Squats are often considered the holy grail of butt exercises: Want a bigger backside? Squat. Want a shapelier derriere? Squat. Want a firmer behind? Squat.
But what if this “ultimate” exercise just isn’t for you?
Whether injury prevents you from doing them, or you’re squatted out (since squats only work out one of three important glute muscles), don’t worry — there are plenty of other exercises you can perform to give you the booty of your dreams.
Here, we’ve curated 8 squat-free moves that will firm and tone your butt.
To do a complete workout, choose 4 to 5 of these exercises to build a 20-minute routine.
- 3 x 20 steps (10 R, 10 L) banded side step
- 3 x 20 steps (10 R, 10 L) step up with reverse lunge
- 3 x 20 reps (10 R, 10 L) single leg deadlift
- 3 x 20 reps (10 R, 10 L) med ball side lunge
- 3 x 10 reps superman
Aim to do the workout at least twice a week to see results.
1. Banded side step
Great for a warmup, the banded side step will get your hips and glutes ready to go.
- Place the band above your knees with your feet shoulder-width apart and squat down.
- Starting with your right foot, step to the side, completing 10 steps.
- Reverse, stepping with your left foot first, back to the start.
- Complete 3 sets.
2. Step up with reverse lunge
Step ups will not only give your booty a nice lift, they’re a practical exercise, too.
Keeping this in your workout routine will help with balance and stabilization. You’ll need a bench or step that’s about knee level to complete these.
- Start standing, feet together, in front of a bench or step.
- Step onto the bench with your right foot, pushing through your heel and driving your left knee up.
- Lower your left leg down, stepping backward off the bench, and lunge backward with your right leg.
- Come back to the starting position, and step up again with your right foot, completing the same steps.
- Complete 10-15 reps leading with the right leg, then switch and complete 10-15 reps leading with your left leg.
3. Dumbbell lunges
Weighted lunges are great for your lower body in general, but they’re especially effective in building your glute muscles.
- Start standing straight with your feet together and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Starting with your right foot, take a large step forward, stopping when your thigh is parallel to the ground and letting the dumbbells hang by your side.
- Pop your right foot up and return to the starting position. Repeat with the left leg.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 reps with each leg.
Working the posterior chain — including the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings — supermans are deceivingly simple.
Make sure you’re really engaging the muscle-mind connection to ensure you’re getting the most out of this move.
- Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs straight out and toes pointed toward the wall behind you.
- Bracing your abs and keeping your neck neutral, inhale and raise your arms and legs off the ground as high as you can. At the top, squeeze your glutes and hold for 1-2 seconds.
- Return to the starting position.
- Complete 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
5. Med ball side lunge
Side lunges work the gluteus medius — the muscle on the upper side of your butt — to help stabilize the hip and provide a nice, rounded look.
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a medicine ball at your chest.
- Take a large step to your right side and when your foot reaches the ground, bend your right knee and sit your hip back in a one-legged squat position.
- Keep your left leg straight.
- Push through your right foot and return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 reps on each side for 3 sets.
6. Donkey kick
A great supplemental exercise, the donkey kick targets your butt one cheek at a time. Make sure your glute is doing the work during each movement.
- Assume the starting position on all fours, knees hip-width apart, hands under your shoulders, and neck and spine neutral.
- Bracing your core, begin to lift your right leg, knee staying bent, foot staying flat, and hinging at the hip. Use your glute to press your foot directly toward the ceiling and squeeze at the top. Ensure your pelvis and working hip stay pointed toward the ground.
- Return to the starting position.
- Complete 20 reps on each leg for 4-5 sets.
7. Single-leg deadlift
Challenging not only your leg, glute, and lower back strength, but your balance, the single-leg deadlift is a booty burner.
If your balance isn’t quite there, don’t be afraid to drop one of the dumbbells and perform while bracing yourself on a chair or wall.
- Start with a dumbbell in each hand resting in front of your thighs with your weight on your right foot.
- With a slight bend in your right leg, begin to hinge at the hip, lifting your left leg straight back.
- Keeping your back straight, allow the weights to drop down in front of you, close to your body, in a slow and controlled motion. Stop when you can no longer maintain your balance, or when your left leg is parallel to the ground.
- Slowly return to start, really feeling your right hamstring working.
- Complete 10 reps on the right leg, then switch to the left, for 3 sets total.
Take the pressure off your joints with a bridge. Add a dumbbell if you need more resistance.
- Start by lying face up on your mat, knees bent with your feet on the floor and palms facing down at your sides.
- Inhale, and pushing through your heels, raise your butt and back off the ground. Squeeze your glutes at the top.
- Slowly lower back down to the ground and repeat 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
When building your routine…
No squats, no problem!
When putting together your routine, make sure the foundation is compound exercises — or moves that utilize multiple joints. This includes step ups, lunges, and deadlifts.
Then add glute isolation exercises, like donkey kicks and supermans, as a complement.
And remember to keep challenging yourself by adding reps or weight if things get too easy. By doing four to five of these moves at least twice a week, you should expect to see results in just a few months.
Nicole Davis is a Boston-based writer, ACE-certified personal trainer, and health enthusiast who works to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. Her philosophy is to embrace your curves and create your fit — whatever that may be! She was featured in Oxygen magazine’s “Future of Fitness” in the June 2016 issue. Follow her on Instagram.