Strength training: 4 best weighted glute exercises using barbells and dumbbells

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Want stronger glutes? These barbell and dumbbell exercises are the best way to build muscle. 

The glutes are the largest muscle in the body and a key muscle group in your core, helping with alignment and stability of your spine and hips. Plus, they are used as a power driver, helping to propel you forward in running and shift heavy loads when weight lifting. Keeping your glutes strong is pretty important, then.

“Doing bodyweight or banded workouts at home is absolutely great, especially if you’ve had no choice with gym closures,” says strength coach Lucy Davis. If you’ve ever used a tight resistance band or done a set of bodyweight glute bridges, you’ll know the burning feeling equipment-free training can give you. However, adding weights can up the impact of your session. 

“The benefits of adding more resistance with weights is that your muscles will strengthen and grow in size, so you’ll increase your muscular hypertrophy over time. This is due to progressively overloading the muscles and is particularly useful for the glutes, as they are a super stubborn muscle group,” Lucy adds. 

“This is because they have a lot of slow twitch fibers and because we spend so long sitting down. While sitting doesn’t atrophy the glute muscles itself, it just means that they aren’t always stimulated. Then, when you’re walking, standing or moving around, your quads tend to dominate the movement. That’s why it’s so important to specifically train your posterior chain, including your glutes.” 

Now the gyms are open, there are a myriad of barbell and dumbbell weighted moves you can do. While compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts will use the glutes, there are some weighted exercises that will allow you to specifically target the glute muscles using weights to build strength and muscle.

Lucy Davis lifting a barbell in the gym.
Strength training: Lucy Davis shows us the best weighted glute workouts

The best weighted glute exercises, according to Lucy Davis

Barbell hip thrust

“I would say this is the absolute queen of glute exercises for most people,” says Lucy. “Sometimes you need to play with your form, perhaps bringing your feet in to feel it less in your hamstrings or making sure you push through your heels. As it’s a hip extension exercise, it’s the perfect glute-targeting motion and you can add a lot of weight onto the bar, meaning you can progressively overload.” 

How to do a hip thrust

  1. Sit in front of a bench or box with a barbell over your hips. If there are plates on the side, you can roll it over your legs and let it hover above your lap. Otherwise, place it on your legs while you sit down.
  2. Extend your legs out in front of you and place your back, around bra strap level, against the surface.
  3. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart with knees pushing out wide.
  4. Take a deep breath and brace your core, then press through your heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips and the barbell off of the floor until your legs are bent at 90 degrees.
  5. Keep your head looking forward and don’t flare your ribs – keep your stomach drawn in, ribs down and pubic bone pushing towards the sky.
  6. When you reach the top of the move, pause for a second. Then lower your hips back to the ground, keeping your core engaged.

Repeat 12 times for three to four sets

Reverse lunge

“If you are a bit more advanced, I’d recommend doing this with a barbell as it means you can add more load as well as target the posterior of the body,” says Lucy. 

“This is a stretcher exercise which means it will cause growth through stretching under load. Because the barbell reverse lunge has such a large range of motion, it’s going to help the hypertrophy of the glutes. I’d recommend you adopt a wider stance, and really try and step back as far as possible to feel the exercise more in your glutes.”

How to do a reverse lunge

  1. Place your barbell on the rack so you can place your shoulders under it with a slight bend in your knees. Alternatively, place the barbell on the floor in front of you and lift it up onto your shoulders, or hold your dumbbells in each hand. 
  2. Stand straight, with feet hip-width apart, roll your shoulders back and engage your core.
  3. Slowly lift your right foot off the floor and extend it out long behind you, making sure your hips don’t twist to the right. 
  4. Bend at both knees to lower to the ground, taking your right knee as close to the floor as possible.
  5. Lift your right leg off the floor by pressing your weight into your left foot and squeezing through your left glute.

Repeat 12 times on each side for three to four sets

Sumo goblet squat

“A sumo stance is performed by taking your stance wider than shoulder-width with your feet turned out. This allows you to sit further back into your heels and therefore target the glutes more,” says Lucy. 

How to do a sumo goblet squat

  1. Grab your dumbbell and hold it in the goblet position by resting your palms under one head of the dummbell and your fingers curling round the top. 
  2. Take your feet out wide and turn your feet to a 45 degree angle. 
  3. Brace your core and transfer your weight into your heels. 
  4. Push the hips back and down, bending the knees to come as far down as you can. 
  5. Press through your heels and squeeze the glutes to come back to standing. 

Repeat 12 times for three to four sets

Romanian deadlift

You can do this with either dumbbells or a barbell, depending on what feels most comfortable. The RDL is a hip hinge movement so even though you will be feeling this in your hamstrings, it’s still a full stretch of your posterior chain. When you extend back up, you can squeeze through the glutes to control the movement and target the muscle group.”

How to do a RDL

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell in your hands at hip height with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than your legs. 
  2. Tuck your tailbone under and keep your neck in line with your back as you push your hips backwards, keeping your legs straight (but not locked). 
  3. As the barbell lowers to the floor, keep it as close to your legs as possible. 
  4. Keep the weight in your heels and remember to keep your back straight and core engaged. 
  5. Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes to push the hips forwards and come back to standing. 

Repeat 12 times for three to four sets

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Images: Cal Hibbard 

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