Challenge all three muscles in your glutes for the greatest burn.
If you want to give your glutes the greatest burn, it’s important to add some hip abductor exercises into your regular butt workout. Many times when people work their glutes, they focus only on the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your butt.
But there are actually three muscles that make up your butt—the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are the smaller two along the side—and focusing on all of them is super important, Alicia Jamison, C.P.T., a coach at Body Space Fitness in New York City, tells SELF. Your glutes play an important role in stabilizing your pelvic system, the area that connects your trunk and your legs, and working all of these muscles is vital for doing that effectively.
“When you increase the activation of those two other smaller muscles, they help you activate the rest of your core and your pelvic stabilization systems,” Jamison says. That’s important, since strength in these muscles can help prevent low back pain as well as help you lift heavier weights during your workout.
You activate your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus—which are known as your hip abductors—with different movement patterns than your gluteus max.
Hip abductor exercises work in the frontal plane of movement, says Jamison. That’s the side-to-side movement you get when you raise your leg to the side of your body, or when you step out to the side, like with a lateral lunge. Gluteus maximus exercises, on the other hand, work primarily in the sagittal plane of movement. That’s the back-and-forth movement you get with flexion and extension, like when you go down into a squat and come back up.
In a well-rounded glute workout, you’d ideally be working all three of your glute muscles. But since most people tend to have lesser-developed hip abductors compared to their glute max, this butt workout will focus more on the hip abductor exercises to make sure you’re building balanced strength in your glutes.
Ready to give this hip abductor workout a try? Read on below.
What you need: A light mini band, a pair of light dumbbells, and a sturdy box or step. (You can also do the moves shown with a dumbbell with just your bodyweight.) An exercise mat can make some of the exercises more comfortable.
•Dumbbell fire hydrant circle
•Step-up to knee raise
•Side-lying leg lift
•Dumbbell curtsy lunge with kick
•Glute bridge march
Circuit 2 (Finisher):
•Banded jumping jacks
•Complete 8–12 reps (do that amount on each side for the single-leg moves) of each exercise, going from one to the next without rest. Complete 2–3 rounds total. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds before going into the finisher.
•Complete 15–20 reps (do that amount on each side for the clamshell) of each move, going from one to the next without rest. Compete 1–3 rounds total.
1.Dumbbell Fire Hydrant Circle
Start on your hands and knees. Place a dumbbell behind your left knee and squeeze your leg around it to hold it in place. This is the starting position.
With your core engaged and back flat, lift your left leg out to the left, keeping your knee bent. Continue to circle your leg back until it is behind your body and the bottom of your foot is facing toward the ceiling. Make sure you are squeezing your butt throughout.
Slowly bring your leg back to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
Complete 8–12 reps, then switch sides.
The fire hydrant circle takes your glutes through their full range of motion and activates all three muscles, says Jamison.
2.Step-Up to Knee Raise
•Stand in front of a low, sturdy box or step, hands at your sides and feet hip-width apart.
•Step onto your box with your right foot and drive your left knee up toward your chest, bringing your knee to hip height.
•With control, return your left foot to the floor, then step your right foot to the floor to return to your starting position. This is 1 rep.
•Continue to repeat on the same side for 8–12 reps, then switch sides.
While the step-up primarily works your glute max, your hip abductor muscles fire to help with the stabilization, Jamison says.
3.Side-Lying Leg Lift
•Lie on your left side, with your legs extended straight. Support your head with your left hand.
•Lift your top leg 45 degrees, then lower slowly. This is 1 rep.
•Complete 12–15 reps, and then repeat on the other side.
This move occurs solely in the frontal plane of motion, so it really smokes your hip abductors, says Jamison. This is super challenging with just your bodyweight if you make sure you’re really squeezing your glutes, but you can also make it harder by wrapping a light mini band around your ankles or using a pair of ankle weights.
4.Curtsy Lunge With Kick
•Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest them on the tops of your shoulders with your palms facing in toward each other and your elbows bent. This is the starting position.
•Step your right foot diagonally behind you and lower your right knee until it almost touches the ground. Your front knee should bend to about 90 degrees.
•Push through your left heel to stand back up and straighten your left leg. As you return to standing, kick your right leg out to the right side. That’s 1 rep.
•Complete 8–12 reps, and then repeat on the other side.
When you step your foot to the side for the curtsy lunge, you’re working your abductors by moving in the frontal plane, says Jamison. You’re on one leg with the kick, which fires up your glutes all over to help you stay stable.
5.Glute Bridge Marches
•Lie faceup with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core so your low back presses against the floor.
•From this engaged position, lift your hips, squeezing your glutes at the top. Hold here.
•Now lift your right foot off the floor, bringing your knee toward your chest, stopping when you’ve hinged your hip to about 90 degrees.
•Replace your foot on the floor and immediately lift your left foot off the floor to repeat on the other side.
•Continue to march, alternating your feet, all while maintaining lifted hips. Complete 8–12 reps on each side.
While glute bridges move through the sagittal plane of motion, you’ll also work your hip abductors by squeezing your glutes tight so your hips don’t sag to the floor, Jamison says.
•Lie on your left side with your hips, knees, and ankles stacked on top of each other. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and wrap a mini band around your thighs just above your knees.
•Keeping your feet together, lift your right knee open, then slowly lower it back to meet your left. This is 1 rep.
•Focus on keeping your core engaged and your back straight as you do these moves. Try not to lean forward or tip back.
•Complete 15–20 reps on one side, then switch to the other side.
The clamshell, which works through the frontal plane of motion, is an “absolute abductor burner all the way,” says Jamison. Stick to a light resistance band for this one.
7.Banded Jumping Jacks
•Place a mini band around your ankles.
•Stand in a quarter-squat position (a shallow squat), with your feet about hip-width apart and your hands at your chest.
•Jump your feet out and in for 1 rep, keeping a bent knee position throughout and landing softly each time.
•Complete 15–20 reps.
When you jump your feet out, you’re working in the frontal plane, which smokes your hip abductors, says Jamison. Use a band with light resistance, so you can maintain full range of motion in your jumping jacks.