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Kettlebell Glute Workout for Mighty Gains

March 06, 2024

Kettlebell glute workout and exercises

For whatever reason all you have at your disposal is a kettlebell. Maybe you don't have time to make it to the gym, maybe you’re on vacation or maybe you’re in the process of building a home gym but haven’t got around to getting all the equipment yet.

Whatever the reason, you’re left wondering whether performing a glute workout with just a kettlebell is even possible.

The short answer is – of course it’s possible.  

Yes, you may not have the luxury of being in the gym with all the best glute machines, but that doesn’t matter.

As long as you apply the right training principles, you can still build, strengthen, and tone the glutes with a single kettlebell.

Today we’re going to touch on the glute anatomy and the roles of the glutes (to help you understand why we’ve selected the exercises we have), we’ll design two challenging glute workouts and we’ll also reveal the most important training and nutrition principles you need to follow to build that heart-shaped butt.


The Anatomy and Role of the Glutes

Kicking things off with a little anatomy lesson. If you’ve been training for a while, you may already know some of what we’re going to cover here, but it does no harm to have a little glute anatomy refresh.

The glutes, otherwise known as the gluteal muscles, comprise 3 muscles.

Glute anatomy


First up we have the Gluteus Maximas.  This is the largest muscle in the region and is responsible for the majority of the shape of the buttocks. The role of the maximas is ‘Hip extension’ which is to increase the angle between the thigh and the hip, as illustrated by the picture below.


hip extension and flexion example


The Gluteus Medius is the second largest muscle and is located above and to the side of the glute maximas. The medius has multiple roles – the main one being ‘Hip abduction’ which means to move the leg outwards away from the midline of the body. 

Hip abduction movement example


But also plays a part in hip internal/external rotation.

Hip internal/external rotation example

Last but by no means least we have the Glute Minimus. The role of the minimus is to help its bigger sibling out with ‘hip abduction’ and ‘hip internal/external’. The minimus sits underneath the medius and is the smallest muscle out of the 3.


The Best Kettlebell Glute Exercises

Understanding the role of each muscle helps us to understand where we should be placing our attention if we want to add some size to the butt.

With the maximas being the largest muscle in the region, it’s only logical that exercises that involve hip extension make up the bulk of our workout.  

But the medius and minimus play a vital role in developing the upper glutes – so these are not to be neglected if we’re looking to build a fully developed derriere.

Below we delve into our favourite kettlebell glute exercises to maximise development.


Hip Thrust

Hip thrust exercise example


The queen of glute-building exercises, the hip thrust. This powerful exercise rose to fame in 2006 after being invented by “The Glute Guy” Bret Contreras. The hip-extension based exercise has been subject to many research trials and has consistently performed well in the glute building department.

Today, you’ll find the hip thrust being performed by the majority of athletes in the quest to add some size to the backside. It’s an awesome exercise that deserves all the praise it gets.

Advanced alternative: B Stance Hip Thrust


Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlift example


The Romanian deadlift is another popular glute-building exercise, and rightly so. It is a dynamic hip-hinging exercise that zeros in on not only glute development but hamstring too.

As you lower the kettlebell towards the floor the glute maximas will begin to stretch. This stretching of a muscle under load has been found to create a powerful muscle-building stimulus which can help take glute growth to new heights.

Advanced alternative: B Stance RDL


Sumo Squats

If you ask anyone to name an exercise that builds the glutes it’s more than likely they’ll mention the squat. Athletes have been using the squat and its variations for years to add some size to the buttocks.

This highly effective exercise places a significant load on the glutes as you go deeper into the squat position, creating intense muscle tension which research has found to be the main driver in building muscle.

Bonus tip – to increase the range of motion, place a platform under each foot so that you can squat deeper without the kettlebell hitting the floor.

Advanced alternative: Goblet Squat


Split Squats

The kettlebell split squat is another powerhouse movement to help promote glute growth. This unilateral exercise can help build muscle and address any muscle imbalance by working one leg at a time.

The exercise involves a great deal of hip extension, primarily targeting the glute maximas. But the smaller medius and minimus will be involved for stability and balance throughout the movement meaning this exercise will recruit all 3 of the glute muscles.  

Bonus tip – to further activate the maximas, lean forward so that the hips are placed into further flexion.

Advanced alternative: Bulgarian Split Squats


Step Ups

Step up exercise example


Such a simple, but such an effective exercise. If you’ve been sleeping on the step-up, you may want to reconsider.

Why’s that you ask? Well, a 2019 study compared glute activation among many of the popular glute-building exercises. And what exercise came out on top? You got it – the step up.

When you think about it, it’s not that surprising. The exercise places the hips in a deep flexed position calling for the maximas to work hard and the high need for stability and balance will call for the medius and minimus for support.  

Advanced alternative: This is advanced!


Reverse Lunge

Reverse lunge exercise example


The reverse lunge – ahh one of our favourites. Unlike the forward lunge which can place a lot of shearing force on the knee, the reverse lunge is much easier on the joints. Again, it’s always a good idea to incorporate unilateral exercises into your training to prevent one side of the body from taking the brunt of the load during bilateral exercises – so the reverse lunge is a great addition to any glute program.

As you descend into the lower portion of the exercise the glutes will be placed in a deep stretched position. This targeted stretch, combined with the need for stability and balance leads to greater glute activation which can help promote muscle hypertrophy.

Bonus tip – add a shallow platform under the front foot to create a larger of range motion and form a deficit reverse lunge.

Advanced alternative: Curtsy Lunge


Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swing example


In contrast to the other exercises on our list, the kettlebell swing is a fast-paced movement that can help build power and strength in the glutes. The rapid hip hinging movement activates the glutes maximas as the primary mover but also requires the smaller medius and minimus to play their part for hip stabilisation.

If you’re looking for an exercise to get the glutes burning, whilst at the same time torching some calories – then kettlebell swings are your answer.

Advanced alternative: This is advanced!


Standing Abduction

standing abduction exercise example

The primary role of the glute medius and minimus is hip abduction, the very movement of this exercise. By placing the kettlebell to the side of your leg to create resistance, you engage both of the glute muscles and they’ll need to contract hard to shift the weight.

While the medius and minimus are involved to some degree in the previous compound exercises we’ve listed, the standing abduction isolates the muscles so that the attention is on them, making it a great exercise to build the side glutes.

Advanced alternative: This is advanced!


Side Lying Leg Raise

Similar to the standing abduction, but instead of standing up, we’re lying down. The side-lying leg raise is a key kettlebell exercise to strengthen and build the medius and minimus.

Unlike the standing abduction, the side-lying leg raise has the resistance acting directly against the target muscle (due to gravity) which can help increase muscle activation and glute development.

Not only does this exercise help enhance strength, size and athletic performance – but it also contributes to building that heart-shaped butt many people are dreaming of.

Advanced alternative: This is advanced!


Kettlebell Glute Workout

The Glute maximas is the largest and strongest muscle of the 3, so it makes sense that we put exercises involving hip extension at the start of our workout when the muscles are fresh and can produce the most power.

Once the maximas are fatigued we can move on to targeting the smaller, but vitally important medius and minimus.

You’ll notice we’ve designed 2 workouts. The reason for this is that research suggests that training a muscle group twice a week is superior to once or three times a week.

So, the idea with this glute training plan is that we perform workouts A and B each week. Leaving 2-3 days between workouts to allow the glutes enough time to recover. During these days we can either train the upper body or have a rest day.

A favourite workout split of ours is the upper-lower upper-lower split. It means you can have 2 glute/leg days and 2 upper body days which can help promote muscle hypertrophy and at the same time allow for enough rest in between sessions. Check out the linked article if you’re interested as to whether this workout split could be right for you.

For now, let’s get back to these 2 intense kettlebell glute workouts. I say glute workouts, but they’re actually glute, quad and hamstring workouts because the glutes can’t be isolated. This is a good thing though as this workout is targeting the entire lower body meaning we don’t need individual sessions for each lower body muscle group (that would be OTT anyway!).


Workout A



Hip thrust

4 sets of 8-10 reps

Bulgarian Split Squat

3 sets of 8-10 reps on each leg

Step Ups

3 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg

Kettlebell Swings

3 sets of 10-15 reps

Side Lying Leg Raise

3 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg

Standing Abduction

3 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg


Workout B



Goblet Squat

4 sets of 8-10 reps

Romanian Deadlift

3 sets of 8-10 reps

Reverse Lunge

3 sets of 8-10 reps on each leg

B Stance Hip Thrust

3 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg

Side Lying Leg Raise

3 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg

Standing Abduction

3 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg



How to Build the Glutes

Knowing the best kettlebell exercises to target the glutes and programming them into a workout puts us in good stead to be able to add some size to the butt

But we’re not done just yet.

To enable muscles to grow and get stronger, there are 2 vital principles we need to be aware of.


Progressive Overload

The most important principle we need to apply to our training is progressive overload.

As the name implies, progressive overload means to progressively overload our muscles (i.e. progressively make our workouts harder).

When we lift weights for the first time we introduce a new stimulus to the body. As a result of not being able to handle this new stimulus, the body will adapt so that it is better prepared to handle such stimuli.

This adaptation comes in the form of muscles growing larger and stronger.

Now when the body is exposed to the same stimulus again, it will be better prepared and will be able to handle the stress a lot easier.

(Note – we’re making this sound like it happens overnight, it doesn’t. It takes months for the body to adapt and for noticeable changes to occur).

If we were to keep the stimulus the same (in other words, if we continued with the same workout we did when we first stepped in the gym) then the body would have no reason to further adapt as it’s already in a position where it can handle the stress.

And this is where progress will plateau.

To get back on the gain train we need to introduce a new stimulus, a more demanding stimulus. As the body struggles to keep up with the demands of the new stresses placed upon it, the body will be forced into further adaptation.

And that’s how we’re going to grow the glutes – by making our workouts more difficult over time.

Ways we can make our workouts more difficult include:

  • Using heavier weights
  • Increasing the number of sets or reps
  • Increasing time under tension
  • Reducing rest times
  • Increasing workout frequency
  • Changing exercise selection

Some of us will only have one or two kettlebells available, so constantly increasing the weight every couple of weeks is not an option. In this instance, we would suggest applying progressive overload by increasing the number of sets and/or reps that we perform.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that increasing the weight is the only way to build muscle. Research shows that increasing sets/reps promotes just as much muscle hypertrophy as increasing the resistance!


Eating For Muscle Growth

Now we know how to train to build muscle, so it’s time to learn how to eat to build muscle.  

Getting our nutrition right is the difference between building muscle, and not building muscle.

You could have the best glute-building workout in the world, perform each exercise with perfect form and stay dedicated to the gym for years – but if you’re not eating enough to fuel muscle growth, then you’ll never experience any muscle growth, period.

In order to build muscle you need to be in a calorie surplus. This means that you need to be eating more calories than the body burns daily.

“Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, only change from one form to another”.

This is the first law of thermodynamics and it’s helpful to illustrate the muscle-building process.

Calories in – Calories Out = Change in body mass.

Keeping calories in higher than calories out will result in an increase in body mass. Whether this body mass is either fat or muscle will be dictated by whether we’re exercising or not (of course we should be!).

This doesn’t mean we should aim to smash as much food as humanly possible down the hatch in the hope of building more muscle; it doesn’t work like that.

You see, the body can only build muscle at a certain rate, so the calories that are not used for building muscle will be stored as body fat.

This is obviously not what we’re after. The aim of the game is to supply the body with enough calories to fuel the energy-intensive muscle-building process, but not to overdo it so that we end up storing the unused calories as fat.

So how much is too much?

We recommend eating an additional 10% on top of your maintenance calories (the amount of calories you burn each day) every day. So if you’re burning 2500 calories each day then you should aim to an additional 10% which would equate to 2750 calories.

Calories needed for muscle building

To work out your maintenance calories head over to “How many calories do I need to build muscle?” where we guide you through the process step by step.

Once we know how much we need to be eating to build muscle, we can monitor our progress over the coming weeks to see if we’re on the right track. Current research suggests that we can build roughly 0.25-0.5 (% of body weight) of muscle each week. So a 175lb athlete could build between 0.4-0.9lb per week.

New lifters will likely experience towards the upper end of the scale whereas those of us who have been working out for some time will unfortunately experience muscle gains towards the lower end of the scale.

If we’re gaining much more than 0.25-0.5% of body weight each week, then chances are we’re gaining fat. If you experience this, then we suggest that you drop your calories to a point where you’re seeing gains of 0.25-0.5%. This will increase the chances that the gains we are making are muscle, as opposed to unwanted fat gains.


Final Thoughts

To reiterate, if a kettlebell is all you’ve got to hand, then you can still have a banging glute workout.

As we touched on earlier, muscle building isn’t prejudice over the equipment you use. We can yield impressive glute gains with just a kettlebell provided we apply the important muscle-building principles that we discussed earlier in the article.

Print screen the workouts we’ve designed and get ready to feel the burn in your next kettlebell glute workout – enjoy!

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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