Glute isolation – 10 effective exercises to target your butt

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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 2024

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.

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. See an exercise mat buying guide here.

The chart shows you how many reps to do of each exercise and exercise instructions are below the chart.

Glute isolation exercises at home chart 2024

Exercise instructions

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

Kneeling leg lift

Donkey kick

Donkey kick pulse

Hamstring curl

Fire hydrant

Glute bridge

Single leg glute bridge

Side lying leg raise 2

Side lying leg circles

Clamshells

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