Every article of clothing from a bikini to a pair of basic jeans looks infinitely better when covering a perfectly toned butt. And this is true for both men and women, so it’s time to get your rear in gear with some exercises designed to strengthen your glutes. By targeting this muscle group, you’ll also reduce your risk for a whole host of injuries. Because so many glute exercises at the gym require the use of in-demand equipment, there’s usually quite a wait. Instead of twiddling your thumbs as you stand in line to use a barbell rack, head for the dumbbells. With the right moves, these weights are all you need to achieve a toned butt.
1. Walking dumbbell lunge
Lunges are one of the exercises nearly every trainer lists among their go-to’s because they’re so effective for strengthening the entire lower body. They also take really well to adaptations, as with these weighted lunges. The added load increases your effort, but the walking motion takes them a step further. Because you have to push off the ground with enough force to move forward as you stand, your glutes have to work that much harder. To perform walking lunges, start with a set of dumbbells that are on the light side. Begin standing with your feet spaced hip-width apart while grasping one weight in each hand with your hands at your sides. Keeping your back flat and your torso upright, step your left leg out into a lunge. As you sink into the lunge, your left knee should end up directly over your left ankle and your right knee should be hovering just above the ground. Men’s Health has a great photo guide to demonstrate the move. From here, push off the ground to step your right leg forward, ending in the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side so you walk forward while alternating legs.
2. Dumbbell step-up
Anyone who’s spent a day climbing tons of stairs definitely feels it the next morning. It makes perfect sense, because the upward movement engages your glutes more fully than walking on flat ground. With this in mind, weighted dumbbell step-ups are like the more intense version of climbing stairs. This means greater glute activation for better results. You’ll need a set of dumbbells and a bench or other elevated platform. While holding a dumbbell in each hand, step your right foot onto the bench. Without moving your foot, push straight up through the ball of your right foot so you finish standing fully upright. After a brief pause, slowly lower your left foot back to the ground. Repeat all your repetitions on one side before switching legs. You can see a great visual of this move by heading to Shape.
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3. Weighted donkey kick
Like with lunges, donkey kicks can easily be adapted to accommodate additional weight. You really want to be careful about starting with a light dumbbell to make sure you don’t power through the move by arching your back too far, which could lead to injury. Something around five pounds should be just about right. For this exercise, start on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips and your hands directly below your shoulders. Arrange your dumbbell in the crease behind your right knee and squeeze it into place by bending your knee. Keeping your torso stable and your weight evenly distributed, lift your right leg back by contracting your glutes as high as you can without compromising your form. Carefully lower your leg back to the ground and repeat.
4. Dumbbell deadlift
Most people use barbells for deadlifts, often reaching for a hefty amount of weight. So why bother with dumbbells? Because they force both sides of your body to work evenly, which Men’s Fitness says can help lessen muscle imbalances. With a barbell, there’s always some risk you’ll favor one side over the other. Get into position by standing with a moderately heavy dumbbell in each hand with your hands just in front of your hips and your feet spaced hip-width apart. Keeping your back flat, hinge at the hips and bend your knees as you lower the weights toward the ground. Maintaining the same tight core and flat back, lift back to the starting position.
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5. Goblet squat
We’ve all seen those people at the gym doing squats with horrendous form and way more weight than they can reasonably handle. This type of weight lifting is almost asking for an injury, so don’t be one of these people. Instead, go for a goblet squat. This variation nearly guarantees perfect form, so it’s more effective and safer. Often done with kettlebells, goblet squats work equally well with dumbbells. Grab your weight, then cup it with both hands directly under your chin so the weighted ends point up and down. With your feet spaced about shoulder-width apart, squat down as far as you can without curving your back or letting your knees come too far forward. As long as you keep the dumbbell close to your body, your form should be good.
6. Curtsy kick
Sometimes called a curtsy lunge, this move targets your hip abductor muscles in addition to your glutes. This is important for toning purposes, but also because these muscles are often weak and susceptible to injury. This is particularly problematic for anyone who likes to play sports that involve quickly changing direction like soccer. Strengthen your abductors, and you’re a lot less likely to suffer a groin pull. For this exercise, hold a set of dumbbells directly in front of your shoulders as you stand with your feet close together. Step your right leg back and diagonally to the left so it crosses past your left foot as you lunge down toward the ground. Push back up through your left foot as you swing your right leg out to the side, then back to the standing position. Complete your desired number of repetitions before switching sides. Self has a great demonstration if you need some more pointers. You’ll be on your way to an injury-proof, toned butt in no time.