly more muscle activation than squats. Thehorizontal and vertical leg presses generated the least amount of activity.

Best Exercise for Hamstrings

Quadruped hip extensions, step ups and lunges and four-way hip extensions showed significantly more EMG activity than squats. The horizontal and vertical leg presses ranked lowest in EMG activity.


According to the researchers "There was no clear winner, but this study did confirm the value of five exercises--single-leg squats, quadruped hip extensions, step-ups, lunges and four-way hip extensions--as effective alternatives to traditional squats."


Glutes to the Max. ACE FitnessMatters • January/February 2006. [http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/GlutesStudy2006.pdf]

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