Want a Better Butt and Legs? Try These Exercises!
Toned legs and a well-developed set of glutes should be exercise goals for everyone. The hamstrings and glutes are what fill out a pair of jeans nicely, and give us shape and contours where we want them. So with this in mind, we have put together a list of the 5 best exercises to get amazing legs and glutes through exercise isolation!
Top 5 Exercises for Nice Butts and Legs
1. Barbell Hip Thrust
The hip thrust was first introduced into regular training by the Glute Guy himself, Bret Contreras (a genius in glute development).
While first considered an excellent way to improve athletic performance (which it still is), it has since been shown to lead to excellent development of both hamstrings and glutes. Let’s use the hip thrust to create amazing legs and glutes.
To perform the hip thrust, all you need is a bench and some glutes. Weight for your hips (a bar, dumbbell, or whatever you have on hand) adds difficulty if you want a challenge.
With this one, you set up with your upper back lying flat on the bench, your hips flexed to 90 degrees with your bum on the ground, and whatever weight you’re using (if you are using one) resting across your hips.
You then drive up into full hip extension so that a straight line is formed from the top of your head to your knees, which are now bent to 90 degrees. You basically make a table out of your torso.
While it does seem quite simple, there are a few key cues to maximize the benefits of this movement:
- Keep your heels on the ground
- Brace your abs (this limits spinal movement)
- Squeeze your bum hard
Tick these boxes and the barbell hip thrust becomes one of the best movements for overall leg development.
2. Split Squat
The split squat is often overlooked for squats and deadlifts when it comes to developing an incredible set of pins. This is a shame because it is one of the most effective movements you can perform for leg and glute development.
The split squat is a single leg squatting variation where the back leg remains supported on the ground throughout the entire duration of the movement. This is similar to a lunge, but don’t mistake it for one! You are not to engage your back leg; it is only for balance.
Split squats target the glutes, hamstrings, and quads in a similar fashion to traditional squats, but with one key benefit — since they challenge hip stability, they involve the gluteus medius muscle (which provides stability to the hips).
This muscle sits on the side of the hip, and its growth leads to an improvement in overall glute development. And, when underdeveloped, can impact everything from the shape of your butt to your gait. Do yourself and your butt a favor and start doing split squats!
3. Romanian Deadlift
Unlike a typical weight room deadlift, the Romanian deadlift (RDL for short) is a variation that absolutely smokes the glutes and the hamstrings. Where traditional deadlifts are performed from the floor up, RDLs actually work the other way. They start in the top position.
From neutral (standing holding our weights or bar in our hands), we slide the weight down the front of our legs, driving the hips back the wall. During this movement we want soft knees, but also want to minimize knee bend. Once we feel the tension in the hamstrings, we then drive back up, pushing our feet into the ground and squeezing our bum as hard as we possibly can at the top.
This results in an extremely hip dominant movement, which works the hamstrings and the glutes very hard while also minimizing the involvement of the quads.
4. Deep Goblet Squat
While some exercises should be prioritized over traditional weighted squats and deadlifts (when talking about leg and glute development, specifically), that does not mean that they should be discounted completely. Especially when talking about deep goblet squats.
A goblet squat is essentially a regular squat performed while holding the weight (most commonly a kettlebell or a dumbbell) in front of the body. This forces increased activation of the abdominals, which allows us to sink deeper into the squat. This increases the amount of work done by both the quads and the glutes, leading to maximal leg development.
One key thing to focus on with these is to drive your knees out and imagine you are ‘spreading the floor apart’ on the way up from the bottom position. This promotes abduction of the hip, which greatly increases gluteus medius activation (which, as we know, is imperative to well-developed glutes).
5. Single Leg Hip Lift
Similar to the barbell hip thrust, the single-leg hip lift is an extremely hip-dominant movement performed with bent legs. But rather than set up with our back on the bench, we set up with our back on the floor. And rather than drive up using both legs, we drive up using one!
Using a single leg increases stability required at the hip, with seriously improves glute activation. So make sure you keep your ego at the door with these, as they are deceptively brutal!
It is important to maintain a nice, neutral spinal position with these and drive through the heel of your grounded foot, squeezing your bum hard at the top. This ensures optimal hip activation and maximizes muscle recruitment, leading to growth and development of the legs and glutes.
And there you have it. While traditional squats and deadlifts are excellent lower body exercises, they are subpar when it comes to hamstring and glute development — which, as we now know, is absolutely essential to a shapely pair of amazing legs.
Crushing both the hamstring and gluteal muscle groups provides shape and contour to the legs and butt, producing that round and lean look that is so desirable. So with all of this in mind, utilize the five key exercises outlined in this article to maximize muscular development. Achieve amazing legs and glutes in no time!
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