Glutes

8 Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises For Stronger Glutes

dumbbell glute exercises

Dumbbells aren’t just for upper-body workouts and fixing muscle imbalances.

They’re also effective for targeting your lower body, especially when it comes to training your glute muscles.

Whether you’re gearing up for leg day or prefer home workouts, glute exercises with dumbbells can help you develop a shapely and strong butt in no time.

This article will break down the advantages of using dumbbells for glute workouts, walk you through the steps of the best dumbbell glute exercises, and provide practical tips for effective glute training.

Let’s dive in and optimize your dumbbell glute workout routine!

What Muscles Make Up The Glutes

Your glutes, or gluteal muscles, are a muscle group that rests on the back of your pelvis.  

The main muscles comprise of your gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.  

Your glutes also consist of several other deep-set muscles being the piriformis, gemellus superior and inferior, obturator internus and obturator externus, quadratus femoris and the gluteus tertius.  

These are much smaller muscles but still play a vital role in hip mobility and stabilization.  

While they all work together, each muscle has its own distinctive function.  

Let’s look at the primary glute muscles in a bit more detail. 

This is the largest and most superficial of the three gluteal muscles.

It’s responsible for hip extension, outward rotation, and lateral hip movement.

The gluteus maximus contributes significantly to activities such as standing up from a sitting position, climbing the stairs, and running.

Gluteus-Maximum-Anatomy

Positioned beneath the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius is a smaller muscle that works to abduct and medially rotate your hip joint.

It plays an important role in stabilizing your pelvis during activities like walking, running, and standing on one leg.

Gluteus-Medius-Anatomy

This is the smallest of the three gluteal muscles and lies beneath the gluteus medius.

Similar to the gluteus medius, it assists in hip abduction and medial rotation.

The gluteus minimus also contributes to pelvic stability.

Gluteus-Minimus-Anatomy

Dumbbell Glute Exercises For Shape And Size

When performing glute exercises, it’s important to remember that you can’t isolate a specific muscle, but certain exercises will allow you to place more emphasis on them.  

Always concentrate on proper form and perform each of our recommended glute exercises slowly and with control for best results.  

Sometimes called the dumbbell shoulder squat, this exercise involves holding a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height.  

As well as activating your glutes, this squat variation will recruit your quads, hamstrings, and core muscles.  

The benefit of holding them up at your shoulders rather than down by your sides is that your range of motion will be increased so you can squat down lower.  

Dumbbell front squat

How To Do The Dumbbell Front Squat:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding a pair of light dumbbells down by your sides. 
  2. Bring the dumbbells to shoulder height and rest one end of each dumbbell on your shoulders. Your palms should be facing your head.
  3. Keep your elbows facing forward.  This is the starting position. 
  4. Keeping your upper body upright, push your hips back and bend your knees to squat down. 
  5. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor. 
  6. Push through your heels to extend your knees and hips back to the start. 

The sumo squat is a one of the best glute dominant exercises.  The term ‘sumo’ refers to the wide stance you need to adopt to perform the exercise.  

Because of this wide stance, this increases activation of the glutes, especially the gluteus maximus.  

It also involves greater hip abduction, this is movement of the thighs away from the midline of the body, which puts more emphasis on the gluteus medius and minimus.  

How To Do The Low Hold Sumo Squat:

  1. Hold the end of a dumbbell with both hands and let it rest just in front of you, keep your arms relaxed.  
  2. Position your feet so they are past shoulder-width distance with your toes pointing outwards. 
  3. Push your glutes back and bend your knees to descend into the squat. 
  4. Keep your head and chest upright throughout and don’t let your knees cave in.  
  5. Pause briefly when your upper legs are parallel to the ground and squeeze your glutes. 
  6. To ascend back to a standing position, push through your heels while keeping your arms relaxed. 

While the dumbbell Romanian deadlift is considered a hamstring exercise, it’s also a great way of activating the glutes.  

woman-doing-dumbbell-romanian-deadlift

As you hinge at your hips and push them back, your glutes are responsible for hip extension during the upward phase of the movement.  

Aside from these muscles, it will also work erector spinae and lower back which help to keep your spine neutral throughout the exercise.  

How To Do The Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift:

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder width apart keeping the dumbbells just in front of you. 
  2. Keep your chest up with a slight arch to your lower back. 
  3. With your core tight, push your hips back and hinge forwards to lower the dumbbells towards the ground.  
  4. Keep your arms relaxed throughout and head up. 
  5. You don’t need to lower the dumbbells all the way to the ground, just enough so you can feel a stretch to the back of your legs. 

The step up with dumbbells helps to strengthen your quads and glutes while also challenging the muscles that stabilize your core.  

woman-doing-dumbbell-step-up

It’s a single-leg exercise that involves working the front leg, which remains on the step.  

You’ll need an exercise step or similar sturdy box of at least 30cm high to do this exercise.  

A common mistake with this movement is to spring off from the foot on the ground rather than drive up using your front foot.  

This could be a sign you’re going too heavy, so try it with lighter weights.  

How To Do Dumbbell Step-Ups:

  1. ​Stand in front of the step holding a dumbbell in each hand and down by your sides. 
  2. Raise your right leg and place your right foot on the step, making sure it’s wholly on the step.  
  3. Keep your left leg engaged to help with stability. 
  4. Brace your core and drive through the right foot to lift your left foot off the ground, bringing yourself to the top position. 
  5. Hold for a couple of seconds before descending. 
  6. Repeat the same number of reps on both legs.  

The hip thrust is one of the best ways of isolating your glutes and the added resistance of a dumbbell increases activation of your gluteus maximus making it more challenging.  

Unlike exercises that involve a vertical movement (likes squats), the hip thrust is a horizontal movement.

This specific direction of force allows for better engagement of the glutes without placing excessive load on your spine making it a worthy addition to your dumbbells glute workout.

How To Do Dumbbell Hip Thrusts:

  1. Rest your upper back against the edge of a weight bench or similar. 
  2. Using both hands, hold a dumbbell in the crease of your hips.
  3. With feet hip-width apart, your feet should be under your knees.
  4. Your upper body forming a straight line from shoulders to knees.  
  5. Let the weight sink your hips down towards the floor so you can feel your glutes stretching. 
  6. Squeeze your glutes at the bottom and then drive through your heels to raise your hips towards the ceiling.  

This unilateral movement is one of the more difficult exercises on our list as most exercises involve a forward and backwards motion (sagittal plane) as opposed to moving out to the sides (frontal plane).  

As well as working your glutes, it’ll also help to strengthen your hip flexors making it a great way of improving hip stability.  

Proper form involves pushing your hips back and keeping your head and chest up throughout the entire range of motion.  

Common mistakes involve bending the knee of the non-working leg and allowing the upper body to drop forwards.  

How To Do A Dumbbell Lateral Lunge:

  1. Stand with your feet at a hip-width distance and holding a dumbbell in each hand.  Keep the dumbbells naturally down by your sides. 
  2. Take one large step out to the side while keeping your non-working leg straight. 
  3. You should feel a stretch to your inner thigh of your straight leg. 
  4. Bend the knee of the working leg and descend until your thigh is parallel to the floor, you should feel your glutes working. 
  5. Push through the heel of your working leg to ascend back to the starting position and repeat. 
  6. Do an equal number of reps on each leg.  

Side leg raises are a fantastic way of strengthening your hip abductors while working your gluteus medius and minimus.  

Adding a dumbbell to the lateral leg raise increases the resistance, making the exercise more challenging.  

This weight load places additional demand on your glute muscles, as they have to work harder to lift and control the leg.  

How To Do The Dumbbell Lateral Leg Raise:

  1. Start by lying on your side with one leg stacked on top of the other.  
  2. Rest your head on your forearm and hold a dumbbell on top the outer thigh of your top leg
  3. Ensure that your body is in a straight line from head to toe. Your head, shoulders, hips, and legs should be aligned.
  4. Engage your core muscles to stabilize your torso during the exercise.
  5. Raise your top leg upwards, focusing on using the muscles on the side of your hip.
  6. At the top of the movement, hold for a brief moment, while squeezing your glutes.
  7. Lower the top leg back down in a controlled manner and avoid letting it touch the other leg. 
  8. Go straight into the next rep. 

By adding resistance to this glute-dominant exercise, you’ll increase tension on the muscles leading to better muscle gains.  

When doing this exercise make sure you keep your spine neutral throughout to avoid overarching your lower back.  

How To Do Dumbbell Donkey Kickbacks:

  1. Get into a tabletop position with hands under your shoulders and knees under your glutes. 
  2. Place a lightweight dumbbell behind the knee of the leg to be worked.  
  3. Lift this leg backwards until your thigh is parallel to the floor, keeping your knee bent to a 90-degree angle.
  4. At the top of the movement, the bottom of your foot should be pointing towards the ceiling. 
  5. Squeeze your glutes and then return and repeat.  

Tips For Doing Dumbbell Glute Exercises

  • Avoid Going Too Heavy.  Lifting heavy dumbbells may impact your form and puts you at a higher risk of injury. Your grip and forearm strength will dictate how heavy you can go but be aware of your form during the exercises mentioned above as this is key for working the right muscles. 
  • Use Full Range Of Motion.  Complete every rep using control and to a full range of motion.  This ensures you’ll be getting maximum muscle contraction for every exercise leading to greater glute gains. 
  • Squeeze At The Top.  At the top of each rep, especially with exercises like hip thrusts, squeeze your glutes to fully activate the muscles.
  • Vary Your Foot Position.  Experiment with different foot positions to target various areas of the glutes. For example, a wider stance in sumo squats will emphasize the outer glutes, while a narrower stance can engage the inner glutes more.
  • Brace Your Core.  Engage your core muscles to stabilize your spine and pelvis. This helps prevent excessive arching of your lower back and promotes better alignment during glute exercises.

Final Thoughts

By incorporating our recommended dumbbell glute exercises into your fitness routine is a practical and effective way to strengthen and tone the muscles. 

Dumbbell squats for glutes along with hip thrusts, and lateral leg raises will help to encourage overall lower body strength, enhance your functional movement, and contribute to better posture. 

Strong glutes not only support daily activities but also play an important role in preventing lower back pain, supporting hip stability, and reducing the risk of injuries. 

As well as using dumbbells, there are also some great gym machines you can make use of to further develop your glutes.  

Want to know more, click here to discover the 8 best gym machines for glutes.

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