9 Butt Exercises that Make Way More Sense Than Squats, According to Science

Elizabeth Narins
·5-min read
Photo credit: john francis
Photo credit: john francis

From Cosmopolitan

Wow, I really hate to be the one to bring you this news, but (sadly) the basic squat alone isn't going to glow up your butt. Really! I'm sorry!

One 2019 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that Romanian deadlifts and weighted hip bridges worked participants' booties harder than the back squat (you know, that move where you put a barbell behind your neck and drop it low?)

That's not to say that squats don't impact your butt at all, says Brittany Perille Yobe, a NASM-certified personal trainer and amazing butt haver. “Of course, squats engage the glutes,” says Perille Yobe. “But compound movements such as squats and lunges train more of the quads, lower back, and hamstrings, so they won’t automatically result in greater glutes.”

Fun fact: If you're a runner who uses your quads on the reg, that could even lead to an injury caused by a muscle imbalance.

So instead of squatting like it's hot, the key to your best butt is targeting those juicy muscles from different angles, says Perille Yobe. She adds that during lower body workouts she cycles through about 10 different exercises that isolate the glutes.

And while the best way to grow that donk is to perform weight-bearing exercises, you don't need barbells or dumbbells to go after your goals. In fact, these nine moves from New York City-based personal trainer Chelsea Dornan require zero equipment and are way better than that basic moves you've been doing. Let's gooo!

The workout

Perform each exercise for 45 to 60 seconds on each side in the order listed. Then repeat the sequence up to three times to seriously feel the burn.

1. Single-Leg Glute Bridge

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Extend one leg.

Step 2: On your exhale, squeeze your glutes and push your hips toward the ceiling as high as you can. Pause, then lower until your butt hovers right above the floor, and repeat without touching the ground to complete one rep.

2. Hydrants With Leg Extension

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Step 1: Begin on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and your wrists stacked over your shoulders.

Step 2: Keeping your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, lift your right leg out to hip height, then extend your raised leg straight out to the side. Pause before you bend your knee again and bring your leg back to the starting position to complete one rep.

3. Rainbows

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Step 1: Begin on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and your wrists stacked over your shoulders.

Step 2: With a pointed toe, extend your right leg and reach the foot toward the ceiling. Slowly lower your leg to tap the floor. Squeeze your glutes as you lift your leg back to the starting position, then lower your leg to tap the floor about a foot to the left of your kneeling foot. Return to starting position to complete the rep.

4. Curtsy Lunges

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands pressed together at chest level.

Step 2: Keeping your hips square, step your left leg diagonally behind you and bend both knees at a 90-degree angle, keeping the knees behind the toes. Pause, then press into your right heel to return to the standing position as you extend your left leg into a side kick. That’s one rep.

5. Heel-Lifted Sumo Squat

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Step 1: Begin with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed outward. Lift your left heel.

Step 2: Sit your hips back as you lower your butt toward the floor, keeping your knees behind your toes and bracing your core to help you balance. Pause, then press into your right heel to stand up into the starting position to complete one rep.

6. Bear Plank Leg Lifts


Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Step 1: Begin in a plank position with your shoulders stacked above your wrists and your body in a straight line between the top of your head and your heels.

Step 2: Lift your right leg and bend the knee 90 degrees, bringing your heel toward your butt. With a flexed foot, squeeze your glutes and raise your right heel toward the ceiling as high as you can. Pause, then bring your right knee back to meet your left knee to complete one rep.

7. Single-Leg Dead Lift

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Step 1: Stand on your right foot with your left leg bent in front of you, knee at hip height.

Step 2: Engage your glutes as you slowly fold forward, reaching both hands toward the ground as you extend your left leg straight out behind you. Pause, then return to starting position with control to complete one rep.

8. Sumo Squat to Calf Raise


Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Step 1: Begin with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward.

Step 2: Keeping your knees over your ankles and chest high, bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. With control, raise one heel as high as you can without compromising your form. Release it to the floor, then repeat on the opposite side to complete one rep. Continue to alternate sides.

9. Squat to Sumo


Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Step 1: Begin with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward. Keeping your knees behind your toes, sit your hips back into a squat.

Step 2: Pulse up a few inches as you turn your toes 45 degrees outward and sink your hips back into a low squat. Pulse up to bring your toes forward, and continue to alternate foot positioning as you pulse.

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