Lunges and squats are often referred to as the masters of lower body exercises. In addition to your legs, these functional, compound exercises also work your buttocks.
However, poor form, a muscle imbalance, the consistent overload on your knees, and the repetitive motion, can make these exercises wreak havoc on your knees.
Not to fear, you can still strengthen and shape your glutes with do-able, effective exercise that are easy on your knees. Here are 6 effective exercises that will get your butt round and firm while keeping your knees safe.
1. Butt Squeeze
Butt squeezes don’t require fancy equipment, and are discreet, so they can be done pretty much anywhere, whether you’re watching TV, or waiting in line at the grocery store.
Simply squeeze your butt cheeks together, and hold the isometric contraction for 10 seconds. Do eight to 12 reps, two to three times a day.
For variety, contract your butt while you walk; step forward with your right foot, and after your heel lands, squeeze your right butt cheek. Release the tension just before your toe lifts off the floor, and immediately repeat the exercise on your other side.
2. Glute Bridge
The bridge exercise effectively works your glutes, while also engaging your legs and calves. During this exercise you’re lying face up on the floor with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart, flat on the floor.
After engaging your abs, raise your hips, lifting your butt and lower back off the floor. When your body is aligned from your knees to your shoulders, squeeze your buttocks for two seconds, and then slowly return to the starting point. Finish at least eight repetitions and two sets.
3. Hip Extensions
Hip extensions can work your glutes without hurting your knees. One option is to use a low-cable pulley with a cuff attachment that you secure around one ankle. While standing on a 5-inch platform, you extend your hip, pulling your leg about 15 degrees back against the selected resistance. Contract your glutes, and return to the starting point.
Another way to do hip extensions is by lying face down on a bench with your hips hanging over the edge. Raise one or both legs (this can be done with bent knees or straight legs) until they’re parallel to the floor, hold the tension in your buttocks for two seconds, and return to the starting point. Perform up to three sets of eight to 12 hip extensions.
A great abduction exercise that is extra important for anyone with a hip or lower back injury.The clam exercise helps shape your buttocks while you’re lying on your side – this move can be done with just bodyweight or with a mini band.
Your thighs should be at a 90-degree angle to your torso, and your knees should be bent about 120 degrees, so your feet are almost below your buttocks.
To activate your glutes, raise your top knee about 4 inches, while keeping your feet on top of each other. Imagine that your legs are a clamshell that’s opening and closing. Hold the contraction in your buttocks for two seconds, and return to the starting point.
Do this eight to 12 times, and then switch sides. Work your way up to finish two to three sets.
5. Fire Hydrant
This move needs no weight to really challenge the glute. The Fire Hydrant doesn’t involve a huge range of motion so don’t compensate to try to get your leg higher. Focus on squeezing your glute as you lift.
To do the Fire Hydrant, start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure your feet are flexed. Then raise your right leg out to the side, keeping your foot flexed and knee bent to 90 degrees. Keep your knee and ankle in line.
Do not let your foot get above your knee or your knee go up above your foot. Your lower leg should stay in line and be parallel to the ground. Hold at the top then lower back down. Make sure you do not bend your arms or lean away from the leg being raised just to get the leg up higher.
Squeeze your butt and make sure you feel it activate. Lower back down and complete all reps on one side before switching. Hold at the top. Do not rush through the move.
6. Donkey Kick
This bent-knee quadrupe move is a great way to target your glute maximus and get the muscle activated. Because the knee is bent the focus is more on the glute than the hamstring (if you did a straight leg variation, you could work your hamstring more). And even though you won’t use super heavy weights with this quadrupe move, it actually helps you activate MORE glute muscle fibers than a deadlift or squat would.
To do the Donkey Kick, start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Flex your feet. Then, keeping your arms straight and your right knee bent, drive your right foot up and back toward the ceiling.
Keep your core braced and squeeze your glutes as you kick your heel up and back. Do not let your right knee flare out as you lift. Hold for a second or two at the top and lower back down. You can add weight to this move or slow down the temp to make it more challenging.
If you are using it to warm up, do it with only very light weight. If it is part of your workout, feel free to weight it down!