great buttIt’s no great secret that the world has gone butt crazy.

What is a secret (or at least misunderstood) is just how a great butt can be built.

On one side of the fence, you have the functional training crowd telling you to “just squat.”  

On the other side, you have conventional gym wisdom, which suggests that the key to building your booty is to hit it with endless sets of hip abductions and glute bridges.

And then there are the naysayers – the people who argue that it’s all genetics.

So what’s the deal?  Can you build a butt to be proud of in the gym, and if so, how do you do it?

Today we’re going to answer that question and break down exactly what you should be doing if building this area is a priority for you.

The Anatomy And Function Of Your Butt

We all know that butts are nice to look at, but most people have no idea what they do.

Your butt is made up of three major muscle groups- the gluteus maximum, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus (hence why your ass is sometimes colloquially referred to as your “glutes”).

The gluteus maximus muscle is not only the strongest of the three but one of the strongest in your entire body. Connected to the sacrum (tailbone), it’s responsible for hip extension and lateral rotation of the leg.  

It’s also the part that appears most prominently when developed since it’s basically…well, your butt cheek.

The gluteus medius (along with the gluteus maximus) is responsible for lateral movement of the leg (specifically rotation, extension, and abduction).  

This muscle represents the upper part, and when properly developed will help create a more “rounded” look.

Finally, the gluteus minimus works in conjunction with the gluteus medius in abduction of the leg.  

Located beneath the glute medius, it’s the smallest of the three muscles.  However, properly developing it will put the finishing visual touches on your butt.

Why Strong Glutes Matter (They Don’t JUST Look Good)

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Now, if that little science lesson seems needlessly complicated, let’s break it down and get a nice “big picture” look at what your butt does (as well as why you should actually care).  

The following is a list of bodily functions the glutes are either responsible for or directly contribute to:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Most other lower body movements you can think of

In addition to all of this, they work in conjunction with your posture (the glutes stabilize the pelvis).  The quality of your posture has downstream effects on bodily functions that you probably wouldn’t even think of, including digestion and sleep quality (yes, “sleep posture” is a thing).

So, with this in mind, if the “aesthetic” benefits of a nice ass aren’t sufficiently motivating for you, here’s a list of direct, tangible benefits:

  1. Reduced Back Pain: Back pain is an absolute killer for guys as they start to get into their 30’s.  Since glutes are involved in stabilizing the pelvis, and the pelvis connects to the spine via the sacrum, it doesn’t take a chiropractor to figure out that weak glutes can cause a whole host of lower back issues.
  2. Strength And Power: Remember how we said that the gluteus maximus is one of the strongest muscles in the entire body?  If you play any sport (or you just want to be generally strong), it would seriously be in your best interest to develop this area.  Most functional human activities require power generation that starts with the legs (and therefore, the glutes).
  3. Injury Prevention: Weak glutes lead to a series of muscle imbalances which can set off a chain reaction in the lower body, resulting in some pretty frustrating injuries later on down the road.  Back pain is probably the most common, but these injuries can also show up in the form of tight hip flexors, knee pain, and a weak or sore lower body.

Developing Your Gluteal Game Plan

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Alright, so now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about how to go about building a better butt.

If you’ve read any of our fitness guides, you know that we advocate an approach to strength training based on basic, compound lifts, performed nice and heavy, with progressive overload in mind.

All these principals apply to building up your ass.  Specifically, there are two lifts that you’ll want to focus on.

The first is (surprise, surprise) the squat.  In addition to working the entire lower body, the barbell squat does a fantastic job of developing the glutes in particular.  

So which type of squat should you be doing then?  While the front squat is a tremendous overall mass builder, it targets the quads a bit more, so you’ll probably want to go with the back squat.

Ideally, you want to be going down and squatting as low as you can (without putting yourself at risk of injury).

Or as we say in fitness land:

Ass to the Grass!

The second lift you should focus on is the deadlift.  Deadlifting works just about every muscle in the body, and it just so happens that it’s great for building not only the glutes but the hamstrings as well.

This is perfect, because what you really want is a strong, well-built ass that feeds into some nice, ripped hamstrings to complete the look.

Now, while this advice is essential…it’s not exactly earth shattering.  Any halfway intelligent article on building your butt will tell you that squatting and deadlifting are important.

But is that all it takes?

The short answer is maybe…but probably not.  

You see, if you’ve been lifting for any length of time, you’re probably aware that certain muscle groups grow a lot faster and a hell of a lot easier than others.  This is something that differs from one guy to the next, and it can be quite frustrating.  

For example, you may find that your biceps and triceps grow like weeds…but your chest and back lag behind.  

If that’s the case, then you’ve probably noticed that bench pressing does wonders for blowing up your triceps, but you need to add in isolation movements on top of that to get your chest to grow at the same rate.

The same principle applies to building your butt.  There are some lucky guys with amazing glute genetics who can get away with a few sets of squats once per week.

For most men though, what you’ll likely find it that squats will hit your glutes…but your quads will end up taking over and doing a lot more of the work than they should.

So, while squatting IS hugely important and will help tremendously, you can’t just squat (despite what a lot of barbell enthusiasts will tell you).  You need to isolate as well.

great butt

With that said, we’re not talking about doing endless sets of lightweight hip abductions and glute bridges. The principle of progressive overload applies to your butt as well, and you’ll want to choose movements that allow you to handle relatively heavy loads and progress over time.  

Here are some great exercises to choose from:

Bulgarian Split Squats (great for activating the glute medius)

Barbell Lunges

Barbell Hip Thrusts (FANTASTIC for really isolating the glutes)

A Sample Program

If you’ve decided that adding some mass to your ass is a priority, here’s a sample program you can work into your current routine.  

While training a muscle group once per week is usually optimal, if your butt is lagging behind, shoot for training twice per week.  

Most likely you’re already squatting and deadlifting on different days, so the easiest way to work these “assistance lifts” into your current routine is to do them at the end of those workouts.  

Day 1

Barbell Back Squat (5 sets of 5 reps)

Barbell Hip Thrust (3 sets of 8-10)

Bulgarian Split Squat (3 sets of 8-10)

Barbell Lunges (3 sets of 8-10)

Day 2

Deadlifts (5 sets of 5)

Barbell Hip Thrust (3 sets of 8-10)

Bulgarian Split Squat (3 sets of 8-10)

Barbell Lunges (3 sets of 8-10)

To sum it all up, while a great butt takes time and patience to build, it can be done.   Lift heavy, do the correct isolation movements, and be consistent and you’ll start seeing progress a lot sooner than you think.