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12 Dumbbell Glute Exercises for a Head-Turning Behind

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The gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful muscle in the entire body. The more you train it, the rounder your butt looks and the more athletic you become.

But what if you don’t have access to resistance bands, machines, a squat rack, and other training equipment? What if you only have a pair of dumbbells within reach? Can you have an effective glute workout with dumbbells?

Fortunately, yes. Stick around to learn about 12 of the best dumbbell glute exercises, what makes them great, and how to perform each.

Glute Anatomy and Function

The glutes are three superficial hip muscles that make up the buttocks region. Among these, the gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful. It makes up the bulk of the buttocks, and its primary function is to produce hip extension with the help of the hamstrings (1).

Another glute maximus function is external thigh rotation (1). Thanks to its functions, the muscle plays a crucial role in walking, running, jumping, weight training, picking heavy objects off the floor, and more. 

The second of the three muscles is the gluteus medius. It is situated above the glute max and to the outer portion (2). The muscle is much smaller but plays a crucial role in developing the butt shelf. Further, its primary functions revolve around providing pelvic stability, particularly when one foot is off the ground (2).

For instance, if you stand tall and lift one foot off the ground, your gluteus medius engages to maintain a level pelvic position.

Finally, the gluteus minimus, the smallest of the three, shares similarities with the gluteus medius (3). Specifically, the two muscles have identical structures and functions. 

The gluteus minimus is located directly underneath the medius and contributes to hip stability during various activities. It is also necessary for hip abduction, such as during a lateral leg lift (to the side) (3). 

Developing all three gluteal muscles is necessary for overall health, injury prevention, good athletic performance, and an aesthetic butt. Though most people solely focus on the gluteus maximus, developing the gluteus medius and minimus is equally as important for optimal athletic performance, hip stability, and the ability to perform various exercises safely (4). 

The following list of dumbbell glute exercises provides you with everything you need to target and develop all three muscles that make up the buttocks.

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12 Dumbbell Glute Exercises For Mass And Strength

1. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Dumbbell Romanian deadlifts are effective for several reasons. First, the exercise comes with an excellent range of motion, which allows you to stretch your posterior chain as you lean your torso forward and follow up with a strong gluteal contraction.

Second, the movement offers an excellent overloading potential, which means you can gradually increase the resistance as you get stronger. As a result, you can continue to place significant mechanical tension on your posterior chain and promote muscle growth. 

Third, Romanian deadlifts strengthen and develop the entire back and midsection while working the hamstrings and glutes (5). As a result, the movement makes you more athletic and better able to handle physical challenges in your everyday life.

Plus, the exercise features the primary form of hip hinging, which is easier to master and transfers to other activities: regular deadlifts, Good morning, etc.

Muscles worked: calves, hamstrings, glutes, entire back, arms, shoulders, midsection

man deadlift dumbbell

How to:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing slightly out.
  2. Retract your shoulder blades, take a deep breath, and engage your abs.
  3. Position your arms in front of your body with your palms facing your body.
  4. Keep your knees slightly bent.
  5. Push your buttocks back while keeping your back straight and go down until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor. You should feel a stretch in your posterior thigh muscles.
  6. Pause at the bottom for a moment and drive your hips forward, squeezing your glutes hard at the top position. Exhale.
  7. Take another breath and repeat.

Form tip:

Consider a single-leg deadlift if you struggle to feel your glutes during the exercise. Support yourself on your left foot and allow your right leg to extend back as you hinge at the hips.

Do as many repetitions as necessary before planting your right foot on the floor and doing the same number of reps.

2. Lunge (Dumbbell)

The forward lunge effectively targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes (6). 

One benefit of the movement is that you train one leg at a time, which makes it easier to engage the correct muscles and develop both sides more evenly. 

In contrast, bilateral exercises, where you train both sides simultaneously, can lead to imbalances. Over time, your dominant side can take over, which would cause it to develop while keeping the non-dominant side weak and small.

According to research, a longer stance emphasizes the posterior chain more effectively, whereas a narrower stance keeps the movement more knee and quadricep-dominant (7).

women lunge

Muscles worked: calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, midsection, arms

How to:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand tall.
  2. Position your arms to your sides, retract your shoulder blades, and take a breath.
  3. Have your feet hip-width apart with your toes pointing slightly out.
  4. Take a breath and engage your abs.
  5. Bring your right foot forward and plant it on the floor. Experiment to find your ideal stride length.
  6. Immediately sink into a lunge by bending your right knee until your front thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Your rear knee should get close to the ground or tap it lightly.
  7. Pause at the bottom for a moment and press through your right heel to straighten your knee.
  8. Immediately bring your right leg back to the starting position as you exhale.
  9. Take another breath and bring your left leg forward.
  10. Keep alternating between left and right until you’re done.

Form tip:

When doing the movement to grow your glutes, you must feel the muscle engage and eventually become the limiting factor near the end of a set.

In other words, your glutes must feel tired at the end of the set if you expect them to grow. If you feel most of the tension on your quadriceps, tweak your technique to switch the emphasis to the posterior chain.

3. Bulgarian Split Squat

The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is similar to lunges, apart from two differences:

  1. You must elevate your posterior leg on a sturdy object (e.g., a flat bench, plyo box, etc.)
  2. You must train one side at a time instead of alternating between your right and left leg

Keeping your rear leg elevated makes the activity easier to execute and allows you to keep more tension on the involved muscles. As a result, it is easier to establish a good mind-muscle connection and build muscle.

Like with lunges, a longer stride emphasizes the posterior chain, whereas keeping your front foot closer to your body makes the movement more quadriceps-dominant (7).

Muscles worked: calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, midsection, back, arms

women split squat lower body dumbbell

How to:

  1. Face away from an elevated object (a gym bench, plyo box, or similar) with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Extend your right leg back and place your foot on the elevated object. Keep your left leg straight and your foot flat on the floor.
  3. Position your arms to your sides, straighten your torso and retract your shoulder blades.
  4. Take a deep breath and engage your abs.
  5. Descend by bending your front knee until your thigh is almost parallel to the floor.
  6. Pause at the bottom briefly and push through your front heel to straighten your leg as you exhale.
  7. Take another breath and repeat.
  8. Once finished, switch legs and do the same number of reps for your right leg.

Form tip:

Use a longer stride to stretch your posterior chain more effectively and work the glutes. Your front ankle should be in front of your knee (7).

Maintaining a slight forward torso lean can also contribute to posterior chain activation, but ensure that your lower back doesn’t round at any point.

4. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

The dumbbell hip thrust is an overlooked exercise for the gluteus maximus. Unlike the barbell version, a dumbbell is more beginner-friendly, and you can start with as little as 10 to 15 lbs if you can’t handle more weight.

In addition to being more accessible, the exercise is easier to set up and allows you to focus on proper form. 

It’s worth noting that a dumbbell doesn’t provide the same overloading potential as a barbell simply because it gets more challenging to support the weight over your hips.

In contrast, you can wrap a barbell pad over a straight bar that provides cushioning and prevents bruising in the hip area, even if you use 300+ lbs.

Muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, back, midsection, shoulders, arms

How to:

  1. Sit on the floor with a sturdy object (e.g., a gym bench) behind your back and a dumbbell to your side.
  2. Grab the weight and carefully position it over your hip. Hold it into position with both hands.
  3. Lean back and position your upper back against the edge of the gym bench.
  4. Bend your knees, and have your feet hip-width apart and flat on the ground.
  5. Retract your shoulder blades, take a deep breath, and inhale.
  6. Press through your heels to drive your hips toward the ceiling until your knees, hips, and shoulders align.
  7. Pause briefly and slowly lower your buttocks to the floor as you exhale.
  8. Take another breath and repeat.

Form tip:

Positioning your feet farther from your buttocks can improve glute activation (8). In contrast, keeping your feet close would cause greater knee flexion and force your quadriceps to contribute more.

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5. Dumbbell Glute Bridge

The bodyweight glute bridge is a beginner-friendly movement that teaches you how to engage your glutes. Unfortunately, the exercise becomes too easy after a while, forcing trainees to do 30, 40, or even 50+ reps to get close to muscle failure.

A weighted glute bridge is one of the best dumbbell glute exercises for posterior chain strength and hypertrophy. Placing a dumbbell on top of your hips provides additional resistance, allowing you to overload your muscles and experience growth.

Muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, back, midsection, shoulders, arms

How to:

  1. Place an exercise mat on the floor and lie down with a dumbbell at your side.
  2. Bend your knees and position your feet hip-width apart, with your toes pointing slightly out. Have your feet flat on the ground.
  3. Carefully put the weight over your hips and keep it in position with both hands.
  4. Retract your shoulder blades, take a deep breath, and engage your abs.
  5. Press through your heels to drive your hips toward the ceiling until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line.
  6. Pause at the top for a moment and slowly lower your buttocks to the floor, exhaling on the way down.
  7. Inhale again and repeat.

Form tips:

Like with hip thrusts, positioning your feet farther from your buttocks can improve glute engagement and make the movement more challenging (8). 

If you don’t have access to a heavy dumbbell, you can challenge yourself by doing the single-leg glute bridge. In addition to being more challenging, it allows you to train both sides of your body independently.

6. Frog Pumps

Frog pumps are a lesser-known exercise that develops your glutes and hamstrings with a dumbbell.

The exercise is similar to hip thrusts, apart from one major difference. Instead of keeping your feet flat on the floor, you must bring them together with your soles in contact. 

Rather than having your knees point at the ceiling, they would be pointing to your sides.

One advantage of the exercise is that it makes it easier to engage your gluteus maximus by squeezing your buttocks as you drive your hips up.

Muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, lower back, midsection, arms

How to:

  1. Place an exercise mat on the floor and lie down with a dumbbell to your side.
  2. Carefully position the weight over your groin and hold it with both hands.
  3. Bend your knees and bring your feet together, positioning your soles against each other. Your knees should be pointing to your sides.
  4. Take a deep breath and tense your midsection.
  5. Press through your feet to drive your hips toward the ceiling. Squeeze your glutes at the top position.
  6. Slowly lower your buttocks to the floor and exhale.

Form tip:

Press your feet together hard, especially at the top of each repetition. Doing so will make it easier to squeeze your glutes and possibly experience better muscle activation that can promote more growth.

7. Reverse Lunge (Dumbbell)

At first glance, the forward and reverse lunges seem identical, but that isn’t true. Forward lunges will always emphasize the quadriceps more because they are knee-dominant.

Lunging forward and plating your foot in front of your body places greater emphasis on the quadriceps than on the posterior chain.

In contrast, reverse lunges place much less pressure on your front knee. Instead of lunging forward, you bring your leg behind your body, leading to a smaller degree of knee flexion.

In addition, reverse lunges depend on hip flexion because your hips bend as you lunge back. Bringing each leg to the starting position results in hip extension that promotes glute activation.

Muscles worked: glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, midsection

How to:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Retract your shoulder blades, take a deep breath, and engage your midsection.
  3. Bring your right leg behind your body, landing on the ball of your foot.
  4. Immediately sink into a lunge by bending your front knee.
  5. Descend until your front thigh is roughly parallel to the floor, and pause for a moment.
  6. Press through your front heel to straighten your knee and bring yourself up, immediately driving your right leg to the starting position. Exhale.
  7. Take another breath and extend your left leg back.
  8. Keep alternating between left and right until you’re done.

Form tip:

You can elevate your front foot on a platform (2 to 4 inches maximum). Doing so would increase the range of motion and make the exercise more challenging.

8. Clamshell with a Dumbbell

Clamshells are a beginner-friendly exercise for developing the gluteus medius and minimus, but you need to increase the resistance to keep challenging yourself.

One simple way to provide the necessary overload is by placing a dumbbell on the side of your top thigh and holding it in place while doing the exercise. 

The advantage is that you can control the resistance and use a progressively heavier dumbbell as you build up your glutes.

Muscles worked: gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, tensor fasciae latae

clamshell square butt

How to:

  1. Lie on your left side with a light dumbbell close to your body.
  2. Bend your knees, bring your feet together, and stack your legs.
  3. Lift your left shoulder off the floor and support your upper body on your forearm.
  4. Put the dumbbell on your right thigh, just behind the knee. Hold it in position with your right hand.
  5. Engage your abs, inhale, and lift your right knee toward the ceiling while keeping your feet together.
  6. Pause at the top and slowly lower the knee to the starting position as you exhale.
  7. Once finished, lie on your right side and do the same number of reps.

Form tip:

Pick a light dumbbell to start, and do smooth and controlled repetitions. Using jerking motions would allow you to lift more weight but at the expense of providing tension to the correct muscles.

Related article: Top 15 Gluteus Minimus Activation Exercises

9. Glute Kickback On Floor (With Dumbbell)

Kickbacks on the floor are a great addition to any glute workout with dumbbells. In addition to being one of the best glute exercises with dumbbells, glute kicks are simple to learn and provide the necessary overload for growth.

Plus, the movement offers a great range of motion and comes close to being a proper glute isolation activity.

Muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, midsection

man glute kickback on floor

How to:

  1. Place an exercise mat on the floor and get down on all fours with a dumbbell to your side.
  2. Grab the dumbbell and place it behind your right knee, squeezing it between your calf muscle and the back of your thigh.
  3. Plant both hands flat on the ground and directly underneath your shoulders.
  4. Retract your shoulder blades, take a breath, and engage your abs.
  5. Tilt slightly to the left and drive your right leg back and up in one fluid motion while squeezing the dumbbell in position.
  6. Move up until your right knee is in line with your hips, pause for a moment, and slowly lower it to the starting position as you exhale.
  7. Inhale again and repeat.
  8. Once finished, place the dumbbell behind your left knee and do the same number of reps.

Form tip:

Do slow and controlled repetitions through a full range of motion. Stretch your glutes as you lower your leg to the starting position and follow up with a strong contraction at the top.

10. Dumbbell Sumo Squat

Sumo squats are among the best glute dumbbell exercises to include in your training. The movement is relatively simple to learn, offers excellent overloading potential, and trains a range of lower-body muscles. 

A wider stance emphasizes the adductors (inner thigh muscles) and allows the glutes to contribute more.

You can include the sumo squat early or near the end of dumbbell glute workouts. You can do sets with a heavy dumbbell early in your training or finish off with high-rep ‘burnout’ sets.

Muscles worked: calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, adductors, back, midsection, arms

How to:

  1. Have a dumbbell in a vertical position and grab the top weight plate with both hands.
  2. Stand tall with the weight at hip level and assume a wide stance with your feet more than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing out.
  3. Retract your shoulder blades, take a deep breath, and engage your abs.
  4. Descend into a squat while keeping your heels on the ground.
  5. Move down until the dumbbell is close to the floor and your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  6. Pause for a moment and press through your heels to straighten your knees. Exhale near the top.
  7. Inhale again and repeat.

Form tip:

Squat as deeply as you can while maintaining balance. EMG data shows that glute activation increases in proportion to squat depth (9).

11. Lateral Lunge (Dumbbell)

The lateral lunge is an excellent addition to any effective glute dumbbell workout. Unlike most exercises, where you only move front and back, lateral lunges force you to move to your sides. 

One great benefit of such a movement pattern is that it develops the hip adductor and abductor muscles that don’t receive as much stimulation through regular strength training.

Like other variations, the lateral lunge allows you to overload your lower body with more weight and stimulate strength gains.

Muscles worked: gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, tensor fasciae latae, adductors, quadriceps, back, midsection

man lateral squat bodyweight

How to:

  1. Grab a dumbbell, raise it in front of your chest, position it vertically, and place your palms against the top weight plate.
  2. Have your feet hip-width apart with your toes pointing slightly out.
  3. Take a deep breath and engage your abs.
  4. Lunge to the right, planting your foot flat on the floor, and immediately descend by bending your right knee. Keep your left leg straight and your foot flat on the ground.
  5. Move down until your right thigh is almost parallel to the floor, pause briefly, and press through your heel to straighten your knee.
  6. Immediately bring the right leg to the starting position as you exhale.
  7. Take another breath and lunge to the left, bending your left knee.
  8. Keep alternating between left and right until you’re done.

Form tip:

Lean your torso forward by hinging at the hips when you lunge to either side instead of trying to maintain an upright upper body. In addition to promoting stability, doing so allows you to extend your hips at the top of each repetition, activating the glutes.

12. Dumbbell Step-Up

Dumbbell step-ups are traditionally a quadriceps exercise, but they also develop the posterior chain. 

Specifically, a taller object (e.g., gym bench, plyo box, etc.) shifts the emphasis to the gluteal region.

You can include the exercise near the middle of glute workouts with dumbbells, aiming for at least ten reps per side.

Muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, calves, 

How to:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand in front of an elevated and sturdy object (e.g., a plyo box).
  2. Retract your shoulder blades, take a deep breath, and engage your abs.
  3. Raise your right foot and plant it flat on the elevated platform.
  4. Press through the heel to straighten your knee, bringing yourself on top.
  5. Carefully step off as you exhale.
  6. Inhale and raise your left foot in the same way.
  7. Alternate between left and right until you’re done.

Form tip:

Press through your front heel instead of propelling yourself through the ball of your rear foot. Doing so is necessary for engaging the correct muscles.

FAQs

Can you build your glutes with just dumbbells?

There are many dumbbell workouts for butt growth and strength gain. The above 12 exercises are part of the many activities you can use and organize in various workout programs and routines.

How do you hit all three glute muscles?

The best way to train all three gluteal muscles is to perform multiple exercises using various loads, repetition ranges, and tempos.

What is the most effective glute workout?

There isn’t a single best dumbbell booty workout. It mostly comes down to your preferences, abilities, and workout goals. For instance, someone interested in strength should consider hip thrusts, whereas simple activities like clamshells can be enough to produce growth.

How often to train the glutes for best results?

Research recommends training each muscle group two to four times per week for optimal results (10). For example, you can train your glutes on Monday and Thursday.

How long does it take to see progress?

Most trainees will see positive results from their training within a couple of months. However, factors like your nutrition, training effort, consistency, and technique will affect how quickly you can progress.

Final Thoughts

Training the glutes is beneficial because these muscles impact your posture, athleticism, and overall physical capacity. 

Performing various exercises will ensure that each of the three muscles receives sufficient stimulus for growth. In addition, consume enough protein (at least 0.8 grams per pound of body weight) and strive to improve your workout performance in the long run (11).

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Check out the Hevy app if you’re looking for a simple tool to find effective exercises for each muscle group, organize your workouts in seconds, and track your performance from week to week.

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