Okay, so you’ve been doing all the squats, deadlifts, and walking lunges, but your booty just isn’t responding. What gives?
According to Les Mills US trainer and presenter Mohamed Bounaim, there are a number of reasons why your glutes may not be getting stronger or more defined, despite all the hard work you seem to be putting into them.
It’s important to get to the, well, bottom of it (sorry, had to) because enhancing your glutes has benefits that extend well past aesthetics alone. “Strong glutes support our pelvic alignment, lower back, and knees,” Bounaim explains. “They also are key in helping us stand upright, run and walk, as well as balance on one leg—all things we do on a daily basis.” It’s so common for physical therapists and trainers to tell clients that they have weak glutes that it’s practically become cliché.
Why are my glute exercises not working?
If your booty-building efforts are coming up empty, it’s time to take a closer look at your routine.
1. You’re squatting with incorrect knee alignment
One reason your glutes aren’t getting any stronger could be that you’re not squatting with the proper form. “It is key to squat with the knees in line with the middle of the foot,” Bounaim says. He adds that by actually keeping your knees further back towards your heels rather than over your toes, you’ll be able to keep your glutes engaged through the entire range of motion.
2. You’re squatting in only one stance
Another common glute exercise mistake is relying on only one type of squat. There’s a reason why a variety of squats exist—they realign the foot position to target the glutes from all angles. “Different squat stances help to engage and fire up different muscles of our glutes,” Bounaim explains. “Narrow squats will focus more on the quads and front of the legs, but as you go wide, and even wider, you’ll work the glute max and side glutes even more effectively.”
3. You’re squatting too low—or not low enough
The common phrase among gym rats is “ass to grass,” but squatting that low may not be possible for some, and in reality, it may be too low altogether. “For most exercisers, the safest range of motion for an effective squat is to stop the butt just above the knee line,” Bounaim says. “When you don’t go [to this] full range of motion, you miss out on full muscle activation, and going [lower] can put you at risk for injuring your lower back and knees if you don’t have the flexibility to do so safely.”
Pro Tip: If you’re bad at determining how low to squat, start with box squats. Once your bum taps the box, you know it’s time to stand back up. While a chair can be used for this, specific boxes—like the Yes4All 3 in 1 Wooden Plyo Box, $40, and VEVOR Plyometric Platform Box, $48—also exist.
4.You’re not using booty bands
As effective as squats are for building glute strength, there are many other exercises (often thought to be way less intense) that can offer an applaudable booty burn. “Many people think donkey kicks, hip bridges, and clams are ‘wimpy’ exercises but they are excellent for isolating the glutes,” Bounaim says, adding that bands (like the Les Mills Sculpt Bands, $42, and Bala Resistance Bands, $20) up their effect. “Isolating the glutes will fire up deep within the muscle tissue and not only create an intense burn but shape and strengthen the glutes as well.”
Pro Tip: Fitness star Whitney Simmons, who is the creator of the Alive app, has a bunch of different bodyweight exercises that blast the booty. Her side glute bridge will leave your cheeks quaking.
5. You’re not varying exercise modalities
Strength training is often thought to be the best way to build bigger, stronger muscles. But Bounaim says that embracing a multi-pronged approach is actually most effective. “To build strong and healthy glutes, mixing up weight training with cardio—like a step class, hiking, skiing, or spin classes—will help you develop functional fitness and glutes that will help you enjoy an active and healthy life,” he explains. So, if you’ve been looking for an excuse to splurge on a Peloton or sign up for Les Mills+, let your glutes guide you.
Ready to mix up your booty burn? Try this 15-minute glutes workout: