Glute isolation – 10 effective exercises to target your butt


Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 09:11 pm

Improve your glute strength and tone with this glute isolation workout plan. Depending on whether you want to improve weak glutes or build your butt, you can do them with or without ankle weights (see below). All 10 exercises target the glute muscles, with some focusing more on the maximus muscle and some on the medius and minimus muscles.

Glute isolation exercises at home PDF

What are glute isolation exercises?

Isolation exercises usually use actions that are carried out by only one muscle (or muscle group), to make sure that muscle is being worked as hard as possible. Often, compound exercises – where several muscle groups all work together – are a better choice than isolation exercises. This is because they train balance, coordination and core strength too. But there are two reasons why you might want to do glute isolation exercises:

Training glutes that have become weak and inactive

One of the problems of inactive lifestyles is that we develop imbalances in our muscles. When we’re not using all our muscles regularly, some become tight and others become weak.  The glutes tend to get weak and “lazy” as a result of inactivity. When this happens, exercises that should engage the glutes fail to do so and other muscles do the job that the glutes should be doing. To overcome this, we need to do exercises which specifically target the glutes and which other muscles can’t take over – glute isolation exercises.

Building muscle bulk in the glutes

The other reason you might want to do glute isolation exercises is if you want the “bubble butt” look. If this is what you’re aiming for, do the exercises in this workout with ankle weights for added resistance. Adjustable weights are good, because you can add more weight as your muscles get stronger.

GET ADJUSTABLE WEIGHTS FOR THIS WORKOUT HERE

Anatomy of the glutes

There are 3 glute muscles – minimus, medius and maximus. Between them, they carry out the following actions at the hip joint:

  • Extension (taking the leg behind the body or extending from hip flexion as in squats and glute bridges)
  • Abduction (lifting the leg to the side)
  • Inward and outward rotation of the leg

This workout uses a combination of these actions to activate all the glute muscles.  The instructions for the exercises are below and you can get a printable of the workout at the bottom of the post.

Problems caused by weak glutes

The gluteus maximum is more developed in humans than other animals, because it holds us in the upright standing position. When the glutes are weak, they allow the pelvis to tilt forward and there is often a slight leaning forward of the upper body too. Other features of this posture pattern are:

  • Poor abdominal tone
  • Tight hip flexors
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Increased curve in lower back, increasing the risk of pain and injury

Strengthening up the glutes with isolation exercises will help to correct the pelvic tilt and improve the other problems. Ideally, exercises for weak glutes should be accompanied by stretches for the hamstrings and hip flexors and core training.

Glute isolation workout

Before you do this workout, please read these general exercise guidelines.

Warming up: since this is a low impact workout and the first 3 exercises aren’t likely to over-stretch your muscles and tendons, it’s OK to do this workout without warming up. However, if you’re using weights, you should do a warm up set of the first 3 exercises first.

You’ll need to have some sort of cushioned surface – ideally an exercise mat. If you don’t have a mat, then use a folded blanket or something similar.

GET A MAT FOR THIS WORKOUT HERE

The exercises

Exercises 1-5 all start from an all-fours kneeling position.

#1 Straight leg lifts

Hip extension

  1. Straighten one leg and keeping your back straight, lift your leg until it is parallel with the floor.
  2. Make sure that you don’t lift too high and that you don’t arch your back.
  3. Lower and repeat. When you’ve done 16 lifts, repeat on the other side.

#2 Donkey kicks

Glute isolation exercises at home donkey kick

  1. Making sure you keep your back held straight and your knee flexed at 90°, lift one leg up towards the ceiling.
  2. Stop when your thigh is parallel to the floor.
  3. Lower and repeat.  After 16 lifts change to the other leg.

#3 Donkey kick pulses

Donkey kick pulse

Lift your leg up into a donkey kick.  From here, make small pulse movements of 1-2 inches down and up.

#4 Hamstring curl

This exercise doesn’t isolate the glutes as it also works the hamstrings. However, it’s included here because the glutes have to work hard to hold the upper leg lifted and horizontal. You’ll find that as you get tired, it’s hard to hold the leg lifted. This is your glutes tiring, not your hamstrings.

Glute isolation hmastring curl

  1. Keeping your back straight, lift one leg until it is parallel with the floor.
  2. Now hold your leg there and bend your knee, so that your foot comes towards your body.
  3. Reverse the movement, so that your leg is straight again, then repeat. After 16 curls change to the other leg.

#5 Fire hydrants

Fire hydrant

  1. Lift one leg out to to side, making sure your knee stays bent at 90°.
  2. Lift as high as you can without rotating your spine and pelvis, then lower and repeat. After 16 lifts, repeat on the other leg.

For exercises 6 & 7, start by lying on your back, with your arms by your side and your feet hip distance apart.

#6 glute bridge

glute bridge

  1. Contract your glute muscles to lift your hips up off the floor into the bridge position.  You should finish with your body making a straight line as shown.
  2. Release back down and repeat.

#7 single leg glute bridge

Single leg glute bridge

  1. Get into the bridge position as above
  2. Keeping your hips lifted and your thighs together extend one leg out.
  3. Keep this leg extended as you raise and lower your hips. When you have completed 16 lifts, repeat with the other leg.

The starting position for exercises 8-10 is lying on your side with your head supported on your arm, your supporting leg slightly bent and your other arm in front to help steady your body.

#8 Side lying leg raise

Glute isolation side leg raise

Making sure you don’t allow your body to lean backwards, lift and lower your right leg.  Keep your foot flexed and pointed slightly towards the floor. When you’ve done 16 lifts, repeat on the other side.

#9 Leg circles

Glute isolation exercises at home - leg circles

Lift your leg as for the leg raise, then make small circles clockwise for 8, followed by circles anticlockwise for 8. Then repeat on the other side.

#10 clam shells

Clamshells

  1. This time, bend the top leg as well for the starting position.
  2. Keeping your feet together, rotate your top leg from your hip to lift your knee. Make sure you don’t rotate your pelvis, it’s only the leg that should be moving.
  3. Lower and repeat. When you’ve done 16 lifts, repeat on the other side.

Get a free printable of the glute isolation exercises PDF

Glute isolation exercises at home printable

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