9 Impressive Glute Isolation Exercises

Photo of author
Published On

Many workouts engage your glute muscles to some extent. But what are some glute isolation exercises that mainly focus on this muscle alone?

Exercises like regular squats, lunges, and step-ups are great overall leg exercises that do train your glutes. The thing is that they also make a lot of use of your quadriceps (your front thigh muscles).

You may be interested in mainly training your glutes and less your thighs. In that case, this list of glute isolation exercises will benefit you a lot.

As a strength training beginner the bodyweight versions of these exercises may be enough to build more glute muscle. However, since the glutes are such a powerful muscle sooner rather than later you will have to add extra resistance to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth.

When this is the case you can make these exercises more challenging with a wide variety of options like resistance bands, ankle weights, a barbell, dumbbells, a variety of gym machines, etc.

Keep in mind that even though there are many benefits, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance.

1. Hip thrusts

Hip thrusts are similar to glute bridges but instead of doing them on the ground, you will need a bench or any other stable object of the right height. To do a hip thrust take the following steps:

  1. Sit right in front of the bench or other object you will use with your back slightly over the edge. Make sure the object is stable. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width in a position where your knees will be at a 90-degree angle in the next step. If you want to, hold any weights on your body at the hip level.
  2. Move up your hips until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  3. Slowly lower your body again.

The most popular way to add resistance to hip thrusts is a barbell but you can also use other free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, a medicine ball,… and even resistance bands although this last option is a bit more complicated to set up.

2. Cable glute kickbacks

The next option is a standing glute exercise. You will likely have to go to the gym for this exercise since it requires you to use a cable machine.

You could also do this exercise with good resistance bands but the resistance will be less consistent. To do a cable glute kickback take the following steps:

  1. Put the cable pulley as close to the ground as possible and preferably use an ankle strap handle. You may be able to get away with a D-grip handle but certainly in this leg exercise, that option is a lot less safe.
  2. Stand with your face toward the cable machine and strap on the ankle band. You can hold the cable machine during the exercise for balance.
  3. Lean forward to about a 45-degree angle to a vertical line.
  4. Slowly move the foot with the strap back and with your knee slightly bent until your leg is stretched at an angle somewhat more vertical than just a horizontal line.
  5. Return your foot to starting position in a controlled motion.

One of the benefits of using the cable machine for glute exercises is that it is relatively easy to increase the amount of resistance. You simply need to switch the weight setting.

As the name implies, the cable glute kickback is mainly a glute muscle isolation exercise but you inevitably engage other muscles too.

3. Romanian deadlifts

For this next standing glute isolation exercise you likely need external weights, preferably a barbell. You can also use other free weights and even resistance bands. To do a Romanian deadlift take the following steps:

  1. Set up a rack with a barbell at a height just below where your barbell is if you stand up straight with the barbell in your hands. Add the desired number of weight plates.
  2. Grab the barbell with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing downward/backward. Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room for the exercise. Stand up with your feet at more or less shoulder width and your knees slightly bent.
  3. Slightly tilt your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back or knees or until the bar is right below knee height. The weight plates should not hit the ground.
  4. Slowly move back into the position of step 2.

Good technique is important in any exercise to avoid injuries but especially so for Romanian deadlifts. Before trying to deadlift the heaviest weights it is smart to improve your technique first by starting with light or no weights at all.

The Romanian deadlift focuses more on your glutes and less on your leg muscles compared to the regular deadlift.

4. Lying lateral leg raises

For the lying lateral leg raise and any other exercises that take place on the floor, it can be helpful to invest in something like a yoga mat if you have no other soft surface to do the exercise on. To do a lying lateral leg raise take the following steps:

  1. Start lying down on your side with your body in more or less one straight line, adjust for stability.
  2. Raise one leg upward until it is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground. Keep the foot of this leg pointing horizontally.
  3. Lower this leg back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
  4. Repeat the same number of repetitions with the other leg.

Lying lateral leg raises engage your glutes and outer thigh muscles. The main ways to make this glute isolation exercise more challenging are with resistance bands or ankle weights.

How to do a side leg raise

5. Donkey kicks

To do a donkey kick take the following steps:

  1. Start with your face facing the floor with your hands on the ground, your arms stretched, and your knees on the ground.
  2. Move one foot upward until the upper leg of this side is in 1 line with your body. Keep your knees at 90-degree angles throughout the movement.
  3. Lower this leg back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
  4. Repeat with your other leg.

Some of the most straightforward ways to make donkey kicks even more challenging for your glutes are resistance bands and ankle weights but you can also clamp a medicine ball between the back of your upper legs and calves.

How to do a donkey kick

6. Cable pull-throughs

This next option is another glute isolation exercise that is generally done with the cable machine. A more budget-friendly at-home option is a resistance band. To do a cable pull-through take the following steps:

  1. Put the cable pulley as close to the ground as possible and preferably use a double-rope attachment. You may be able to use other grip attachments but these will be a lot more uncomfortable.
  2. Stand right next to the cable machine with your back toward it. Grab the double rope handle through your legs so that the cable goes through your legs and take a step forward.
  3. Bend your knees slightly and bend your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back.
  4. Slowly move up your upper body until you stand up straight. Keep your back straight and your arms pointing downward. Make sure you don’t hunch your shoulders.
  5. Alternate between the positions in step 3 and step 4.

This exercise focuses on your glutes, lower back, and hamstrings. These muscles almost inevitably work together.

7. Clamshells

Clamshells are another exercise that takes place on the ground. To do a resistance band clamshell take the following steps:

  1. Lie down on your side with your knees at a 90-degree angle. Loop a resistance band right above your knees around both of your legs.
  2. Slowly raise the upper knee as far as you comfortably can without moving your hips. Keep your feet together during the movement.
  3. Lower this leg back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
  4. Repeat the same number of repetitions with the other leg.

Even strength training beginners likely need to add some form of resistance to make clamshells challenging enough for glute muscle gain. Luckily one of the benefits of resistance bands, which are a great way to make clamshells more challenging, is that they are relatively inexpensive.

8. Back extensions

While you can do some forms of back extensions at home it is generally recommended to use a back extension machine or roman chair for this glute exercise. To do a back extension with the dedicated machine take the following steps:

  1. Take place in the back extension machine. Keep a straight back for now. Make sure you are locked in place safely.
  2. Slowly bend down as far as you can while keeping your back straight. The bending movement comes from your hips, not your back.
  3. Move up your upper body in a controlled motion until your body is in a straight line.

The most popular way to make back extensions weighted and in turn more challenging for your glutes is a weight plate but you can also use other free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, a medicine ball, and even resistance bands.

Like with all of the exercises on this list you want to be careful about adding too much weight too fast. Start with light or no weights and if that goes well you can slowly try out heavier weights.

9. Fire hydrants

To do a fire hydrant take the following steps:

  1. Start with your face facing the floor with your hands on the ground, your arms stretched, and your knees on the ground.
  2. Slowly move one leg sideways as close to a 90-degree angle in your hips as you comfortably can. Keep your knees at about 90-degree angles during the movement. Try to keep your back straight and the rest of your body besides your legs still to focus the most on your glutes.
  3. Lower this leg back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
  4. Repeat with your other leg.

This is another typical resistance band glute exercise but other forms of resistance like ankle weights, a medicine ball, and maybe even a light dumbbell can help you build more glute muscle faster.

How to do a fire hydrant
Photo of author

Author:

Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.