10 Exercises For A Rounder, Firmer Backside

From celebrity darlings like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez to Instagram stars like Jen Selter, there's no doubt that butts are in. Specifically, round, tight, high butts that you could balance a tray on. And while, of course, there's a genetic element to body shape and a person's ability to develop size (specifically, muscle) through the derriere (not everyone has the genetic propensity to sculpt a Beyonce-level booty), the gluteal muscles are some of the largest in the body, making it possible for just about everyone to add some oomph to their backside.

As a certified exercise physiologist with a master's degree in exercise science, I can tell you the trick is two-fold. First, by using weighted, compound exercises you'll target all three gluteal muscles (as well as the rest of your lower body) to stimulate muscle growth – this will help you develop strength and size. Second by isolating the glutes and performing exercises with a focus on angle and leg positioning, you'll be able to more effectively shape your booty. With consistent hard work and a corresponding, well-balanced diet, you'll start seeing changes within about three months.

Step ups

Step ups are good for a few reasons: First, they fire up your lower body, particularly your quads and glutes, and second, they raise your heart rate for an extra bout of conditioning. This makes them an excellent exercise to kick off your butt routine.

Stand facing a bench, plyo box or step. The item should be tall enough so that when you place your foot on top of the step, your knee forms a 90-degree angle with your thigh parallel to the floor. You can perform this exercise using only your body weight, or you can make it more challenging by holding dumbbells in each hand.

Stand tall, your feet roughly hip-distance apart, your knees slightly bent. Place your right foot solidly on the bench and press through your right heel as you push yourself to a standing position on top of the bench, squeezing your glutes as you stand. Without ever placing your left foot onto the bench, bend your right knee and lower your left foot back to the ground behind the bench. When your left foot is on the ground, follow with your right foot, returning to the starting position. Repeat to the opposite side. Perform three sets of 20 repetitions per leg.

Lateral cross-over step up

The lateral cross-over step up is like a combination of a lateral step up and a curtsy lunge, and it does wonders for targeting your gluteus medius – one of the muscles that helps with hip abduction and rotation. It's a bit of an odd movement, so try it first without additional weight before adding dumbbells to make it more challenging.

Stand to the right side of a plyo box or bench, your feet hip-distance, apart, your knees slightly bent. Cross your right foot in front of your left leg to place your right foot solidly on top of the bench, your toes pointing slightly outward. Engage your core and glutes, and press through your right foot to come to standing as you simultaneously step your left foot over the bench in a steady, controlled motion, ultimately bending your right knee to place your left foot on the ground on the opposite side. Once your left foot is on the ground, follow it with your right foot so you're standing to the left side of the bench. Repeat the exercise, this time placing your left foot on the bench to cross back over to the right side. Continue this lateral cross-over step up for 40 total step ups (20 per leg). Perform two sets.

Goblet squat

The squat exercise is one of the best compound exercises for building strength in your lower body, as it targets the quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves while also requiring core engagement. The goblet squat, in particular, helps encourage proper squat form, because while you hold a weight in front of your body at your shoulders, you must maintain good posture while keeping your knees aligned with your toes.

Stand tall, your feet slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart, your toes angled slightly outward. Hold a dumbbell vertically between your hands, your elbows bent, cupping the head of the dumbbell at your shoulders as if you were holding a goblet. Look up slightly and press your hips back, bending your knees to lower your glutes toward the ground, being sure you keep your weight in your heels. When your quads or at or just below parallel to the ground, position your elbows so they touch your knees, making sure your knees are aligned with your toes without jutting in front of your toes. From this position, press through your heels and straighten your knees and hips to return to standing, really squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. Perform three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, using as much weight as you can while maintaining good form.

Low sumo squat with alternating heel raises

Holding a low sumo squat with correct form requires tight engagement of the gluteus medius and minimus as you abduct your legs outward, squeezing your glutes tight as you hold the position. This is one of those isolation moves that really targets your glutes while still requiring full, lower-body engagement.

Stand tall and position your legs wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes angling outward. With your torso upright and your core engaged, bend your knees and lower yourself into a squat position. When your knees are bent at 90-degrees, you may want to readjust your feet so your weight is solidly in your heels. Tighten your glutes and tuck your pelvis forward to help reposition your knees to ensure they're aligned with your toes (you don't want them to collapse inward). From here, lift your right heel from the floor as high as you can, lower it back to the floor, then lift your left heel from the floor as high as you can, all while maintaining your low squat position. Continue alternating heel raises for 30 total repetitions (15 per leg), perform three total sets. Be sure to watch your knees throughout the exercise, really squeezing your glutes to keep your knees aligned with your toes.

Side lunge

The side lunge is another excellent compound exercise that targets all three gluteus muscles while also working the quads and adductors. The trick to correct form is to press your hips back to initiate the lunge, rather than trying to bend your knee first. Start the exercise without weight, then add dumbbells or a barbell across your shoulders once you've mastered proper form.

Stand tall, your feet roughly shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and take a wide step to the right with your right foot, planting your heel with your toes angled just slightly outward. Keeping your weight in your right heel, with your left leg straight, and your torso tall, press your hips back and begin bending your right knee, shifting your torso to the right as you lower your glutes toward the ground. making sure to keep your knee aligned with your right toes. When you've lowered yourself as far as your own flexibility allows, press through your right heel to push yourself to standing as you return your right foot back to the starting position. Perform 8 to 12 repetitions to the right side before switching legs. Do two sets per leg.

Romanian deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is a compound exercise that targets the glutes and hamstrings. The goal is to use as much weight as you can while maintaining proper form, but because form is a little tricky to master, start with a lightly weighted barbell, a set of light dumbbells, or start without any added weight.

Stand tall, your feet roughly shoulder-distance apart, your knees slightly bent. Hold a weighted barbell in both hands directly in front of your thighs so your hands are positioned about shoulder-width apart. Tighten your core, roll your shoulders back, and keeping your torso straight throughout the exercise (don't hunch forward or crane your neck), press your hips backward, pushing your glutes behind you, as you hinge your torso forward from the hips, grazing the front of your legs with the barbell as it's lowered toward the ground. Make sure you keep your weight in your heels throughout the movement. When you feel a light stretch in the back of your hamstrings, stop the forward-hinge, tighten up your hamstrings and glutes, and use these muscle groups to pull your torso back to standing. Perform three sets of eight to 10 repetitions.

Single leg deadlift

The single-leg deadlift can be performed with light weight or no weight, and is a great way to isolate each buttocks individually while enhancing balance and coordination at the same time.

Stand tall, your feet roughly hip-distance apart, your knees slightly bent. If you'd like, hold dumbbells in each hand for added resistance. Shift your weight to your right leg, and extend your left leg behind you, so only your toes touch the ground. From this position, fix your concentration on a single spot to help maintain balance, tighten your core and engage your supporting glute. Hinge forward from your hips, pressing your glutes back and keeping your torso straight as you simultaneously lift your left leg from the ground, raising it up behind you. This should feel a bit like a pendulum motion – as your torso hinges forward, your leg lifts backward. When you feel a stretch through your right hamstring or your body forms a "T" with your torso and legs, tighten your supporting glute and hamstring and use them to pull your torso back to the starting position as you lower your left foot back to the floor. Continue the exercise on the right side, performing 10 to 12 repetitions before switching legs. Do a total of two sets per side.

Weighted hip thruster

Weighted hip thrusters are like a glute bridge on crack. This exercise not only helps isolate the glutes, it does it while loading on the weight for maximum hypertrophy. While you can use a barbell, weight plates or dumbbells to perform the exercise, you might want to start with nothing more than your own body weight, just to master the motion.

Lie back on a weight bench with your body perpendicular to the bench so your shoulders are positioned along the front edge of the bench. Your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle, your feet flat on the ground. Hold a weighted barbell or two dumbbells across your hips, keeping the weight steady with your arms. Engage your core and glutes so your body starts in a tabletop position, your hips lifted and aligned between your knees and shoulders. From this position, hinge your hips downward, dropping your glutes toward the ground as you further bend your knees. Lower your hips as far as you comfortably can, then engage your glutes and press your hips up, lifting your body weight and the weight of the barbell back to the starting position. Hold for a second at the top, really squeezing your glutes, then continue. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions, using as much weight as you comfortably can.

Quadruped hip extension

The quadruped hip extension may not look like a tough exercise, but it's one of the absolute best movements for isolating the glutes unilaterally. Start on your hands and knees, your palms directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Flex your feet, so your toes are tucked under. From this position, engage your core and shift your weight slightly to the right. Lift your left knee from the ground, then tighten your left glute, and keeping a 90-degree angle at your knee, extend your left hip as you press your foot up toward the ceiling. Squeeze your left glute for a second at the height of the movement, then slowly lower your left knee back toward the ground. Just before it touches down, repeat the movement. Perform 15 to 20 reps on the left side before switching to the right. Do two to three sets per leg.

Fire hydrants

What the quadruped hip extension does for the gluteus maximus, the fire hydrant exercise does for the gluteus medius and minimus, really isolating the muscles that wrap around the upper buttocks and hip to help with abduction, one leg at a time.

Start in the same tabletop position as you did for the quadruped hip extensions, with your knees positioned directly beneath your hips, your palms directly beneath your shoulders. Again, tighten your core and shift your weight to the right side, lifting your left knee from the ground. This time , instead of pressing your leg behind you to extend your hip, you'll lift your left leg up and out to the side, as if you were a dog peeing on a fire hydrant. The goal is to keep your hips as level as possible, really targeting the glutes as you lift your leg upward. When you've lifted it as high as you can, hold the position for a second before lowering it back toward the floor. Stop just before your knee touches down and continue the exercise. Perform 15 to 20 repetitions before switching legs. Perform two sets per leg.