Best Exercises to Grow Glutes Not Thighs
Want to grow your glutes, not your thighs?
You’re not alone!
This is something many people ask about and a question I wondered myself while studying to become a personal trainer.
Because while strengthening your lower body and growing your glutes, many women do see thigh growth – specifically in the quadriceps (or the front of your thighs).
And while this overall leg strength is what some women want, others prefer to only grow their butt while keeping their thighs slim.
And that IS possible. Very possible!
Keep reading for the one key switch to make in your leg day to grow glutes, specific exercises to avoid and ones to perform more, and a 10 minute glute workout with bands/dumbbells that’ll grow your booty WITHOUT growing your legs!
Please note: Check with your physician before starting any exercise routine or starting any particular diet. See this Disclaimer for more details. This post may contain affiliate links. For details, please visit my Disclosure page. Thank you!
How to Grow Glutes, Not Thighs
When someone asks me how to stop the thighs from growing, I tell them this: it all comes down to the muscles you’re targeting in each exercise.
If you want to grow your glutes but not your thighs, do lower body moves that focus on working the BACK of your legs (glutes and hamstrings) but not the front of your legs (quads).
Exercises to Avoid (Moves That Grow Your Thighs)
Exercises that will engage and grow your quads, include:
- Kettlebell swings
Yep! Mainstream moves like squats and lunges are exercises you’ll want to perform LESS often.
In fact, any move that involves straightening your knee from a bent position will engage your quads. This is why jumping movements and stepping movements are on this list.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should never perform these types of exercises. If you train one part of your body a lot (glutes and hamstrings) and completely avoid training its antagonist (quads), you could develop muscle imbalances that lead to injury.
But if your goal is to grow glutes not thighs, then you’ll want to perform the above moves less often, such as 1-2x per week. This is how to stop your thighs from growing.
Exercises that Grow Glutes Not Thighs
Below are the moves that work your glutes and hamstrings.
Why is it okay to work muscles on the back of your thighs?
Because the “bulky” thigh look comes from developing the front of your thighs – the quads. Developing your hamstrings can actually create a very flattering line down the back of your legs that many models and celebrities strive for. Celeb trainer Steve Zim talks about this at 1:45 in this video.
So let’s get into the moves that you SHOULD perform.
And keep scrolling for a workout and a video where I demonstrate all the glute exercises!
1. Hip Raises
Lay on your back with your knees bent. To perform, raise your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line. Lower back down. That’s one rep.
Notes: When performing this move, push through your heels and focus on squeezing your butt. For best results, hold each hip raise for 3-5 seconds before lowering back down to the floor.
Extra Credit: Put a resistance band just above your knees, maintaining your knees at hip-width apart for the entire movement. This really engages your gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.
While there are a lot of different types of deadlifts, my favorite is the straight-leg deadlift (aka Romanian deadlift). To perform, hold a dumbbell (or one in each hand), down in front of you. Hinging at the waist, bend forward with a flat back and lower the dumbbells straight down until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Stand back up, pushing your hips forward and using your glutes to drive the movement.
Notes: While your legs are “straight” during this movement, your knees should be soft when you bend forward. Look at the video below to see what I mean.
3. Good Mornings
Similar to a straight-leg deadlift, good mornings also involve hinging at the waist and using your glutes to straighten back up. The difference is that the weight is held across your upper back.
Notes: Remember to keep your back flat!
4. Lateral Band Walks
This move feels so awkward but I love it haha. To perform, place a band around your ankles or just below your knees – the higher up, the easier it will feel. Keeping your legs straight, walk side-to-side. You’ll feel the burn quickly on this one!
Notes: Take small steps, always keeping tension in the band.
Another awkward one! To perform, lay on one side with your hips and knees bent and your head on your arm. Keeping your feet touching, raise your top knee towards the ceiling, then lower back down.
6. Side Leg Raises
Lay on your side with your head on your arm, and place a band around your ankles. Just like one of those old aerobics videos, raise and lower your leg. Keep it slow and controlled, pushing against the band’s resistance.
Other exercises that require more equipment:
The reverse hip raise is another great exercise to tone hamstrings and glutes, but it requires a Roman chair, bench, or swiss ball. Perform by lying chest down on one of these so that your hips aren’t on it. Then use your glutes to lift your legs up until your body forms a straight line, and lower back down.
Back extensions require a bench where you can lie chest down, but just with your legs and hips supported, and your feet must be hooked under leg anchors. In the starting position, your upper body hangs down towards the floor. The opposite of reverse hip raises, you use your glutes to raise your torso until your body forms a straight line, then lower again.
Another great glute and hamstring exercise is the standing cable hip abduction. This move really targets the gluteus medius. Similar to the lateral band walks and leg raises, this move uses a cable machine to create the resistance as you extend your leg out to the side.
Can you actually grow your glutes?
Of course! Just like with any other muscle group, if you put in the work you will see them develop.
Perform the right movements, train consistently, and challenge yourself with the weights/reps. If you’ve been training glutes for awhile and are wondering, “Why are my glutes not growing?” then you need to reevaluate the 3 tips I listed above. Chances are, you’re either not performing the best exercises, aren’t training regularly enough, or aren’t challenging yourself enough.
Make some changes to your routine – and try my glute workout below!
Can I train glutes everyday?
There’s no muscle group that you should train every single day. Your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover between workouts. If you’re still sore after a particularly tough glute workout, then you probably need even more rest.
For the 10 minute glute workout below, aim to perform on 2-3 nonconsecutive days per week.
10 Minute Glute Workout at Home
All you need for this home glute workout is a flat resistance band and one medium to heavy dumbbell. I use a 10 lb dumbbell in the video and it worked great!
Perform each glute exercise for 45 seconds, followed by a 15 second rest/transition before the next exercise:
|1. Hip Raises with Knee Press-Out||Place band just above knees and keep knees hip-width apart the whole exercise|
|2. Single-Leg Hip Raise with Knee Hold (L)||Holding one knee engages your glutes more (rather than your back)|
|3. Single-Leg Hip Raise with Knee Hold (R)||Holding one knee engages your glutes more (rather than your back)|
|4. Straight-Leg Deadlifts||Hold a medium-heavy dumbbell|
|5. Lateral Band Walks||Place band around ankles/just below knees|
|6. Good Mornings||Hold a medium-heavy dumbbell across upper back|
|7. Clamshells (L)||Perform with band just above knees|
|8. Clamshells (R)||Perform with band just above knees|
|9. Leg Raises (L)||Perform with band around ankles|
|10. Leg Raises (R)||Perform with band around ankles|
The resistance band I use in this workout is by Tone It Up and I got it at Target: Tone It Up Peachy Booty Band
Wooo, yay for dream butts! Haha if you liked this glute workout, let me know in the comments. I love sharing workouts so there are definitely more to come!