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Lunges for Glutes: 6 Variations That Build The Booty

February 07, 2024


Best lunges for glutes article

Squats and hip thrusts are widely considered the best exercises to build the butt, and for a good reason, too, they are. But we can’t rely on two exercises to build round, perky glutes. We need other exercises that challenge the glutes in new ways, from different angles, in different ranges of motion.

That’s where lunges come in. Unlike squats and hip thrusts, lunges are unilateral exercises that bring a whole new stimulus to the glutes. Plus, they’re compound in nature, meaning we’re also targeting the quads, hamstrings, calfs, and core in one movement.

We suggest adding a lunge variation to your glute day workouts for a well-developed, heart-shaped bum.

Today we’ll discuss our favourite lunge variations, along with explaining the best ‘Tips’ for you to incorporate, to further target the glutes during the lunging movements. But first, before we get into that, let’s take a look at the anatomy of the glutes and their role in lunge movements.

Table of Contents
Glute anatomy and role
How do lunges benefit the glutes
Best lunge variation for glute growth
Final thoughts


Glute Anatomy and Role

The glutes are the biggest and one of the most powerful muscles in the body. They are responsible for everyday tasks walking, running, jumping, and hinging at the hip.

In all honesty, most movements we perform are stabilized by the glutes, and if strength in this region is compromised, then every region is compromised. Thus it’s extremely important we train the glutes to keep up with the daily demands.

The glutes are made up of 3 muscles:

Glute muscle anatomy


Gluteus Maximas

The gluteus maximas is the largest muscle of the 3 and makes up the majority of the shape of the butt. The main role of the maximas is glute extension, which means to increase the angle between the thigh and the hip (Think moving the body behind the leg or coming out the bottom of a lunge).


Gluteus Medius

The gluteus medius is the 2nd largest muscle in the region and is located at the top sides of the bum. The main role of the medius is abduction, which is to move your leg outwards away from the centre line of the body, but it also aids in external rotation: which is to twist your foot outwards.


Gluteus Minimus

The smallest of the 3 muscles is the gluteus minimus. This muscle sits underneath the other 2, again at the side of the bum. The minimus works alongside the medius to help with abduction and external rotation.

Although 3 separate muscles, they all work together to stabilize the hip in nearly every lower body movement we make.


How Do Lunges Benefit the Glutes

Lunges are one of the best exercises to target all 3 muscles of the glutes. The unilateral nature of lunges makes them perfect for maximizing muscular activation while challenging balance and stability.

During a lunge, we’re targeting all 3 of the glute muscles. Glute extension is required to get out of the flexed position created by lunging, which is the primary role of the maximas (the largest out of the 3 glute muscles). We can ensure maximum glute recruitment during this exercise by focusing on driving through the heel instead of the toes, and by reducing the load put through our back leg.

The medius and minimus are also worked hard during a lunge because of the need to stabilize the hip in a single-leg stance. As previously mentioned, the medius/minumus help to rotate the hip externally and abduct it away from the body. This will help create balance and stability during a lunge thus further recruiting the glutes.

Because lunges are unilateral exercises (exercises that target one limb at a time), they can help iron out any muscle imbalances or weaknesses you may have. This is an important part of training if you want to build a symmetrical physique, optimise performance and remain injury free.

Lunges can also help increase hip mobility, particularly when doing movements such as the reverse lunge. As we move into a deeper lunge, more flexibility is required at the hips. This can help improve overall lower body mobility and stability, which can, in turn, provide additional benefits when performing other exercises.

Lastly, lunges are a key ingredient in muscle hypertrophy. The muscle is worked in a stretched position when performing the lunge, and research (1) has shown that placing a stretched muscle under load has positive benefits on muscle hypertrophy.


Best Lunge Variations for Glute Growth

1.   Reverse Lunge

Reverse lunge exercise example

Lunging forward is one of the most common lunge variations, but it can put a lot of strain on the knee joint. Lunging backwards, on the other hand, is a lot more joint-friendly and shifts most of the work onto the glutes and hamstrings, rather than the quads.


Reverse lunge – How to:

  1. Place the barbell on your back, the same as you would for a squat
  2. Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart
  3. Step back with one foot, and place it on the floor a couple of feet behind you
  4. Keep your chest upright, bend both knees until your front thigh is parallel to the ground
  5. Pushing through the heel of the front foot, step back into a standing position
  6. Either continue with each leg until you’ve done the desired number of reps or complete all reps on one leg before moving on to the next.


Tips for Reverse Lunges:

  • Keep your chest up and tall throughout the entire movement
  • Step back as far as you need so that the front leg is perpendicular to the floor.
  • Place the majority of your weight onto the heel of the front foot, the rear leg should just be used for support
  • Keep your shoulders back and your core tight
  • The rear knee should softly touch the ground (or just above the ground) on each rep for maximum range of motion.


2.   Deficit Reverse Lunge

Deficit reverse lunge for glute growth

Deficit reverse lunges are like the regular reverse lunge but with added spice. The introduction of a deficit makes things extra challenging and this seemingly little change can have a big impact.

A deficit is created by elevating the front foot on a step or a platform a few inches off of the ground. The deficit allows us to go into a greater range of motion which helps to activate the glutes further.


Deficit reverse lunge – How to:

  1. Start by setting up a platform or step that is 2-8 inches (5-20cm) in height.
  2. Holding a pair of dumbbells or by placing a barbell on your back, stand behind the step
  3. Step onto the platform with both feet
  4. Step back with one foot and place it on the floor a couple of feet behind you
  5. Slowly lower yourself into the lunge position
  6. Push through the heel of the front foot and drive up, bringing the back foot forward onto the platform
  7. Again you can either continue will 1 leg until you’ve completed the desired number of reps or you can alternate legs.


Tips for Deficit Reverse Lunges:

  • Start with a low platform and gradually increase the height as you improve your mobility and strength
  • Step back as far as you need to so that the front leg remains perpendicular to the floor, this increases glute activation
  • Don’t let your chest collapse forward – keep your core braced
  • Increase the weights we’re working with as we get stronger
  • Keep your shoulders back, and don’t let your head drop forward. Also prevent looking around during the exercise


3.   Lateral Lunge

Lateral lunge exercise example

The lateral lunge (or sideways lunge) is an excellent move for working the glutes, particularly the two main muscles that make up the buttocks - the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.

As we touched on earlier in the article, the role of the gluteus medius is to move the leg away from the midline of the body, which is the very movement we’re performing here.


Lateral Lunge – How to:

  1. Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your chest up
  2. Take a big step out to the side with one foot, and place it on the ground a couple of feet to your side
  3. Lower your hips towards the ground, sending them out to the side
  4. Keep your chest upright throughout the movement
  5. Push back up through the heel and return to a standing position


Tips for the Lateral Lunge:

  • Make the step outwards roughly 2 feet (60 cm)
  • Try to keep your hips square throughout the movement
  • Aim for a wide range of motion, pushing your hips as far out to the side as you comfortably can
  • Keep your body weight over the middle of the foot for balance, avoiding leaning too far forward or backwards
  • Pause for a second at the bottom of each rep to maximize the benefits
  • Perform equal reps on both sides to build balanced muscles and stay injury-free


4.   Curtsey Lunge

Curtsey lunge exercise example

Similar to the reverse lunge, the curtsey lunge is an excellent glute-strengthening exercise with a slight twist (literally). Instead of stepping back with the non-working leg, you must cross it behind and across your body.

This motion effectively activates the gluteus medius (the muscle in the upper glutes) for an even more comprehensive workout. Be sure to take it slow when performing this exercise and focus on good form and control.


Curtsey Lunge – How to:

  1. Start in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Hold your hands in front of your chest or on your hips (Bodyweight version)
  3. Place the barbell on your back or hold dumbbells in each hand (Weighted version)
  4. Step your left foot diagonally behind and across the back of your right leg and place it on the ground
  5. Lower your hips towards the ground until your rear knee nearly touches the floor
  6. Push your weight into the heel of your right foot and stand back up
  7. Return to your starting position and repeat on the other side for the desired number of reps


Tips for the Curtsey Lunge:

  • Keep your hips square when lowering into the lunge
  • Avoid leaning forward or arching your back
  • Ensure you go down deep enough to feel a good stretch in the glutes
  • Start with the bodyweight variant and once you have mastered the form, progress into the weighted variant.


5.   Walking Lunges

Walking lunge exercise example

Walking lunges can be an effective option if you want to add a bit of variation. This exercise is both dynamic and functional. It’s a great lunge variation that can help build strength for everyday tasks.

The dynamic nature of the exercise can help improve balance and coordination which can spill over into other exercises and can also help with improved performance in sporting disciplines. 


Walking Lunge – How to:

  1. The exercise can either be done with bodyweight, dumbbells or a barbell.
  2. Start the exercise stood up with feet shoulders width apart
  3. Step forward with your right foot and lower into a lunge until both knees form 90-degree angles (your rear leg should nearly be touching the floor)
  4. Push off the front right foot to return to the starting position
  5. Then step forward with your left foot and lower into the same lunge position until both knees form 90-degree angles
  6. Push off the front left foot to return to the starting position
  7. Alternate legs and repeat for 10-20 reps, depending on your goals.


Tips for Walking Lunges

  • Increase the weights we’re using to allow for continued progression
  • Ensure that you keep your front knee over your ankle throughout the entire movement
  • Keep your core tight to help with stability and balance
  • Focus on pushing off the front foot when returning to the starting position for more power and glute activation


6.   Alternating Jumping Lunge

This high-intensity plyometric move combines cardio and strength training to pump up your glute, build strength and burn calories. The alternating jumping lunge is a great exercise if you’re looking for more of an explosive workout or you’re short on time. Get your heart rate racing, build up a sweat and build those lower body muscles. 


Alternating Lunge – How to:

  1. Begin in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart
  2. Take a large step forward with your right foot and lower into the lunge position until your knee is bent 90 degrees and your back knee nearly touches the floor
  3. Now explode up and off the ground, switch feet in the air, and land softly with your left foot forward
  4. Immediately lower into a lunge with the left leg and repeat, alternating legs with each jump
  5. Do 10-15 repetitions, depending on your goals and fitness level.


Tips for the Alternating Jumping Lunge:

  • The explosive nature of the exercise means it’s not suitable for those returning after an injury. If you’ve got sore joints then we’d recommend sticking to the other alternative exercises.
  • Focus on your form and keep your chest up throughout the exercise
  • Ensure to land softly with each jump and push off with enough force to propel yourself off the ground
  • Maintain a steady and controlled speed throughout the exercise to maximize your workout efficiency
  • Avoid bending the torso forward or arching the back as you jump to prevent any lower back pain or injury


Final Thoughts

Lunges are an effective and versatile exercise for building muscle and shaping your glutes. From the classic lunge to the more challenging jumping lunge, we have several lunge variations available to us to give the booty the boost it needs.

Remember, start with bodyweight the version and only once you’ve mastered the form should you move on to the weighted versions. Apply progressive overload by increasing the intensity over time to maximise the results.

We hope you’ve learned the importance of lunges for glutes and realise why they need to be incorporated into your program to maximise glute growth – happy building!

Recommended reading:

How to grow glutes but not the legs

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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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