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How to Build Glutes: Backed by Science

March 15, 2024

How to build glutes: Comprehensive guide

A quick Google search on how to build the glutes reveals thousands of articles. While they detail all these different exercises that target the glutes, that alone doesn’t provide us with the information needed to actually grow the butt.

We’re here to change that.

Today’s article describes actionable training tips for you to incorporate into your glute workouts today to put you on the right path to building the rear you’ve dreamt of.

Our tips aren’t just ideas that could help build the glutes, they’re science backed protocols that will build the glutes. The references we use are obtained from approved publications written by the top researchers in the field of muscle building.

Basically, this is the article to trust to add some size to the butt.

To add muscle to the glutes we need to focus our attention on 2 different areas.

  1. Our training
  2. Our Nutrition

Optimising both of these will allow us to build the booty of our dreams.

Let’s get to it.

Table of Contents
Training tips to build the glutes
Nutrition tips to build the glutes
Booty building workouts
Final thoughts


Training Tips to Build Big Glutes

Firstly, we’ll kick things off with Training. Implement the following tips to allow you to build the glutes in the most efficient possible way.


1.      Pick The Right Exercises

When it comes to our glute training, it’s essential that we’re performing exercises that are going to challenge the glutes.

All too often we see people moan about their glutes not growing at the rate they were expecting, but when we dive deeper into their training, we uncover their workout comprises clam shells and glute bridge pulses.

We’re not saying you should do these exercises; we’re just saying that these alone aren’t going to do much for muscle growth.

To understand which exercises we should prioritise in our glute training, it’s worth revisiting the anatomy of the glutes, and the roles of each muscle.

Glute Anatomy

Gluteus Maximas

As you can see from the diagram, the Maximas is the biggest muscle in the butt and is responsible for the shape of the butt.

The primary role of the Maximas is glute extension, ie. increasing the angle between the hip and the thigh (think coming out of the bottom of a squat).

Gluteus Medius

The Medius is the second largest glute muscle and is located at the top sides of the glutes. It’s the Medius that is responsible for the shape of the upper glutes.

The primary role of the Medius is abduction, ie. moving the leg outwards away from the centre line of the body. But the Medius also aids with external rotation ie. pointing the toes outwards.

Gluteus Minimus

Last but by no means least we have the Minimus. The minimus is the smallest muscle in the glute region and is located under both the Maximas and Medius.

The Minimus works alongside the medius and aids with abduction and external rotation.

With the Maximas being the largest muscle in the glutes, it makes sense that the bulk of our glute workouts targets this muscle. And in order to target the Maximas, we’ll need to focus on exercises that involve glute extension.


Compound or Isolation Exercises

If you’re not familiar with the terms “Compound” or “Isolation” exercises, let us quickly explain.

Simply put, compound exercises are exercises that target multiple muscle groups in one movement (think how the squat works the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and back).

Conversely, Isolation exercises only target one muscle group throughout the movement (think how the leg extension only targets the quads).

When it comes to building muscle, compound exercises are king.

This is due to the fact that when performing compound exercises, we are able to recruit a large number of muscle fibres and work them through the full range of motion. This creates a large amount of muscle tension which is the prime driver of muscle growth.

In addition, compound exercises allow us to easily implement progressive overload. We’re not going to say too much here as we cover this in Tip No.5 on our list but being able to apply progressive overload to our training is critical for building muscle.  

For these reasons, we recommend spending 70% of your workout performing compound exercises leaving the remaining 30% for isolation exercises.

Think of compound exercises as the mass builders, and isolation exercises as the muscle sculptors.

A systematic review conducted in 2020 looks at popular compound glute building exercises that involve glute extension (the main role of the gluteus maximas).

Glute hypertrophy comparison table

As you can see from the table, the average glute activation of each of the exercises involved in the study is reasonably high.

With research showing that muscle activation is linked with muscle hypertrophy, we can reasonably conclude that these are great exercises to incorporate into our glute workouts.

Our favourite compound exercises for building the glutes include:

  • Squats – Traditional, Split squats, Front squats, Bulgarian split squats
  • DeadliftsTraditional, Romanian, Sumo, B Stance RDL
  • Hip Thrusts – Barbell, Dumbbell, Single leg, B stance, Machine, Glute bridge
  • LungesTraditional, Reverse, Deficit Reverse, Walking

Our favourite isolation exercises for growing the glutes include:

  • Donkey Kicks
  • Glute Extension Machine
  • Glute Abduction Machine
  • Cable Pull-throughs
  • Reverse Hyperextension

Don’t worry if you don’t know which ones to choose, as you head towards the end of the article you’ll find 2 workouts that we have designed for you to follow.


2.      Stick Within The Moderate Rep Range

You may have heard fitness gurus say that to build strength you need to be working in low rep ranges, to build muscle you need to be working in moderate rep ranges and to build endurance you need to be working in a high rep range.

This belief has been around for decades, and well.. it’s true.

But it’s not as black and white as that, and there’s a bigger picture.

A 2021 meta-analysis concluded that comparable hypertrophy can be achieved across a wide spectrum of loading zones.

In other words, you can build muscle by performing a low number of reps and you can build muscle by performing a high number of reps.

The same conclusion was drawn from a Meta Analysis that compared muscle hypertrophy when performing sets with weights over 60% of our 1 rep max, or under 60% of our 1 rep max.

Lastly, a separate Meta analysis by Lopez and colleagues was conducted to look at the hypertrophic response to low-load training (over 15 reps), moderate-load training (9-15 reps) and heavy-load training (less than 8 reps).

If you haven’t already guessed where we’re going with this, then let us tell you that there was no significant difference in hypertrophy among the 3 groups.

While we can confidently say that we can build muscle in a wide spectrum of loading zones, it’s important to note going to light and performing a huge number of reps is not a good approach.

A study compared the hypertrophy response from individuals working with 20% of their 1RM (Rep Max) and performing a high number of reps and from individuals working with over 40% of their 1RM. Results indicate that working with 20% 1RM resulted in suboptimal hypertrophy.

For this reason, performing say 40 reps is probably not a good approach if your goal is to build muscle mass.

So, what’s our recommendation with regard to the best rep range for glute building?

Well, sticking to within the moderate rep range would be our advice. Performing a higher number of reps with lower weight would extend the amount of time we have to spend in the gym and performing a lower number of reps with heavier weight increases our chances of injury.

Considering we’re going to get the same amount of gains from either one we choose, the moderate rep range gets our vote.


3.      10-20 Weekly Sets Is The Sweet Spot

So we know how many reps we need to perform in a set, but how many sets do we need to perform in a workout, and how many workouts do we need to perform each week – ah so many questions!

The current belief is that more volume = more growth, up until a certain point.

A 2017 meta-analysis comprising 15 studies looked at muscular gains from performing either less than 5 sets, between 5-9 sets or 10+ sets per week. They found that the 10+ reps resulted in the most gains, with 5-9 taking the second spot and less than 5 sets coming in last.

Weekly set volume for hypertrophy comparison

From this, we can assume that 10 weekly sets per muscle group are the minimum dose for most people.

A 2021 meta-analysis suggests that volume and hypertrophy follow an inverted U-shaped curve, such that the more sets you do results in more muscle gain, up until a threshold. If you go past this threshold, then you can expect results to plateau or even diminish.

So what is the upper threshold?

Well, this is up for debate and researchers have divided opinions on this.

It’s worth noting that while more research is needed to test upper threshold limits, the limit will be different from person to person. Factors such as genetics, age, training experience, and lifestyle will all play in part in your own upper limit.

Having said that, research suggests that 10-20 sets, per muscle, per week, is optimum for building muscle. The lower end of this limit is likely enough for new lifters whereas advanced lifters should be aiming towards the upper end of this limit.

So we should do 10-20 sets of glute exercises in our glute workouts, right?

Not so fast! This leads us nicely to our next tip…


4.      Train The Glutes Twice A Week

Let’s say we’ve been lifting for a year. We wouldn’t class ourselves as an advanced lifters but we’d like to think we have done enough to move out of the newbie stage. So, we’re an intermediate lifter needing roughly 15 sets per week to build muscle.

Do we do all 15 sets in one glute workout and then hit a different body part in our next workout? Let’s see what the research has to say.

Leading researcher James Krieger looked at the impact of sets per muscle group per training session.

6-8 sets per session for muscle hypertrophy

As you can see from the graph above, performing over 6-8 sets per muscle group in a single workout did not have any additional benefit on muscle hypertrophy. Any additional sets over this threshold can be considered ‘Junk volume’ and these sets will likely become ineffective.

This is supported by other research James has done that shows Muscle protein synthesis tends to plateau somewhere after 8-12 sets (More on Muscle protein synthesis later!).

An important caveat to mention here. It’s always important to remember that everyone is different and everyone will respond differently to training. The 6-8 sets per muscle per workout is an average, not a fine line; and some people can respond positively to higher volumes.

These are also 6-8 hard sets, pushed closed to failure, with long rest periods (+2mins). The reason why noting the rest time is important is because it helps to understand the intensity of the sets performed. The longer rest periods allowed the individual to re-coup and push themselves fully in every set.

So going back to the 15 sets that we need to perform to grow our glutes, rather than performing all 15 sets in one workout, a better approach would be to split the 15 sets across 2 days and perform 8 sets in one session and 7 sets in another session.

This idea is backed up by a 2016 meta-analysis conducted by leading hypertrophy specialist Brad Schoenfeld that found that training a muscle group twice a week is superior to training once a week. 

That doesn’t mean we should perform 7/8 glute-based sets and head home though. The general consensus is that 15-25 sets per workout are ideal for building muscle. That means we can potentially hit 3 muscle groups in one workout, which allows us enough time to hit all muscle groups throughout the week.


5.      Focus On Progressive Overload

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “Progressive Overload” let us explain.

Progressive overload is a training principle that involves making our workouts harder over time.  

You see, our bodies are adaptive in nature. When we introduce them to a new stimulus Ie. A workout, they will adapt so that they can handle the stimulus.

This adaptation comes in the form of getting stronger and building more muscle mass so that a once difficult workout, is now relatively easy.

That’s great, it means we’re progressing.

But, if we stop there and don’t continue to increase the stimulus, then the body will no longer have a reason to adapt, progress will plateau, and our body will remain the same.

We therefore need to progressively overload the muscles each week to force them into new growth.

There are several ways in which we can do this:

  1. Increase the number of reps
  2. Increase the number of sets
  3. Reduce rest times
  4. Switch up our exercises
  5. Lift heavier weights

The most common route to go down is opting for heavier weights. With strength and size being closely correlated, building strength within a given rep range will help with our muscle building goal.


6.      Vary Exercises, But Not Too Often

It’s important to vary our exercises, but not too often; let’s see why.

Muscles are complex, they have several attachment points and a number of heads. Each head is responsible for carrying out different movements.

Muscle groups are also split up further into smaller muscles. Taking the glutes for example, we have the gluteus Maximas, Medius and Minimus, all of which have slightly different functions.

As a result, not one exercise can successfully develop all muscles in a muscle group. A variety of exercises that work the muscle from different angles are required to ensure successful stimulation of all of the muscle fibres in said group.

On the other hand, varying exercises too often can actually have a negative effect. If we swap exercises in and out every week, then we never give ourselves the opportunity to correctly implement progressive overload.

This can compromise the load we’re able to lift, which subsequently compromises mechanical tension which as you know is the main driver of muscle growth.

Instead, we should aim to keep workouts somewhat similar each week. Leading hypertrophy specialist Brad Schoenfeld has a good standpoint on this. He notes that compound exercises require a high level of coordination so you should keep them in your workout throughout a training cycle, whereas isolation exercises are easier to perform and thus can be rotated in/out as more often.

To put some time scales on this, we would recommend sticking to the same training routine for 4-8 weeks. This will allow you to apply progressive overload and get stronger at the main compound movements.    


7.      Don’t Take Every Set To Failure

Yes, it’s important to push the boundaries, but that’s not to say that we have to take every set as close to failure as possible.

Research has shown that when you’re working out, the closer you get towards failure, the more muscle fibres are recruited and activated to complete the movement. More muscle fibres under tension provide an additional stimulus which in turn adds to the all-important muscle tension.

Taking moderate rep range sets to failure may also enhance metabolic stress, which is the second primary driver of muscle growth.

All sounds very positive, should this be our approach to every set in every workout?

The quick answer is, well, probably not.

As we mentioned, training towards failure results in a high level of muscle activation and motor unit recruitment. But research suggests that the level of muscle recruitment is the same at 3-5 reps before failure as it is at failure.

Additionally, training to failure can also help maximise muscle protein synthesis. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the term yet, we cover it in the next ‘Nutrition’ section.

Basically, Muscle protein synthesis is the bodily process that builds muscle. To build muscle effectively, we need to maximise muscle protein synthesis – and we do this through resistance training and correct nutrition.

It was once believed that taking our sets to failure was the only way to maximise muscle protein synthesis. But research suggests that you can also experience this high level of muscle protein synthesis when you stop a couple of reps short of failure.

The drawbacks that come from training to failure stem from the ability to recover.

Training to failure has been shown to cause excessive muscle damage. As a result, the body will take longer to recover. This extended recovery time could negatively impact our next session or could mean we’ve got to take a day off the gym – not ideal!

It’s also likely that we’ll have to increase our rest periods between sets. That means our workouts are going to take longer – again, not ideal.

Lastly, consistently taking sets to failure increases the chances of overtraining. Such overtraining can negatively impact hormone concentrations which can negatively affect our progress in numerous ways.

A recommended approach would be to take some sets to failure, and stop short on the other sets. That way we can benefit from the additional stimulus that failure training can bring, but we stay away from working the body too hard and entering the overtraining zone.

How to grow your glutes at home article

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Nutrition Tips To Build The Glutes

1.      Eat in a Calorie Surplus

As blunt as this may be; if you’re not eating in a calorie surplus – then you’re not going to build muscle.

(We know, we know – this isn’t 100% true as there are some rare cases where people can build muscle when they’re not in a calorie surplus, but for 99% of us we’ll need to be in a calorie surplus to build muscle).

If you’re not familiar with the term calorie surplus, it simply means that you need to be eating more calories than you burn on a daily basis, every day.

So if I burn 2000 calories a day, I should aim for an additional 10-20% on top of that, which would see me eating 2200-2400 calories each day.

Research has shown that failure to eat in a calorie surplus will prevent gains in lean mass.

So regardless if I had the best training plan in the world, optimising each area of my training routine and staying consistent for months on end – If I’m not eating a calorie surplus then I won’t be building muscle; simple.

For that reason, eating a calorie surplus is arguably the most important factor when it comes to building any muscle – including the glutes!

If you’re unsure of how much you need to be eating to build muscle, check out our recent article “How many calories do I need to eat when bulking”. Don’t be put off by the term “Bulking” it’s just the gym-goer’s way to describe eating for muscle growth.


2.      Eat Enough Protein

Our body is constantly in a state of protein turnover. Old proteins are broken down (protein breakdown) and new proteins are built (protein synthesis). This is an ongoing process that never stops.

If protein synthesis exceeds protein breakdown, we will be in a net positive protein balance and our muscles will grow in size.

Likewise, if the opposite happens and protein breakdown exceeds protein synthesis, we will be in a net negative protein balance and our muscles will start to shrink.

To slow down protein breakdown rates and increase protein synthesis rates we should do 2 things.

  1. Resistance Training
  2. Consume enough protein

Combining the two is a powerful stimulus for muscle building (Krzysztofik, et Al,.2019).

If you didn’t already know, proteins are made up of amino acids, which are considered the building blocks of all muscles.

There are 20 amino acids in total and these can be categorised as either “Essential” or “Non-essential”. Essential amino acids can’t be created by the body and need to be consumed through the diet; there are 9 of these. And Non-essential acids can be created in the body and therefore don’t necessarily need to be consumed in our diet; there are 11 of these.

A complete protein source is a protein source that contains all 9 of these essential amino acids, and these should make up the bulk of our daily protein intake.

Animal products such as chicken, turkey, beef, pork and dairy are all complete protein sources.

In contrast, if you don’t eat animal products then things become slightly more difficult. Vegan protein sources are often “incomplete” protein sources as they lack at least one of the 9 essential amino acids.

Different vegan protein sources have different amino acid profiles. Protein source ‘A’ could be low in the amino acid Leucine, whereas protein source ‘B’ may be high in Leucine.

It’s therefore important that we vary our sources of protein so that over the course of the day we can ensure we’re consuming enough of each, which is vital for maximising muscle protein synthesis.

But how much protein do we need to build the glutes?

Well, research shows that we need to be consuming between 0.7-1g of protein per LB of body weight (1.6-2.2g per KG) every day to maximise muscle protein synthesis.

Consuming towards the higher end of these limits can be considered a ‘Better safe than sorry approach’ as every individual needs different levels of protein to maximise their muscle-building potential.

To ensure we’re eating enough protein every day we would recommend downloading a calorie-counting app such as MyFitnessPal. This will allow you to make sure you hit your daily protein target so that we’re not leaving gains on the table.


3.      Supplement Where Needed

A supplement, as the name suggests, should be used to supplement your diet.

If we have the choice between eating healthy foods or using a supplement, we’d almost always go for the food option.

That said, it’s not always possible to have the food option and supplements are a convenient alternative.

Say we’re in a meeting at work, or we’re stuck in traffic – you can’t exactly whip out the Chicken to get some protein in. What is acceptable though, is having a protein shake, which will offer you comparable amounts of protein in one serving.

Protein shakes are not only convenient, but they’re also a great way to help hit your daily protein targets. As we mentioned in the previous section, to build muscle you need to be eating a fairly high-protein diet. Eating this amount of protein is not always easy, and many people have found that turning to protein shakes can help them hit their daily targets.

Other supplements on the market can aid with building muscle.

Take creatine for example, this well-researched supplement has been found to promote gains in strength, performance, and fat-free mass (Kreider, 2003).

There’s no denying that building muscle is hard, so if supplements can help us along our journey, then it’s worth considering. Check out our recent article “The best supplements for building muscle” to uncover which supplements are worth the money.

Booty Building Workouts

It’s time to put what we’ve learnt into practice. Considering the topics we have discussed today, we have designed 2 workouts that you can perform each week to level up your glute growth.

In both workouts, you’ll be hitting the glutes heavily, but you’ll also be targeting the entire lower body including the quads, hamstrings, and calves. (Remember point 4? You don’t need an entire workout for one muscle group).

Needless to say, before any lower body workout, it’s important to warm up thoroughly and activate the glutes so they’re ready for the heavy lifting.


Butt Building Workout 1


Number of Sets

Number of reps




Romanian Deadlifts



Reverse Lunge


8-10 Each leg

Leg Extension



Glute Kickback


10-12 Each leg

Smith Machine Calf Raise




Butt Building Workout 2


Number of Sets

Number of reps

Front Squats



Hip thrusts



Leg Press (High foot)



Leg Curl



Seated Abductor Machine



Calf Raise Machine




Final Thoughts

And there you have it, our comprehensive guide on how to build the glutes. The tips we have discussed today are not your typical ‘bro-science’ instead they’re backed up by reputable research studies.

Follow the tips we’ve covered today and propel your glute progress to new heights. There’s no denying that growing your glutes doesn’t happen overnight, it takes months of committed training and nutrition – but by following our tips you can ensure you’re on the right track to achieving the booty you desire.

Happy glute building! 

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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