6 Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises (Plus Benefits and How to Do Them Properly) - YourWorkoutBook (2024)

Dumbbells are a killer way to take your glute training to the next level. Here’s a look at the best dumbbell glute exercises, including benefits and pro tips for doing them properly.

6 Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises (Plus Benefits and How to Do Them Properly) - YourWorkoutBook (1)

Training the glutes has become all the rage in recent years.

Booty bands, hip thrusts, cable kickbacks—these exercises and pieces of equipment proliferate just about every gym on the planet nowadays.

And one of the best ways that you can train the glutes—whether you want to develop a poppin’ booty or want to power up athletic performance—is using dumbbells.

In this guide, I will guide you through the best dumbbell exercises you can do for your glutes that can be done at home or at the gym.

We will cover:

  • Benefits of Dumbbell Glute Exercises
  • Best Dumbbell Exercises for Strong and Poppin’ Glutes
  • Dumbbell Glute Exercises – FAQs

And much more.

Let’s jump right in.

Benefits of Dumbbell Glute Exercises

Okay, before we jump into the glute dumbbell exercises, why use them at all?

After all, we all know that we can generate more power and lift more weight with a machine or a barbell.

But there are some unique characteristics of dumbbells that make them an excellent choice for International Glute Day.

They include:

Easier to ditch. Strictly from a safety perspective, dumbbells are easier to ditch compared to barbells. And because they have less distance to travel when dropping them, they won’t rip up the floor as much as dropping a fully loaded barbell. Dumbbells don’t require a spotter, are easier to drop if you fail a rep, and they won’t cause as much damage to the floor and your ego if you drop them on the gym floor.

Can start at a lower weight. Dumbbells are a great choice for lifters who are ready to progress from bodyweight exercises, but aren’t quite ready for barbell exercises (which start at 45lbs in terms of resistance with just the bar weight). Dumbbells offer a huge range of flexibility for weight options, starting at 2.5lbs and quickly reaching 100-lbs per dumbbell and higher. In other words: lots of room to progress!

Dumbbells are perfect for home-based workouts. Dumbbells are compact and portable. No bulky machine, squat rack, barbells, or bumper plates required. Grab your favorite pair of dumbbells, whether they are a set of rubber hex DBs or one of the top adjustable dumbbells on the market, and go to work.

Easier grip and less strain on the wrists. One of the key things I love about dumbbells is that you can hold them with a grip that is more comfortable than a straight barbell. The handles are also typically contoured for superior grip, making the combo of a more ergonomic handle and grip variety a great choice for reducing unnecessary strain on the elbow and wrist.

Better for unilateral exercises. Experienced lifters may be able to do a unilateral lift like Bulgarian split squats with a barbell, but for the majority of us, the main challenge of the exercise is properly balancing the barbell.

Dumbbells, generally speaking, are easier to balance and hold so that we can focus on kicking butt on the exercise versus trying not to teeter over.

This is especially obvious with exercises like step-ups that recruit a TON of stabilizer muscles.

Best Dumbbell Exercises for Strong and Poppin’ Glutes

1. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

When it comes to building stronger, more muscular glutes, I doubt there is an exercise that is as popular as the barbell hip thrust.

The benefits of the hip thrust are almost endless: the exercise is easy on the knees, develops raw power like few other exercises, and is pound-for-pound the best exercise on the planet for developing a thunderous booty [1].

But the downside of the barbell hip thrust that they require a butt-ton of equipment. Barbell, bumper plates, crash pads or mats for the plates, hip thrust pad, and a bench.

That’s where the dumbbell hip thrust steps in. It’s easier than barbell hip thrusts (both in set-up and execution) and is excellent for doing unilateral hip thrusts as it’s much easier to balance compared to a 7-foot barbell loaded with weight plates.

Tip: Rotate your feet slightly outwards when doing this exercise for even more glute activation. Research has shown externally rotated feet fire more glute muscle compared to a “straight ahead” foot position [2].

While you won’t be able to achieve the same amount of peak power with dumbbells vs barbells, you can hit comparable amounts of peak muscle activation, which is what a majority of lifters are looking for with this exercise (aka a bigger booty).

2. Dumbbell step-ups

In terms of looks, the dumbbell step-up isn’t splashy. Pick up a weight, take a step up on a platform, and step down. Repeat a bunch of times.

While this exercise isn’t particularly sexy, it’s a bonafide monster for developing the glutes.

Step ups are a unilateral exercise that are excellent for addressing muscle imbalances (by working both sides of the body equally), are easy on the back, and are great for athletes as they help build unilateral power and strength (so you can jump off one leg with more force, for example).

One meta-analysis of glute exercises found that the dumbbell step-up generated the highest level of glute activation when compared to deadlifts, hip thrusts, squats and lunges[3].

Dumbbell step ups recruit a TON of muscle, partly because there is a lot of stabilization work happening to keep yourself properly balanced as you take that step up into the sky.

The key to nailing the dumbbell step-up is in having the correct height of the platform.

The sweet spot is around 18” depending on your height. Too low, and you are leaving a lot of muscle recruitment on the table. Too high, it turns into a quad-dominant exercise.

Note: The crossover dumbbell step-up is the best variation you can do of this already-awesome exercise for maximum glute growth.[4] Once you get comfortable with the regular dumbbell step-up, add the crossover DB step-up to take your glute game to the next level.

Don’t forget to drive through the bench or platform with your foot to fire as much of the posterior muscles as possible.

And of course, beginners should start with something to support on (place the bench of plyo box next to the wall, for instance) in the event they lose balance.

3. Dumbbell Glute Bridge

The dumbbell glute bridge is very similar to the hip thrust, but differs in two key respects.

First, you don’t need any equipment besides the dumbbell as your back is parked against the floor instead of a bench.

And second, because there isn’t as much flexion in the hips (there is less overall range of motion compared to hip thrusts), there isn’t quite as much recruitment in the glutes.

See also: Hip Thrust vs. Glute Bridge: Pros, Cons and Differences

You can compensate for this by holding the end of range of motion (when your knees, hips and torso are all flat) for an extra couple of seconds to get an extra squeeze out of the glutes.

Pairing dumbbells with a loop band is another way to maximize glute engagement–and is a reason this particular exercise also makes it on my list of the best banded glute exercises.

That said, this exercise is a great no-frills exercise that fires lots of the muscles in your posterior chain, including the butt, and doesn’t require any additional equipment save for a dumbbell and a can-do attitude.

4. Bulgarian Splits

Back to the bench with another dumbbell exercise that is an absolute monster for glute development.

This exercise, which has also surged in popularity in recent years, is a variation of the split squat (the difference being that Bulgarian splits have an elevated back foot) that I love for the facts that they are relatively easy on the knees and you can really hammer the glutes with proper foot and body positioning.

6 Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises (Plus Benefits and How to Do Them Properly) - YourWorkoutBook (2)

Additionally, the Bulgarian split version allows for more depth in the movement and really encourages more hip flexibility, which, let’s be honest, pretty much all of us could benefit from.

Here’s what you need to know about targeting the right muscles when doing this exercise:

Quad dominant foot positioning — Bring your working foot closer to the bench, allowing the knee to track over the toes, for more of an emphasis on the quads.

Glute dominant foot positioning – Place the working foot further away from the bench, so that your shin remains totally vertical through the movement to really target the glutes.

The key to remember which is which is simple: more knee bend = more quad work. Less knee bend = more glute work.

When starting out with this exercise, play around with foot placement without dumbbells to get a sense of what’s comfortable and how much range of motion you can get out of your hips so that you can target your glutes as effectively as possible.

5. Banded box squats

While they are called box squats, in reality, they can be done with a bench, a plyo box, or a stack of old phone books (not recommended, but hey, work with what ya got).

Banded box squats take the regular meat-and-potatoes squat and add a couple of tweaks that make it more glute-centric.

Related: 8 Benefits of Box Squats (and How to Do Them Properly)

For starters, I like adding the band (place the band above the knees at mid-thigh so the band isn’t clipping the box when you squat) as they fire the adductors and encourage better squatting technique.

Second, using a box encourages a more vertical shin and more of a hip hinge in the movement, stealing some of the knee flexion (which fires the quads), and recruiting more glute muscle than a regular back or front squat.

Tip: The glutes are a hip extensor. This means that the more your hips extend in the course of an exercise, the more they are going to be activated.

And finally, box squats allow you to squat to a consistent depth, something that even experienced lifters need from time to time to keep them honest.

As for dumbbell placement, you can go with a Goblet hold (holding it in both hands in front of the sternum) or one of my favorite DB hand positions, holding them on the shoulders, which has the added benefit of promoting better posture when squatting.

6. Sumo squats.

Sumo squats are one of my favorite squat variations.

There are a heap of benefits to sumo squats, which feature a wider stance and externally rotated feet, including less strain on the knees, and powering up your glutes, and especially the adductors1.

Lifters often find they can push more weight with this glute-busting squat variation as the wider base gives them more stability and recruits more of the posterior chain.

See also: 5 Dumbbell Leg Exercises (Plus Benefits and a 20-Minute DB Leg Routine)

If you’ve been paying attention, you likely know how to perform this dumbbell exercise to target the glutes:

  • Wider stance (1.5x the width of your hips is a good point of reference)
  • Slightly flared feet to recruit the glutes
  • Torso very slightly angled forward to allow for more depth
  • Hold the weight with both hands

Double the length of time it takes for you to descend to maximize time under tension and really set the glutes ablaze.

Dumbbell Glute Exercises – FAQs

Can I grow glutes with dumbbells?

Absolutely. While you won’t be able to generate the same amount of peak power compared to a barbell, there’s plenty of research that shows dumbbell training can solicit the same and even sometimes superior muscle activation compared to a barbell [5][6].

The primary reason for this is that dumbbells often allow you to lift with a fuller range of motion. Growing your glutes with dumbbells is an excellent option for both beginner and experienced lifters as you can ditch the weight easily, train unilaterally, and get more muscle activation compared to barbell training[3].

Do dumbbell squats work glutes?

Squats are primarily a quad-focused exercise, but there are some ways that you can tweak it to get more activation in the glutes and hamstrings.

Doing box squats is one way to do so as it encourages more hip flexion. You can also use a band to engage the adductors while doing squats. Also, squat stance plays a huge factor in how much dumbbell squats work the glutes. Having a foot stance that is just outside of your shoulders with toes slightly externally rotated will recruit more glute muscle. [7]

Can you grow glutes with light weights?

You can grow glute muscle and mass with light weights and even bodyweight. Hypertrophy (peak muscle building) happens in the 8-14 repetition range, so if you have a weight that you can just barely do 12 or so reps with, you are in great shape.

Additionally, if you want to do a pure bodyweight glute-building workout, or you have very light dumbbells that you can easily do more than 15 reps with, simply slow down the reps to increase the time under tension.

Three seconds down, pause for a second, two seconds up. Ten reps with this kind of tempo would be a full minute of tension, guaranteed to be enough to get those glutes working towards their limits.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the glutes are much more than something to fill out the back of your pants–they provide a tremendous amount of stability and power to the rest of your body.

Whether you are an athlete looking to improve performance on the court, a lifter who wants to activate those muscles that go to sleep from hours of sitting, or you simply want to add some cushion to your tush, these dumbbell glute exercises will help you get there.

Pick a couple of exercises, add them to your workout routine, and pop those glutes!

More Guides Like This

7 Best Dumbbells for Home Gyms. Looking for some killer dumbbells for crushing your glute workouts at home? Here’s a detailed look at the best of the best on the market right now.

5 Best Stretches for Tight Glutes (Plus Benefits and How to Do Them). Stretching your tight glutes reduces muscle stiffness, increases range of motion, and can even help you build more muscle. Here are my five favorite glute stretches for unlocking the muscles around your rear end.

5 Hip Thrust Variations for Glute Strength. Looking for some ways to spice up the almighty hip thrust? Here are five hip thrust variations for developing maximum glute muscle and strength.

6 Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises (Plus Benefits and How to Do Them Properly) - YourWorkoutBook (3)

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6 Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises (Plus Benefits and How to Do Them Properly) - YourWorkoutBook (2024)


Can you build glutes with just dumbbells? ›

While you can increase size and strength with bodyweight exercises, adding free weights like YBells or dumbbells will help you to accomplish your goal faster. You'll want to focus on volume for hypertrophy (growing the size of your gluteal muscles).

How do you hit all 3 glute muscles? ›

What are the Best Exercises that Work the Gluteus Maximus?
  1. Squats.
  2. Deadlifts.
  3. Quadruped Hip Extension with Knee Flexion.
  4. Hip thrusts.
  5. Lunges.
  6. Step-ups.
  7. Cook Hip Lift.
Jul 4, 2022

What is the number one glute workout? ›

There's no single “best” glute movement; you should pick movements that are comfortable for you and that you can progress on. That said, the hip thrust, Romanian deadlift, and Bulgarian split squat are commonly considered to be among the most effective glute workouts for mass out there.

Are 3 exercises enough for glutes? ›

Within a single week (microcycle) of training, we recommend between 2 and 5 different glute exercises. For example, if you train glutes 3x a week, you can do a heavy deficit sumo pull on one day, a barbell hip thrust on the next day, and a lunge version on the last day for 3 total exercises in the week.

Where do legs go on leg press to target glutes? ›

Wide Stance

A wide foot position on the leg press machine targets the glutes, hamstrings, and adductors. This is the best position for developing glute strength for heavy deadlifting or other power movements involving the lower body.

What happens if you only train glutes? ›

So if you only work out one muscle, you can end up with severe imbalances that can result in improper use and, eventually, chronic pain. In the case of glutes, if they are overdeveloped relative to the other muscles in your posterior chain, you will develop poor posture and lower back pain.

What happens if you hit glutes everyday? ›

You can train your glutes every day to a point. You will need to take time to allow them to recover. Repeating the same exercises allows you to measure your progress. However, changing the exercises keeps you from getting bored.

What exercises have the highest glute activation? ›

In general, the step-up exercise and its variations present the highest levels of GMax activation (>100% of MVIC) followed by several loaded exercises and its variations, such as deadlifts, hip thrusts, lunges, and squats, that presented a very high level of GMax activation (>60% of 1RM).

What are the 3 major muscles in glutes? ›

The gluteal muscles include the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.

What are the 4 types of glute exercises? ›

"To grow the glutes, you'll want to ensure that you're training them with at least one exercise from each of the following four categories: thrust/bridge exercise; squat/lunge exercise; hinge/pull exercise; abduction movement," says Jeremy Ethier, kinesiologist, fitness trainer, and founder of Built with Science.

Does walking build glutes? ›

Although walking doesn't directly create a juicy peach, there are ways to turn a simple stroll into a glute-centric workout that helps strengthen and tone your butt, along with other parts of your lower body. Yes, you can strengthen your glutes through walking, with some strategic tweaks to your daily stroll.

What is the best exercise for women's glutes? ›

Additionally, I wouldn't be surprised if these exercises not only get your glutes pumped, but your quads and hamstrings, too.
  • Glute Bridge. ...
  • Hip Thrust. ...
  • Single-Leg Hip Thrust. ...
  • Frog Pump. ...
  • Clam Shell. ...
  • Fire Hydrant. ...
  • Standing Kickback. ...
  • Donkey Kick.
Aug 2, 2023

What grows the glutes the most? ›

If you want to build stronger and more performance-driven glutes, I'd recommend the following for a well-rounded routine:
  • Barbell Hip Thrust.
  • Step Up.
  • Reverse Hyper.
  • Romanian Deadlift.
  • Curtsy Lunge.
  • Sprinter Position Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squats.
  • Single-Leg Hip Thrust.
  • Dumbbell Frog Press.

Can I do glute exercises everyday? ›

To see the best results, you should only look at training your glutes 2-4 times a week, making sure never to train them on consecutive days to give them an excellent chance to recover and grow.

Is 5 exercises enough for glutes? ›

Your glutes get worked with just about every leg exercise that you do, so you really only need 3–4 leg exercises per workout. In each workout, I would include: 1.) One squat/leg press variation (back squat, front squat, safety bar squat, goblet squat, hack squat, leg press, etc.)

How long does it take to grow glutes with dumbbells? ›

Glute growth generally takes 6-8 weeks to see noticeable changes, however, some individuals may find it takes 10-12 weeks based on diet, training, and body type. When trying to grow your glutes faster, you should train them multiple times a week (2-3X) and make sure you are eating enough calories to build muscle.

Is it possible to build muscle with just dumbbells? ›

The answer? A resounding yes. Dumbbells are one of the top resistance training tools for both beginners and elite athletes. Their effectiveness at building strength and muscle makes them a staple for any fitness routine – and their storability makes them a staple for any home gym.

What weight dumbbells should I use for glutes? ›

After all, your butt is connected to both your core and your legs, so it's pretty hard to work without involving some of its neighbors. For these moves, try starting with a medium-weight set of dumbbells, like 8-10 pounds, and increasing the weight as your get stronger.

Can you grow glutes without bulking? ›

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!


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