Are you looking for compound exercises that primarily engage your glutes but also target other muscle groups? Well, you’re in luck!
We’ve spent a lot of time testing out the most popular (and some of the lesser known) compound glute exercises to see which ones are the most effective for building strength and muscle mass.
We’ve compiled this list of the best ones so that you can choose the exercises that are right for you.
We’ll tell you all about the benefits of each one, how to perform them properly, how to program your workout routines and much more!
Table of Contents
- 1 8 Best Glute Compound Exercises
- 2 Benefits Of Compound Glute Exercises
- 3 How To Train Glutes
- 4 Glute Anatomy
- 5 Compound Glute Exercises FAQs
8 Best Glute Compound Exercises
- Romanian deadlift
- Sumo deadlift
- 45-degree back raise
- Split squat
- Weighted step-up
- Barbell hip thrust
- Cable pull-through
Here’s our list of the best compound exercises for training your glutes!
1. Romanian deadlift
Benefits of the Romanian deadlift
As well as targeting the glutes, Romanian deadlifts also work the lower back, hamstrings, and core muscles. This can enhance your overall lower body strength.
One of the other benefits of the Romanian deadlift is that it helps to improve the mobility of the hip joint, and can lead to enhanced movement patterning. This helps you better perform certain activities like squatting and movements that require you to bend down.
But why choose Romanian deadlifts over normal deadlifts? Well, a comparison of Romanian deadlifts and deadlifts shows that the Romanian version is better for isolating the glutes. On the other hand, normal deadlifts are better as a full-body exercise.
How to perform the Romanian deadlift
- Slightly bend your knees and keep your feet hip-width apart.
- Keep your hands in line with your shoulders and hold a barbell (or dumbbells) with an overhand grip.
- Keep a long, straight spine with the barbell close to your legs and hinge forward at the hips.
- Gradually lower the barbell as you feel your hamstrings stretch. Keep going until your torso is parallel to the floor.
- Throughout the movement, engage your core and keep your back flat.
- Now, tighten your hamstrings, glutes, and core. Push through your feet and bring your body back to the starting position.
Check out this video for an expert demonstration of how to perform the Romanian deadlift.
How to program the Romanian deadlift
The rep range for light loads is usually between 15 and 20. For moderate loads, it’s between 8 and 12, and for heavy loads it’s usually around 1 to 5 reps.
However, if you’re looking for bigger strength and hypertrophy gains, then a rep range of 3 to 8 is common for heavy loads.
If you don’t think this exercise is for you, there are plenty of Romanian deadlift alternatives out there like leg curls and good mornings that also target the glute muscles.
2. Sumo deadlift
Benefits of the sumo deadlift
Sumo deadlifts are great for building muscle and strength in the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, calves, hamstrings, and quads. They also produce less stress on the spinal extensors than the traditional deadlift. This means they’re ideal for minimizing lumbar spine stress during heavy lifting.
Due to the wide hand position and stance used for this lift, it can help to improve your grip strength too, and it places more emphasis on the legs which removes some strain on the lower back. All of these things combined make it one of the best compound exercises for targeting the glutes.
How to perform the sumo deadlift
- Stand close to the bar, adopt a wide stance, and point your toes outward.
- Bend down and grip the bar. As you do so, keep your back flat, your chest up, and your shins perpendicular to the floor.
- Pull the bar close to your body until you’re standing straight.
- Keeping your back straight, push through your feet and extend your hips to lift the bar. You should now be in a fully upright position.
- Finally, slowly lower the bar back to the floor.
This video shows you how to perform perfect sumo deadlifts!
How to program the sumo deadlift
The typical rep ranges for sumo deadlifts are the same as Romanian deadlifts – 15 to 20 for light loads, 8 to 12 reps for moderate loads, and 1 to 5 for heavy loads.
3. 45-degree back raise
Benefits of the 45-degree back raise
The 45-degree back raise is one of the best compound exercises for strengthening the posterior chain by targeting the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. By strengthening the posterior chain, this exercise can improve stability and posture and can help to reduce back pain.
It’s a really good option for beginners who might not be ready to try a more intensive exercise like a good morning or deadlift.
How to perform the 45-degree back raise
- First, ensure the machine you use is adjusted for your proportions.
- Then, stand on the machine with the pad just below your pelvis and your feet securely under the footpads.
- Now, slowly lower your upper body towards the floor by bending at the hips.
- When you’re at a 45-degree angle, hold for a moment, and then slowly return to the starting position.
- You should inhale while lowering your torso and exhale when raising it back up.
This video gives you some awesome tips on performing this exercise.
How to program the 45-degree back raise
The 45-degree back raise is highly versatile and there a several different ways to perform it. For instance, you can do it without using any weights or you can add light, moderate, and heavy weights to increase the intensity.
Because of this, the exact program you should follow depends on what you want to get out of it.
Generally, it’s recommended to do 3 to 4 sets consisting of 5 to 10 reps in each set. You can try doing a set without any added weights and then use additional weights for the subsequent sets to get a well-rounded workout.
4. Split squat
Benefits of the split squat
The split squat targets the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, and gluteus minimus and also works the quads. It helps you to build muscle mass in the lower body and can lead to significant strength gains over time.
This exercise requires an extensive range of motion in the knees and the hip joint which is highly beneficial for improving your lower body’s mobility and flexibility.
Plus, isolating the muscles in one leg at a time helps to enhance your core engagement and muscle stabilization. This can lead to better stability and balance. This isolation also helps to prevent strength imbalances in your legs leading to a reduced risk of the type of injuries commonly associated with asymmetrical strength.
How to perform the split squat
- Stand with your feet in line with your hips.
- Step back with one of your feet and forward with the other. Place your back foot on a slightly raised surface (approximately 1 foot high).
- Now, lower your back knee toward the floor. Your front knee needs to stay above your front foot and it shouldn’t extend past your toes.
- Lower your back knee until it’s at a 90-degree angle, just above the floor.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
Watch this video for some brilliant guidance on performing split squats.
How to program the split squat
The ideal program for split squats depends on your experience level. For beginners, it’s best to start off with 5 to 8 reps for each leg.
As your strength builds, increase this to 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps on each leg.
5. Weighted step-up
Benefits of the weighted step-up
The weighted step-up is one of our favorite compound exercises for targeting the glutes and the lower body in general. It’s an excellent way to develop your glutes and quads and to grow your hamstrings.
It’s a unilateral exercise which means, like the split squat, it can help to fix strength imbalances between your two legs. It also enhances proprioception and single-leg balance. This is highly beneficial for coordination and overall stability.
How to perform the weighted step-up
- Stand with your feet in line with your hips facing a raised surface. The height of the surface should be within your active range of hip extension and it should be sturdy to provide enough stability.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and step onto the surface with one foot. Extend your leg fully and keep your back leg straight as you raise yourself off the ground.
- Once your back foot is at the same height as your front foot, slowly lower yourself back down to the ground.
This video contains some fantastic advice on how to get the most out of weighted step-ups!
How to program the weighted step-up
Like many of the other compound exercises in this list, the weighted step-up is pretty versatile as you can vary the weights you use when performing it.
To achieve muscle growth, you should aim to perform 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps with a moderate weight for each leg. If you’re new to this exercise, then try doing the same number of reps but with light weights or just your body weight.
Benefits of lunges
Lunges are a resistance exercise that targets the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. They help to increase the strength of your hips, back, and legs. By working the large muscle groups in the lower body, they also help to reduce body fat, build lean muscle, and increase resting metabolism.
As with the previous two compound glute exercises, they’re unilateral exercises which means they can be used to address strength imbalances between the legs and improve stability. This is particularly beneficial for runners.
They contribute to overall core strength by engaging the core muscles and they can reduce the risk of injuries.
How to perform lunges
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
- Keeping a neutral spine and neck, take a big step forward with one of your legs. As you do so, move the knee of the other leg close to the ground.
- The quad of your front leg and the shin of your back leg should be parallel to the ground and your knees should be in line with each other.
- Both knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle and most of your weight should be on your front foot.
If you’re unsure how to do the perfect lunge, check out this video!
How to program lunges
If you’re doing bodyweight lunges, then you should perform 3 to 4 sets of 15 to 20 reps for each leg. If you add weight using dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell, then try 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 lunges per leg.
7. Barbell hip thrust
Benefits of the barbell hip thrust
The barbell hip thrust is one of the most effective compound exercises for increasing the strength and size of your glute muscles. It can lead to better power and strength in your lower body which is beneficial for other lift types like deadlifts.
It also targets the quads and hamstrings which are vital for activities like jumping and running. So, by performing this exercise regularly you can improve your athletic performance.
Plus, this exercise places minimal stress on the knees, lower back, and hip joints which means it’s a relatively low-impact workout.
How to perform barbell hip thrusts
- Sit on the floor and place your upper back against a bench.
- Roll a barbell so that it’s over your hips.
- Firmly plant your feet on the ground, keeping them close to your glutes.
- Raise your hips by pushing through your heels. Keep going until your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes.
- Now, lower the barbell down.
This video walks you through the best way to perform barbell hip thrusts.
How to program barbell hip thrusts
To build strength in your glutes, you should perform 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 8 reps with a heavy weight. Or, you can use a moderate weight and perform 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
8. Cable pull-through
Benefits of the cable pull-through
The cable pull-through maximizes hamstring activation and glute contraction, making it one of the best hamstring cable exercises and one of the most effective compound exercises for your glutes.
It contributes to improved endurance in your legs and glutes, and increased muscle hypertrophy.
Additionally, the cable pull-through reinforces proper hip joint hinge mechanics which can enhance your technique in other movements like deadlifting, squatting, and good mornings.
How to perform the cable pull-through
- Adjust the cable to a low setting so that it’s in line with your glutes and attach a rope.
- Stand with your back to the machine and keep your feet in line with your shoulders.
- Hold the ropes and step forward so that there’s tension in the cable.
- Keep your chest up and your back straight and hinge at your hips.
- Keeping your knees slightly bent, push your hips back while lowering your torso until it’s almost parallel to the ground.
- At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes before driving your hips forward and returning to the standing position.
Watch this video to see how to perform a cable pull-through the right way.
How to program cable pull-throughs
It’s best to begin with 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps. As you start to build strength, you can move to 4 to 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Benefits Of Compound Glute Exercises
Compound glute exercises have plenty of benefits, such as:
- Multiple muscle group engagement: Although these exercises primarily target the glutes, they also engage the hamstrings, quads, and core muscles. This leads to effective, well-rounded workouts.
- Glute hypertrophy: These glute exercises create the necessary tension for stimulating muscle growth. They’re particularly good at doing this in the gluteus maximus.
- Functional strength: The compound exercises in this list significantly contribute to building functional strength. This is highly beneficial for your overall physical health and for performing daily activities.
How To Train Glutes
So, how often should you be exercising your glutes to achieve hypertrophy (muscle growth)? Well, this can vary widely based on your fitness and experience levels.
Before we give you the guidelines, we need to define some terms so that they make sense:
- Maintenance volume (MV): How much you need to exercise your glutes to maintain the muscle you already have.
- Minimum effective volume (MEV): How often you need to train your glutes to make measurable improvements in your muscle mass.
- Maximum adaptive volume (MAV): On average, how much you need to work your glutes to get the best long-term gains in muscle mass.
- Maximum recoverable volume (MRV): The total number of times you can train your glutes regularly and still recover.
- Maximum adaptive volume primary priority (MAV*P): On average, the maximum number of times you can primarily exercise a specific muscle with it leading to optimal long-term gains in muscle mass.
- Maximum recoverable volume primary priority (MRV*P): The maximum amount you can regularly train a muscle group while still barely recovering from it when you prioritize the training of this muscle and substantially reduce the amount of training for other muscles.
The volume values for each of these are:
- MV: 2 to 6
- MEV: 6 to 8
- MAV: 8 to 24
- MRV: 24 to 30
- MAV*P: 24 to 30
- MRV*P: 30 to 40+
Image from Kenhub.
The glutes are made up of three different muscles – the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. They provide strength and support to the pelvis and hips and are vital for movements like jumping, walking, running, squatting, and maintaining balance.
- Gluteus maximus: The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle of the three. It’s responsible for hip extension and rotating the thigh laterally.
- Gluteus medius: This muscle is primarily responsible for moving the leg away from the body but it’s also important for maintaining balance.
- Gluteus minimus: This is the smallest glute muscle and helps with internal rotation of the thigh and hip abduction.
Compound Glute Exercises FAQs
How often should you train glutes?
The frequency with which you should train your glutes depends on several individual factors. However, beginners should usually start with 2 to 4 times per week and work their way up to 4 to 6 times per week.
It’s also best to avoid consecutive days of glute training so that they can recover adequately.
At what intensity should glutes be trained?
According to Renaissance Periodization’s Hypertrophy Guide, the best weights for glute compound exercises are in the 30% to 85% 1RM range. It also states that it’s generally beneficial to exercise the glutes using a combination of light, moderate, and heavy weights.
What rep range should be used for training the glutes?
Renaissance Periodization’s Hypertrophy Guide states that the rep ranges for training the glute are 20 to 30 for light weights, 10 to 20 for moderate weights, and 5 to 10 for heavy weights.
What types of exercises train the glutes?
As well as the compound exercises in this list, there are several glute isolation exercises that isolate and engage the glutes. Some of the best glute isolation exercises include:
- Donkey kicks
- Single-leg glute bridges
- Lateral step-ups
- Banded lateral walks
- Barbell glute bridges
- Pause hip thrusts
- Single-leg deadlifts