5 Moves That Will Help You Get a Stronger Butt

Squats are a great exercise, but researchers using an EMG machine — a device that measures muscular contraction — found they work your thighs almost three times harder than your butt!

So here are five exercises that will build that booty up and strengthen and tone your legs without putting on much bulk.

Pick any of these exercises and use them instead of squats in your workout routine.

Romanian Deadlift
Polina Liu

Romanian Deadlift

My go-to exercise for strengthening and toning hamstrings and glutes. You can do this with a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbell. Ladies, we are much stronger than we give ourselves credit for! Start off light but aim to work up to at least half bodyweight when you improve. Lift heavier weight and do fewer reps; if you are going past 12 reps it’s time to increase the weight!

  • Start with the weight on the ground and positioned close to your shins. Your knees are slightly bent, back straight and chest up. If you’re using a kettlebell or dumbbell put the weight between your feet.
  • Push your hips back, bend your knees and pick up the weight, keeping it close to you at all times. Stand up straight as we’re now ready to start!
  • Push your hips back as far as they go without falling over, whilst maintaining a flat lower back and holding your core tight. Unlock your knees a touch while the weight is descending but only a touch! This will keep the effort on your hamstrings and glutes.
  • Once your hips do not go any further and you can lower the weight no more, pause briefly, then push your hips forwards and lift your chest up to return to the start position.
  • Start off with three sets of six to eight reps and rest 30 - 60 seconds between the sets.
Kettlebell Swing
Polina Liu

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is one of my favorite cardio exercises and it is also awesome for building all the muscles on the back of your body, especially your glutes.

  • Start with a kettlebell between your feet and your feet a bit over shoulder width apart.
  • Lift the kettlebell with both hands and swing it back behind you.
  • Exhale sharply and swing the kettlebell forward explosively, powering the movement with your hips.
  • At the top of the swing, inhale swiftly and swing it back down and repeat.
  • Train for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Once you get better at swings you can either aim to fit more reps in the 30 seconds or work up to training for 60 seconds.
Cable Pull Through
Polina Liu

Cable Pull Through

This exercise is unique in that it works your glutes in the horizontal plane. This looks deceptively easy but will strengthen and build shapely glutes fast.

  • Set the pulley low on the cable stack machine.
  • Use the rope or V attachment as this makes it easier to pull through your legs.
  • Inhale, then hinge at the hips, keeping a flat back with your chest up.
  • Once you reach the bottom, exhale and push through with your hips to return to the standing position.
  • You can perform pull throughs for higher reps. I recommend two or three sets, with 12 reps per set.
BOSU Hip Bridge
Polina Liu

BOSU Hip Bridge

We might be focusing on the glutes in these moves, but the hamstrings are equally important for health and fitness too. The hip bridge is my choice as it works the stabilizer muscles in the legs as well as the glutes.

  • Lie on your back, and place both feet on the flat side of a BOSU ball.
  • Pushing through the BOSU ball with your heel, lift your hips up until they are fully extended.
  • Hold for a brief moment and return to the start position.
  • You can perform the hip bridge for reps or hold the position for time. Your choice!
One-Legged Hip Thrust
Polina Liu

One-Legged Hip Thrust

Hip thrusts look, well let’s be honest, kind of rude but there's a lot of research on which exercises target your glutes most effectively and this exercise came out top! I’ve adapted the standard exercise which rests a barbell across your hips because, as a woman, they can be a bit uncomfortable. Once you get better at the move, you can rest a kettlebell or dumbbell on the top of your thigh to increase the intensity.

  • Lean back against a secure bench so your back is at about 45 degrees.
  • Keep your low back flat.
  • Bend your knees to about 45 degrees.
  • Rest a dumbbell or kettlebell against your right thigh (optional).
  • Lift your left foot off the ground.
  • In one smooth movement, push through your right heel until your hips are fully extended.
  • Perform the exercise with your other leg.
  • Our glutes are strong. If you’re doing this with bodyweight alone, I recommend sets of 20 reps. If you’re using a weight, once you’re confident, aim for five to six reps per set.