8 Best Unilateral Glute Exercises for Strength and Size

Unilateral glute exercises

Unilateral or single-leg exercises allow you to focus more on your weaker side and correct strength imbalance.

In this article, I’ve shared the top six unilateral glute exercises that can help you build sturdy, rounded, and symmetrical glutes.

Whether you’re male or female, you can incorporate these exercises into your lower body workout routine to improve overall glute development.

8 Best Unilateral Glute Exercises to Build Firm Buttock

  1. Step-up
  2. Single-leg Glute Bridge
  3. One-leg Romanian Deadlift
  4. Single-leg Hip Thrust
  5. Bulgarian Sprinter Squat
  6. Glute Kickback
  7. Unilateral Hip Abduction Machine
  8. Long Leg March

1. Step-up

Single leg glute exercises

The step-up is one of the best unilateral glute activation exercises that allows you to work on each leg individually and helps enhance lower body strength and mobility.

A study published by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine has shown that the step-up and its variations highly stimulate the gluteus maximus compared to various exercises, such as hip thrusts, squats, deadlifts, and lunges.1 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.

You can perform multiple step-up variations, such as lateral, diagonal, and cross-over, to hit your glutes from every angle and build a sturdy butt.

Let’s see how to perform a standard dumbbell step-up with step-by-step:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip and stand in front of a bench or box with your feet together and arms straight at your sides. That’s the start.
  2. Step your right foot on the box, and then pressing through its heel, bring your left foot too, so you’re standing on the box.
  3. Descent your legs one at a time to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side and focus more on your weaker leg.

Exercise Tips:

  • Place your entire foot on the box when you step on it.
  • Use a box or bench that is at least 12 inches in height.
  • Keep your core tight to stabilize your body during the movement.

2. Single-Leg Glute Bridge

Single-Leg Glute Bridge

The unilateral hip bridge allows you to work on one glute at a time, helping you develop stronger and balanced glutes.

It also engages the hamstring, erector spine, and core and makes your lower body strong and flexible.

Steps to perform one-leg glute bridge:

  1. Lie on the floor with your face up, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms down.
  3. Brace your abdominal muscles, extend your one leg, and lift it off the floor.
  4. Press your hands into the floor and raise your hips until your knee and chest are in a straight line.
  5. Feel the contraction for a few seconds before lowering your hip back to the floor.
  6. Perform the desired repetitions and repeat on the opposite side.

Exercise Tips:

  • Do not overextend your hips to avoid putting unnecessary stress on your lower back.
  • Your one leg will be extended and off the floor throughout the movement.

3. Single-Leg Hip Thrust

The single-leg hip thrust targets the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and other hip muscles and helps build a solid and defined butt.

It also allows working on each glute individually and helps improve strength imbalances and muscular symmetry.

Steps to perform a unilateral hip thrust:

  1. Grab a loaded barbell, put a thick sponge under it, and put it on your hips.
  2. Keep your upper back on the bench, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Lift your one leg off the floor, bend your knee, and brace your core. That’s the start.
  4. Thrust your hip upward until your glutes are fully engaged.
  5. Hold for a couple of seconds, then return to the start and repeat.

Exercise Tips:

  • Focus on squeezing your glutes throughout the movement.
  • Keep your core, glutes, and legs as tight as possible while thrusting your hips.

4. One-leg Romanian Deadlift

Unilateral glute activation exercise

The unilateral deadlift is a strength and mobility exercise that reinforces the posterior chain muscles, including the gluteus maximus.

It requires you to lower the weight while raising one leg backward until your chest and rear leg are parallel to the floor.

Steps to perform a single-leg RDL:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand with an overhead grip and stand upright with your feet together and arms straight against your thighs. That’s the start.
  2. Hinging at your hips, bend your torso forward and lift your right leg behind until they are parallel to the floor.
  3. Press through your left heel and slowly return to the starting position. Perform five to six reps and repeat on the opposite side.

Exercise Tips:

  • Maintain a neutral spine by engaging your core and keeping your chest up.
  • You can softly bend your knees for better stability while bending down.

5. Bulgarian Sprinter Squat

The Bulgarian sprinter squat is a super effective exercise that hits the quads, glutes, and hamstrings and helps improve strength, mobility, and lower body muscular definition.

Steps to do it:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and stand upright with your arms straight at your sides.
  2. Place the top of your left foot on a bench behind you while keeping the other leg straight.
  3. Slightly lean forward, brace your core, and maintain a neutral spine position. That’s the start.
  4. Lower into a lunge until your rear knee is close to the floor.
  5. Extend your knees to return to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Exercise Tips:

  • Slightly move your torso to the right while lowering into a squat.
  • Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle and doesn’t extend past your toes.

6. Glute Kickback

Glute Kickback

The glute kickback is an isolation exercise that targets the gluteus Maximus and helps tone and strengthen the butt.

It also activates the abdominal muscles and lower back and is an excellent exercise for improving posture.

Steps to do it:

  1. Sit on all fours with your arms under your shoulder and knees above your hips.
  2. Brace your core, maintain a neutral spine position, and lift your right leg off the floor.
  3. Bend your right knee and kick your leg toward the ceiling until your glutes are engaged.
  4. Feel the contraction for two to three seconds, then return to the start.
  5. Perform eight to ten reps and repeat on the opposite side.

Exercise Tips:

  • Focus on squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement to maximize muscle engagement.
  • Keep your back flat and avoid overarching or rounding your spine.

7. Unilateral Hip Abduction

The hip abduction primarily targets the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, which are often skipped during the other glute activation exercises and help build firm and rounded buttocks.

Steps to do it:

  1. Stand on the foot platform of the standing hip abduction machine and grab the handles firmly.
  2. Position your one leg close to the pad and take it out to the left side, away from the center.
  3. Perform eight to ten reps and repeat on the opposite side.

Exercise Tips:

  • Take your leg out as high as comfortably possible without compromising form.
  • Perform more repetitions on the weaker side to improve muscle symmetry.

8. Long Leg March

The long leg march bolsters the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and abdominal muscles and helps increase balance and flexibility.

Combining it with the other glute strengthening exercises will help you build a sturdy and defined buttock.

Steps to perform a long leg march:

  1. Lie on the floor with your face up and legs extended.
  2. Brace your core and lift your hip off the floor while keeping your heels grounded.
  3. Raise your one leg to 90 degrees, pause for a moment, then lower it on the floor.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side. Perform three sets of 6 to 10 reps on each side.

Exercise Tips

  • Maintain tight core, glutes, and thigh throughout the movement.
  • Keep only your heels grounded, not the entire foot.

5 Best Tips for Growing Glutes Muscles

1. Combine Bilateral and Unilateral Glute Exercises

Combining bilateral compound exercises, such as squats and deadlifts, and unilateral isolation exercises, like the step-up, single-leg bridge, and one-leg hip thrust, will help you build thick, toned, and rounded buttocks.

2. Perform Weighted Training

Bodyweight exercises are good, but if you want to build burly gluteal muscles, you have to lift weights. Resistance exercises create more tension and help promote strength and hypertrophy.2 Thomas MH, Burns SP. Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High-Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training. Int J Exerc Sci. 2016;9(2):159-167. Published 2016 Apr 1.

3. Train Your Glutes Two Times a Week

A study has shown that training muscles twice a week promotes superior hypertrophy than once a week.3 Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2016;46(11):1689-1697. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8 So, you should also train your glutes two times weekly if you want to build strength and mass. On day one, you can do compound exercises, and on the other day, you can perform isolation exercises.

4. Consistent Training

Consistency is one of the reasons why some people achieve better results than others. If you train consistently and challenge your glutes with various exercises and workout routines, you’ll see decent results over time.

5. Consume a Balanced Diet

Training, diet, and recovery are all crucial for muscle growth. Consuming a sufficient amount of protein, carbs, fats, and micronutrients and letting your muscles recover for 48 hours can ultimately help you achieve excellent results.

Related Unilateral Exercises:

References

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Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. For the last six years, I’ve been working and training with people who use all sorts of equipment and follow multiple types of workouts, from calisthenics to powerlifting. I primarily design workout plans and share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you become stronger, flexible, and healthier.

About Me

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. For the last six years, I’ve been working and training with people who use all sorts of equipment and follow multiple types of workouts, from calisthenics to powerlifting. I primarily design workout plans and share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you become stronger, flexible, and healthier.

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