Glute Strengthening Exercises

Written By: Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed by: KPE Medical Review Board

Glute strengthening exercises. 8 great ways to strengthen your buttock muscles

Glute strengthening should be a core part of any rehab programme.

Whether you have back pain, arthritis, knee pain when you run or flat feet, chances are glute weakness is a contributing factor.

Strengthening programmes for the legs often focus on the quads and hamstrings but glute activation and strengthening is just as important, if not more.

Having weak glutes can affect your lower back, pelvis, hips, knees and feet increasing your risk of:

  • Pain: in the lower back and/or leg
  • Injury: e.g. tendonitis, IT band syndrome
  • Instability: particularly at the pelvis and knee
  • Poor Alignment: e.g. knock knees or flat feet

Why Is Glute Strengthening So Important?

There are three glute muscles that form the buttocks:

  1. Gluteus Maximus: the big superficial power muscle
  2. Gluteus Medius: the key stabilizer muscle
  3. Gluteus Minimus: the smallest, deepest muscle

The three glute muscles work together to extend, abduct and internally rotate the hip i.e. move it backwards, out to the side and twist it in, and the glutes play an extremely important role in many daily functions.

Having strong glute muscles helps:

  • Support the lower back e.g. when lifting
  • Support you e.g. when standing on one leg
  • Provide propulsive force e.g. during running and jumping
  • Ensure correct alignment e.g. of pelvis and lower limb 
  • Prevent injuries e.g. runners knee and bursitis
  • With daily activities: e.g. getting up from a chair

Best Glute Exercises

So let’s look at the best glute exercises to help reduce pain, improve function and prevent injuries. With each of these glute strengthening exercises you want to aiming to do:

  • 15-20 reps 
  • 3-5 second holds
  • at least once a day
  • at least five times a week
  • always keep your spine and pelvis in neutral – don’t let them dip or arch

I have included a number of progressions for each of these glute strengthening exercises but don’t rush through too fast – make sure you can do at least 20 repetitions of each glute exercise before you start working on the progressions.

1. Glute Squeezes

Glute squeezes - a great place to start for strengthening the glutes

Glute squeezes are a great exercise to start with to get the feeling of glute activation and isolation

· Sit or lie in a comfortable position
· Squeeze your buttocks together as tight as you can and hold
· You should feel yourself lift slightly


2. Glute Kickbacks

Glute kickbacks aka glute lifts or glute extensions are a great glute strengthening exercise on all fours

Glute kickbacks - a great way to strengthen the glutes

 ·  Start in box position, hands directly under shoulders, knees directly under hips, back flat
 ·  Raise one leg behind you, keeping the knee bent at 90o without letting your back dip
 ·  Clench your glutes throughout and hold at the top

Alternative: as you take the leg back, straighten the knee until your leg is parallel with the floor


3. Glute Bridges

Bridges are one of the best glute exercises and should form some part of any glutes workout. 

Glute bridging exercises to strengthen the buttocks

 ·  Lie on your back, knees bent, feet hip width apart
 ·  Clench your glutes and slowly raise your buttocks up of the floor into a bridge position and hold
 ·  Don’t let your back arch or your buttocks dip

There are loads of different variations and ways to challenge yourself more with bridging exercises as your glutes get stronger.

How To Progress

Bridging Glute Strengthening Exercises - Knee Pain Explained
  1. Heel Bridge: Push down through your heels as you bridge (can lift toes if that helps)
  2. Waist Band Bridge: Hold down an elasticated band around your waist
  3. Knee Band Bridge: Loop elasticated band round knees. Once in bridge position, push knees out against band and slowly bring them back in
  4. Ball Bridge: Hold and squeeze a ball between your knees as you bridge – also targets VMO so great for knee problems
  5. Frog Bridge: let your knees drop out with your feet touching. Press through feet and raise buttocks

4. Glute Clam Shell

The clam is one of the best glute strengthening exercises for glute med isolation and is a must for pretty much anyone. Glute med is super important for stability and control. Most people with back, hip, knee or foot problems have weakness in their glute med.

Clam exercises are one of the best ways to build glute strength

 ·  Lie on your side, knees bent, feet together, with shoulders, hips & feet in a straight line
 ·  Keeping feet together, activate glutes and lift top knee as high as you can without rolling back at your pelvis. Hold
 ·  Slowly lower back down
 ·  Keep your pelvis central, not rolling forwards or backwards and draw your top hip down, away from your shoulder to lengthen through the waist

How To Progress

Clam exercises for the glutes - from knee-pain-explained.com
  1. Heel Pushes: Squeeze your heels together as you do the exercise
  2. Band Clams: Have an elasticated band round your knees
  3. Raised Clam: Start with both feet raised to hip height and perform clam action from there
  4. Plank Clam: Start in the side plank position and perform clam

5. Glute Raises

Glute raises are similar to glute bridges but with your feet raised. 

Glute raise exercises - perfect for toning the buttocks

These works the glutes harder and through a greater range making it a more challenging glute strengthening exercise.

 ·  Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on a low stool, hip width apart
 ·  Clench glutes, lift buttocks up into bridge position and hold

How To Progress

Glute Raise Strengthening Exercises - from knee-pain-explained.com
  1. Use a higher step for feet
  2. Use a roller under feet 
  3. Use a gym ball under your calves 
  4. Use gym ball under your feet 
  5. Even harder, roll gym ball/roller towards you and then back whilst in bridge position

6. Single Leg Glute Bridge

Single leg bridges are a much more challenging glute strengthening workout than a simple bridge both from a strength and control side. If you have weak glutes, the pelvis will tend to drop as you lift the leg so watch out for that.

Single leg glute bridging: get those buttocks you always dreamed of!

 ·  Lie on your back, knees bent, feet hip width apart
 ·  Clench glutes, lift buttocks and hold in bridge position
 ·  Lift one foot and straighten the knee, keeping your thighs inline and hold
 ·  Make sure your pelvis doesn’t dip down at all
 ·  Lower your foot and repeat with the other leg

How To Progress

Single-Leg Bridge Variations for Glutes Strength - from knee-pan-explained
  1. Single Raise: Start with one leg out straight (thighs parallel) and push up into bridge through the other leg
  2. Marching Bridge: From normal bridge position, alternately march the feet up and down – great for building endurance
  3. Unstable Bridge: Have your foot on a roller or gym ball as you perform the exercise

7. Glute Thrust

AKA the hip thrust, this is a more advanced glute strengthening exercise - it might not look it but it's much harder than a simple bridge.
NB this exercise is not recommended if you have back problems.

Glute Strengthening Hip Thrust Exercise - from knee-pain-explained.com

 · Sit, leaning back against a gym ball or bench, feet hip width apart, knees bent, spine in neutral
 · Clench glutes, push down through feet and raise buttocks up letting your upper body move back slightly
 · If you need to, use your arms for some support, but don’t arch your back
 · Hold the position and then lower down

How To Progress

  1. Weights: Hold a weight e.g. medicine ball while doing this exercise
  2. Marching: During the hold phase, alternately lift one foot then the other
  3. Single Leg: start with one foot lifted and keep it in the 90/90 position (hip/knee angle) throughout, pushing through the other leg

8. Glute Stretches

Before and after doing any glute strengthening exercises it is a good idea to do some glute stretches. These help get the muscles ready for action and ease out any tension that builds up in the muscles during your glute workout.

As well as stretching the glutes muscles, it also helps to stretch the piriformis muscle which is the deepest buttock muscle found underneath the glutes.

Glute Stretches - from knee-pain-explained.com

So make sure you have a go at:

What Else Can Help?

The glute muscles don’t work in isolation, they work alongside all the other leg muscles. Our bodies function best when we have good strength, flexibility, stability and endurance in all of our muscles. So alongside glute strengthening exercises, make sure you also work on:

  1. Quads Strengthening & Quadricep Stretches
  2. Hamstring Strengthening Exercises & Ham Stretches
  3. IT Band Stretches
  4. Kneecap Exercises & VMO Targetting
  5. Calf Stretches & Calf Workout

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Page Last Updated: 2020-10-06
Next Review Due: 2022-10-06

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