I get asked this ALL the time and I totally get it. We’re all on a quest to build a peachy booty and maintain long slender legs. But then you say… “I don't want to lift heavy because I don’t want to bulk up or get too manly” or... (and this one really irks me) “I build muscle really fast so I can only do light weight”.
Girl, if you build muscle that frickin’ easy, then pray-tell, what is your secret?? Because I’ve been doing this heavy lifting sh*t for a long time and let me tell you, this booty didn’t morph over night. I mean, do I look like the incredible hulk to you?! **face palm**
I'm sorry, but ladies, this is the number one most annoying statement I hear at least once a week. Let’s just get one thing clear...
Lifting won't make you manly, but lifting like a man will
Lifting weights (the right way) will make you lean, toned and curvy in all the right places. That ‘bulking’ business has more to do with what you put in your mouth, than what you do in the gym. Speaking of which, check out my other blog post on how a low carb high fat diet is the missing link in your efforts to get lean and toned.
Ok, so now that we’ve got that cleared up. Let’s move along shall we?
To Squat Or Not To Squat?
First off, just to clarify - all lower body exercises will grow your leg muscles to some extent. Some more than others.
Your lower body is made up of 4 muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Even the booty favourite hip thrust will activate your quads to some degree.
The problem is… you may be quad dominant.
If you’ve been squatting, lunging and leg pressing like a beast, (and become strong through these movements), then you’re probably quad dominant. And that has an effect on your glutes' ability to be activated and used in these exercises instead.
The glutes are the largest muscle in the body but also notoriously, the laziest. Meaning, if they can let any other muscle do the work for them, then by-golly, they will.
The result… a pancake butt with quadzilla thighs. Ok, I exaggerate, but seriously, that’s how you feel, right?
**Disclaimer: I’m not saying squats are the devil. They are a great compound movement that work a whole heap of muscles and as a beginner lifter, it’s one of the most important basic moves that you should absolutely master before moving onto the fancy stuff.
So, how do you grow glutes without growing thighs?
Avoid exercises that Stress the quads
Oh and on a side note: I’m going to assume that by ‘bulking up your thighs’, you actually mean the quads/front of your legs NOT the hamstrings/back of your legs… because honestly, no one has ever said to me, “Damn, Shelley, I just hate how big and shapely my hamstrings are… I wish I could shrink them.”
Avoid these exercises for now:
- Bulgarian split squat
- Step up
- Leg press
- Leg extension
- Hack squat
- Trap bar deadlift
So what’s left?? Not a whole lot, but here is what you can do to grow glutes without growing your thighs:
Do Lightweight Glute Activation
Keep it light at first. If you go too heavy off the bat, you can bet your bottom dollar that those killer quads will take over. So grab a band (this is my favourite brand) and start focusing on your mind-muscle connection. This is key to start developing those buns! Remember how I said the glutes are lazy sons-a-bitches? Well, you’ve got to coax them into firing up.
There are a ton of activation exercises you can do like butt squeezes, lying leg abductions, seated abductions, butt planks and clams. Start with a 10 minute drill and don’t forget to squeeeeeeze the bejesus out of those buns!
Learn how to squeeze!
If you don’t know how to butt squeeze, you better learn! Because this little manoeuvre is the key to maximum glute contraction. And the more you can contract a muscle, the more it will grow.
You’d be amazed how many ladies I’ve worked with who don’t know how to effectively squeeze their tushies. It’s super easy and you can literally practice absolutely anywhere. The key is to master the posterior pelvic tilt and clench your butt cheeks as hard as you can.
Imagine you have a belt around your waist. Next, tilt your pelvis, push the hips forward and draw the belt buckle up towards you. Then imagine someone is poking you up the bum with a hot rod, making sure you squeeze the glutes hard #visuals. Check this quick glute squeeze tutorial video out!
Just make sure you use the glutes to push your hips forward and avoid rounding through your lower spine. So go knock yourself out. Do it in the queue at the post office, in line at the supermarket or even when you’re brushing your teeth and you’ll have rock hard glutes in no time.
Choose the right Glute Focused exercises
If your goal is to grow glutes without growing thighs, then your training routine needs to be tailored accordingly. That means less squatting and more thrusting. Your lower body workouts should be setting your peach on fire! But we’re all built differently, we have different bone structures and different muscle development. So what works really well for some girls, won’t necessarily work of you.
For example, I prefer the hip thrust to the glute bridge because in the bridge position I feel it more through my hamstrings rather than my tush. Remember, you want to pick exercises that make your booty burn like all hell. So if you don’t feel it, ditch it. It’s best to work with a smaller toolbox, rather than doing every trick in the book, just because you saw some fitness chick on instagram doing it.
So try out some of these glute-focused exercises below and play around with foot positioning, banded or weighted, feet elevated, stance width and single leg variations. Find the ones that give you the most bang for your buck and stick with them:
Glute focused exercises to try:
- Hip thrust
- Glute bridge
- American deadlift
- Cable pull-through
- Smith machine kick-back
- Glute focused hyperextension
Start to progress with weight slowly. The stronger you can get through these moves, the more your butt will grow. But don’t go too heavy too fast or your quads will take over again.
Target the Butt from all angles
Now you know how to activate the glutes, how to get maximum contraction out of your lifts and exactly which exercises to get really strong at performing; next you need to isolate and reach every little bit of booty muscle fibres for epic gains!
The glutes are actually made up of three muscles… yes, three!
- Gluteus maximus (largest & makes up bulk of butt)
- Gluteus medius and
- Gluteus minimus (both responsible for hip stablisation & give you that upper booty shelf)
You need to target all three if you want a round & full peach. There are a bazillion exercises to choose from so booty workouts never get boring! Here are just a few of my favourites:
Glute isolation exercises to try:
- Standing cable abduction
- Cable kick-back
- Barbell side lunge
- Dumbbell frog pump
- Single leg box squat
- Single leg side glute press
Final Thoughts On how to get a bigger butt
And that's how you grow glutes without growing thighs! But before you get all giddy and start planning some crazy booty workouts, just remember… there’s no point in doing these fancy isolation variations unless you master the first 3 steps first! Some of these moves require a certain level of mind-muscle connection and training maturity.
So if you feel these exercises anywhere but the butt, stick to band or bodyweight only, or hold off entirely until you feel the glutes doing the work rather than the quads. Baby steps. Get the basics right first and your tush will reap the rewards later down the track.
How get a bigger butt in a Nutshell
- 10 minutes of light weight glute activation exercises prior to your lower body workout will wake up those lazy buns without stressing the quads
- Learn to butt squeeze! Posterior pelvic tilt will give you maximum glute contraction so that your booty can dominate instead of your thighs
- Get stronger at glute focused exercises that are right for YOU. A smaller toolbox is better… Don’t follow the crowd!
- Get fancy with glute isolation variations that hit the booty from all angles for that 3D round effect. But if you feel it in the quads, go light or ditch it!
If you found this article useful, please tell me so! I'd love to know what you struggle with most in your glute training. Let me know in the comments below 🙂
Happy glute training! x