If you're in search of a butt that rivals Jennifer Lopez's, you might have to manage your expectations a bit—a killer behind like that is thanks, in large part, to genetics. Still, that doesn't mean you can't work toward the best (and biggest) your own special butt can be.
And while how your backside looks in jeans might be your number one reason for doing more squats at the gym, it shouldn't be your only motivation—a stronger butt has some serious health perks, as well, says Quianna Camper, CPT, a trainer with RSP Nutrition. "Stronger glute muscles can help reduce the risk of injury, boost your metabolism, improve your athletic performance, and give the appearance of a lifted, rounder bum," says Camper.
Also important: Butt building moves don't just result in glutes gains. “You can do exercises that primarily target the glute muscles,” says Camper. “But the movements you should do for stronger glutes are multi-joint, multi-muscle movements that are also going to strengthen your whole body.” That’s because all the muscles in the body work together—which means a more toned butt can mean gains for your entire body, too.
So, now that you're convinced that you need to start working your glutes more, how do you do it? Here, Camper shares six key exercises to get a bigger butt and stronger glutes. You'll want to add these to your workout routine ASAP.
1. Glute Bridge
How to do it: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart. Extend your arms down by your sides, and palms on the floor. Pressing your feet into the floor and keeping shoulder blades rooted to ground, lift your hips into the air, until your body creates a straight line from your knees to shoulders. Squeeze your glutes at the top and hold for one to three seconds, then return to ground. That’s one rep. Complete three sets of 10 to 12 reps total.
To add weight, rest a barbell straight against your pelvis. Place your hands on the bar right on either side of your hips to keep the weight from rolling down your body. Then, complete the movement as described above.
2. Jump squats
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Breath in, engage your core and keep your chest up as you drop into a squat. Continue lowering your butt until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Exhale and drive back up through heels to jump up, using your arms as necessary. Land with bent knees to absorb impact. That’s one rep. Do three sets of 12 to 20 reps.
3. Barbell Front Squat
How to do it: Prop an empty barbell into the squat rack so that when you’re facing it, the bar hits you at chest height. Step towards the bar, place fingertips under bar, so that they’re just outside of your shoulders. Drive elbows up so that they’re parallel to the ground and lift barbell out of rack, stepping back. Get into squat position by adjusting feet so that they’re hip-width apart and your toes are pointed out slightly.
Breathe in, engage core by drawing your bellybutton to spine, then shift hips back and bend knees like you’re sitting back. Actively press knees out, and elbows up (to keep chest up raised) as you lower. Continue lowering until your hips are lower than your knees. Breathe out and push through your midfoot and heels to return to standing, squeezing glutes at the top. That’s one rep. Aim for four sets of 8 to 10 reps, resting two minutes between sets.
4. Dumbbell Walking Lunge
How to do it: Start holding two dumbbells, one in each hand, with straight arms and shoulders back and down. Engage core and step forward with your right leg, lowering hips until your right leg is bent at a 90-degree angle and left knee grazes floor. Drawing shoulders back away from your ears, press your right heel into the ground and push off with your left foot to return to standing. That’s one rep. Repeat with your left leg. Aim 4 sets of 12 total reps.
5. Hip Thrust
How to do it: Start seated with a barbell back of your shoulder-blades resting against a bench or box, feet flat and slightly narrower than hips-width. Rest arms on bench of stability and root feet into the ground, then lift hips to up until your trunk is parallel with the floor. Squeeze glutes at top before returning to start. That’s one rep. Aim 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Once you have the movement pattern down, add weight by laying a barbell across your hip crease. Load barbell so that you can do at least five “clean” reps in a row.
6. Good Morning
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width, barbell resting on your back hands holding it just outside of your shoulder blades. Elbows pointing towards the ground, use your hands to pull the bar down and against your back. Inhale and brace core, then hinge at hips by bending at the waist and pressing glutes back. Continue pushing hips back until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and your torso is parallel to the ground. Exhale as you push your hips forward and return to start, squeezing glutes at top. That’s one rep. Repeat for three sets of 10 to 12 reps.