How To Get A Bigger Butt Without Bulking Up Your Thighs

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...

More...

​Lifting ​won't make you manly, but lifting like a man ​will

Let’s just get one thing clear:

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.”

#4 You Lose Out On ‘Me’ Time
#3 You Lose The Benefit Of A Targeted Program
Men Don’t Know What We Want
Don’t underestimate this one. It’s last in the list for very good reason.

Because part of lifting weights is that it’s a time to ‘zone out & zen out’. You have to be laser focused to get the best results. Solo training and focused mind-muscle connection will take your progress to new heights. https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/3-ways-to-build-a-better-mind-muscle-connection.html It requires you to become really in-tune with your own body, which is hard to do when you’re partnered up during your workout - especially with the one you love.

Plus, it’s empowering af to truly become the master of your body and start owning the weights room like a boss. I encourage every single one of you to adopt this mantra when you step into the gym, ready to smash your workout:

“Who run the world? GIRLS”. Yes, Queen Bey. YES!

But aside from the physical gains of lifting weights solo, the real benefit is how it affects your mental wellbeing. It’s a form of meditation and a chance to let go of any negativity you may have been holding onto. Nothing cures a bad day like popping the headphones in, whacking a bit of Beyonce on and sweating it out with a solid glute session.
To get real results and those Coke bottle curves, you need to be on a targeted program with goal specific exercises that suits your unique needs. Doing the same workouts as your partner, will be doing you no favours.

I bet he missed the memo on ‘operation grow-a-booty’ and had you doing bench press like a bro.

Eek! I don’t know about you, but defined pecs is NOT something I aspire to have (to each their own, of course - whatever floats your boat). But I’d like to keep every little bit of womanly bosom I can #hellofitnessbyebyeboobies which is why I NEVER specifically train my chest - watch this video to learn more.

You see, building a fit hourglass figure isn’t as simple as just throwing some iron around. We respond to different training stimulus compared to our male counterparts. So let’s put this myth to rest once and for all, because…

Lifting weights doesn’t make you manly, training like a man makes you manly.
Men and women have very different body goals when it comes to sculpting our limbs in the gym.

You want to look like a fit Lara Croft. He wants to emulate Arnie circa 1974. See the problem?

I’m a big advocate of whole body strength training (yes, that means training your back, too ladies) but as a female, we want to hone in on our womanly assets and target our problem areas.

I’m talking booty, abs & thighs. Am I right?

Chances are hubby has a big hulk-like back and bulging biceps. But does he know the best way to get booty gains without bulking up your thighs? I think not.

And how about the best activation exercises to build a fuller, rounder & perkier butt? Hmm…

Or, does he know how to get a toned, flat tummy without thickening your waist?

Which is why #3 is so important…
Ok, Captain Obvious. While this might be a no-brainer, it’s worth mentioning as the #1 reason why couples workouts don’t work.

Put simply, men might know how to train themselves, but they have ZERO clue how to sculpt a female body… especially when it comes to growing those glutes (unless you’re Bret Contreras - read his ‘Best Glute Exercises’ post here). https://bretcontreras.com/best-glute-exercises/

Even if your other half is a personal trainer by trade, you still shouldn’t train with him. Because while he might know his text book stuff, being in tune with the female body, is something that only a fellow female can relate to.

Yes, our bodies are different anatomically, but we also have to contend with hormone fluctuations and menstrual cycles… and when you throw that into the mix, things can get a little tricky for our male counterparts.

Which leads me onto the next point:
#1: Men Don’t Have The Anatomy Of A Female

Avoid these exercises for now:

  • ​Squat​​​​
  • Lunge
  • 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:

So what’s left?? Not a whole lot, but here is what you can do to grow your glutes without bulking up your thighs:
Of course, we still love our men to bits and impromptu couples workouts can be fun, but if you’re looking for real results and finally achieving the confidence and body that you deserve, then it’s time you checked out the no BS approach with the Strong By Shelley Program

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:

#4 You Lose Out On ‘Me’ Time
#3 You Lose The Benefit Of A Targeted Program
Men Don’t Know What We Want
Don’t underestimate this one. It’s last in the list for very good reason.

Because part of lifting weights is that it’s a time to ‘zone out & zen out’. You have to be laser focused to get the best results. Solo training and focused mind-muscle connection will take your progress to new heights. https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/3-ways-to-build-a-better-mind-muscle-connection.html It requires you to become really in-tune with your own body, which is hard to do when you’re partnered up during your workout - especially with the one you love.

Plus, it’s empowering af to truly become the master of your body and start owning the weights room like a boss. I encourage every single one of you to adopt this mantra when you step into the gym, ready to smash your workout:

“Who run the world? GIRLS”. Yes, Queen Bey. YES!

But aside from the physical gains of lifting weights solo, the real benefit is how it affects your mental wellbeing. It’s a form of meditation and a chance to let go of any negativity you may have been holding onto. Nothing cures a bad day like popping the headphones in, whacking a bit of Beyonce on and sweating it out with a solid glute session.
To get real results and those Coke bottle curves, you need to be on a targeted program with goal specific exercises that suits your unique needs. Doing the same workouts as your partner, will be doing you no favours.

I bet he missed the memo on ‘operation grow-a-booty’ and had you doing bench press like a bro.

Eek! I don’t know about you, but defined pecs is NOT something I aspire to have (to each their own, of course - whatever floats your boat). But I’d like to keep every little bit of womanly bosom I can #hellofitnessbyebyeboobies which is why I NEVER specifically train my chest - watch this video to learn more.

You see, building a fit hourglass figure isn’t as simple as just throwing some iron around. We respond to different training stimulus compared to our male counterparts. So let’s put this myth to rest once and for all, because…

Lifting weights doesn’t make you manly, training like a man makes you manly.
Men and women have very different body goals when it comes to sculpting our limbs in the gym.

You want to look like a fit Lara Croft. He wants to emulate Arnie circa 1974. See the problem?

I’m a big advocate of whole body strength training (yes, that means training your back, too ladies) but as a female, we want to hone in on our womanly assets and target our problem areas.

I’m talking booty, abs & thighs. Am I right?

Chances are hubby has a big hulk-like back and bulging biceps. But does he know the best way to get booty gains without bulking up your thighs? I think not.

And how about the best activation exercises to build a fuller, rounder & perkier butt? Hmm…

Or, does he know how to get a toned, flat tummy without thickening your waist?

Which is why #3 is so important…
Ok, Captain Obvious. While this might be a no-brainer, it’s worth mentioning as the #1 reason why couples workouts don’t work.

Put simply, men might know how to train themselves, but they have ZERO clue how to sculpt a female body… especially when it comes to growing those glutes (unless you’re Bret Contreras - read his ‘Best Glute Exercises’ post here). https://bretcontreras.com/best-glute-exercises/

Even if your other half is a personal trainer by trade, you still shouldn’t train with him. Because while he might know his text book stuff, being in tune with the female body, is something that only a fellow female can relate to.

Yes, our bodies are different anatomically, but we also have to contend with hormone fluctuations and menstrual cycles… and when you throw that into the mix, things can get a little tricky for our male counterparts.

Which leads me onto the next point:
#1: Men Don’t Have The Anatomy Of A Female

​​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.

Once you’ve perfected your form & technique and you’re getting good glute activation with these exercises, you need to keep progressing and slowly adding weight. 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 start to do the work again. You really want to find that balance between getting some awesome glute burn under load but without the other muscles (quads, hamstrings, calves) taking over.
Of course, we still love our men to bits and impromptu couples workouts can be fun, but if you’re looking for real results and finally achieving the confidence and body that you deserve, then it’s time you checked out the no BS approach with the Strong By Shelley Program

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!

  1. Gluteus maximus (largest & makes up bulk of butt)
  2. Gluteus medius and
  3. 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:

#4 You Lose Out On ‘Me’ Time
#3 You Lose The Benefit Of A Targeted Program
Men Don’t Know What We Want
Don’t underestimate this one. It’s last in the list for very good reason.

Because part of lifting weights is that it’s a time to ‘zone out & zen out’. You have to be laser focused to get the best results. Solo training and focused mind-muscle connection will take your progress to new heights. https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/3-ways-to-build-a-better-mind-muscle-connection.html It requires you to become really in-tune with your own body, which is hard to do when you’re partnered up during your workout - especially with the one you love.

Plus, it’s empowering af to truly become the master of your body and start owning the weights room like a boss. I encourage every single one of you to adopt this mantra when you step into the gym, ready to smash your workout:

“Who run the world? GIRLS”. Yes, Queen Bey. YES!

But aside from the physical gains of lifting weights solo, the real benefit is how it affects your mental wellbeing. It’s a form of meditation and a chance to let go of any negativity you may have been holding onto. Nothing cures a bad day like popping the headphones in, whacking a bit of Beyonce on and sweating it out with a solid glute session.
To get real results and those Coke bottle curves, you need to be on a targeted program with goal specific exercises that suits your unique needs. Doing the same workouts as your partner, will be doing you no favours.

I bet he missed the memo on ‘operation grow-a-booty’ and had you doing bench press like a bro.

Eek! I don’t know about you, but defined pecs is NOT something I aspire to have (to each their own, of course - whatever floats your boat). But I’d like to keep every little bit of womanly bosom I can #hellofitnessbyebyeboobies which is why I NEVER specifically train my chest - watch this video to learn more.

You see, building a fit hourglass figure isn’t as simple as just throwing some iron around. We respond to different training stimulus compared to our male counterparts. So let’s put this myth to rest once and for all, because…

Lifting weights doesn’t make you manly, training like a man makes you manly.
Men and women have very different body goals when it comes to sculpting our limbs in the gym.

You want to look like a fit Lara Croft. He wants to emulate Arnie circa 1974. See the problem?

I’m a big advocate of whole body strength training (yes, that means training your back, too ladies) but as a female, we want to hone in on our womanly assets and target our problem areas.

I’m talking booty, abs & thighs. Am I right?

Chances are hubby has a big hulk-like back and bulging biceps. But does he know the best way to get booty gains without bulking up your thighs? I think not.

And how about the best activation exercises to build a fuller, rounder & perkier butt? Hmm…

Or, does he know how to get a toned, flat tummy without thickening your waist?

Which is why #3 is so important…
Ok, Captain Obvious. While this might be a no-brainer, it’s worth mentioning as the #1 reason why couples workouts don’t work.

Put simply, men might know how to train themselves, but they have ZERO clue how to sculpt a female body… especially when it comes to growing those glutes (unless you’re Bret Contreras - read his ‘Best Glute Exercises’ post here). https://bretcontreras.com/best-glute-exercises/

Even if your other half is a personal trainer by trade, you still shouldn’t train with him. Because while he might know his text book stuff, being in tune with the female body, is something that only a fellow female can relate to.

Yes, our bodies are different anatomically, but we also have to contend with hormone fluctuations and menstrual cycles… and when you throw that into the mix, things can get a little tricky for our male counterparts.

Which leads me onto the next point:
#1: Men Don’t Have The Anatomy Of A Female

​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
Standing cable abduction
Cable kick-back
Barbell side lunge
Dumbbell frog pumps
Single leg box squat
Single leg side glute press
Of course, we still love our men to bits and impromptu couples workouts can be fun, but if you’re looking for real results and finally achieving the confidence and body that you deserve, then it’s time you checked out the no BS approach with the Strong By Shelley Program

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.

#4 You Lose Out On ‘Me’ Time
#3 You Lose The Benefit Of A Targeted Program
Men Don’t Know What We Want
Don’t underestimate this one. It’s last in the list for very good reason.

Because part of lifting weights is that it’s a time to ‘zone out & zen out’. You have to be laser focused to get the best results. Solo training and focused mind-muscle connection will take your progress to new heights. https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/3-ways-to-build-a-better-mind-muscle-connection.html It requires you to become really in-tune with your own body, which is hard to do when you’re partnered up during your workout - especially with the one you love.

Plus, it’s empowering af to truly become the master of your body and start owning the weights room like a boss. I encourage every single one of you to adopt this mantra when you step into the gym, ready to smash your workout:

“Who run the world? GIRLS”. Yes, Queen Bey. YES!

But aside from the physical gains of lifting weights solo, the real benefit is how it affects your mental wellbeing. It’s a form of meditation and a chance to let go of any negativity you may have been holding onto. Nothing cures a bad day like popping the headphones in, whacking a bit of Beyonce on and sweating it out with a solid glute session.
To get real results and those Coke bottle curves, you need to be on a targeted program with goal specific exercises that suits your unique needs. Doing the same workouts as your partner, will be doing you no favours.

I bet he missed the memo on ‘operation grow-a-booty’ and had you doing bench press like a bro.

Eek! I don’t know about you, but defined pecs is NOT something I aspire to have (to each their own, of course - whatever floats your boat). But I’d like to keep every little bit of womanly bosom I can #hellofitnessbyebyeboobies which is why I NEVER specifically train my chest - watch this video to learn more.

You see, building a fit hourglass figure isn’t as simple as just throwing some iron around. We respond to different training stimulus compared to our male counterparts. So let’s put this myth to rest once and for all, because…

Lifting weights doesn’t make you manly, training like a man makes you manly.
Men and women have very different body goals when it comes to sculpting our limbs in the gym.

You want to look like a fit Lara Croft. He wants to emulate Arnie circa 1974. See the problem?

I’m a big advocate of whole body strength training (yes, that means training your back, too ladies) but as a female, we want to hone in on our womanly assets and target our problem areas.

I’m talking booty, abs & thighs. Am I right?

Chances are hubby has a big hulk-like back and bulging biceps. But does he know the best way to get booty gains without bulking up your thighs? I think not.

And how about the best activation exercises to build a fuller, rounder & perkier butt? Hmm…

Or, does he know how to get a toned, flat tummy without thickening your waist?

Which is why #3 is so important…
Ok, Captain Obvious. While this might be a no-brainer, it’s worth mentioning as the #1 reason why couples workouts don’t work.

Put simply, men might know how to train themselves, but they have ZERO clue how to sculpt a female body… especially when it comes to growing those glutes (unless you’re Bret Contreras - read his ‘Best Glute Exercises’ post here). https://bretcontreras.com/best-glute-exercises/

Even if your other half is a personal trainer by trade, you still shouldn’t train with him. Because while he might know his text book stuff, being in tune with the female body, is something that only a fellow female can relate to.

Yes, our bodies are different anatomically, but we also have to contend with hormone fluctuations and menstrual cycles… and when you throw that into the mix, things can get a little tricky for our male counterparts.

Which leads me onto the next point:
#1: Men Don’t Have The Anatomy Of A Female

​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! P​osterior 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!
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, ditch it!
Of course, we still love our men to bits and impromptu couples workouts can be fun, but if you’re looking for real results and finally achieving the confidence and body that you deserve, then it’s time you checked out the no BS approach with the Strong By Shelley Program
so now that we’ve got that cleared up. Let’s move along shall we?

​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

  • Bianca says:

    I want to work glutes but I need to work legs too since they’re thin should I work both since you said that I should focus in gluts more than guads

    • Shelley says:

      Hey Bianca! So this article is written for girls who might have an imbalance or lazy glute muscles & want to focus on their glutes without growing their quads anymore. But if you have thin legs and want to build them up too, then yes, absolutely you should work both! Any compound lower body exercise will help grow your quads & hamstrings (as well as glutes). So things like squats, conventional deadlifts, walking lunges & leg press are great. And hip thrusts are always a must in my opinion 😉 If you have particularly weak quads & find it hard to grow them compared to other muscles like glutes & hamstrings then you can dedicate a whole session just to quad focused exercises & isolate them with exercises like the leg extension. But honestly, if you’re a beginner or want to build muscle all over, then I would just focus on the basic compound movements & get them right first, before you move onto fancier isolation exercises or splitting up muscle groups. Hope that helps!

  • Rhianna says:

    This was so useful! Thank you!

    • Shelley says:

      Hey Rhianna! Thanks for the feedback, I’m glad it was helpful. Hope you get some good booty gains from it 🙂

  • Christine says:

    Hi Shelley
    I love your content and just want to say thank you for sharing your amazing fitness routines !!! ♡

  • Aileen says:

    Hi,
    How can you workout the glutes in 3D at home (body weight, dumbbells, resistance bands)? Or going to the gym is the only way to obtain a well developed bum.

    • Hi Aileen, thanks for the comment. Of course, you definitely can get great results at home with some basic equipment like dumbbells, resistance bands and a bench.The most important factor in developing the glutes, is working the muscle under a heavy load. Obviously gyms have a variety of machines that are great for 3D workouts but there is always a variation you can do at home!