Skip to main content

Growing glutes without growing the legs

By June 5, 2013October 20th, 2016Ask Bret Contreras (ABC), Glute Training, Glutes

Hi Bret, 

I had a question if you could help me out. I’ve been hitting legs/glutes a lot but I feel that my legs are getting bigger and I want my glutes to and not my legs. Squatting really makes my legs bulk up. I already have big muscular legs so I wanted to ask if you had any tips for growing the glutes without adding much more mass to legs. Should I forget about lifting too heavy and go for moderate weight and higher reps? Will that still add mass to my glutes?




Hi Kristi!

I get this question a lot so it’s time I address it.

I’m going to make two assumptions. First, that you are of ideal weight and indeed have too muscular of legs for your liking. Many women find that when they reach desired levels of leanness (body composition), they love their muscular development and don’t feel that they’re too muscular in the legs no matter how strong they get. And second, that you are referring to the entire leg musculature – the quads, hams, and adductors. I’ve trained several women who did not want their quads and adductors to get larger, but it’s more rare to have women who dislike their hamstring development on account of them being too muscular.

There are indeed plenty of women in your position, so this is a valid question deserved of a well thought-out answer. 99% of fitness experts would just tell you to shut up and squat. And deadlift. I, however, will do my best to give you a proper reply.

This is not every woman's ideal physique.

This is not every woman’s ideal physique. Many would kill to look like her, but some women wouldn’t be comfortable with her level of quad development. This is okay, we can work around it!

You won’t grow your glutes unless you push the intensity very hard and get markedly stronger.

Unfortunately in your situation, most great glute exercises also highly activate the leg muscles. Therefore, pushing the glutes hard will also push the legs hard, causing them to grow as well. This complicates things.

It’s also important that you know that muscles can grow from low reps (1-5), medium reps (6-12), high reps (13-20), and even from really high reps (21-50) as long as the sets are pushed close to muscular failure or the intensity of effort for the session is sufficiently high. So just avoiding a particular rep range or avoiding heavy weights is not the solution.

The solution involves a two-fold approach:

  1. Avoiding exercises that highly activate and stress the quads, hammies, and adductors
  2. Performing exercises that highly activate and stress the glutes

This doesn’t leave us with many options!

Most pictures of great booties you see on the internet have pronounced glute development compared to the quads and hams. This isn't easy to create for most women.

Most pictures of great booties you see on the internet have pronounced glute development compared to the quads and hams. This isn’t easy to create for most women.

To elaborate, if you keep squatting and lunging, especially if you’re gaining strength on these movement patterns, your quads will continue to grow. If you keep performing glute ham raises, Russian leg curls, and RDLs, especially if you’re gaining strength on these movement patterns, your hamstrings will continue to grow.

If you really want your legs to shrink (or stop growing), you need to quit activating them to high levels when you train, and progressive overload is a bad idea for exercises that target these muscles.

So no squats, lunges, Bulgarian split squats, step ups, pistols, leg press, leg extensions, or trap bar deadlifts – these lead to too high of quad activation. Even hip thrusts are out – most people are unaware that they generate enormous amounts of quad activity. And no RDLs, Russian leg curls, glute ham raises, back extensions, deadlifts, good mornings, and leg curls either – they lead to too high of hamstring activation. Finally, no adductor movements such as the adductor machines you commonly see in the gym.

So what’s left to perform? How can we still attain good gluteal results while simultaneously keeping the leg muscles at bay?

There are several things we can still do:

  1. Low load glute activation work – there are tons of drills that you can and should do to shuttle the focus toward the glutes and away from other synergists. Start out your workouts with 5-10 minutes of this.
  2. Hip external rotation movements – band hip rotations are the best, but you really need to learn how to use the glutes during this movement as many women do not.
  3. Hip abduction movements – from side lying abduction, to band standing abduction, to band seated abduction, to band walk variations, to abductor machines – these target the upper glutes.
  4. Barbell glute bridges – these leave out much of the quad activity that barbell hip thrusts produce. This will be your money exercise – the exercise that you want to keep getting stronger at over time. Strength creates curves, and without it your glutes won’t grow.
  5. American deadlifts – this is a better option than RDLs due to the increased glute activation. Don’t go too low on these either.
  6. Pull-throughs and kettlebell swings – just make sure you’re feeling the glutes do the work when you perform them.
  7. Single leg foot elevated hip thrusts – you could also do these with both the shoulders and foot elevated.

Here’s Marianne doing a barbell glute bridge workout – they did her glutes well!

Here’s Kellie doing them too – these two ladies have excellent form!

Finally, here’s Steve doing band hip rotations – these hammer the glutes if done properly:

The list above gives you plenty of exercises to utilize in your training endeavors. If your thighs shrink down to your liking, you may start to experiment with adding “banned” exercises into the mix – just do them for variety’s sake and don’t utilize progressive overload and set PR’s on them.

Best of luck to you, BC


  • Becky says:

    Thanks for this! Very helpful. I actually like the size of my legs (some women would probably consider them “bulky” though) and wouldn’t mind if they got a little more size, but my glutes need to catch up!

    Love your book too. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I am working very hard to get my legs to grow, I know most women want broomsticks for legs.

      I do step ups, single bulgarian squats on one day total of 10 sets 12-15 reps. on the second leg day I do weighted lunges, calves, leg curls/ext. similar rep range. Any tips on gaining size would be appreciated.

      • Leona says:

        are you eating enough? To grow any body part you need to be eating a surplus of calories. Using clean whole foods obviously. And are you pushing yourself enough?

      • Felix says:

        I only do heavy back squats (barbell on my back/shoulders) and my quats, hams, and glutes grow like hell. Skip all those isolation exercises and do real squats! 😉

        • This is the worst advice. I wrote about this here in “Do More Than Just Squat”:

          • Felix says:

            Thanks for the link! 🙂

            My comment was quite one sided.
            What I wanted to say is: Squats are the absolute basics and the foundation of a superior (not only) lower body. I guess u agree with that. And to get the maximum growth and the best possible glutes (and thighs), other exercises might also be required (e.g. hip thrust, lunges).
            But, I see so many girls (and guys) that waste their time with fancy bonus exercises (e.g. add- and abductor training), but skip the absolute basics.
            For the regular gymgoer, the priority should be: Squats. And then the rest.

          • Airene says:

            Hi, Bret! Can clamshell exercise works too? Please reply me…

  • Sarah says:

    Great article, Bret.

  • Dawn says:

    What if we do some of the “leg growing” exercises because we like them, but we add in a little more slow cardio of some sort (treadmill, stationary bike, etc.) or HIIT to counter some of the muscle building exercises. Would that be beneficial?

    • Bret says:

      Dawn, treadmill cycling actually has been shown to be synergistic for quad mass – Wilson did a recent review on this in the JSCR. So I don’t feel that what you’ve proposed is a solution. However, I do feel that many women cannot give up squats and deads as they indeed love doing them, even if they’re not the perfect lifts for their physiques. Once you get coordinated and strong with them, they’re addicting (squats and deads).

      • Habiba says:

        Darling, do i have to use the dumbbells? If i don’t use dumbbells will my booty get just smaller? And, some guys told potatoes increase booty size, is this right?

    • farah says:


      Thanks alot for this

      Ive been waiting for someone to get what i want my whole life

      However i do not know what the moves are the ones u mentioned we should do

      And how can i do them without going to the gym and using the barbell

      I workout at home and normally have thin quads and a flat behind as soon as i start working at my butt and get it where i want if i do one wrong move or push to hard my quads will pop like ughhh

      PuhhLeez explain the moves or add links that show them and how many times a week for how many reps and sets

      Thank u so very much

  • Terri Brzozowski says:

    Thank you for this great information. I love squats but my quads have grown more than I had hoped for. Can’t wait to incorporate the glute bridges!

  • Tim says:

    Bret- why would pull-throughs/swings be significantly less strenuous on the hammies vs. RDLs? And why suggest the foot elevated since I thought that contributes more hamstring vs. other hip lift variations? Is it not significant toward hamstring development?

    Always appreciate your work and your display here of a willingness to answer commonly asked but not usually well answered fitness questions!

    • Bret says:

      Excellent questions Tim!

      The RDLs place more strain on the hammies (more stretch loading due to the vector). Their EMGs are similar though, but there’s more than just EMG – actually the EMG-angle curve is very telling (along with the torque-angle curve). But I thought of this exact thing and considered omitting pull-throughs and kb swings for that reason.

      And the foot-elevated single leg hip thrust does indeed work more hamstring than the other variations, but the quad activation diminishes drastically. The shoulder elevated single leg hip thrust activates much more quad than the foot elevated single leg hip thrust, hence the decision.

      Again, great questions. You’ve got a good mind for sports science!

  • james says:

    Just for clarification….barbell glute bridge is from the floor, barbell hip thrust is with the bench?



  • Martin says:

    Have you ever come across someones whose glutes are strong when it comes to doing exercises, ie hip thrusts, single leg deadlifts, quadruped hip extensions, RDL, yet in everyday life situations like walking/running they just still sit there doing the bare minimum?
    This is a problem my girlfriend has, its not that they aren’t firing when doing load bearing exercise either, as she complains of a serious burn during and soreness the following day without fail.
    Is there likely to be something she hasn’t addressed? She had the most severe gluteal amnesia and quad dominance I have ever seen and it took around 18 month of low load activation exercises for her to be able to even remotely use her glutes under any weight without the quads burning.

    • Bret says:

      Some folks are anatomically built this way. My training partner Charles Staley feels squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts all in his hamstrings and rarely feels his glutes working (except when he does band seated hip abductions). Yet his hammies don’t even fire that hard in the aforementioned movements – it’s just a stretch he’s feeling due to anterior pelvic tilt. My girlfriend Diana feels hip thrusts mostly in her quads, but her glute EMG activation is through the roof when she does them. So don’t rely just on what she feels; I rely on palpation and EMG (obviously you don’t have EMG). And just keep doing the best you can.

  • matt says:

    Hey Bret,

    How would hip band rotations change if doing them in an asymmetrical stance (split stance) rather than a symmetric stance? Also, what changes would there be depending on the lead foot of said stance: ie, band/weight on left side pulling across to the right with left foot forward vs band/weight on left side pulling across to the right with right foot forward?

  • Craig says:

    Awesome post Brett. Are you familiar with Evan Osar? He was featured on Sports Rehab Expert. His book discusses how excessive “but grippers” can create a lot of anterior shear, driving the head of the femur anteriorly in its socket, which down the road may lead to FAI etc. As one with excessive divots in my lateral hip, I can’t help but wonder if hip thrusts may further decrease my hip joint centration. Maybe having the bar rest at the top of the femur will help keep the head of the femur a bit more posterior? Thanks, I’m a big fan of your work.

      • Bret says:

        Yep, see the link Derrick posted. I never thought about the bar pushing down on the head of the femur during hip thrusts…perhaps that gives you an “excuse” to clinch the glutes then 😉

        I have Evan’s book and it’s great (except for the butt-gripping situation IMO). However, I’m curious as to how he’d have clients do heavy-ass hip thrusts. Either he’d have to avoid heavy weight, avoid locking out the weight (and just do partials), or try to do them without using the glutes that much (which is counterproductive to the goal in question). Neither of these are ideal.

        In all my years of training, I’ve never had anyone develop hip pain while training with me. But I’ve had clients improve their anterior hip pain, presumably to better-functioning glutes.

        • Barb says:

          Thanks for the article! I do hope there’s some future interaction between you and this Dr. Osar! I’ve had a hip issue corrected. I can get more force out of a heel plant and my upper body feels less twisted. I’m amazed when I get out of bed in the morning. The correction’s been stable for over a month and I hope I don’t squander that as I get stronger. I’m still doing unloaded glute work but hope to progress very soon!

          One thing I’ve noticed is that my glutes aren’t CONSTANTLY working to stabilize my leg. I never had hip pain — rather: glute pain and leg numbness/dysfunction, right down, through the foot. I think a more optimally “socketed” femur gives me a new opportunity to develop my formerly overworked glutes.

        • says:

          Hi there. I have a question. I have been focusing on my glutes for a while and have developed intense anterior hip pain, every time no matter the weight I use or the reps I do. I have seen doctors,physio therapists, chiropractors and massage therapist to no avail. Feels like a muscle is not firing. I was wondering if you had any ideas as to what the problem could be

  • Amy says:

    Hi Brett,
    Could you possibly post an example of a full leg workout incorporating these exercises?

  • Martin (another one) says:

    Hi Bret.

    Interesting post. I find that while quad development can give that heavy thighs look, I find that ham development gives the legs an attractive shape.

    2 questions

    I find that hip thrusts work well but they hurt my lower back when I go heavy for reps. What am I doing wrong?

    I find that hip thrusts also hit my quads, as you point out and sometimes quads burn before butt. Can the hip thrust be classified as a quad exercise and at least substitute for the squat? it seems much safer than the squat as you get heavy.


    Martin (Lopez)

    • Bret says:

      I agree about the hamstring comment (to an extent obviously). You’re probably anteriorly tilting the spine. Try this version:

      No, not a substitute for squats. They work the quads mostly isometrically, which is inferior to full ROM dynamic movement for strength and hypertrophy. I’d prefer a single leg squatting motion.

  • Marcy says:

    Great article!

    I cut a pool noodle in half and then lengthwise and slipped it on the barbell. Works great in place of a thick bar pad, and it only costs $4. I used it for 135# glute bridges today, and no discomfort at all!

  • William says:

    Hi Bret, sorry if I getting out the main topic. Here is my hypothesis: Considering that anthropometry, orthopaedic profile, age, nutrition and genre (among other factors) might affect performance, I reckon, here is a list of maximum percentage that any male should manage to consider himself fit and balanced:
    If Hip Thrust is 100% of the the maximum load per 5 reps, Deadlifts should be around 90% of the hip thrust, High Bar squats around 80%, Front squats, Chest Press, Chin-ups 70%, Lunges 60%, Press Overhead 50%….
    In regards to females, as their lower body is proportionally stronger than their upper body, the Hip Thrust would be 100%, Dead Lifts and Squats 90% Front Squats 75% Lunges 60%, Chin-ups 50%, Chest Press 45%, Press Overhead 30%… Obviously, those percentages are just an expression according to the total average during my personal experience with clients over the years. Would you agree with such proportions in terms of ideal percentages or , did you write anything regarding that topic in the past? or perhaps do you know any scientific study as a guide? Great fan of your work. Thanks for reading. William

  • Jackie says:

    Hi Brett,

    Can you recommend exercises that target the very upper part of the glute; the part that goes into your back? That area is flat for me (it looks like my upper glute goes straight into my back). I am already doing hip thrusts, squats, deadlifts. However, I don’t know if those exercises target the very top part. I want to have that “shelf” look at the top of my glutes (more curves). I feel like all the exercises I am doing target mainly the mid and lower glutes. Thanks so much.

    • Bee says:

      Might be late but for anyone else looking for a quickie answer, I feel (and see) that part working and growing when I do the reverse hyper OR the back extension (the latter I do at 45 degrees as I don’t have access to a different bench). I can see the upper glute contracting when I look in the mirror! Also I added some weights (once I got the motion right).

      • vanessa says:

        what kind of variation of back extension do you prefere if you don’t like to use the 45 degree machine? i am looking for a good back extension machine that hits the glute the most but i can find only the 45 degree machine in my gym..

  • Nick Nilsson says:

    This is a question I get a lot as well…what do you think of the idea of utilizing pre-exhaust training, using one of those 7 exercises you recommend followed immediately by an exercise such as barbell hip thrusts or a squatting or lunging variation to target the glutes with heavier weight after they’ve been pre-fatigued with the “isolation” movements.

    The legs are still involved but they aren’t worked as hard and since they’re fresher, they can actually help push the glutes harder when you move to the second exercise.

    I’ve had a lot of good feedback on this approach and was curious to hear your thoughts, Bret.


  • Brett Smith says:

    Bret I have been doing hip thrusts for a year or so, I watched the 2 videos or the girl doing these flat on there back. I tried this the other day and my range of motion is about half of what these girls are doing. I usually do them on a smith machine with my back supported by a bench. How can I inprove my range, I would like to be able to do them like these videos show.

  • emarnyc says:

    Bret, you’re a friggin’ genius!! If your books sales have increased its because I can’t stop singing your praises. However, I love big legs and if you can get me to photo one, I’d empty my bank account to you (no complaining about the balance!)

    Signed – 2″ across the glutes in 2 months following Strong Curves!

  • Maria says:

    Thanks for the article, this is something I’ve been trying to fine answers to for a while now. Are ankle weights useful for some of the standing and lying abduction exercises instead of or in addition to using bands?

  • Brandon Green says:


    For someone who want to vertical jump high or run a fast 40 yard dash
    what should be the glute strength compared to quadricep-
    Olympic style full squat vs. Glute bridge ?

  • ggs says:

    When I do my glute raises I put my hands to my side and bring my heels to my fingertips. Am I keeping my feet to close to my body? I noticed on Marianne video her feet seemed a lot farther away. It seems like that way
    shortens the range of which you have to move the weight. Is the way I am doing it okay or do I need to change.


  • Lynn Curtis says:

    Dear Bret,

    Thank you so much for answering this question. Coincidentally, only two days ago I composed a similar message to you regarding this topic.

    I personally have been avoiding deep squats and dead lifts (LOVE both exercises!) because of FAI issues. I have been concentrating instead on hip thrusts, glute bridges (225lbs!), KB swings, etc. and I have noticed a significant decrease in hip pain. In fact, my pain has improved so much that I cancelled my upcoming surgery.

    I echo what others here are saying: thank you for your research, commitment, and willingness to share your expertise with all of us. Strong Curves is the best book I have ever read on strength training for women and you are changing lives.


  • Gina McNeal says:

    Hi Bret,

    I am currently doing Strong Curves Gluteal Goddess program and wondered how I could substitute some of the non-quad-intensive exercises for the exercises in those workouts. Should I just replace the quad one from each workout with one of the above, or will that mess up the progression? I am one of those blocky quad women, and while I don’t expect my quads to get smaller, I don’t particularly want them any bigger either. Love your book!!!!

    • Amber says:

      Hope you get an answer, I have the book too and I’m wondering the same thing! Except I do want my quads and hammies to shrink a bit!

      • Claire h says:

        did u get an answer to this because I’m in two minds in buying the book cuz I don’t know if it will lead me to doing more excercises in building my legs. I’m the same as u both, I want mine to be a little slimmer too?

  • Sue says:

    Hi Bret,
    Love your new book Strong Curves. Even though I have looked in the book to compare what is the difference between the american dead lift and the romanian dead lift? Is it just the range of how far you bend over?
    I’m not really a newbie but I am.

    • Gina says:

      Sue, I had never heard of the American deadlift either, but in the back of the book where all the exercises are listed by category, Bret says in the description that the American deadlift is like a regular RDL, except at the very end, you do a pelvic tilt (anterior) to recruit more glute fibers.

  • Dr. Darrell Wolfe says:

    Hi Bret, would you be so kind as to guide me to the owner of the picture that you used in an article you wrote for This is a black and white picture of a very fit, ripped man inside a silhouette of a very large man drinking from a sports bottle. Thank you in advance for your help with this……Dr. Darrell Wolfe.

  • Hailey says:

    I’ve been doing glute bridges for the last three months or so, and they’ve done a great job targeting my glutes. Just yesterday I hit 255, but it seems as the weights get heavier, I end up sliding back, and have to cut my ten rep session(s) into two five rep sessions to re-adjust my position. I usually butt my head up against a wall so I’m not pushed back, but instead my feet then end up sliding out from under me and I have to re adjust. Lol I just have to put up with it i guess. But I love this exercise. Ive noticed my squat go up since I’ve targeted my glutes too.

  • Hailey says:

    I also noticed that Kelli (in the video above) had to stop every rep to adjust herself because the weight pushed her back a bit, like it does with me. I wish someone would invent a machine you could adjust so you could place your head against a soft but firm pad and the other end would be a place you could put your feet so you can just rep away without having to stop or be sliding around on the floor. You could adjust it according to your height too. That would be flippin’ fantastic. 😛

  • George says:

    Hey Bret, what about sets, repetitions and rest ?

  • Asli says:

    Bought the strong curves book… great…easy to follow.. 2nd week but I lost half an inch on my glutes! 🙁 …I did lose fat all around but I was trying to add more muscular mass there.
    Background: naturally have a round full butt and wanted to give it more of a lift and maybe another inch. Been working out for 13 years.. good diet..not too much cardio (twice a week as u put in the book)…so what is going on?

  • Claudia says:


    I was reading your 2010 blog and then found all this new current options. Problem is I am so confused as to what option is best for me…. The ebook, the paperback book strong curves (I think that was the name) or get glutes…. There seems to be 3 options and have no idea what is the right choice for me. I am a female about 118lbs. I would like to tone entire body but especially build up my glutes! which one would be best for me? The ebook, the curves paperback or the get glutes? I want something that will be straight forward and not confusing as to which exercises I should be doing and how to do them. There might even be a fourth option I missed. I need your advice before I can choose.

    Please help! Lol


  • Zee says:

    How to look like that lady in the sunglasses? That’s my ideal body.

  • Chandni Alwani says:

    Dear Bret,

    First of all loved this article. Have asked numerous trainers in numerous countries about this…and all they keep saying is : ‘keep doing squats and deadlifts.’ I am a 22 year old woman, who hates her thighs (especially the quads and upper thigh area), because I find them too bulked up. I used to do a lot of the spinning, but have left it now, because heard it bulks up thighs. Anyway, so now I have two goals: 1. Get the best butt possible for my body 2. Reduce the bulkiness in my upper thighs. Since this requires me not doing squats, deadlifts etc, will the exercises you mentioned in this article give me the best butt possible? Not a good one, a great one!! Thanks!!

    • Chandni Alwani says:

      Dear Bret,

      First of all loved this article. Have asked numerous trainers in numerous countries about this…and all they keep saying is : ‘keep doing squats and deadlifts.’ I am a 22 year old woman, who hates her thighs (especially the quads and upper thigh area), because I find them too bulked up. I used to do a lot of the spinning, but have left it now, because heard it bulks up thighs. Anyway, so now I have two goals: 1. Get the best butt possible for my body 2. Reduce the bulkiness in my upper thighs. Since this requires me not doing squats, deadlifts etc, will the exercises you mentioned in this article give me the best butt possible? Not a good one, a great one!! I want my butt to be a bit bigger and way more rounder. I have been doing leandro cavalho’s workout but not great results !Thanks!!

  • engy says:

    Dear Bret
    I bet you’ve been asked that question a few times before,
    I’ve just bought your book, but have been a bit reluctant to start any of the programs included.
    In your answer above you assumed that kristi is of ideal weight, but what if you have heavy legs and still have some fat to loose ? Is it advisable to follow any of the programs in your book while actually loosing fat or perhaps better wait till you decrease your body fat percentage before you start your program.

  • Andria says:

    Wish you provided some examples of low low glute activation exercises. I have no idea what these are and a video of the American deadlift would have been helpful especially since I don’t know anything about these exercises and would not know if I landed on someone else’s video if they had proper form.

  • June says:

    hey bret,
    so muscle is smaller than fat so.. when i lose the fat for muscle to appear… mh u will be very small..correct? so would that mean… to increase my butt size, i will have to add a LOT of weight to the hip thrust? (assuming that’s the only part i want bigger)

  • Michelle says:

    Hi Bret

    Would appreciate if you could reply, or anyone who can help.

    I found this article really helpful. My thighs are thick naturally and I have a big bum. I’ve started working out doing cardio and also squats/lunges for my gluteus. However I really don’t want to make my thighs muscly or have any growth! A personal trainer advised me to lift no more than 2kg dumbbells with higher reps to do this but I still feel a burn in my quads which worries me!

    Could you please explain the workouts u suggested in more detail as I don’t know how to do them. Inc,uding reps and sets


  • Stella says:

    Hi Bret your article is actually the best I could find on this subject about growing glutes without growing legs. Congrats on your whole site too, I found it really interesting and full of information to apply. Just a quick question ; since my quads are quite big and my hamstrings too ( ex pro basketball player you see 🙁 ) I try to work on my glutes and keep the exercises as isolating as they can be for the glutes ( I’m 17% I’m a 22 year old girl and my quads and hams are still bulky ) do you suggest pull throughs and glute bridges with barbell for me ? As far as I read I can isolate the glutes with the glute bridges if I learn the technique right and pull the weight up with my glutes so I’m not activating the hams too much, am I right ? Will the hams be activated enough to grow ? Cause I don’t want them to. And what about the pull throughs? Do they activate the hamstrings a lot ? and is there a right technique to avoid that happening ? Thanks in advance, greetings from Greece, Stella.

    • Tamara says:

      Hey Bret,
      what about steep walks? Are they crucial too? I have the same problem.. My hamstrings are too strong i want to increase my glutes and decrease hamstrings

      Any idea about steep walking?
      Thanks in advance

  • SS says:

    Which variation of the hip thrust (from the floor, shoulders elevated, or feet elevated (on SB or bench)) activates the glutes most and hamstrings least?

  • Mayra says:

    Great advise! 🙂

  • Chaz says:

    Hello Bret. I have a few questions. I’m about to begin a workout plan however I’m confused as to what I should do regarding losing weight and building leg and butt mass. At the moment I have pretty thick legs, however they are not toned. I want to know what it is that I need to do to stay with thick thighs or even increase the size and have them toned. Also I want to know what I need to do to build a larger/ lifted butt. The thing is that I don’t have access to a gym at the moment so I’m pretty much just working out at home. How to I go about getting larger glutes and how much weight should I use. The images of the women you have posted above are roughly about the size I’m looking for. Also are there supplements or anything that I would needy to take. I hope you can answer this question for me. Thank you.

  • Melanee says:

    Hi Bret,

    I’ve been doing the phase one exercises you wrote about on t-nation here:

    I’m finding that while I feel sore after the hip extension exercises, I only feel “the burn” in the middle of doing the glute bridges and hip thrusts – afterwards it feels like I’ve done nothing to my glutes (no tenderness, sore muscles or any of the telltale signs that you’ve worked a muscle). Should I be adding weights to them?



  • ash says:

    Hi Everyone,

    My question is that my butt used to be bigger (more rounded and higher up on my lower back causing a deeper curve on my lower back just above my butt) ive realised lately my back has gone flatter and my butt doesnt start higher up on my lower back anymore
    I have been doing deadlifts and squats, back exercises (as I thought it was partlu due to tight back muscles) hip raises and leg press ive also been on the protein shakes to add mass but nothing I do is fixing the “upper butt” issue.

    Any ideas ?

  • Lou says:

    Hi in order to GROW/Maximize glutes, how many DAYS should you train a WEEK ? Is Once enough or twice, i:e Mondays-Thursdays/Fridays, is Once a week enough or should you train twice? i usually train twice latley i have been doing once but i just want to know what should be done thanks

  • Lou says:

    sorry i forgot to add, i understand in one article you mention hipthrusts/glute bridges should be trained 3+, but i just want to know wether twice is enough to GROW glutes as i understand 3+ can actually be over training, i traned them once for the last 2months as ive trained twice for 2.5 years and thought trainng once would allow more recovery time to grow any underlying muscle fibers etc, also how many EXCERCISES should you do for a glute workout either that be isolates or compound preferably Isolation excercises ? and HOW MANY EXCERCISES PER glute workout sessions wether that be ONCE or TWICE a week, i pretty much have my sets reps,rest times and diet in order, thanks

  • Amanda says:

    Hi Bret – thanks so much for your great blog posts. I work out a lot at home because I have cardio equipment and free weights. Is it possible to do some of the exercises above with free weights? Especially the Barbell Glute Bridges that you swear by? I do a lot of “butt ups” as I call them (hip thrusts with no weight and my heels off the floor to work out my calves) and am wondering if I can simulate the Barbell Glute Bridges by just adding free weights to my butt ups (e.g., holding an 8 lbs weight while I do them). What do you think?

    Thanks very much!

  • Christine says:

    Hi Bret, I do an upper/lower split and i was wondering…what exercises are best for slimming thighs to get that inner thigh gap and make glutes bigger without making my quads bulky? On lower body days I’ve been doing weighted glute bridges, bird dogs, clams, squats, and RDLs (last, but for my back not my glutes) and I’m not seeing the results I’ve been hoping for… All I have is a barbell and some dumbbells…and suggestions? Thanks!

  • erica says:

    Thank god i found this. I went to gym for 4 days after stopping for 2 weeks. My quads grows a lot in 4 days. But my butt are so small it have the same size as my quads. So it looks like i have no butts when i wore dresses or any other outfit. I needed to build my glutes more before building my quads.

  • Kate says:

    I’m really enjoying reading through all of your glute articles. I find I have overdeveloped quads compared to my hamstrings and glutes. I really want to build up the glutes without having giant legs, great read!

  • Lærke Bjorholm says:

    Hi, I’m trying to build bigger glutes, and keep my legs their size, and found this great page, but what should I google to find examples of exercises I could do, cause I’m from Denmark, and not so good at all the training terms in English. If you have any recommendations I would love if you would write it here, thanks

    Lærke Bjorholm

  • sarah says:

    I was wondering just how many squats to do per week to get a tight rear. I was just wondering which flute exercises are good for increased mass of the glutes and quads.

  • Flutes lmao says:

    Hey Bret, Have been eyeing your website for a couple of years now and this is the category I fit in. All legs no butt, not that it was a concern. I lift /squat heavy (mind you i am a heavy girl) but came to a 6 month plateau on my deadlift. Being the xmas break I thought WTH I’m going to do some glute work whilst all the boys at the gym are off getting tanked. after a rest day added 5 kg to my PB. woohoo … looks like the boys will have to put up with me glute bridging (the thrusters didn’t quite do it for me)in the manly section of he gym bwahahaha.

  • sam says:

    I am a sprinter hoping to increase my athletic ability but i dont want an increased butt size like most ladies, of course im a guy so is there a way to get maximum muscle and minimum size.
    would really appreciate you answering this because many people feel this way

  • bob says:

    A lot of internet glutes are fake and from women who don’t lift or were like that before they started lifting (genetically gifted glutes). Just my perspective. You can always tell when a girl worked for her glutes

  • Nke says:

    Hi Bret,

    While eliminating the exercises you mention can you still give your legs some training although not making them get bigger? I am looking for glute activation without bigger legs as well but I still want my legs to get some workout. Will body weight squats still be okay?


  • Jo Vi says:

    THIS IS SO HELPFUL! Thank you so much, but i have a question. Can kettlebell swings achieve the same result? as in only activating the glutes. Thank you <3

  • Dana says:

    WOW! The only site with this information on it.

    I’m 27 and haven’t been exercising much the last few years. The reason I stopped is that back when I was 19/20 (before it was cool to squat) I went to the gym at least 4 times a week doing free weights. My shoulders/chest/arms are pretty typical for women and didn’t (dont) gain strength or muscle mass easily at all.

    However, my legs and glutes – I just imagine them growing and they do – but particularly my legs. After a while, I got sick of putting all this effort in and just having massive legs (and while a nice ass not the kind of round ass I wanted/get without any weight training). Having constantly been told I was being silly any time i asked for a way to stop my leg muscle mass from growing while grwoing my glutes – from female and male trainers – I just kind of gave up.

    In the meantime, I developed pretty bad RSI and have had a bit of a personal epiphany after 4 years of having doctors, physios, orthos, trainers etc ignore my observations and feelings about my body (which I think from the minute you talk to me were clearly based on some research, thought and consideration – let alone after a few conversations) I have just been trying to do extensive research online to help my injury and now that it is improving get back into my booty groove.

    Just wanted to say THANKS for the variety on this site (much of which is irrelevant to me)…It’s clear you actually give some thought to the differences in people’s bodies and try to give advice accordingly where you feel you can.

    One week later and my butt has already started to rise like leavened dough! Thanks again!

  • lidiya says:

    What if you do the quad and butt workout but also add pilates to the mix? Would that be beneficial in making the muscles leaner and more dancer-like?

  • Sandra says:

    Dear Bret

    Do you have a location in L.A. I would love to train with you and your staff.

    Cali girl

  • Clarissa Cano says:

    Hi Bret!! Big fan here! I’ve learned so much about weight training and thanks u I’m now what I like to call glute smart!! 👍🏽 I’ve been weight training now for a couple of months and I love how I feel and I’m able to contract my glutes pretty much all the time lol But can u tell me what gives my butt the “round look” I feel like when I squeeze my butt in front of a mirror I see the roundess and at rest they look square in a way…. This is what I’m confused about is it body fat? Will I be able to build muscle so it stays round? And can I make that bigger ?

  • Wendy says:

    Thank you Brett for this article. I have been doing squats and lunges, thus the reason my once lean legs are bulking while the butt is growing and rounding out more slowly. Can you please specify which of the above exercises work the upper, lower, side etc…glutes? Because I feel like my glutes are better in some areas over others, and both sides are not proportional. Lastly, can you please distinguish between what to do to tone the bum and make it rounder versus toning, rounding and also making larger? Thank you!

  • Ellie says:

    love this I have super over dominant quads they take over everything even butt blaster exercises and Ive been told by judges that I need to get my legs smaller while growing glutes and hams as my glutes are very bad at activating! so this was perfect for me to read ISO glutes and glute and hammies exercises! excited to try this.

  • Katrin says:

    Thank you so much, this is what i need, my legs keep growing and my butt was big before, is now not growing as much as the legs 🙁 .. i will consider some of those exercizes, but for the moment i will go on doing squats. But i will do glute bridge instead of Hip Thrusts and american Deadlifts instead of leg curls. Thank you so much!!! 🙂

  • True says:

    Hi Bret! I was recommended to talk to you by another glute building website & I’m blessed to have this oppurtunity to talk to you. I want enlarge my butt, but without increase the muscles in my legs. I’m okay with my hamstrings increasing, but not overmuscular. My quads are what I don’t want to increase at all! I also wanted to workout my outer thighs, but if it’s going to increase my leg size, nevermind that… I also want to widen my hips by working out my tenor fascia and of my gluteus muscles. I’ll also be taking maca root and soy while I lose muscle mass and gaining muscle in my desired areas. Is that possible? Could you help create a workout plan to achieve my goals?

  • tld list says:

    How many sets/reps are recommended for faster results? and what do you mean when you say low load glute activation? What are some examples of this? I guess I mean…what should a final workout routine for growing ONLY glutes look like specifically with numbers (reps)?

  • Mikayla Chiles says:

    Throughout high school I always did sprints for track & this made my thighs massive. Now I’m a sophomore in college and my thighs are still big but my booty isn’t nearly as perky as it used to be. Will doing the workouts you put on here slim down my thighs at all while still building my glutes? I’m planning for a wedding may 21st this year so I really want to look my best.. Thanks!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Hi Brett.. I have a knee injury that has plagued my competition goals. I can no longer due squats and other traditional leg/glute exercises due to a lack of cartilage in my right knee that came from a injury that wasn’t treated properly by the military Doctors. I have been able to grow my glutes except the lower portion I can’t seem to get it to firm up. Is there exercises you could recommend that don’t involve hinged internal pressure in my knee… I would be soooo greatful for your advice. Thank you Liz

  • Monica says:

    Please help me; i want to decrease the size of my legs which is evidently bigger than my glutes. At the same time i need to reduce the stored fat on my quads. If quad dominant exercises would increase the size then how i work to obtain “lean and toned” legs?! 🤔
    Thank you

  • Barbara Curic says:

    bootywow stuff works! I felt my butt getting “heavier” while I was using it. I can’t wait to see the results! Of course I still do Yoga, squats, and lunges when i wear bootywow I can tell that the product is making that booty bigger!

  • demi says:

    I’m a Newby at everything but I do notice my legs are very strong, before it will show I’ll need to loose fat first but what is the difference between glute bridges and hip thrusts? I looked it up but the way they do it on this video is the way the other person did the hip thrust so I’m very confused now… I can’t do it with weight yet but I do want to know which one I should do if I don’t want my legs to get bigger. Great article btw! Really helps me a lot!

  • Aleksandra says:

    Hi I would to try some of your program but not sure which is the best for me, Im tall and a little skinny but with big quads because I squat. Which program would you recommend for me? I want to build bigger glutes. Thank you, I hope you will replay 🙂

  • Ama says:

    thxs for this article!

    Question.. you say: NO hip thrusts,… but are Barbell glute bridges not the same movement??

    Last months I train almost every day in the gym and do lots of lunches, walking lunches, squats and more… I also experience more bulky legs.. and do not like it!

    I suggest to do more pilates/yoga to stretch and make my legs more toned.
    I gues the workouts you suggest are also not to heavy for the legs..?
    Because they use a weight.

    Hope you wil reply

  • jack kenney says:

    Doing glute bridge/hip thrust holds seems to burn the glutes better with less leg use. I sometimes do that exercise(with 150-200KG) for 20-30 seconds. It seems to increase my maximum weight faster than thrusts do. For some reason brett never mentions this

  • Paula says:

    Great post! What’s an example of Low load glute activation work? Thanks.

  • michelle says:

    I’m a petite person,love working out,try to eat healthy most of the time,but when it comes to my backside i need help.All i ever hear is do squats,and that will help your booty,nope it doesn’t for me,i do squats,deadlifts,glute bridges,donkey kicks,ect for my butt,never see my booty lifting any,it gets so frustrating,i want to see results but nothing ever seems to happen to lift my backside,i even tried those 30 day squat challenges,nothing,i feel i’m working my quads more then my butt,and i don’t need to do that.Once and for all can you tell me what i can do to really lift my booty and get results,tired of hearing the same things over and over and nothin works.

  • Felix says:

    I think a nice booty also needs well developed legs. In my opinion, women should not focus on either of them (booty vs thighs) but train them together in multi joint exercises (squats!)

    I actually prefer the looks of the woman in the upper picture with the bigger thighs. You should also note, that she contracts her thighs and puts her toes out (30 to 45 degrees?) to emphasize the size of her thighs for the photo. They do not look that big from all angles.

    • Rachel says:

      Squats are actually more of a quad dominant exercises. Some women (like myself) have naturally more muscular quads that seem to grow with very little effort which can make the glutes look somewhat disproportionate. I grew up playing soccer and my quads and calves have always been quite muscular and my glutes not so much. Squats are great and I agree everyone should squat, but they are more likely to increase quad size in a number of women and shouldn’t be used as the focus exercise for these women if they do not want to build their quads. There are only a few glute isolation exercises but most lower body moves are compound exercises to at least some extent so even when performing barbell bridges or single leg feet (& shoulder) hip thrusts, youre not completely isolating the glutes. Think of training the upper body. You most likely primarily use compound exercises, but if there is ever an area you want to bring up (in size or strength) you would probably perform at least the odd isolation exercise or do a different variation on an exercise you currently doing to target that muscle/muscle group more. At the same time, if you wanted to stop growing a body part you would most likely stop doing exercises that hit that area too heavily. Sticking to the exercises bret mentioned will sculpt a nice lower body and most of thr women following this advice already have quads as big as or bigger than they desire. It’s all about personal preference. I squat and lunge once a week each aNd I do heavy hip thrusts twice a week. I don’t feel HTs in my quads much but i do them because I feel my glutes in heavy hip thrusts more than bridges. My quads are going to grow a little but I’m ok with that, I just know if I don’t limit my quad dominant exercises my glutes won’t look as big as they are. My shoulders are another part of me that grow without isolation exercises to the point where I can’t even shoulder press once a week but I still do chin ups and pull ups. Every woman (and man) loses fat and puts on muscle in areas individual to them and the beautiful thing about building muscle is you are doing the best you can with your genetics to sculpt the body YOU want.

      • Rachel says:

        I meant to say even when performing single leg foot or single leg foot and shoulder elevated hip thrust you’re not completely isolating

  • Eva says:

    Thank you so much for this informative piece!! I stopped working out my lower body because my outer thighs got too big for my liking and I didn’t know what to do. I will try out these new routines.

  • Alicia says:

    Would this make my thighs smaller though?

  • Curious says:

    Is it possible to add at least 3 inches of glute muscles?

    If so, how long would it take?

  • Alicia says:

    Is there a way to build your glute muscles without having as much equipment? I have free weights, kettle bells and ankle weights but I don’t want to waste my time trying if it isn’t possible.

  • Joan says:

    What about Osteoarthritis in the hip. How and what type of exercises should we do to increase muscle strength in our legs. I like what Alicia says: Is there a way to build your glute muscles without having as much equipment? I have free weights, kettle bells and ankle weights but I don’t want to waste my time trying if it isn’t possible.

  • Sandy says:

    I’ve been following a strict glute regiment doing only the exercises you listed in this article and long distance running, but I feel like my thighs are getting bigger. Do you have any advice for me to shrink them down again without losing my glute gains?

  • Voula Gekas says:

    Hi Bret,

    I had toned legs and a decent sized butt but wanted it a little bigger and harder….i I started a program and my butt did grow and so did my thighs slightly… although it grew it doesn’t seem as hard as before. I would like to slim my thighs down a tad and harden my butt without growing it anymore. What do you recommend?

  • Stef says:

    Hey there! You mentioned in your first assumption that sometimes once a woman achieves a desired amount of leanness, the muscle tone on legs isn’t an issue. How would I know whether I need to focus on full body training and continuing fat loss, then, or to switch the focus away from quads to increasing size in the glutes – since that too will continue to burn fat, too? At what point is that distinction made? I’m sure part of it is personal preference, but I’m sure there’s some common theme in body fat percentage, at least.

  • Syara says:

    What about glute kickbacks, donkey kicks, leg lifts.. will these moves make my thighs big?

  • michelle says:

    WHAT exercises can i do for a flat behind would glute bridges,fire hydrants,donkey kicks be enough.

  • rachel says:

    cardio suggestions that will slim my ‘legs’ without losing mass off my glutes?

  • Sarah says:

    How many reps and sets of each should we do for maximum muscle growth?

  • Kalie says:

    What about cable weighted kickbacks?

  • Karolína says:

    Hello, Bret. Could you please help me? I have been doing fire hydrant excercise and glute kickbacks both without any added weight.After like 3-5 mmonths of doing them every day my booty really grew which is great but I always had very slender legs and I am doing breakdance and they still didn’t got muscular but after 3-5 months of only doing the booty excercises without any breakdance my calves grew too! And guite lot.I was wondering how because firehydrant and kickbacks dont activate calves? so which excercise should I do to do not gain muscle on my calves.Thank you very very much

  • Sophie says:

    Dear Bret,

    First of all, thank you. I loved your article on “Your Optimal Training Frequency For The Glutes Part I: Exercise Type”, and have been following your suggested “Example 1: mixed program”. After only a couple of weeks my legs are stronger, and my knee injuries from classical ballet are gone.

    After reading this article, I was wondering if you could make a suggestion of a weekly program to follow (around 4-5 workouts), but with incorporating the exercises you suggest in this article and linking them to the philosophy of optimal training? So replacing the exercises you think will add to the quads.

    Thank you for your time and help,

    Kind regards

  • Ashlee says:

    HI there, How many times a week would you prescribe doing these exercises a week? I just started doing the 4 day split for glute training that Steph Buttermore suggested from you, but now I am reading this and wondering if i am doing it wrong to focus on reducing my overall leg size, being quad dominant… and focusing just on the glutes? I also touch on other body parts with accessory work just to keep in check. Hope I am not being a pest by asking this 🙂

Leave a Reply


and receive my FREE Lower Body Progressions eBook!

You have Successfully Subscribed!