Top 10 Upper Glute Exercises For A Bigger Butt

You can waste hundreds of hours squatting or deadlifting – but the small muscles of the upper glute won’t grow. Why won’t my upper glutes grow?

What you’re missing are the 10 best exercises to isolate the upper glute muscles. We’re sharing them with you today, so your butt looks better, performs better, and keeps your hip joints safe.

How To Build Your Upper Glutes

The upper glutes are simpler than the lower glutes. There are only two muscles: the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius. 

There are only 2 keys to building great upper glutes:

  1. Building a big gluteus maximus overall with full-muscle development
  2. Maximizing glute medius growth to fill out the upper curve of the glutes

Working the two together will be key to building your upper glutes and developing hip strength. 

10 Best Upper Glute Exercises

The best upper glute exercises are all about moving through the full range and emphasizing the ‘clench’ at the top. These 10 exercises will help you get the best from your time in the gym.

1. Step Ups

Step ups are the best upper glute exercise for beginners because they force your glute medius and maximus to work together. The deep position gives them plenty of work, controlling the knee while pushing the hips up and forward.

This is a perfect choice for total beginners who want to build strength that they can use to progress. This is the perfect starting point before moving into more dynamic exercises like the walking lunge.

How To

  1. Take a dumbbell in either hand, a barbell on your back, or a kettlebell in the goblet position.
  2. Stand in a comfortable stance, in front of a roughly knee-height box, with your feet under your hips.
  3. Bring one foot up, placing it firmly and securely on the box.
  4. Transfer your weight forwards so your chin, knee, and toe are in line.
  5. Push down on the box, extending your knee and hip to step up on top of it – enough to place your ‘floating’ foot on the box.
  6. Lower yourself back down to the starting position to complete the rep before repeating it on the opposite side.

Pro tip: keep your hips square and your chest up throughout. You can feel the weight in the hips by starting with them backward, but you need to aggressively open your hip as you step up.


Step ups can be performed heavily, but you must start with light weights. It’s key to building proper knee stability and developing the hip muscles.

Load patiently, focusing on adding reps and challenging yourself with small but consistent jumps in weight. 

Aim for sets of 6-10 per leg. Any more will be too light.

FURTHER READING: Top 5 Step Up Alternative Exercises

2. Walking Lunges

Walking lunges offer a great, full-range leg and glute strengthening exercise with the natural internal-external rotation cycle that comes with walking. This is incredible for the gluteus medius, which has an internal rotation portion before pushing into the glute max to finish the stride.

This is a great way to build up lots of volume to build the muscle in a pattern it already works through. 

How To

  1. Take a dumbbell in either hand, a barbell on your back, or a kettlebell in the goblet position.
  2. Start in a standing position with your feet under your hips, standing upright.
  3. Step forward one large stride forwards and slightly towards the front foot, keeping pressure through both feet into the floor.
  4. As you step, allow your weight to naturally shift slightly into the front foot.
  5. Lower yourself to the floor, bending the knees and flexing your hips to incline your torso. Push your hips back slightly.
  6. From the bottom position, push yourself upright, and extend the hips and knees to move forward – pushing into the front foot.
  7. Bring your rear foot in line with your front foot as you stand up, returning to the same comfortable position at the start to complete the rep. Repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: as you’re pushing off, make sure your rear leg is facing the floor, not out to the side. This helps target the gluteus medius, building a stronger upper glute. 


Get plenty of practice with lighter weights and build up slowly.

This shouldn’t be your only lower body exercise – the walking lunge is a great choice for later in your workout. Use higher rep sets to build muscle and hip control, typically 8-12 reps per leg.

3. Cable Machine Kickbacks

Kickbacks are one of the most popular glute exercises that specifically work the upper glutes. The use of the glute medius in this exercise can be powerful if you’re extending back and away from the body.

How To

  1. Set up a machine with an appropriate weight, taking a stance with one foot attached to the cable by an ankle cuff.
  2. Place your foot just outside of hip width, slightly internally rotated, with your toe facing your midline.
  3. Set your core tightly and brace yourself into the machine to keep your hips and core in one place.
  4. Hinge your leg backward at the glute, creating as much space between the foot and hip as possible.
  5. Hold the end position, focusing on clenching the glutes and feeling the upper glute, before lowering slowly to the starting position.


Kickbacks are typically a lighter exercise and suit higher reps, though you can perform them heavily. The machine version, in particular, is perfect for ‘burning out’ the glutes with moderate weight and high reps.

Because it operates on a stable track, the kickback is perfect to finish your session – ideally with sets of 10-15 heavy reps per leg.

4. Lateral Lunges

Lateral lunges are amazing for all of the muscles around the glute – both upper and lower. They require you to control your whole hip joint in every direction.

It helps you build upper glute mass as well as full hip control, mobility, and stronger legs. 

How To

  1. Take a dumbbell in either hand, a barbell on your back, or a kettlebell in the goblet position.
  2. From a normal standing position, lean forward slightly at the hips and unlock the knees.
  3. Step sideways, keeping your weight even between your legs or slightly favoring one.
  4. Squat down into the favored leg as far as is comfortable, bending the knee and hip together – moving over to one side as you squat.
  5. Hold the bottom position with your chest up and hips back, keeping your core active
  6. Reverse the movement, pushing the ground down and away, returning your weight to the center of your feet as you stand.
  7. As you reach standing, squeeze your glutes to stand up fully before repeating on the opposite side.


Lateral lunges are a smaller exercise and usually work best with higher reps. They’re also a strong choice for a superset because of the lower ceiling for fatigue and higher overall movement length. Consider supersetting lateral lunges with something like a clamshell for incredible glute growth.

Lateral lunges can be performed in sets of 10-20 reps per side, building muscular endurance and size.

FURTHER READING: Top 5 Better Alternatives to Lunges for Bad Knees

5. Machine Hip Abduction

The hip abduction machine is a great way to focus on total glute growth.

Try to think about the path of the knee and keep the knees inside the feet to maximize the upper glute involvement. This isn’t how you’d normally perform this exercise, but it helps you target the gluteus medius.

How To

  1. Sit in the hip abductor machine with the pads actively pressuring your legs from start to finish – this tension is important.
  2. Take a position with mildly internally rotated legs, with the knees pointing slightly towards your midline.
  3. Lean forwards slightly at the hip, lengthening the glutes – this will help you get the best results with stretch-mediated hypertrophy.
  4. Push your legs out into the pads as far as possible, opening up your knees as far from each other as possible.
  5. Hold the end position for 1-2 seconds, focusing on expanding your range and squeezing your glutes.
  6. Return to the start position slowly, feeling the muscles lengthen.


This is a finisher – a high rep, moderate weight choice that is easy to do, no matter how tired you are. Throw in 2-4 sets to failure at the end of your workout to really smoke the glutes, adding that additional volume at the end of any leg workout to grow the upper glutes.

6. Banded Clamshell 

The clamshell is one of the most immediately effective glute exercises. It’s often used as an ‘activation’ exercise but can be a great way to build muscle. 

This exercise is perfect for warm-ups and finishers alike. You can add internal rotation variations to target the gluteus medius for an insane growth stimulus.

How To

  1. Lay on the floor with a hip circle resistance band around your knees.
  2. Keeping the feet together, bend the knees to 90 degrees.
  3. Maintaining foot contact and keeping your torso completely straight, open up the knees into the band, creating as much space by externally rotating the ‘top’ leg.
  4. Hold the top position, squeezing the glutes as hard as possible and trying to get the top knee ‘behind’ the hip.
  5. Optional: in the top position, keep your knee in place and internally rotate the leg, maintaining band tension throughout. Return the feet together after 1-2 seconds.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position while controlling the descent to complete the rep.


The best way to use the clamshell is as a powerful late-workout finisher or superset option.

Perform sets of 12-20 clamshells with pauses and/or superset them with other small-medium exercises like lateral lunges or skater slides.

7. Frog Pumps

This simple exercise works like a hip thrust but with much greater knee travel. This isolates the glutes, forcing them to work together to extend the hip. The position completely removes the hamstrings and quads, putting the load on the muscles you want to build.

How To

  1. Lay on the floor with your back flat and your feet together
  2. Place a dumbbell or kettlebell comfortably in the crease of your hips
  3. Push your knees out to the side, raising your hips directly upwards
  4. Hold the top position, counting a 1-2 second pause and actively squeezing the glutes
  5. Lower back to the floor, feeling the glutes lengthen as you reverse the movement


Frog pumps are very simple, and the main goal is to perform many high-rep sets. The weight is lower, but the movement perfectly isolates the glutes as hip extensors – making it super specific.

This is a great smaller exercise for supersets or to finish off your workout with sets of 15-25 reps. Combine this with something like a slider squat, and you’re going to get huge results even with lighter weights.

8. Skater Slides

Skater slides are a fantastic way to build glute strength through active and stabilizing effort. They’re an easy addition to any lower body workout – especially at the end of a supersets – to build the upper glute region.

Even better, skater slides strengthen both sides of the hip while building the upper glute region.

How To

  1. Place a slider on a portion of the floor where it will move without much friction
  2. Place one leg on the slider and bend at the knees and hips – taking up a quarter squat position
  3. Place the other leg on the floor, with a slight internal rotation in the hip
  4. Push yourself along the floor laterally, driving your foot ‘down and through’ the floor
  5. Continue as far as is comfortable before swapping legs and repeating in the opposite direction


This is a bodyweight movement, so it depends on your strengths. Use it at the end of your session in supersets, and aim to keep going until you feel the fatigue hit your upper glutes!

As a concentric-only exercise, this is a great choice for high volume since you’re not stretching the muscle.

9. Fire Hydrant

The banded fire hydrant is a pure abduction exercise that lets you build glute strength without equipment. Because it’s an isolation exercise, you can get more done with less total weight, making even bodyweight reps challenging when performed properly.

How To

  1. Get on all fours in a rectangle shape, with a flat back – knees and elbows at 90 degrees
  2. Lift one leg off the floor, keeping everything else exactly still
  3. Raise this leg out to the side as far as possible, aiming to put the knee ‘behind’ the hip
  4. Don’t let your knee straighten, and don’t push backward – it has to go sideways
  5. Hold the top position, squeezing the glute and slightly internally rotating (if comfortable) to fire up the glute medius
  6. Return to the floor, slowly lowering the leg under control before completing the next rep or swapping sides.


The fire hydrant is both a glute activation exercise (to be used before other exercises) and a finisher. The glute medius is a smaller muscle, which means it can fatigue more rapidly, and this kind of lighter, bodyweight exercise is super effective if you’re actively isolating the muscle.

Aim for higher rep sets, as possible, with 10-20 reps per side

10. Banded Crab Walks

Banded crab walks are a great way to build lateral movement with high reps, providing an incredible pump for both the major glute muscles – the maximus and medius. Performing this exercise properly makes it an excellent superset choice at the end of a taxing lower-body workout.

This is a perfect choice for mixing into muscle endurance training. It’s a perfect choice for developing postural strength around the lower spine while building a bigger, stronger set of glutes.

How To

  1. Place a hip circle just above your knees, on the lower thigh
  2. Optional: place another band around your ankles as comfortable
  3. Bend at the knees and hips, hinging at the hips so you lean over slightly
  4. Keeping your knee and foot in line (they have to stay together), step sideways as far as is comfortable
  5. Step one step at a time – move as slowly as possible – leading with the knee.
  6. Continue as far as comfortable before changing directions.

Pro tip: always maintain tension on the band(s). If you stop feeling the tension, you’re out of position. This usually happens if your knees collapse inwards or your steps are too large.


Banded crab walks are – like clamshells – perfect for supersets at the end of a workout.

The goal is to continue performing crab walks until you feel the fatigue hit your upper glutes and the side of your hip. Once you’re feeling the burn, then the set is done.

How Do You Train The Upper Glute?

You can specifically train the upper glutes with hip extension during internal rotation. This develops the glute medius, which makes up the majority of your upper glute curve.

This is the “pocket” muscle associated with internal rotation, which is why that’s your main focus. You need to build proper internal and external rotation, so working the full range of motion is important.

Look at exercises that involve pushing behind and away from your midline. This recruits both the gluteus maximus and medius, helping build glute muscle mass while specifically sculpting the upper glute.


Training the upper glutes helps you build well-rounded hip strength – and a well-rounded butt.

Most people neglect the development of the glute medius, even though you use it daily when walking or running. Rounding out your glute strength helps build muscle while keeping your knees and hips safe.

Add these essential movements to your lower body workouts, and you’ll see amazing results. 

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Chris Thompson
Hi, I'm Chris. I'm a personal trainer, writer & co-founder of OxygenFitnessCT. I've been writing hundreds of articles on strength training & muscle building for several fitness websites & apps since 2017. Our goal with OxygenFitnessCT is to help you pick the most effective, suitable exercises to improve your workout & achieve your fitness goals.

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