Best Exercises for Toning the Bum
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Best Exercises for Toning the Bum

Toned bums have become very fashionable, but exercising the muscles in the buttocks is also said to have other benefits to the body. This article will discuss popular bum toning exercises and their alleged benefits.

The buttocks is made up of 3 groups of muscles, and these are known as the ‘gluteal muscles’ which are primarily said to control the movement of the thigh. There are said to be many benefits to exercising these muscles, and not just because toned bums are the latest fashion. This article will discuss the benefits of bum toning exercises, and the potential impact they can have on your body overall. We’ll also be looking at different examples of exercises, and which are believed to be the most effective at toning the gluteal muscles and resulting in a toned bum.

What are the Gluteal Muscles?


As mentioned before, the buttocks is made up of 3 groups of muscles which are collectively known as the ‘gluteal muscles’. The role of these muscles is to provide movement in the thighs and hips, and may even help to provide support to the knees.

Gluteus Maximus

The largest of the three muscles is called the ‘gluteus maximus’, and this is believed to be the main muscle in the buttocks. The gluteus maximal muscle is said to be narrow but ‘thick and fleshy’, and its alleged role is to cause the body to regain its erect position after stooping. This is believed to work because it supports and connects the pelvis to the femur, and is said to act as an ‘adductor’ and ‘external rotator’ to our legs, and an ‘abductor’ of the hip joint. These are all terms that are used when talking about motion in the body.

Gluteus Medius

The second gluteal muscle is called the ‘gluteus medius’, and is located on the outer surface of the pelvis, covered by the gluteus maximus. Unlike the narrow gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius is said to be broader and thicker. The gluteus medius is believed to work with the gluteus minimus to ‘abduct’ the thigh, meaning that it pulls it away from the midline when we straighten our legs. These muscles are also said to work together to support the body on just one leg, such as when we walk. In addition, the gluteus medius is believed to internally rotate the hips when they’re flexed, and it’s said to externally rotate them when the leg is straightened.

Gluteus Minimus

The third muscle in the buttocks is called the ‘gluteus minimus’ which is the smallest of the three, located directly underneath the gluteus medius and is allegedly fan-shaped. As well as working with the gluteus medius to ‘abduct’ the thigh and help rotate the hips, the gluteus minimus is said to be put into action when the body is supported on just one leg.

What are the Benefits of Toning the Gluteal Muscles?


When we think about toning the bum, a lot of us may only think of the change in appearance and how it will look aesthetically, but the extent to which exercise can benefit the buttocks and its gluteal muscles are said to be more than just how it appears in a tight pair of trousers.

It’s believed that the right exercises that work the gluteal muscles can have a number of other benefits, and these allegedly contribute to how our bodies function in our everyday life. As we’ve learnt before, the role of the gluteal muscles is to support the knees and elevate movement in our thighs and hips. These muscles come into action particularly when we walk, when we’re standing and when our whole body is supported on just one leg.

Which Exercises are the Best for Toning the Bum?

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Squats are perhaps the most common exercise to tone the gluteal muscles, and that’s because it’s believed to be one of the most effective exercises for toning and shaping the bum, and strengthening the muscles. The basic squat involves your body only, and is achieved by standing with your legs spread roughly a shoulder-width apart and your arms stretched out. You then bend both of your knees until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground, ensuring that your back and upper body is straight and balanced.

Holding this position for just a second, you’re instructed to bring yourself back to the beginning position where your legs are straightened. You can repeat this movement until you’re tired, or you can do a set in conjunction with other exercises.

One reason why squats are so popular is because they’re very adaptable, and can be made as simple or as difficult as you like, depending on your exercise threshold. Some say that to make them harder and to produce more effective results, you should tense your buttocks as you do them, as this will allegedly work the muscles harder.

You can also make your squats more challenging and potentially produce more effective results by adjusting the routine. For example, you can do ‘squat jumps’; these are different to normal squats because instead of slowly bending your knees down, you simply jump down instead. Alternatively, you can do ‘squat kicks’, which are like normal squats but as you bring up your legs, you kick one leg outwards each time, and this will allegedly work more areas of your body and at a more effective rate, especially in your legs and thighs.

Squats using equipment

While you can do squats just using your body, some prefer to use equipment to increase the power of the exercise. For example, many people use dumbbells or a barbell while squatting.

To use a barbell, you spread your legs apart at about a shoulder-width apart as you would with a standard squat. You then rest the barbell behind your neck so that it’s supported by your shoulders, making sure you hold it with your holds just over shoulder-width apart. Then you must make sure your back is straight as you bend your knees and lower your thighs until they’re roughly parallel to the ground, repeating this action until you’re exhausted.

You can also do squats using dumbbells; this involves the same practice as ordinary squats, but you hold the dumbbells by your side as you bend your knees. Like the barbell squat, this works muscles in your arms and shoulders as well as in the buttocks and thighs, putting much more work in the whole body, and amplifying the intensity in the gluteus muscles.

Glute Raises

The gluteal muscles are often shortened to ‘glutes’, and this exercise is specifically named after the muscles it is believed to target. To achieve glute raises, you must start in ‘crawl’ position on your hands and knees, with your hands slightly in front on you and your knees slightly behind.

With your hands positioned flat on the ground and keeping your head up looking straight on, you then lift one leg up to a 90˚ angle before bringing it back down so that the knee almost touches the ground.

It’s advised that you should do 10 glute raises per leg before swapping over, and should be repeated until you feel tired. If it’s part of a workout, you may wish to do 10 glute raises on each leg before changing to another exercise.


The plank is a very simple exercise that, while it may look fairly easy, can work the entire body, and can be adapted to focus more specifically on certain muscles in the body. According to studies, as mentioned later in the article, some variations of the plank have been shown to be most effective in toning the gluteal muscles.

One type of plank said to be effective at toning the bum and working the gluteal muscles is the ‘front plank hip extension’. The standard front plank is achieved by resting your elbows and toes on the ground and supporting your entire body weight on them, with your back and legs straightened and positioning your head straight ahead.

A front plank hip extension is just like the standard plank, but instead of keeping the body still for several minutes, you are instructed to lift one leg in the air. The leg should be pointing upwards, bent at the knee to create a 90˚ angle and, after holding it for a second or so, you should bring it downwards in the same position so that the knee is almost touching the ground. This should be repeated several times, alternating the leg after a certain amount of sets.

Curtsy Lunges

A curtsy lunge is an adaption of the common ‘lunge’, an exercise that involves you standing with one leg in front of the other, with about 2 walking steps distance apart. Simultaneously, both legs come down; the front leg bends at the knee to form a right-angle while the back leg bends until the knee is almost touching the floor.

However, while the lunge is believed to work the thighs, the curtsy lunge is said to be more effective for the gluteal muscles. Instead of the back leg bending directly down, the curtsy lunge requires it to be bent backwards, as if you’re curtsying, until your knee is almost touching the ground.

It’s important not to twist your body too much in this exercise, and your hips should still remain facing the front. Your arms should come round in front of you as you ‘curtsy’, and you can alternate the legs until exhaustion.

Single Leg Deadlifts

Single leg deadlifts are a popular exercise used by many to tone the bum. This exercise is performed by spreading your feet about a shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be resting on your thighs, although you can make the exercise harder by holding dumbbells by your sides instead.

You must then lift one leg backwards, and simultaneously you lower your upper body by bending forwards until you can touch the ground, before bringing your leg down and your body up to the starting position. It’s important to maintain a straight back and to straighten your leg as you lift it, and you must look straight ahead while doing so. You should repeat this move several times before switching your legs over.

Bridge Raises/Butt Lifts

This exercise involves lying on your back on the ground, and is said to originate from a yoga position. Laying your arms and hands flat on the ground beside you, your knees should be bent to almost form a right-angle so that your feet are also flat on the ground.

At the starting point, your hands should almost be touching your ankles, and you then lift your hips upwards until your torso is in line with your knees, forming a straight line. You can then bring your body back down to the starting position, before repeating the exercise for as long as you like.

Clinical studies

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The following study observed the effects that different types of squatting had on the gluteal muscles, and the potential impact this could have on treating lower-limb injuries. A sample of 19 healthy volunteers with an average age of 28 years old participated in the study, and they were each split into groups where they completed different exercises including single-legged and double-legged squatting, with and without a Swiss ball.

The performance of each group was compared and measurements on the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius were taken using electromyography (EMG). Results found that single-legged squatting had a stronger impact on both the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius muscles compared to double-legged squatting. Furthermore, they found that the addition of the Swiss ball to the exercise amplified results even further.

A second study was of a much larger scale as it explored the effects that 18 different exercises had on all 3 groups of gluteus muscle. The aim of this study was to investigate which exercises produce the most effective results in terms of toning the bum.

Out of the 26 healthy participants selected for the study, a total of 24 were eligible enough to complete it. Subjects had electromyography (EMG) electrodes attached to their gluteus maximus and medius while they participated in the 18 exercises. As mentioned before, the effectiveness of each exercise was tested through electromyography (EMG), but in particular the percentage ‘maximal voluntary muscles contraction (MVIC)’ was measured in each group of buttocks muscles in order to determine which exercise(s) had the greatest impact.

Results found that out of the 18 exercises completed by each participant, there were 5 exercises that proved the most effective results for each gluteal muscle group. These exercises were determined as they each produced MVIC greater than 70% in both muscle groups. While the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius each had 5 exercises with an MVIC of 70% or higher, there were 4 exercises that were consistently highest for both of the muscles. These included the single-legged squat, front plank with hip extension, side plank with dominant leg on top, and the side plank with the dominant leg on the bottom.


In conclusion, there’s a huge range of exercises said to tone the bum which can be achieved using the body alone or with equipment, and can be adapted to suit people of all body types and abilities. As well as toning the bum, gluteal exercises are believed to improve function and provide support to the thighs, hips and knees. Studies indicate that the most effective exercises for toning the bum may be single-legged side squats and planks, specifically those that use one leg. The majority of bum toning exercises can be found online where you can see a visual depiction of each, and you can find many videos of full bum toning workouts.

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