There are plenty of reasons you should work your glutes. Two major ones: They help keep your hips from getting too tight and your pelvis stable, both of which can lead to injury otherwise. But, let's be real, sometimes it just comes down to the fact that you want a nice ass.
Whatever your intention, it’s important to be strategic about your glute workouts—because squatting your butt off isn’t just boring, it’s not necessarily going to give you the sculpted backside you want.
“I recommend emphasizing a heavy compound lift like the deadlift, hip thrust, and squat two to three times per week," says Adam Rosante, certified personal trainer and author of The 30-Second Body. "Then round out your workout with two to three other glute-specific exercises to ensure you’re getting maximal muscle recruitment.”
Yes, two to three times a week is enough! That’s because the in-between recovery days are just as important for your glute strength. “This can vary from person to person and depends largely on the types of exercise you’re doing and your particular level of glute-training experience, but two to three days of rest between your heavier compound lifting sessions is a good idea,” says Rosante. “It’ll allow your muscles to recover and adapt to the stimulus placed on them in the previous session.” Just pay attention to how you feel and any noticeable dips in strength from workout to workout. If you’re finding that your strength is significantly lower on your second heavy compound lifting day, give yourself another day’s rest between workouts the following week and see how you feel and perform.
The biggest mistake people make when it comes to butt workouts, though, says Rosante, is not focusing on glute-specific exercises. That sounds obvious, but it’s easy to assume that certain lower body moves that feel really tough are targeting your butt when they’re really just working other major muscles in that general area. “If your goal is to focus on your glutes and you walk into your gym and set up on the leg press, extension, or curl machine, you’re missing the mark as these machines primarily target your quads and hamstrings,” he says.
“If your priority goal is to build your butt, you need to choose exercises that smash your glutes,” says Rosante—and that means all three of the gluteus muscles: the minimus, medius, and maximus. Most glute exercises will work your quads and hammies in the process, but if you start to add the four moves below into your workout regimen, Rosante says, “you’ll keep the major emphasis on the goal at hand: dat ass.”
GLUTE BRIDGE WITH BENCH
How to: Sit in front of a bench, knees bent and feet flat on the floor; lean your upper back against the edge of the bench. Raise your hips to form a straight line from your knees to shoulders, with your upper back resting on the bench; pause, then return to start. That's one rep. Do 10 to 12.
Take a loaded or unloaded barbell, or grab two dumbbells. Bend at your hips and knees, grabbing the weight with an overhand grip, your hands just wider than shoulder-width. Maintain a slight arc in your lower back with abs braced. Pull your torso back and up, thrust your hips forward, and stand up with the barbell or dumbbells. Squeeze your glutes as you perform the movement. Lower the bar to the floor, keeping it as close to your body as possible. That's one rep. Do 10 reps.
Place one foot about two feet in front of the other; with your hands on your hips. Bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can, keeping your shoulders back and chest up. Pause, then press through your left heel to return to start. That's one rep. Complete as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat. And for an extra challenge, you can place your back foot on an elevated step.
MINI BAND SQUATS
Stand with feet hip-width apart and place a resistance band around your legs, right above or below the knees. Lower into a squat. Holding that position, then engage your glutes as you rise back up. For more of a challenge, lower into a squat, then lift your left foot and take a wide step to the left. Then move right foot so feet are hip-width apart. Continue walking to one side for 30 seconds then switch sides, or alternate sides for 60 seconds.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.