If plastic surgery has taught us anything, it’s that everyone wants a big butt.
Okay, maybe not everyone, but having strong glutes is very important for your performance in the gym and in life both now and as you age. Strengthening your glutes can be the key to reducing back and knee pain. Strong glute muscles are important for everyday tasks as you age - tasks such as getting off the couch and picking up grocery bags from the floor. When our glutes are weak we often compensate by using our backs or other muscles which may eventually lead to discomfort or pain over time.
So What Exactly Are Our Glute Muscles?
Our glute muscles can be divided into three major types - the glute max, the glute medius, and the glute minimus. All three play a key role in daily movement and exercise, but for simplicity just know that the glute max is the largest muscle in the body and the one that gives your butt its shape. The other two are not as big but play a critical role in the stabilization of the hip as well as many other functions.
How Do We Train Our Glute Muscles?
There are a ton of exercises for this. First, we can look at the major compound movements - squats and deadlifts. As far as building strong glutes these are probably the top two. These are also two of the most effective exercises period - especially for lower body muscle development.
Next, we have exercises like lunges, split squats, Romanian deadlifts, and good mornings. These exercises are typically performed with a little bit lighter weight compared to squats and deadlifts. However, these exercises will target your glutes very well and ensure you are strengthening those buttocks!
What About Low-Impact?
Let’s talk about what we mean by low-impact. When people talk about low-impact they are generally talking about the impact the exercise has on the joints. Heavy squats and deadlifts can sometimes not feel great on the knees or hips; however, this isn’t always a bad thing. It’s good for our joints to be under load, just like it's good for our muscles to handle heavy weight - using the right program of course. Now it is worth noting, heavy is relative here - it is not wise to load up all the plates in the gym and try and back squat it when you struggle to do air squats.
We certainly want to protect our joints but that doesn’t necessarily mean we must always do low-impact exercises. You don’t want to lift heavy 7x/week but you also don’t want to only do band exercises for years - there is a nice balance.
Let’s look at some low-impact (on the joints) and high-impact (on the butt) glute exercises.
Low-Impact Glute Exercises
#1 Glute Bridge
This exercise can be performed with just your body weight, a band, or by adding a weight plate to your lap. Begin lying face up on the ground, then bring your feet to your butt, about shoulder-width apart. With only your upper back and heels on the ground, drive through your heels and squeeze your butt and core. Relax and repeat. To use a band, simply place the band above your knees.
Aim to do 3-5 sets of about 5-8 reps, depending on resistance level and strength. Add weight if you can.
#2 Side Lying Banded Leg Raise
Lying on your side, with your body long, use your butt to raise your top leg about 12-18 inches. You should feel this on the outside of your glute. To add more resistance place a band around your legs - right above your knees. If you want even more of a challenge, instead of lying on the ground, begin in a side plank position.
Look to complete 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps.
#3 Sled Pushes & Pulls
Sled pushes and pulls are two of the best ways to strengthen your legs and glutes in a very low-impact way. Simply load up a sled with some weight plates, probably anywhere from 25 lbs to 180 lbs depending on the individual and strength levels. Next, just start pushing. One of the easiest ways to do a sled workout is to push for let's say 50-75 feet and then pull the sled back 50-75 feet. You will feel your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves all working hard here.
A good starting point would be to do 5 sets down and back.
There you have it! Three great low-impact glute exercises. Each of these exercises also makes a great warmup for performing lifts like squats, deadlifts, or lunges - just go a little lighter or fewer reps.
If your joints are feeling it, whether due to aging or just a lot of lifting and exercising, consider a few things - sleep, recovery, and your nutrition. If you aren’t sure where to begin with nutrition - check out our meal plans and macro calculator for some help!
Please reach out with any questions or leave us a comment below. We’d love to connect and hear from you!
Current, Austin. “14 Best Glute Exercises for Size, Strength, and Activation.” BarBend, 21 Feb. 2023, https://barbend.com/best-glutes-exercises/.