Whether you’re an athlete, powerlifter, bodybuilder, or a typical fitness enthusiast, having solid glutes is essential.
The glute is one of the human body’s superior muscles involved in various activities, from sitting on the couch and walking to lifting weights and jumping.
It is made of three different muscles – gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus.
Strong glutes provide stability to your torso, minimize the risk of lower back injuries, help you sit for a longer duration, and help you lift heavy during compound lifts, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.
You can bolster your gluteal muscles in multiple ways with and without equipment.
In this article, I’ve shared some of the best compound glute exercises to help you increase strength and mass and build a sizeable buttock.
What are Compound Exercises?
Compound exercises activate and engage several muscles simultaneously. They are excellent for promoting strength and hypertrophy in the lower body compared to isolation exercises, a European Journal of Translational Myology s study suggested.1Goncalves A, Gentil P, Steele J, Giessing J, Paoli A, Fisher JP. Comparison of single- and multi-joint lower body resistance training upon strength increases in recreationally active males and females: a within-participant unilateral training study. Eur J Transl Myol. 2019;29(1):8052. Published 2019 Feb 27. doi:10.4081/ejtm.2019.8052
The step-up, deadlift, hip thrust, and belt squat are some best examples of compound movements for glute development.
Doing them consistently will help you build muscular buttocks.
The Best Compound Exercises for Glutes Based on Studies
Step up and its variations, hex bar deadlift, and barbell hip thrust are some of the most effective compound exercises for glutes that elicit the highest muscle activation and increase strength and mass.
Here’s a complete list of glute compound exercises based on a systematic review published online by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.2 Neto WK, Soares EG, Vieira TL, et al. Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review. J Sports Sci Med. 2020;19(1):195-203. Published 2020 Feb 24.
- Lateral Step-Up
- Crossover Step-up
- Trap bar Deadlift
- Barbell Hip Thrust
- Rotation Barbell Hip Thrust
- Belt Squat
- Split Squat
- Modified Single-leg Squat
- Single-leg RDL
- Traditional Deadlift
- Parallel Back Squat
- Front Squat
- Stiff-Leg Deadlift
- Sumo Deadlift
Let’s see how to do the top six compound glute exercises from the above list with step-by-step instructions and how to incorporate them into your workout regime.
Top 6 Compound Glute Exercises for Size and Strength
Here are six different compound exercises that help build sturdy and toned glutes.
- Dumbbell Step-Up
- Trap Bar Deadlift
- Barbell Hip Thrust
- Belt Squat
- Weighted Lunges
|Beginner to Intermediate
|Dumbbells or Kettlebells
The step-up and its variations elicit the highest activation in the gluteal muscles and help build a firm buttock.
You can do it with and without weight, but doing it with dumbbells or kettlebells produces higher muscle contraction and maximum results.
Steps to do dumbbell box step up
- Stand straight in the hip-width stance in front of the box, holding one dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight at your sides and palms facing your body. You can also keep the dumbbells on your shoulders by bending your elbows.
- Step your right foot on the box while keeping your left leg straight.
- Press your right foot into the box to straighten your right leg, and bring your left leg onto the box, so you’re staying in the standing position.
- Reverse the steps to complete one rep for your right leg. And repeat the same steps to perform the next rep with your left leg.
- Do the desired number of sets and repetitions with 1-minute rest between each set.
- Always use your front foot to lift yourself onto the box.
Other than regular step-up, you can do several types of step-ups, such as lateral, diagonal, and cross over step-ups.
2. Hex or Trap Bar Deadlift
|Hex/Trap Bar and Plates
Hex-bar deadlifts generate higher glute activation than other exercises like the Sumo deadlift, split squat, and lunge.
It is also easier to perform than a conventional deadlift and puts less stress on the lumbar spine.
Including it in your compound workout routine is best to strengthen your gluteus muscle.
Steps to do a hex bar deadlift:
- Stand upright in the hip-width stance in the middle of the hex bar.
- Push your hips back, bend your knees and lower yourself to grab the handles of the trap bar.
- Keep your chest up and shoulder blades down so that you can lift the weight powerfully.
- Raise your hips and shoulders at the same range while maintaining a straight back.
- Take a long breath and lift the bar with full strength until your hips come forward.
- Hold for a couple of seconds, then slowly lower the weight on the floor. That’s one rep!
- Do as many reps as you can.
- Keep your core tight during the whole lift.
3. Barbell Hip Thrust
|Barbell, weight plates, and sponge pad
The barbell hip thrust is one of the most effective conventional workouts for the lower body. It works on multiple muscles simultaneously, such as the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, lower back, hamstrings, side quad, and core.3 Neto WK, Vieira TL, Gama EF. Barbell Hip Thrust, Muscular Activation and Performance: A Systematic Review. J Sports Sci Med. 2019;18(2):198-206. Published 2019 Jun 1.
You can do the hip thrust in several ways, such as by placing a dumbbell or weight plate on your hips.
The best and safest way to do hip thrust is using a barbell. The barbell allows a complete range of motion and helps you perform hip thrusts safely and effectively.
How to do a Barbell Hip Thrust:
- Put the appropriate weight into the bar and attach a thick sponge to the center of the bar.
- Place your upper back on the bench with your feet flat on the floor (shoulder-width apart) in front of you, knees bent to 90 degrees, so your chest and knees are in line.
- Put a balance pad on your hip for extra safety, and place the bar on your hips.
- Keeping your core tight, thrust the bar upward as quickly as possible. Once you reach your top, hold for a couple of seconds and lower your hips to the start. That’s one rep.
- Focus on squeezing your Glutes throughout the movement.
- Do four sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 repetitions.
4. Belt Squat
|Intermediate to Advanced
|Belt squat machine
The belt squat is one of the unknown but super effective compound workouts that highly activate and engage lower body muscles, including the glutes Maximus.
This isn’t suitable for naive gym goers; if you’re a beginner, you’ll need to improve the back squat first.
If you’re an intermediate, check out the steps below on how to do a belt squat.
- Wear the belt on your lower back and tightly tie lower your hips (below your stomach).
- Stand upright in front of the belt squat machine with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Insert the weight according to your strength in the bar and attach the belt to the chain.
- Place your hands on the machine in front of you for help. That’s the start.
- Push your hips back, bend your knees and squat down until your glute is parallel to the ground.
- Hold for a couple of seconds, and then press into the floor with your feet to return to standing. That’s one complete repetition.
- Do three sets of 12, 10, and 8 repetitions.
The belt squat works more on glute muscle than other squat variations, but if you don’t have access to a belt squat machine, you can do a standard barbell back squat.
|Beginner to Intermediate
The lunge is also excellent for activating lower body muscles, including the gluteus maximus.
It has several variations, such as body weight lunges, dumbbell lunges, and barbell lunges (forward and backward).
The weighted lunges can help you increase strength and mass and tone your glute muscle.
I’ve shared both dumbbell and smith machine lunges so you can do them on different days.
How to perform dumbbell forward lunges:
- Stand straight in the shoulder-width stance holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides with arms fully extended.
- Take a big step forward with your left foot and keep your right foot firmly on the ground so you’re in a split stance.
- Bend your left knee to squat down until the right knee touches the ground.
- Press into the floor with your front leg to push yourself back up in a staggered stance. That’s your one rep for your left leg.
- Do 6 to 8 reps and switch on the opposite side.
- Keep your core and glutes engaged throughout the movement.
- Complete three sets of 10, 8, and 6 repetitions.
How to do smith machine reverse lunges:
- Set the bar to an appropriate height and weight according to your strength.
- Attach a balance pad to the center of the bar so you can place it over your rear shoulder.
- Get under the bar, place it behind your head on your shoulder and grab it with an overhand grip. And stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. That’s the start.
- Keeping your core tight and back straight, take one large step backward with your right foot and keep your left one firmly on the ground so you’re in the staggered stance.
- Bend your front knee to squat down until the rear knee touches the ground.
- Pause for a couple of seconds and then push into the floor with your front foot until your legs are fully straight (return to the staggered stance). That’s your one rep.
- Focus on squeezing your lower body muscles during the movement.
- Do four sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 repetitions.
6. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
You need a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell to perform this exercise.
Steps to perform a one-leg RDL:
- Insert the appropriate weight in the bar and grab it firmly with an overhand grip.
- Stand upright with your feet together, and keep your arms straight in front of your thigh.
- Lower the bar and lift your right leg off the floor simultaneously until your torso and leg are parallel to the ground.
- Pause for a moment and extend your trunk and leg in the upright position. That’s one rep. Perform three sets of eight to ten reps on each side.
Do Compound Exercises Build Bigger Glutes?
Yes, compound exercises are proven to be the most effective way to build glute strength and size. Research suggests step-up and its variations, hex bar deadlift, hip thrust, and squat are some of the effective compound exercises that trigger the highest glute muscle activation and increase mass, stability, and posture.
How Often Should You Train Glutes?
You can train your glutes once or twice a week to build strength and size.
How to incorporate compound glute exercises into a workout program?
For example, you’ll do glute exercises on your leg day in a PPL program and on lower body day if you follow a split training.
Depending on your workout routine, you can integrate a couple of exercises into your training program.
The Bottom Line
The gluteal muscles are involved in various activities, from sitting on a chair and jogging to lifting weights and jumping.
Solid glutes provide stability to the upper body, reduce the risk of lower back and hamstring injuries, help you sit for a longer duration, and support you during heavy compound lifting.
So, whether you’re an athlete, powerlifter, bodybuilder, or a typical fitness enthusiast, you can include some of the best compound glute exercises to build sturdy buttocks.
The compound workouts activate and engage the glutes Maximus in an effective way and produce maximum results.
Alternatively, you can combine isolation exercises with compound movements to hit your gluteal muscles from every angle.
- 1Goncalves A, Gentil P, Steele J, Giessing J, Paoli A, Fisher JP. Comparison of single- and multi-joint lower body resistance training upon strength increases in recreationally active males and females: a within-participant unilateral training study. Eur J Transl Myol. 2019;29(1):8052. Published 2019 Feb 27. doi:10.4081/ejtm.2019.8052
- 2Neto WK, Soares EG, Vieira TL, et al. Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review. J Sports Sci Med. 2020;19(1):195-203. Published 2020 Feb 24.
- 3Neto WK, Vieira TL, Gama EF. Barbell Hip Thrust, Muscular Activation and Performance: A Systematic Review. J Sports Sci Med. 2019;18(2):198-206. Published 2019 Jun 1.