Are you stuck with weak, small glutes and poor performance?
Today we’re discussing the best dumbbell glute exercises for building muscle, strength, and power.
By the end of this article, you’ll have all the tools you need to build a better butt with only dumbbells.
1. Frog Pump
The frog pump looks strange, but it’s one of the most powerful dumbbell glute exercises. It’s a glute isolation that you can perform with no weight or easily with a dumbbell in your hips.
The frog pump lets you build adductor mobility and forces both sides of the hip to work together.
This high-rep exercise is perfect for beginners and experienced trainees alike.
- Sit on the floor in a ‘butterfly’ position with your feet together and knees out to the sides
- Place a dumbbell in the crease of your hips and lay flat, with your weight on your shoulders and hips
- Push the knees out sideways and raise your hips off the floor by squeezing the glutes
- Raise as high as possible and hold for 1-2 seconds, actively flexing the buttocks
- Slowly lower back to the starting position (2)
You can use the frog pump at home or as a finisher during a gym session. It is designed for high-rep sets, which is excellent after heavy lifting.
The glutes are a fatigue-resistant muscle group, so aim for 3-4 sets of 15-25 reps. This is perfect for rounding out your lower body training with serious focus and building stronger buttocks.
2. Glute Bridge
The glute bridge is one of the most popular and effective ways to strengthen the glutes. Dumbbell variations are lighter than barbell or machine options, and specialize more towards high rep sets.
In this exercise, you can lift a lot of weight, so get a heavy dumbbell and focus on moving lots of high-quality reps.
The glute bridge is also great for opening the hips, stabilizing the lower back, and improving sports performance. This exercise is a great accessory if you want to run, jump, squat, or deadlift.
- Sit on the floor with your shoulders on a raised, stable surface like a bench or plyo box against a wall.
- Place a dumbbell in the crease of your hip (you can hold it with your hands later) and set your heels in a normal squat stance.
- From the seated position, keep the core tight, and push the hips up by flexing the glutes until your hips are even with your shoulders.
- Actively squeeze your buttocks and hold this position for a moment before lowering back down to the starting position.
The glute bridge with a dumbbell is limited by the weight you have available. Most people will be able to glute bridge with the gym’s heaviest dumbbells. This means working on higher reps instead of maxing the weight.
Use the dumbbell glute bridge for 3-8 sets of 10-25 reps, depending on your experience and strength levels.
3. Single-leg Glute Bridge
The single-leg glute bridge is a much harder and more effective variation of the glute bridge. By removing one leg, you’re actively stabilizing your hips and spine together.
This also makes the exercise much ‘heavier’, effectively doubling the loading. This makes it the best way to progress the two-leg variation and build a bigger butt with dumbbells.
It is the same as the normal glute bridge, except the setup is only on a single leg. This means you should move more slowly and focus on keeping the weight balanced as you drive up into the dumbbell.
Focus on keeping the adductors (inside the thigh) active and keep the knee stable while extending the hips.
Take this one slowly and work on feeling the glute working. The stability can take a while to get used to, so practice with moderate weights to start with.
Add weight patiently and work in sets between 10 and 20 reps. These will be perfect for building mass, allowing you to focus on control without completely exhausting your hips.
More people will find this challenging with lighter weights, so don’t rush the load.
FURTHER READING: Top 10 Single-Leg Exercises for Strength, Mass & Athleticism
Step-ups are the best way for most people to train their legs and glutes together. It’s an exercise that works all 3 of the most important functions of the glutes:
- Hip extension
- Stabilizing the lower back
- Stabilizing the knee
This makes it a fantastic all-rounder and one of the best ways to get started with dumbbell training. Choose a box at a comfortable height to start with, and work up to a height that puts your thigh level with your hip or parallel to the floor over time.
- Take a dumbbell in either hand – or a single dumbbell in a goblet position – and use a sturdy raised object between 12 and 20 inches high (depending on height and experience)
- Place one foot on the box and keep the other (“Back”) leg straight, with your chest up and back flat.
- Transfer weight into your front foot smoothly, and drive up with the leg and hip, keeping posture until you can step your back foot onto the box.
- Return to the floor by bending the knee and letting the hips slide back to finish the rep.
Step-ups can be performed with heavy weights, but technique comes first. Early on, focus on actively extending your hip and squeezing the glute at the top. Learning this movement will help you get more from this exercise as you train it more.
Use sets of 8-12 reps to keep your stabilizer muscles fresh, and load patiently from session to session. You can make fast progress, but you need to make sure that your hips are opening up – bending forwards is a sign you need to use lighter weights.
5. Dumbbell Deadlift
Dumbbells are great for deadlifts, just like barbells, but tend to be lighter. This lets you focus on the same movement with more reps, which is just as powerful for building the glutes and hamstrings.
You can use all 3 of the most popular deadlift variations with the dumbbells:
- Conventional deadlifts: from the ground to standing
- Romanian deadlifts: focuses on the top 2/3 of the deadlift with lots of time under tension.
- Stiff-legged deadlifts: like a deadlift, but with no legs, emphasizing the hip hinge.
These are all great for building the glutes, and it’s mostly personal preference as to which is best. Try each, and use the one you feel activates the glutes the most.
It’s possible to practice your dumbbell deadlift from the floor or standing. We like to start standing because the dumbbell variations really like the top-down approach for building tension in the ‘prime mover’ muscles of the hips and hamstrings.
This is the best approach for beginners – or you can go straight into ‘2’, lifting the dumbbells from the floor.
- Take a dumbbell in either hand and stand up tall with a proud chest and active core.
- Bend your knees slightly at the start before pushing your hips back. Letting the knees bend further to lower the weight to the floor while keeping the back flat.
- Feeling the tension in your hips and hamstrings, push the floor down and the hips forward to open up your posture and stand up tall.
- Stand up to reach the starting position and finish the rep.
Remember: the deadlift is a back and forwards movement, and standing up is just a side effect. Focus on hip travel backward and then thrusting the hips forward and squeezing the glutes!
The dumbbell deadlift and its variations are strong movements. You can move good weight once you’ve developed proper technique and can move with a flat back. This should be your top priority as a beginner.
You can use all 3 variations for medium-high rep sets in the 6-15 range. The focus should still be on loading up the glutes and using them to drive the movement. You’ll get fatigued faster than other exercises, so practice “drop sets” as you get more tired.
FURTHER READING: Should You Squat & Deadlift On The Same Day (Same Workout)?
6. Single-leg Dumbbell Deadlift
The single-leg dumbbell deadlift is a great way of building the glutes and adductors together. It also forces you to build more active hip, spine, and core control. It’s a great way to strengthen all the hip muscles while building a bigger butt.
Everything here is the same as the dumbbell deadlift above but with lighter weights and only one leg. This movement is more complex, so you need to take it slower. The main focus is stabilizing your knee and keeping your spine stable throughout.
Any weight will feel heavy, so focus on slowly building up and working on feeling the glute. As with the normal deadlift, you’ll start to fatigue quickly, and weight isn’t going to be impressive here.
Take this as a warm-up or finisher exercise, as a way to build the glutes and their antagonists.
The technique is even more important here than most other exercises since it’s possible to rotate accidentally. If you start feeling sore, bring the weight down and focus on the core.
7. Dumbbell Squat
The dumbbell squat is a great way to build a better mind-muscle connection to the glutes. You’ll feel them as you focus on proper mechanics – as seen in the step-up.
Dumbbell squats can be performed in various ways to get better results. You can change the stance width, foot angle, and amount of hip hinge you use to find what suits your training best.
- Take a dumbbell in either hand, in a goblet position, or a front rack – depending on the weight of the dumbbell and your flexibility.
- Keep your torso straight, back flat, and core engaged throughout the movement.
- Bend the knees and hips together, sitting down and slightly back while keeping the hips active and the chest up.
- Keep the whole foot on the floor, pushing the knees out and forwards as you descend and hips back to keep posture.
- Sit as low as possible with a straight back and whole foot, reversing the movement by pushing the ground down and hips up and in.
- Once you’re standing again, the rep is complete.
Dumbbell squats are a strong exercise, and you can lift lots of weight with them. The goblet squat is often more challenging on posture than the big muscles. This means it may take a while to progress with good form.
Focus on higher rep sets – anything from 8 to 15 – as a beginner. Increase the weight when you’re confident with 12-15 reps on the previous weight. Drop back to 8-10 and build up from there. This will let you build mass while also reinforcing good form.
You can try squatting with a wider stance, which puts more stress on the glutes. Sumo squats exaggerate this and can be helpful, but they shouldn’t replace the regular squat. They limit the depth and have higher demands than most beginners are ready for!
8. DB Goblet Good Morning
The goblet good morning is one of the best ways to train your glutes and learn to hip hinge more effectively. This key movement lets you ‘turn on’ your glutes and is a precursor to great squats and deadlifts.
The goblet position forces you to use the core and upper back and solves a common problem: hyperextending the spine. This ‘banana back’ posture often cuts out glute function, but the goblet good morning starts to fix that.
It’s a great way to improve your overall movement quality and build mass at the same time. This exercise is a must-try for anyone struggling to feel their glutes in deadlifts, especially.
- Take a dumbbell in the goblet or ‘zercher’ position, with your arms wrapped around it – clutching it tight into your chest.
- Set the torso straight with an active core and upper back, stabilizing everything above the hips into a solid, unmoving block.
- Put a slight bend in the knees and, keeping the feet flat on the floor, send your hips backward.
- Allow your torso to incline as you push back, continuing until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings or struggle to keep posture.
- Reverse the movement by hinging the hips open, standing up tall, and pushing the hips forward to the starting position.
Pro tip: this exercise should focus on creating space between the hips and knees by moving the hip, not the knee. Your knees should stay put; all the movement comes from moving the hips back and tilting yourself towards the floor. Keep the knees as your anchor!
The goblet good morning is one of the best warm-ups before a deadlift or even squat. It forces good hip hinging, which activates the glutes, hamstrings, and core.
It’s essential that these muscles work together. They always work together in the body unless something is going wrong. This means you’re going to strengthen them all, increase glute size, and improve those functions we talked about (hip extension, spine stability, and knee health).
You can also use this exercise as a finisher after heavier exercises. You’ll find this gets tiring fast, so don’t push your luck.
- As a warm-up, perform 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps with pauses in the bottom position.
- For a finisher, use 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps, depending on the weight and your strength levels.
9. Dumbbell Pull-through
The dumbbell pull-through is somewhere between a deadlift and a swing. We call it the pull-through because it’s easier than the “dumbbell stiff leg sumo deadlift with the kettlebell behind you”.
That’s the idea, though.
By widening the stance and keeping the legs straight, the focus is on the hips – controlled by the glutes. This provides direct feedback and helps you feel the glutes more effectively, which can be huge for less experienced lifters.
- Set up in a wide stance with the dumbbell between your legs or just behind your heels.
- Keep your knees out and bend down, bending at the hips on soft knees – but not bending the knees.
- Keeping your back flat and torso stable, reach down and grab the dumbbell with straight arms.
- Pick the dumbbell up and pull it between your legs by hinging your hips, bringing them forwards, and pushing the dumbbell in front of your body as you stand upright.
- Reverse the movement and place the dumbbell back in its starting position to complete the rep.
The pull-through is a perfect finisher for your workouts, especially for beginners. It’s also a great way to warm up for the stiff-legged deadlift or kettlebell swing.
For warm-ups, perform 2-3 sets of 8 reps with slow and controlled movement. The goal is to feel the glutes and keep the knees in line with the toes.
As a finisher, perform sets with high reps or ‘to failure’. That means as many as you can do without breaking down technique – they should still be good reps. You can also use drop sets if you find yourself fatiguing particularly fast – or want a lighter finisher.
10. DB Swing
You can swing a dumbbell just like a kettlebell, which is one of the best ways to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings together. It does many of the same things as the goblet good morning, with more momentum.
The swing does require good technique, so this shouldn’t be your starting point. Master the exercises above before you start adding in more speed and dynamic movement.
Remember that you’re hip-hinging, as with the deadlift and other key exercises. The hips go back and forwards, not up and down.
- Hold a dumbbell with a firm grip either on edge or by the handle itself, holding it on straight arms while standing up straight.
- Take a squatting stance with your legs between hip and shoulder width.
- Start by bringing the dumbbell up towards your chest on straight arms before letting it fall, bringing the dumbbell back between your legs, and bending over at the hip.
- Keeping your back flat and feet planted on the floor, feel the swing of the dumbbell and open the hips back up, pushing the dumbbell forward and upward.
- Stabilize the top of the rep, keeping your balance stable, and linking it into the next one as the momentum carries the dumbbell back down!
The dumbbell swing is a more advanced option, but it’s not too hard on the body when you’re ready for it. The movement loads the end ranges of the hamstrings if you’re stiff, however, so watch out for that and don’t push it. Your first few swing sessions should be lighter to gauge tolerance.
Because they’re momentum-based, you should perform higher reps with dumbbell swings. Sets should be 15-30 reps, depending on how heavy you’re going.
If you want to make them harder, the best thing to do is to add a band. This is a huge bonus to the amount of glute activation you get. It forces you to break the inertia of the dumbbell and fight the band at the longest glute length – perfect for stretch-mediated hypertrophy!
Dumbbell glute exercises can be the center of your glute growth, building stronger hips and hamstrings. These are some of the best options for one or two dumbbells, whether you have access to other equipment or not.
Practice these exercises and learn to do them well. Most people don’t use their glutes in everyday life. It makes a huge difference when you learn how to use them to control your spine, hips, and knees.
Take your time, move well, and you’ll get stronger, healthier, and better looking all at the same time.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?