Glute muscles anatomy | What is a glute isolation exercise | Best glute isolation exercise at home | With cable/band | With dumbbells/barbell | Bottom line

Although the glute muscles activate during most lower body workouts, training them with isolation exercises gives you an extra edge to further strengthen and grow your booty.

In this article, I’m going to share with you the twelve of the best glute isolation exercises that you can do at home, with weights, or in the gym. I will also give you the proper exercise form and tips to progress faster.

Here’re the 12 best glute isolation exercises:

  • Single-Leg Glute Bridges
  • Hip Thrusts with Pause
  • Floor Hip Extensions
  • Lying Hip Abductions
  • Banded Fire Hydrants
  • Seated Hip Abductions with Band
  • Banded Lateral Walks
  • Cable Pull Throughs
  • Cable Back Kicks
  • Barbell Hip Thrusts
  • Dumbbell Forward Lunges
  • Standing Machine Hip Abductions

Keep reading to learn more about isolated glute exercises and how to perform them correctly.

Anatomy of the Glute Muscles

Primary muscles of glutes
Image: Holisticbodyworks.com.au

The glute muscles is make up of primary muscle groups:

  • gluteus maximus,
  • gluteus medius, and
  • gluteus minimus.

These three muscle groups’ main functions are to stabilize the hip and pelvis and assist abduction and internal rotation of the thigh. [1] [2]

What is a Glute Isolation Exercise?

The ‘isolation exercise’ is one that targets one muscle group and involves one joint to perform the movement. Glute isolation exercises target only your glutes and the movement of the hip joint.

Things become clearer when you know the definition of compound movement (i.e., opposite of isolation). The compound glute exercise targets multiple muscle groups and joints at a time (for example, squat, deadlift, etc.).

12 Best Glute Isolation Exercises

12 Best Glute Isolation Exercises for Mass

Here’re the ten best isolation glute exercises you can do at home or in the gym.

Best Glute Isolation Exercises at Home (No Equipment)

1. Single-Leg Glute Bridges

How to:

  • Lie on the back with your hands on the floor at your sides. Keep your left knee bent, your foot flat on the ground, and your right leg extended and held upward.
  • Inhale and lift the buttock off the ground, pushing through your left foot. Squeeze your glute at the top
  • Lower your hip without touching the buttocks to the ground.
  • Exhale and begin again as desired reps. Then switch to the right side.

Variation: You can do this exercise with your feet raised (i.e., feet placed on a bench). However, placing both foot flat on the floor may be a beginner-friendly variation.

Tip

Perform this exercise in long sets, making sure to contract the glute at the top of the lift.

2. Hip Thrusts with Pause

How to:

  • Sit on the floor and place your upper back at the edge of the bench. Place your feet flat on the ground so your knees align with your heels. Keep your core tight and back straight.
  • Inhale and lift your hip until your torso reaches horizontal. Squeeze your glutes at the top for 3-5 seconds.
  • Then slowly lower your hip to the starting position and repeat.

Variation: Do single-leg hip thrust to increase tension on the glutes. Use dumbbells or a barbell as you progress.

Tip

Make sure to get intense tension on the glute on every rep, when you lift your hip at the top. Long sets work best.

3. Floor Hip Extension

How to:

  • Kneel on the right leg and bring the left knee to the chest while leaning on the hands with the arm extended.
  • Extend the left leg back, raise the leg upward as much as possible, contracting your glute at the top.
  • Slowly lower your leg to the starting position. Repeat and switch legs.

Variation: This exercise can be performed on the bench. You can also bend your leading leg like donkey kicks.

Tip

Maintain the contraction for a couple of seconds at the top of the movement. To increase the intensity, use ankle weights.

4. Lying Hip Abductions

How to:

  • Lie on your side and support the head with your hand, or you can rest the upper body on your elbow and keep your legs extended.
  • Keeping the knee straight, raise the upper leg laterally no more than 70 degrees and hold the leg at the top of the movement for 3 seconds.
  • Slowly lower the leg. Repeat and switch sides.

Variation: You can raise the leg slightly to the front or the back or raise it vertically to hit different portions of the buttocks.

Tip

To increase intensity, use an ankle weight, an elastic band, or a low pulley.

Best Glute Isolation Exercises with Cable/Resistance Band

5. Banded Fire Hydrants

How to:

  • Kneel on your legs with your hip aligned with knees and hands underneath your shoulders. Wrap a resistance band around your knees. Keep your core tight and back flat throughout the exercise.
  • Keeping the leg bent, inhale and raise your left leg up and out laterally as much as possible.
  • Then slowly lower the leg to the initial position and exhale.
  • Perform desired reps and then switch to the other leg.

Variation: Beginners may prefer doing fire hydrants without a band. Increase resistance as you progress.

Tip

Make sure to feel the glute contraction on every repetition when you lift your leg at the top of the movement.

6. Seated Hip Abductions with Band

How to:

  • Sit upright on a bench with a band wrapped slightly above your knees and feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your waist or the bench for support.
  • Open your knees as much as possible and squeeze the glute. Hold there for 3 seconds and slowly bring your knees together to the initial position. Repeat.

Variation: You can also do this exercise in the hip abductor machine or in a lying position.

Tip

Do not rush this exercise. Make sure to push your knees outward slowly and then bring them back in a controlled motion.

7. Banded Lateral Walks

How to:

  • Wrap a resistance band slightly above your knees and slightly bend your knees forward and hips backward (like a partial squat).
  • Keep your legs together, arms in the front, chest up, and back flat. This is your starting position.
  • Slowly start walking laterally by taking one step at a time (e.g., take one step laterally with your left foot, then bring your right foot closer to the left foot, and then take another step with the left foot).
  • Walk a few steps on the left and then to the right, or alternate between legs by standing in the same place. Perform this exercise for 30-60 seconds.

Variation: To progress, you can use two bands, one on the shins and the other on the lower thighs (i.e., monster walk).

Tip

Make sure to do this exercise in a controlled form. Establish a muscle-mind connection with your glutes during walking.

8. Cable Pull Throughs

How to:

  • Stand behind a low pulley cable machine with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bent your knees slightly like a partial squat, keeping your back straight. Grasp the rope handle with extended arms and take both your feet one step forward. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping the core tight, drive your hips forward and squeeze your glute as you stand tall.
  • Then slowly return to the initial position and repeat.
  • Once you’re done, step back toward the machine and slowly release the rope.

Variation: This exercise is similar to hip thrust. You can use a weight plate on the regular hip thrust to increase intensity.

Tip

Keep your core tight throughout the exercise, and squeeze your glute intensely when you extend your hip.

9. Cable Back Kicks

How to:

  • Stand on one leg facing the machine, the other leg attached to the ankle strap of the low pulley. Grasp the machine for support.
  • Extend the hip and pull your leading leg back and contract your glute.
  • Then slowly return to the initial position. Repeat and switch sides.

Variation: The same movement can be done on the machine instead of cable, called the machine hip extension.

Tip

Try to get maximum contraction on the glute on every repetition.

Best Glute Isolation Exercises with Dumbbells/Barbell

10. Barbell Hip Thrusts

How to:

  • Sit on the floor before a bench, bring the barbell over your waist, and hold it with your hands. You can wrap the bar with a mat or your t-shirt to make the bar easy on your hip.
  • Place your upper back on the bench and your feet flat on the ground. Be sure to keep your knees aligned with your heels.
  • Inhale, lift your hip upward, and squeeze your glutes at the top, keeping your core tight and back straight. Squeeze your glute at the top for 3 seconds.
  • Then slowly lower your hip to the initial position. Repeat.

Variation: Single-leg hip thrust is a great bodyweight variation of this exercise. You can replace barbell with dumbbells or bands as well.

Tip

Avoid putting stress on your lower back. Use your hip to lift the weight. Longer reps work well.

11. Dumbbell Forward Lunges

How to:

  • Stand with the legs slightly apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides and keep your torso as straight as possible.
  • Inhale, take a big step forward, and lunge until your forward thigh reaches horizontal or slightly below. 
  • Then pushing through your front leg, return to the initial position.
  • Exhale at the end of the movement. You can do one leg at a time or alternate between lets.

Variation: You can do this exercise with a barbell as well.

Tip

Begin with lighter weights to build the initial balance and take longer step to maximize the glute activation.

12. Standing Machine Hip Abductions

How to:

  • Stand on one leg on the machine and place the other leg against the pad below your knee.
  • Slowly raise the leg laterally as high as possible.
  • Then return to the initial position. Repeat and switch sides.

Variation: If the machine isn’t available, you can side-lying hip abduction, attaching a resistance band around the knees to increase tension.

Tip

It’s an excellent exercise for gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. For best results, perform longer sets.

Bottom Line

Glute isolation exercises are very effective in building strength and getting a rounder look in the booty. These exercises enable you to hit specific portions (i.e., upper glute and lower glute) of your buttock to achieve the perfect shape.

Choose any 3-4 exercises and try to hit the glutes at least two to three times per week, and you’re good to go.

Make sure you’re taking a high-protein calorie surplus diet and adequate rest, besides training, which are essentials for building muscle mass.

So… There we have it: The best glute isolation exercises.

If you have any questions regarding glute exercises or overall fitness in general, feel free to ask in the comments below. I’d love to help you out.

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References

1. Adel Elzanie, Judith Borger (2022): Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gluteus Maximus Muscle. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538193/

2. M Fredericson, C L Cookingham, A M Chaudhari, B C Dowdell, N Oestreicher, S A Sahrmann (2000): Hip abductor weakness in distance runners with iliotibial band syndrome. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine (Canada), 10(3);169-75. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10959926/