The glutes are the largest muscle in the body, so strengthening them is a smart move — not only for everyday life but for how you’ll feel as you lift heavy objects or sit from your 9 to 5 — or let’s be honest, longer than 5.
Don’t worry, you don’t need anything fancy to get a good glute workout. In fact, you don’t need weights to work your backside at all.
To see results, complete a glute workout twice a week. You’ll see results in just a month or two, no weights required.
Below are 15 glute exercises without weights that’ll shape and strengthen your derriere. Keep reading to learn how many sets and reps you need to craft a fulfilling routine.
Complete 10 minutes of light to moderate cardio before jumping in. This could be power walking, jogging, biking, or even dancing around — whatever feels good and gets your blood pumping.
A gold-standard glute exercise, squats are worth every ounce of effort. Go slow and controlled, focusing on good form, to target your backside in the most effective way.
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms down by your sides.
- Begin to bend your knees, bringing your arms up in front of you and pushing your butt back as if you’re going to sit in a chair. Ensure that your knees fall out, not in, and stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- When you reach parallel, push up back to start with your weight in your heels.
- Repeat 3 sets of 12 reps.
2. Reverse leg lift
The key to an effective reverse leg lift is to isolate the glute during the movement, letting it push your leg up toward the sky.
- Lie facedown on the ground, resting your face on your arms bent in front of you.
- Using your glute, raise your right leg off of the ground, taking it as high as you can while keeping your hips square to the ground. Flex your ankle throughout the movement.
- Return to start.
- Complete 12 reps on this leg, then switch. Complete 3 sets.
3. Curtsy squat
Curtsy squats target your gluteus medius, the outer glute muscle, for a well-rounded look and feel. The lower your squat, the more you’ll feel it.
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms down at your hips.
- Begin to bend your knees and, on the way down, step your right leg back and to the left in a curtsy motion.
- When your left thigh is parallel to the ground, push up through your left heel and back to start.
- Repeat 12 reps on this side and switch legs.
4. Split squat
Not only will split squats work your glutes, they challenge your balance — another bonus.
- Take a large step forward with your right foot and distribute your weight evenly between your feet.
- Bend your knees and squat down, stopping when your right thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Push up through your right foot, completing 3 sets of 12 reps.
- Switch to your left foot and repeat.
Step-ups are an ideal functional exercise, helping you move better in daily life. They’ll also make your glutes stronger.
- Stand with a bench or step in front of you.
- Starting with your right foot, step up onto the bench, lightly tapping your left foot to the surface while keeping your weight in your right heel.
- Step your left foot back down to the floor while keeping your right foot on the bench.
- Repeat 3 sets of 12 reps, then switch legs.
6. Leg kickbacks
Even without weight, leg kickbacks will have your glutes feeling sore the next day.
- Start on all fours, your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your knees directly underneath your hips. Keep your neck neutral and brace your core.
- Starting with the right leg, extend your knee, sending your right foot behind you, keeping your ankle flexed.
- Squeeze your glute at the top, then lower your leg back to start. Ensure that your hips stay square to the ground throughout the movement.
- Complete 12 reps on the right, then 12 on the left. Repeat for 3 sets.
This exercise works your entire posterior chain, including the glutes. Squeezing them throughout the movement will ensure good engagement.
- Lie facedown on the ground with your arms and legs extended.
- Lift your chest and legs up off the ground as high as they will go. Keep your neck neutral.
- Return to start. Repeat for 3 sets of 12 reps.
While squats put pressure on your lower back, bridge allows you target your glutes and hamstrings without back strain.
- Lie on the ground, knees bent and feet on the floor. Your arms should be at your sides with your palms on the ground.
- Pushing through your heels, raise your body off of the ground, forming a straight line between your upper body and knees.
- Brace your core throughout the movement and squeeze your glutes at the top.
- Return to start. Repeat 3 sets of 12 reps.
Another exercise that hits your gluteus medius — an important muscle for pulling your leg away from the midline. This one may look simple but it’s truly effective.
1. Lie on your right side with your knees bent and legs stacked on top of one another. Bend your right arm, bring your hand to head and hold up your upper body.
2. Keeping your feet together and knees bent, lift your right leg up as high as it will go.
3. Slowly return to start. Repeat 10 reps, then switch sides. Complete 3 sets.
10. Broad jump
Plyometric exercises like the broad jump require lots of force to execute, especially because you don’t get a running start. Using your glutes and quads to explode upward is quite a workout.
1. Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms down at your sides.
2. Squat down slightly and, with force, jump as far as you can, using your arms to propel yourself forward.
3. Land softly on the balls of your feet. Immediately squat down slightly and jump forward once again.
4. Complete 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
11. Plié squat
Channeling dance, the plié squat is an inner thigh and glute burner.
1. Step your feet out wide with toes pointed out.
2. Start to bend your knees, squatting down as far as you can go.
3. Push up through your heels, squeezing your inner thighs and glutes at the top.
4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.
12. Squat jack
Part cardio, part strength, squat jacks give you the best of both worlds. Challenge yourself to squat lower with each rep.
1. Start standing, feet together with your arms bent and hands interlocked behind your head.
2. Jump your feet out and when they land, immediately squat down, keeping your arms where they are.
3. Extend your legs and jump your feet back to the starting position, then immediately jump back out again.
4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.
13. Side lunge
It’s important to work your muscles in all planes of motion. The side lunge hits the sides of your glutes and your inner and outer thighs.
1. Start standing with your feet together and your arms out in front of you.
2. Step your right foot directly out to your side, bending your knee and pushing your butt back as you go. Keep your left leg straight and stationary.
3. Push off of your right foot, straightening your right leg and returning to start.
4. Repeat 3 sets for 12 reps.
14. Upward plank
We all know how beneficial planks are for your full body — the upward plank is no exception. In this move, your glutes are working hard to hold the weight of your body off of the ground.
1. Start sitting with your legs extended, back bent slightly and your arms straight, palms on the ground and fingertips facing your butt.
2. Inhale and, using your core, push yourself up off the ground so your body forms a straight line from head to foot. Allow your head to fall back so your neck is in line with your spine. Hold here.
3. Begin with 10- to 15-second increments and hold as long as you’re able to keep proper form.
15. Squat pulses
Pulsing in a squat increases time under tension, which means more work on the muscle and a bigger payout.
1. Get into a squat position, feet shoulder-width apart and hands together out in front of you.
2. Squat down, and instead of rising all the way back up, rise less than half way and drop back down.
3. Complete 3 sets of 20 pulses.
Stretch or foam roll after your workout to give your muscles some TLC. Our guide to foam rolling is a great place to start.
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.