Big butt, small butt, round butt or a flat butt – there are many different shapes for booty. Many of you know already that with the right exercises, your glutes can be shaped full and round. And yes, it involves more than some brisk walking on the treadmill. For a well-trained bum, heavy strength training is needed. But how do you build that perfect toned butt without growing your legs?
The gluteus muscles are used for stretching and rotating your hips. They also help to move your legs away from or toward the center of your body, movements that are also used during leg and glute exercises. Think of squats, lunges and romanian deadlifts, exercises which are known and widely used as butt-shaping exercises. However, what these exercises have in common is that the focus of these exercises is primarily on the quadriceps (the muscle on the front of your thigh) and hamstrings (the muscle at the back of your thigh). By doing these exercises, you do not only stimulate your buttocks to grow, but also your legs. So, what if you don’t want to grow your legs? What exercises can you do to grow your booty without increasing your leg size?
As you might have noticed, the options for exercises decrease rapidly when you do want your glutes to grow but don’t want your legs to grow. You need to do less squats, lunges, leg presses, leg extensions, step-ups or Bulgarian squats, because they activate your quadriceps too much. Even the hip thrust activates your legs in such a way it will grow your legs. Also, no Romanian deadlifts, leg curls, glute ham raises or back extensions, because they lead to too much hamstring activation.
Here are some examples for glute-specific exercises to get that round toned butt without growing your legs.
Barbell Glute Bridges
This exercise doesn’t activate the quadriceps as much as the barbell hip thrust does. Make sure you keep getting stronger by adding more weight or reps during your workout sessions. Without getting stronger you won’t grow more muscle mass. And without more muscle mass, your butt will not get any bigger, rounder or tighter.
- Sit up straight with your legs extended and roll a barbell up to the crease of your hips.
- Lay back into a supine position on the floor with your arms holding onto the bar.
- Bridge your hips up by squeezing your glutes and driving your heels into the floor.
- Lower your hips back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
This exercise activates your glutes more than the Romanian deadlift does. And remember, to get more muscle, you have to train heavy. So go heavy and grow that booty.
- Set a bar at just below hip height and load your desired weight.
- Hinge forward slightly and grasp the bar with a double overhand, shoulder width grip.
- Stand up by extending your hips and knees and take two steps back from the rack.
- Unlock your knees, push your hips back, and hinge forward until the bar is just below your knee cap.
- Drive through the whole foot and focus on pushing the floor away.
- Finish the movement by squeezing the glutes and posteriorly tilting the pelvis.
- Once you have locked out the hips, reverse the movement by pushing the hips back and hinging forward.
- Return the bar to the floor, reset, and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Single Leg Foot Elevated Hip Thrusts
The main difference between single leg bodyweight hip thrusts and other hip thrust variations is it’s a unilateral exercise. This allows you to target each side of the body at a time to build a more aesthetic physique as well as balanced strength.
- Start in a supine position with your back on a bench.
- Hold one leg held at a 90 degree angle at the hip and drive the other foot into the floor to bridge your hips up while squeezing your glute.
- Lower your hips back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Repeat on both sides.
Pull-Throughs and Kettlebell Swings
Make sure you activate your glutes during these exercises to tighten up that butt.
- Holding a kettlebell with slightly bent knees, swing the kettlebell from under the knees straight through to chin height.
- Keep arms straight and propel hips and bottom forward while keeping your core tight.
Hip Abduction Movements
Cable Hip Abduction
- Set up for the cable hip abduction by attaching an ankle strap (if one is not available, a single handle may suffice) to the low pulley of a cable pulley machine and set your desired weight on the stack.
- Attach the ankle strap to your left ankle and stand up straight with your feet close together with your right foot closest to the machine.
- You can use your right arm to hold onto the machine for stability. You are now in the staring position.
- Begin the movement by lifting your left leg straight out to your side as high as comfortably possible. This will lift the weight from the stack.
- Pause for a moment and then slowly lower your leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired amount of reps.
- Turn around, attach the strap to your right ankle and then repeat with your right leg.
Seated Hip Abduction
Machine Hip Abductions
- Sit on the abductor machine and adjust the height of the seat so that the sides of your knees or ankles (depending on the design) rest comfortably against the pads. On some machines your will have to sit down with your feet on the foot pegs so that the knees are bent at 90 degrees.
- Hold the handles, and with a slow, controlled motion, move the pads out (open your legs) by pushing with the knees or an ankles (depending on the design) until the legs reach the farthest outward position.
- Slowly return to the starting position without letting the resistance rest on the weight stack between repetitions.
Hip External Rotation Movements
External rotation of the hip is when the top of the femur or thigh rotates towards the outside, or away from the midline of the body. As this motion is made your knees will turn outwards.
- Lie on your left side with your legs stacked. Bend your knees to an angle of approximately 45 degrees. Check to make sure your hips are stacked one on top of the other.
- Use your left arm to prop up your head. Use your right arm to stabilize your upper body by placing your right hand on your right hip.
- Keeping your feet together, move your right knee upward as high as you can, opening your legs. Engage your abdominals by tucking in your belly button. Make sure your pelvis and hips don’t move.
- Pause with your right knee lifted, then return your right leg to the starting position.
- Repeat 20 to 30 times.
- Do the same on your right side.
Lying-on-stomach Hip External Rotation
- Lie down on your stomach with both legs extended. Place your palms flat on the floor under your chin. Rest your chin or either cheek on your hands.
- Keep your left leg extended. Bend your right knee at an angle just less than 90 degrees, bringing the leg toward your torso. Rest the inside of your right ankle on your left calf.
- Gently lift your right knee off the floor. You should feel your external hip muscles activate. Lower your right knee to the ground.
- Repeat 20 to 30 times, and then switch legs.
- Begin this exercise on your hands and knees with your back straight. Draw in your belly button to engage your abdominal muscles.
- Keeping your right leg bent at 90 degrees, lift your right knee out to the right and up, away from your body, opening your right hip. Hold this position briefly. Return your right knee to the floor.
- Repeat this movement 10 to 20 times, ensuring your elbows remain locked.
- Complete the same number of reps on the other side.