glute training mistakes

Glute training mistakes result in disappointing flat bums!

Why should something like what are the worst glute exercises be on your mind?

Well, if there’s one body part that women are dying to improve these days, it’s the butt!

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Sexy, curvy behinds are in, no-one wants a boring flat bum anymore, and the internet is packed with exercises supposedly to help you get those gorgeous glutes.

However, not all of these exercises are as great as they may seem.

Some glute training mistakes can actually derail your attempts to get a sexy backside, no matter how often you do them.

So perhaps it’s best to start your journey to sexy glutes, by working out what not to waste your time on.

And hey, I know some of these are going to be controversial, because I’m including some of the kings of compound exercises that strength gurus hail as positive for literally everything.  I love them too, I just believe there are more effective ways to target the glutes, and so including them in “glute workouts” is just lazy programming.

Let’s take a look at some of the worst glute exercises.

Glute training mistakes 1 - Squats

This first item on the list may be surprising to many. Squats are often lorded as the exercise for people looking for a well-built booty.

Unfortunately, squats are not as good as they seem.

The main problem with using squats to target the glutes is that squats are a compound movement. They target a variety of muscles including the glutes, lower back, hamstrings, and quads. Compound strength-training exercises are great for losing weight, strengthening the legs, or getting ready for a more serious lifting regimen.

However, if you’re focusing primarily on building your glutes, squats aren’t going to give you the results that you’re hoping for.

There are a few ways to make squats more effective for glute activation: you can squeeze the glutes as you move and try to get yourself deeper into the squat to put more focus on your backside. However, you will still be working a multitude of muscles as well as putting your knees at risk if you aren’t careful.

Squats are still one of my favourite exercises, and I would include them in most people’s training programs, but;

 If growing your glutes is the goal, you may want to skip the squats for the workouts where you are targeting glute development. Therefore, while we love squat day, they deserve a spot in the list of glute training mistakes.


Glute training mistakes 2 - Lunges

Lunges are another great example of glute exercises that everyone adds to their workout. Unfortunately, lunges are also a compound exercise that will often do little for activating the glutes.

When done properly, lunges activate the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and abs. While that all sounds great for someone trying to build a more general fitness routine or super strong legs, it isn’t going to do much for anyone trying to isolate their glutes.

In fact, most people do lunges using a form that may not activate the glutes at all.

The biggest mistake when performing lunges is taking too large of a step and leaning forward so that your knee bends out past your toes.

This form does not force you to use your glutes at all. Instead, you’ll be putting all of the tension into your legs, forcing them to work while your glutes remain idle. Glutes only work when you make them, and lunges just don’t do it.

Lunges will be more beneficial for the glutes if you use the proper form: take a small step forward and sink your back knee towards the ground instead of propelling your body forward. However, this move is still a compound exercise. If you really want to blast your glutes, you need to focus on exercises that specifically isolate that muscle.

Glute training mistakes 3 - Abductor Raises

Abductor raises were a staple in the iconic buns of steel workout, but recently, fitness gurus have been suggesting that they aren’t all their cracked up to be.

They can actually be one of the worst glute training mistakes.

There are some benefits to abductor raises. They are great for increasing the range of motion in your hips and, unlike squats and lunges, actually do serve to isolate the glutes and force them to do the work instead of your legs or core.

However, the main problem with abductor raises is that the only resistance that you can use is your own body weight. To really get fit, toned glutes, you need to incorporate isolation exercises with a significant amount of resistance.

That is the only way that you’ll be able to effectively build more muscle.

There are some ways to make abductor raises work for you.

One solution is to use a resistance band or ankle weights to increases the resistance that your glutes will be fighting against to complete the movement.

However, an even better option is to use a hip abductor machine. This will allow you to pile on the resistance to really work those glutes, but I realise that not everyone will have access to one of these machines.

Glute training mistakes 4 - Donkey Kicks

Donkey kicks, also known as glute kickbacks, are another of the glute exercises that have a misleading reputation.

There are actually several problems with this common workout move.

One common problem is that the donkey kick is a compound exercise, While the glutes do work the hardest in this move, the back and hamstrings are also activated white performing this exercise.

In addition, donkey kicks offer little in the way of resistance.

As with abductor raises, the only real resistance that you get with a donkey kick is your own body weight. You can try adding a resistance band or using a glute kickback machine, but you’re still unlikely to get the results that you’re looking for if the glutes are your main focus.

It is also difficult to get the form just right in a donkey kick, further decreasing the odds of hitting the glutes hard,

Glute training mistakes 5 - Step Ups

Step ups, while again in theory engaging the glutes, in reality it’s very rarely the case.

It’s way too easy to cheat, by pushing off the ground with the other foot, and thereby making it easy on the glute.

Another common mistake is to lean forward too much when stepping up, which again will ease the strain on the glute.

 It’s natural for people to find the “easiest” way to do an exercise, rather than keeping strict form, just as people do with most things in life.  

Expecting anyone for whom you’ve set a program to keep strict form while completing their sets of step ups is just not going to work in reality. 

Glute training mistakes 6 - Deadlifts

Deadlifts are great for the back muscles, but many also use them for glute exercises. Unfortunately, deadlifts are not the ideal move for targeting the backside.

Deadlifts are also a compound exercise, targeting the glutes, hamstrings and the back. In fact, when doing a proper deadlift, your back and hamstrings will be much more activated than your glutes.

There is really no way to perform a traditional deadlift in a way that puts more tension into the glute muscles.

Just like squats, Deadlifts are one of my personal favourite exercises, and would usually be included in any general strength program, however they simply are not the best for targeted glute exercises.

glute training mistakes

What glute training exercises to do instead?

The bottom line is that if you want to make real progress on your backside, you have to choose exercises that specifically isolate the glute muscles and offer a high level of resistance.

Good options include barbell hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, retro step ups, single leg dead lifts and single leg foot elevated hip thrusts. If you isolate the muscles and pile on the resistance, soon your booty will be looking fine!

Single leg exercises are great to really focus on the glutes, while also requiring balance, which recruits the smaller stabilizer muscles. Try some, and you’ll find that they are harder to complete than you first think.

So what does the gluteus really do anyway?

I mean, apart from looking spectacular in the right pair of tights!  Is there really more to it?

The gluteus is made up of three main groups, the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, which all function essentially to move the hip joint.

The gluteus maximus is the most superficial but also the largest of the glute muscles, and therefore is what most people are thinking about when they refer to, the glutes.  Being the largest, it is also what is going to have the most impact on the shape of your hips.

You’ve probably heard of these, but you might not have heard of the panniculus adiposus of the buttocks, which is the muscle which actually gives the butt it’s rounded shape, and therefore is a major contributor to a sexy bum.   The amount of fat stored generally in your body will impact the shape of the panniculus adiposus greatly.

One of the main functions of the glutes, is in making it possible for you to stand upright, as apposed to other primates whose hips tend to be much flatter, and are unable to remain erect on two legs.

So, if what the glutes are really doing is, moving the hip joint, to work them affectively we should be focussed on, any exercise which moves the hip joint, and doesn’t entail major engagement of other major muscle groups.

Lifestyle factors

Your general lifestyle can have a big impact on the shape of your butt as well.

Obviously your level of activity will impact on overall fat levels, which will influence how defined your body is in any area including the glutes. 

But think about the amount of time that an average office worker spends sitting on their butt, and the corresponding amount of flat bums that can be seen in any inner city lunch break period.

So, the amount of time sitting that your job entails can have a massif impact on your glutes.  If that’s you, then you will really benefit from including some targeted glute exercises in your training program.

There is a tendency for lower back pain to originate from having weak glutes as well.  If your glutes aren’t strong you will tend to overcompensate by using the lower back more when lifting, which can result in injury. 

Also given the glutes play a major role in just standing erect, having weak glutes means that there is extra strain placed on your lower back just remaining upright throughout the day, which can cause injury over time.

Given that it’s obvious you need to maintain a level of general health, your diet will impact this as well.  I’ve got some great suggestions here, for clean eating recipe’s that will help both fuel your workouts, and keep your body fat levels down.

Eating the wrong foods can cause inflammation in the body as well, which can slow any progress in a training program, so you need to stay on top of a healthy clean eating diet.

worst glute training mistakes

Benefits of strong glutes

Ok, we all know that they help us to look great, but what else?

Better posture;

Ever seen a sprinter, with their glorious glutes, and watched how they stand and move generally.  Given we’ve discussed how the glutes are important in helping us to stand upright, it’s easy to see how strong glutes will give you generally better posture and movement.

Pain reduction and prevention of injury;

Even if you’ve already got a painful lower back, you will generally find improvement once you’ve strengthened the glutes. 

And a strong set of glutes will definitely help defend against back injuries and pain.

Fat loss;

Given that increased muscle mass will lead to increased calorie burn throughout the day, working your glutes should be a priority for anyone wanting fat loss, or maintenance.  The glutes are one of the largest muscles in the body, so working them will generate muscle growth and calorie burn, that leads to fat loss.

Athletic performance;

The gluteus is responsible for generating a massive amount of power through the lower body, and thereby contributes to athletic performance.

You won’t see top level sprinters or strength athletes with flat bums.

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To measure this for yourself, just try completing a focused glute workout twice a week for a period of four weeks, and measure your vertical jump at the start of the four week period, and at its conclusion, and see how much more lift you’ve developed.


So, I hope you can see, that it’s not all just about appearances, but having a great butt can bring a range of health benefits that make it generally easier to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Whatever your reason for wanting to enhance the derriere, staying clear of these glute training mistakes is going to be positive for your training!

Ana Maria

As a certified strength coach and nutritionist, with a passion for living life and continual improvement, Ana Maria believes that every woman should bring out her inner goddess. A healthy active lifestyle, commitment to training and good nutrition are the keys. As the creator of Sara Crave, Ana Maria shares her passions for fitness, fun and fashion with you.

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