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How To Grow Glutes Not Legs (Actionable Steps)

February 07, 2024

How to grow glutes not legs by Robor Fitness

Stepping into the gym, have you ever felt like your jeans are getting tighter in the wrong places? Yep, we've been there. While we all dream of that Instagram-worthy booty, it's a real bummer when your thighs steal the spotlight. To grow glutes (not legs), one must craft their workouts with the precision of a sculptor.

Many of the exercises popularly hailed as "booty-boosters" also give a shout-out to the legs, especially the quads. Trust me, sometimes they don’t need any more attention. So, how do you ensure your glutes are the main event while your legs play the supporting role? Knowledge is power, and understanding the role and anatomy of the glutes versus the legs is crucial.

Today, we’re diving deep. We'll unearth those gold-standard exercises that boost the booty without bulking the legs. Plus, as a cherry on top, we've crafted two specialized workouts to propel you on your peach-perfect journey. Let's jump in!


Anatomy and Role

Glute Anatomy and Role

Glute anatomy

Glancing up at the diagram, you can see that our booty's spotlight isn't just on one star—it's a trio performance! The glutes comprise three distinct muscles, each with its unique role in the movement stage.

At the helm is the gluteus maximus, and it's exactly what it sounds like: the biggest muscle in the gluteal family. It's the muscle that gives your backside its shape, and it's in charge of hip extension. That's the action you do when stepping back or pushing your hips forward—think of it as the muscle that powers you out of a chair out of the bottom of a squat.

Then we have the middle child, the gluteus medius—second in size but equally important. Perched on the side of your hip, it's the one pulling the strings for hip abduction (lifting your leg sideways) and rotating your hip internally and externally, which is like pivoting your leg to say "no" without shaking your head.

And we can't forget the little one, the gluteus minimus. This muscle may be the smallest, but it's mighty, working in cahoots with the medius to help you swivel those hips and abduct like nobody's business.

Together, this trio not only shapes our silhouette but also supports a symphony of lower body movement. Now, let's see how we can make these muscles sing without turning up the volume on the legs.


Leg Anatomy and Role

Leg anatomy


When you think of the legs, the quadriceps might come to mind first, front and center. As the name quad-riceps hints, it's an ensemble of four muscles at the front of the thigh. These muscles collaborate for one primary gig: knee extension. That's the straightening action you perform when you kick a ball or press the gas pedal.

Now, while they all share the spotlight, one member of this group, the rectus femoris, is a bit of an overachiever. Unlike its siblings, it stretches across two joints—the knee and the hip. So, besides helping with knee extension, it plays a part in hip flexion, pulling your thigh closer to your belly.

Let's name the whole band:

  1. Rectus Femoris: As mentioned, this is the multitasker of the group, assisting with both knee extension and hip flexion.
  2. Vastus Lateralis: Positioned on the outer side of the thigh, it's the broadest of the quad muscles.
  3. Vastus Medialis: This teardrop-shaped muscle sits medially or toward the inside of the thigh.
  4. Vastus Intermedius: As the name suggests, it's sandwiched between the other vastus muscles, lying deep beneath the rectus femoris.

Awareness of these muscles' roles helps us craft exercises that fire up the glutes without unnecessarily pumping up the quads.



Switching the stage to the back of the leg, we find the hamstrings, another group of key players in our lower body concert. Contrary to what you might think, the hamstrings aren't just a trio—they consist of four distinct muscles.

While the quadriceps love to show off by extending the knee, the hamstrings have a different signature move: knee flexion. Picture bending your knee to kick your butt—that's the hamstrings in action.

But here's a twist in our muscle plot: unlike the quads, where only one muscle crosses the hip joint, in the hamstrings, three out of the four take on this additional role. These multitaskers not only bend the knee but also assist in hip extension. That means they're the ones working when you're pushing your hips back or propelling forward in a stride.

Simply put, while the quads straighten the leg, the hamstrings bend it and also aid in pulling the thigh backwards. It's a delicate balance that keeps us moving fluidly, and knowing this interplay is vital when we aim to grow glutes, not legs.



Now, let's focus on the unsung heroes hidden inside the thighs: the adductor muscles. Tucked away from the limelight, these muscles play a critical role in the symphony of leg movements.

The adductor magnus is the standout muscle here—the largest and the most powerful in the group. Its claim to fame is hip adduction, the act of pulling the leg back toward the body's midline. Imagine squeezing a ball between your knees—that's the adductor magnus gearing up.

But the plot thickens with the latest research (1) insights: this muscle is not just about pulling things in. It also chips in with hip internal and external rotation, fine-tuning our leg's positioning. Even more intriguingly, the adductor magnus has been recognized as a powerful player in hip extension.

The research simplifies a complex idea: the moment arm vector (MAV) concept, which is like the muscle's power line for hip actions. This concept was used to classify hip muscles based on their ability to flex, extend, adduct, abduct, and rotate the hip through different degrees of hip flexion. The findings were fascinating—muscles changed their roles as the hip moved, a bit like musicians switching instruments mid-performance.

For example, it appears that the adductor magnus is heavily involved in hip extension at the bottom as the squat, but as you break parallel, the glutes take the workload off of the adductors and proper the body back to the standing position. 

This revelation underscores the complexity of our muscle functions. It highlights the importance of the adductor magnus not just in adduction but also in extending the hip, which could play a role in our quest to grow glutes, not legs.


9 Exercises to Grow the Glutes, Not Legs

Alright, all this muscle talk is fun, but let's get to the juicy part: how can we grow those glutes without bulking up our legs? With our newfound knowledge of the roles of the glutes and legs, it becomes clearer. We need to target exercises that spark the action of our desired muscle.

Think of it like this: we're auditioning exercises for a play. The main role? Hip extension. And the supporting roles? Hip abduction and internal/external rotation. By prioritizing these actions, we ensure the glutes are our star performers while keeping leg involvement as mere cameos.

The goal is to build that peach to its fullest potential. And that means giving some love to the smaller glute medius and minimus. By incorporating exercises that target hip abduction and rotation, we ensure a balanced, well-rounded booty.

Now, before you think we're handing you a one-size-fits-all plan, remember that variety is the spice of life. The exercises we'll discuss have multiple variations, whether with barbells, dumbbells, or on the Smith machine. It's all about personal preference and comfort.

So, get ready to experiment, find your groove, and let's start growing those glutes without supersizing the legs!


1. Hip Thrust

Hip thrust exercise example


Meet the hip thrust, the VIP guest at the glute-building party. Imagine lying on your back, with your shoulders against a bench and a weight across your hips. The aim? Drive those hips to the sky, squeezing the glutes at the top and then lowering the weight back down.

Why is the hip thrust such a rave? Well, it's one of the top contenders for bulking up those buns. The magic lies in the positioning. With the weight pushing directly downward against your hips, it challenges the glutes in the most flattering way. You're basically fighting gravity, pushing upward while the load is bidding you downward.

In the grand scheme of things, this exercise focuses on the hip extension under a load, precisely what our glute maximus loves. So, if you're on a mission to grow glutes, not legs, the hip thrust deserves a starring role in your workout routine!


2. Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlift example


Step aside for the Romanian Deadlift, often fondly dubbed the RDL. Here’s the scene: You’re standing tall, feet shoulder-width apart, holding a weight in front of you. Now, push those hips back, slightly bend the knees, and lower the weight down in front of you, keeping it close to your legs. Once you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings, you thrust your hips forward, returning to the starting position.

But what makes the RDL a glute-growing gem? It’s a hip extension exercise at heart. As you push your hips back and then forward, you're directly targeting the lower glutes, giving them a solid workout.

An added perk? It keeps our leggy friends—the quadriceps—on the sidelines. Since there's minimal knee flexion and extension (thanks to that slight knee bend maintained throughout), the legs don't hog the spotlight. This ensures the glutes remain the star of the show, making the Romanian Deadlift a must-add to your glute-focused repertoire!


3. Step Ups

Step up exercise example


The step-up is a straightforward yet potent exercise for targeting those glute muscles. You simply find a step or a platform, place one foot firmly on it, and power through the heel to lift your body upwards until you're standing on the step. The trailing leg swings through to either tap the step or lift in a knee drive for a bit of extra oomph.

Digging into the science, research (2) backs the step up as a heavyweight in the glute activation arena. What sets it apart in our quest to grow glutes is the knee angle. During a step-up, the knee of the working leg typically doesn't bend past 90 degrees. This angle helps to keep the quadriceps from becoming too involved and allows the glutes to do the heavy lifting—literally.

Incorporating step-ups into your routine means you'll get a lot of glute action with a side of cardiovascular challenge, especially if you keep the pace up. So, step up to the plate and let those glutes shine!


4. Lunges

Lunges are a classic staple in many workout routines, and for good reason. To keep the focus on the glutes while limiting the involvement of the quadriceps, it's essential to take a more extended step forward. This adjustment not only amplifies glute engagement but also reduces the degree of knee flexion, ensuring that the quads don't try to steal the show.

For those looking to level up their lunge game, the deficit reverse lunge is a stellar variant. Here, you'll start by standing on an elevated platform. Instead of lunging forward, you'll step backwards into the lunge, creating a deeper range of motion and, in turn, maximizing that glute activation.

To find the best lunges for your booty-building regimen, remember the importance of step length and consider adding variants like the deficit reverse lunge. It's all about optimizing that glute engagement while keeping those legs in check!


5. Good Mornings

Meet the "Good Morning" exercise, which, ironically, doesn't involve any yawning or stretching out of bed. Instead, it's a fantastic move that zeros in on the lower glutes. Let's break down its charm:

At its core, the Good Morning has a movement pattern reminiscent of the Romanian deadlift. However, the difference lies in the weight positioning. Instead of holding the weight in front of you, you'll place it across your upper back. This shift creates a more extensive moment arm, upping the challenge.

Consequently, you may be reaching for lighter weights than you'd lift during a Romanian deadlift. But fear not! Without the constraint of grip strength (since the weight comfortably rests on your back), you're all set to target those glutes effectively.

Here's how to nail the Good Morning:

  1. Start with a hip-width stance.
  2. Let the bar settle on your upper back, with your hands just outside your shoulders for support.
  3. Ensure your knees flex slightly, but don't bend them excessively.
  4. Maintain that crucial lumbar curve for back safety.
  5. Keep your knees aligned with your toes; no wobbling!
  6. Your heels should be firmly planted on the ground.
  7. Slowly descend, hinging at the hips until your chest is parallel to the floor.
  8. Rise back up, ensuring full hip and knee extension.

Good Mornings might be a cheeky nod to our AM rituals, but when it comes to building those lower glutes, they're no joke. Incorporate them into your routine, and you'll be saying "good morning" to firmer glutes in no time!


6. 45 Degree Hyperextensions

45-degree hyperextensions are a phenomenal way to zero in on your glutes, giving them the attention they deserve. This exercise is performed on a specialized bench, angled at 45 degrees, to support your thighs and allow your torso to drop down and then rise.

A little pro tip for those who are keen to amplify their glute gains: when you're ascending from the lowered position, tuck your chin in. This tiny adjustment might feel odd initially, but it's a secret weapon for enhancing glute activation throughout the exercise.

Here’s a quick rundown on how to do it:

  1. Position yourself on the hyperextension bench, securing your feet under the pads.
  2. Cross your arms over your chest or place them at the back of your head.
  3. Lower your upper body down, maintaining a neutral spine.
  4. Throughout the movement remember to tuck that chin in and feel those glutes engage.
  5. Extend until your body forms a straight line.

The 45-degree hyperextension exercise, especially with the chin-tuck technique, is a surefire way to prioritize those glutes. When performed consistently and correctly, they will help you sculpt the backside of your dreams!


7. Cable Kickback

cable kickback glute exercise example

Performed using a low pulley cable machine with an ankle strap, you secure the cuff to one ankle and kick back against the resistance. The action? Imagine pushing a door closed with your foot but with a controlled force.

The Cable Kickback mainly targets the gluteus maximus. And while it's nearly impossible to isolate a single muscle completely, this exercise gets tantalizingly close. With most resistance loading directly onto the gluteus maximus, it's a heavy hitter in the booty-building repertoire.

Another noteworthy feature of this exercise is its unilateral nature. Working one side at a time, it’s excellent for detecting and fixing any muscle imbalances. Let’s face it: nobody wants a lopsided booty!

Now, cables pack a special punch. Their consistent tension throughout the movement provides a unique advantage over free weights. And guess what? That constant tension is gold for muscle growth.

Research has shown that muscle tension is a crucial factor in stimulating muscle hypertrophy (3). So, including cable exercises like this can be a game-changer for those aiming to maximize their glute growth.


8. Cable Pull Through

cable pull-through exercise example

Like the Cable Kickback, the Pull-Through reaps the benefits of the cable machine's constant tension. This is a big win because as you hinge and drive your hips forward, the resistance remains steady, which means your glutes are under continuous demand to perform.

Here’s the step-by-step on how to nail it:

  1. Stand facing away from the cable machine, with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend down and grab the rope between your legs with both hands, maintaining a neutral spine.
  3. Walk forward until you feel the cable tension.
  4. Hinge at your hips, pushing your buttocks back while you allow the weight to pull your hands back and between your legs.
  5. Now, the fun part: drive your hips forward, squeeze your glutes, and pull the cable through your legs, coming to a full standing position.

And here's a pro tip: keep your back flat and your focus forward; this isn't just about moving weight but engaging those glutes every step of the way. The Cable Pull Through is another gem for your gluteal arsenal, ensuring those muscles work hard every time you hit the gym leaving no possibility for a flat butt.


9. Seated Abduction

Seated abduction exercise example

The Seated Abduction zeroes in on the outer portions of your glutes, targeting those often-overlooked smaller glute muscles—the gluteus medius and minimus. The exercise involves pushing your legs outward against resistance, which is the essence of hip abduction.

Here’s a quick guide to mastering it:

  1. Sit on the machine and place your knees against the resistance pads.
  2. Adjust the starting position so that your knees are together.
  3. With a controlled movement, push your knees outward against the resistance. Feel the outer glutes engaging.
  4. Slowly bring your knees back to the starting position.

And here's something to chew on: while this exercise might not have you lifting the heaviest weights, it’s all about precision. It's like the fine brush strokes on a masterpiece painting. So, next time you're at the gym, don’t overlook this sculptor of a side-booty workout. It’s perfect for rounding out (pun intended) a comprehensive glute training regimen.


Workout for Glute Growth Only

As promised, we have designed 2 glute-based workouts that minimize leg involvement so you can focus on adding inches to the booty without adding any size to the legs.

Glute Workout 1



Hip Thrust

4 sets of 8-10 reps

Good Mornings

4 sets of 8-10 reps

Step Ups

3 sets of 10-12 reps (each leg)

Cable Kickback

3 sets of 10-12 reps

Seated Abduction

3 sets of 12-15 reps


Glute Workout 2



Romanian Deadlifts

4 Sets of 8-10 reps

Deficit Reverse Lunges

4 Sets of 8-10 reps (each leg)

45 Degree Hyperextensions

3 sets of 10-12 reps

Cable Pull-through

3 sets of 10-12 reps

Seated abduction

3 sets of 12-15 reps


Glute Building Tips

Achieving a stronger, firmer booty is about more than just the exercises you do. It’s also about how you do them and the lifestyle choices accompanying your workouts. Here are some expert tips to maximize those glute gains:


Progressive Overload for Growth

Think of building muscle as trying to get better at a video game. You can't stay on level one forever and expect to become a master gamer. In fitness terms, this leveling up is called "progressive overload," the golden key to unlocking muscle growth.

Progressive overload isn’t just about lifting heavier—it’s about challenging your muscles consistently. When you start exercising, you're essentially throwing a surprise party for your muscles. But if you keep throwing the same party, they won't be surprised or impressed anymore. Hence, the need for change.

As your muscles adapt to the stresses of one workout, you need to up the ante for the next. If not, your glutes will hit a plateau faster than you can say "squat." To keep them on their toes (or heels, for better glute activation), you can:

  • Uplift with more sets: The more sets you perform, the more volume your muscles endure, which can spark growth.
  • Increase Reps: More repetitions of a particular exercise can boost hypertrophy
  • Boost training frequency: Sometimes, it’s about frequency. Adding an extra glute session each week can yield impressive results
  • Up the time under tension: Slow down your reps. Make those muscles work harder for longer.
  • Elevate the resistance: Simply put, add more weight to your exercises as you grow stronger.

Essentially, you just need to make your glute workout harder each week so that your body sees a reason to adapt (grow bigger and stronger).


Eating for Glute Growth

The phrase "You are what you eat" might sound like a tired old adage, but when it comes to muscle growth, it’s hard to overstate its truth. The efforts you put into your workouts, no matter how monumental, will only manifest fully when paired with the right dietary choices.

Muscle growth, especially in areas like the glutes, is not just about the amount of sweat you drip on the gym floor but also the kind of fuel you provide to those muscles. Here's why and how:

  • Fuel for muscle-building: Just as a car needs gas to run, your muscles need energy to grow. Without sufficient fuel—real food—your muscles simply won't grow. It's a non-negotiable deal.
  • The caloric truth: No matter how flawlessly you execute each rep or set in your glute-focused workout, without adequate caloric intake, muscle building will remain a distant dream. And the harsh reality? You won't achieve growth without consuming more calories than you burn. This is called a calorie surplus.
  • Surplus calculation: To optimize muscle growth, aim for a calorie surplus, consuming 10-20% more than your maintenance calories (4). These are the calories needed to maintain your current weight. Following this method can lead to muscle gains of approximately 0.25 – 0.5% of your body weight weekly.
  • Prioritize Protein: When it comes to building the glutes, and any other muscle for that matter; protein is key. If we don’t eat enough of it, then we’re going to fail to build muscle – period. Research (5) suggests that anywhere between 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is enough to maximise muscle protein synthesis (the process of building new muscle tissue). 
  • Rate of muscle gain: Our bodies are marvelous, but they don't do magic. They can only synthesize muscle at a set pace. Gaining more than the recommended 0.25 – 0.5% of body weight in a week indicates you're overeating, leading to stored body fat. If you find yourself overshooting this range, it's advisable to reduce your calorie intake, starting with a decrease of around 200 calories and adjusting as needed.
  • Find your perfect number: For those looking to dive deeper into the intricacies of muscle-building caloric needs, we recommend perusing our article “How Many Calories Do I Need to Build Muscle?” It provides a comprehensive guide to help you zero in on the exact caloric intake tailored to your growth goals.

To summarize, while the gym gets the spotlight, the kitchen plays a crucial role backstage. Feed those muscles right, and you're one step closer to achieving that dream derrière.


Final Rep: Sealing Your Glute Gains

Achieving a chiseled and robust posterior is an attainable dream. As highlighted throughout this article, it is possible to focus on glute growth while maintaining a more modest development in the legs.

The secret lies in your exercise selection and approach. By honing in on movements that predominantly engage the glutes and consciously sidelining those that heavily stimulate the leg muscles, you'll be charting a direct course toward your desired results.

This guide has illuminated the pathway to sculpting the glutes you've always aimed for. As you embark on this journey, armed with this newfound knowledge, remember that every rep, set, and meal counts. Enjoy the process, apply what you've learned, and here's to fruitful glute-building sessions ahead.


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References & Further Reading:

  1. Dostal, W. F., Soderberg, G. L., & Andrews, J. G. (1986). Actions of hip muscles. Physical Therapy, 66(3), 351–359.
  2. Neto, W. K. (2020, March 1). Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review. PubMed Central (PMC).
  3. Wackerhage, H., Schöenfeld, B. J., Hamilton, D. L., Lehti, M., & Hulmi, J. J. (2019). Stimuli and sensors that initiate skeletal muscle hypertrophy following resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 126(1), 30–43.
  4. Iraki, J., Fitschen, P. J., Espinar, S., & Helms, E. R. (2019). Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative review. Sports, 7(7), 154.
  5. Iraki J, Fitschen P, Espinar S, Helms E. Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review. Sports (Basel). 2019 Jun 26;7(7):154. doi: 10.3390/sports7070154. PMID: 31247944; PMCID: PMC6680710.


Thomas D
Thomas D


Thomas is a dedicated fitness enthusiast with over 12 years of experience in the gym. As a level 2 qualified gym instructor, he combines his passion for working out and nutrition to help others achieve their fitness goals. Thomas stays up to date with the latest fitness research and follows the work of top experts in the field. With a balance of textbook knowledge and real-life experience, he provides practical guidance to help others reach their full potential.

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