Side Glute Exercises

5 Best Side Glute Exercises to Tone Your Butt

Importance of side glute exercises

The side glutes play a key role in hip abduction, lateral hip stability, and preventing knees from caving in during exercises like squats or lunges. Strengthening them can help improve performance on lower body lifts.

  • Well-developed side glutes contribute to that coveted “rounded” look on the outer hips and thighs. They help create fuller, wider hips and prevent the appearance of a flat, shapeless outer thigh.
  • Side glute exercises like side-lying leg raises, banded walks, and clamshells can help build and tone these muscles. Targeting the side glutes directly leads to better muscle definition along the outer hips.
  • Imbalances between the main gluteus maximus and the side glutes can contribute to hip, knee, and lower back pain. Strengthening the side glutes helps correct muscle imbalances that can lead to injuries.
  • Overall, making the side glutes stronger gives better lower body stability for lifting, running, and lateral movements. Aesthetically, it enhances the curves of the hips and legs for a more balanced, athletic look. Targeting them brings strength and shapely benefits.

When focusing on developing the side glutes, it’s important to choose exercises that effectively target the gluteus medius and minimus muscles. Here are some of the best exercises to focus on:

Side-Lying Leg Raises – Lying on your side, lift the top leg and lower it down. Keep the leg in alignment with your body. Go slow and controlled.

aerobic exercises young women s body isolated scaled

Clamshells – Lying on your side, keep feet together and knees bent. Raise the top knee while keeping feet in contact. Open and close the knees like a clamshell.

high angle woman strengthening pelvic floor scaled

Banded Side Walks – Place a mini resistance band around your legs above your knees. Walk laterally by leading with your leg and pushing your knees out against the band.

black woman doing fitness home scaled

Side Plank Hip Abduction – In a side plank, raise your top leg up and slowly lower it down. Keep the core engaged throughout.

black woman doing fitness home 1 scaled

Curtsy Lunge – Step diagonally backward and bend both knees to lower into a curtsy. Push back up through the glute.

sportswoman doing lunges using dumbbells scaled

Side Leg Raises – Hold onto something for balance. Keeping a straight leg, raise it from the side and slowly lower it.

black woman doing fitness home 2 scaled

Why Are Side Glutes Important?

The side glutes, also known as the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, play an important role in many functional movements that require stability, balance, and mobility of the hips. Here are some key reasons why strong side glutes are important:

  • Lateral stabilization – The side glutes stabilize the hips and pelvis during single-leg stands, walking, side stepping, and other lateral movements. Weak glute meds can cause the hip to dip or collapse.
  • Prevent knee valgus – The side glutes keep the knees from caving inward during movements like squats, lunges, etc. This helps prevent knee injuries.
  • Hip abduction and rotation – The side glutes control outward leg movement and external rotation of the hip. This is key for steps, kicks, and athletic activities.
  • Shock absorption – Eccentric contraction of the side glutes helps to absorb force and decelerate motions like running, jumping, and landing. This reduces the impact on the joints.
  • Balance and proprioception – The gluteus medius provides proprioceptive feedback essential for balance during one-leg stands or walking on uneven surfaces.

In summary, the side glutes are crucial for hip and pelvis stability during motion and weight-bearing. Strengthening them leads to better performance in activities of daily life, exercise, and sports.

Benefits of well-developed side glutes

In addition to their important functional roles, having well-developed side glutes provides aesthetic benefits that enhance the curves and shape of the lower body:

  • Wider, rounder hips – Strong side glutes increase the width of the hips and butt for a more voluptuous, hourglass shape. They prevent the outer hips from looking flat.
  • Defined separation – More prominent side glutes create visible separation between the hip, thigh, and glute muscles for a sculpted look.
  • Lifted glutes – Side glutes support and lift the gluteus maximus muscle, perking up the butt for a round and lifted appearance.
  • Smoother outer thighs – Toned side glutes smooth out the connection between the hips, glutes, and outer thighs for sleeker lines.
  • Athletic leanness – Chiseling the side glutes contributes to an athletic, lean physique, especially around the hips and thighs.
  • Balanced proportions – Well-rounded development of the side and main glutes creates more balanced curves for a shapely silhouette.
  • Confidence – Defined side glutes can boost self-confidence and positive body image.

In summary, pronounced side glutes are a key part of sculpted, feminine lower body aesthetics. Targeting them brings sexy, athletic benefits.

The need for targeted exercises

It’s important to emphasize that the side glutes need targeted exercises:

  • The gluteus medius and minimus are smaller and often weaker than the main gluteus maximus muscle. The maximum gets worked heavily in many common exercises like squats and lunges.
  • However, the side glutes often require more isolation and focused activation through specific movements. They may be “asleep” and need to wake up.
  • Exercises like clamshells, side leg raises, and banded walks directly target the side glutes more than compound moves like squats. Attention should be paid to feeling them activate and contract.
  • The mind-muscle connection is crucial. Consciously squeezing and firing the side glutes during side glute exercises can help develop better recruitment over time.
  • Variations like added resistance bands, slower tempos, and unilateral work can further isolate and fatigue the side glutes to promote hypertrophy.
  • Even basic exercises like side planks become more effective if you focus on contracting the glute medius and feeling it work throughout the set.

In summary, the side glutes thrive on targeted exercises that isolate their movement and function. Bringing conscious focus and activation to these smaller muscles is key. Their development warrants specific work for strength, shape, and balance.

Top Side Glute Exercises

Exercise 1: Side-Lying Leg Lifts

Side-lying leg lifts are an excellent isolation exercise to target the side glutes.

How to:

  • Lie on your side with your legs extended, resting your head on your lower arm. Engage core.
  • Keeping legs stacked, lift the top leg toward the ceiling, leading with the heel. Lift as high as comfortable without twisting your hips.
  • Hold briefly at the top then slowly lower leg back down, maintaining control. Don’t allow momentum.
  • Focus on using the side glute to lift the leg. Keep pelvis still, no rocking.
  • Complete reps then switch to lying on the other side and repeat.


  • Keep both legs straight and in alignment with the torso.
  • Contract glutes at the top; don’t just lift the leg passively.
  • Slow, controlled reps build muscle best. Use a full range of motion.
  • Add ankle weights or bands to increase resistance and intensity.

This exercise directly targets the gluteus medius/minimus muscles with the top leg abducting against gravity. The key for side glute activation and hypertrophy.

Proper form and technique

Keep core engaged to stabilize spine and pelvis
Legs remain straight and stacked; avoid bending the knee
Lift the leg only as high as comfortable without twisting the hips
Lead with heel and keep toes pointed forward
Keep pelvis still – no rocking or rotating
Control motion both on the way up and on the way down

 Repetition & Sets

2-3 sets of 10-15 reps per side
Can do more reps for endurance or fewer reps with added weight for strength
Rest 30-60 seconds between sets

 Muscle Engagement

Concentrate on using the side glutes to lift and lower leg
Focus on feeling the contraction in the outer hip
Initiate the lift by externally rotating the hip
Squeeze side glutes at the top of the movement
Don’t swing or use momentum – keep controlled
Slow tempo engages muscles more effectively

Focus on the mind-muscle connection with the side glutes throughout all reps for best activation and results.

Exercise 2: Clamshells

How to perform clamshells effectively

  • Lie on your side, knees bent at 90 degrees, heels together
  • Keeping feet in contact, lift top knee upward and outward
  • Open and close the knees like a clamshell
  • Keep pelvis stable, don’t rock body
  • Slow and controlled motions
  • 10-15 reps then switch sides

Variations and resistance levels

  • Beginners: no resistance
  • Add resistance band around knees or ankles
  • Hold for 2-3 seconds at the top of the motion
  • Do small, pulsing reps at the top
  • Can place an exercise ball between knees for added tension


  • Directly targets gluteus medius and minimus
  • Low impact, easy to modify for beginners
  • Builds stability in hips and outer thighs
  • Helps improve posture and alignment
  • Strengthens hips for activities like walking or climbing stairs
  • Can help reduce knee pain by strengthening the outer hips

The clamshell motion powerfully activates the side glutes. Modify as needed to keep challenging this area.

Exercise 3: Cable Hip Abduction

Description and equipment needed

  • Requires a cable machine and ankle attachment
  • Attach an ankle cuff to a low pulley cable
  • Stand sideways with the working leg closest to the machine
  • Keeping the leg straight, abduct the leg out to the side against cable resistance
  • Drive outward through the side glute

 Execution Tips:

  • Maintain an upright posture, engage the core
  • Avoid leaning or rotating the torso
  • Keep toes pointed forward
  • Use only the hip joint, don’t bend the knee
  • Control the movement going out and coming back in
  • Go through a full range of motion


  • Provides constant tension throughout the entire movement
  • Allows unilateral training to address imbalances
  • Resistance is adjustable to increase the intensity
  • Takes glutes through both concentric and eccentric motions
  • It helps build explosive strength for sports/athletics
  • Easy to modify and add variations as needed

In summary, cable abduction powerfully isolates the side glutes through a full range of motion under tension.

Exercise 4: Bulgarian Split Squats

The Bulgarian split squat is a challenging unilateral exercise that builds side glute strength.


  • Stand in front of a bench or platform, one foot elevated on the surface behind you
  • Contract front glute, lower into a split squat until the rear knee nearly touches the floor
  • Push through front heel back to standing
  • Complete reps then switch legs

 Muscles Targeted:

  • Front leg: quads, glutes, hamstrings
  • Back leg: side glute, hip adductors
  • Core stabilizers

Progression & Challenges:

  • Use moderate weight for balance and control
  • Increase weight gradually once mastered
  • Hold dumbbells for added challenge
  • Try a more explosive tempo
  • Elevate the rear foot higher to increase the range of motion
  • Slow eccentric phase for a time under tension

This exercise improves hip mobility while overloading the front and side glutes unilaterally. Increase difficulty over time.

Exercise 5: Lateral Band Walks

Band selection and placement

  • Use a mini-band or loop band placed right above the knees or ankles
  • A tighter band provides more resistance; choose based on fitness level

Movement Pattern & Tempo:

  • Take small lateral steps leading with one leg, pressing knees outward
  • Maintain tension on the band at all times
  • Keep toes facing forward, take 10-20 steps then switch direction
  • Use a slow controlled tempo focusing on leg abduction

Strengthening the side glutes

  • Pushing knees outward targets the glute medius and minimus
  • Resists legs caving inward during the walk
  • Builds endurance for stabilizing the hips and knees
  • Can increase hip and glute activation compared to normal walking
  • Helps correct muscle imbalances or weaknesses
  • Improves hip mobility and alignment

This exercise isolates the side glutes while moving through an important functional pattern. Modulate speed and band resistance to continually challenge this area.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can side glute exercises help reduce hip pain?

In many cases, strengthening the side glutes can help alleviate certain types of hip pain. Here’s how it helps, along with some tips:

  1. How it Helps Hip Pain:
  • Improves stability and alignment of the hip joint.
  • Corrects muscle imbalances like weak glute meds that lead to improper mechanics.
  • Takes pressure off the joint by building strength to support the hip.
  • Helps reduce stress on the hip labrum and socket interface.
  • Decreases load on the hip adductors which can pull on attachment points.
  • Allows for a fuller range of motion and function of the hip.
  1. Tips for Hip Discomfort:
  • Start with simple clamshells and avoid advanced exercises initially.
  • Use a small range of motion and light resistance at first.
  • Focus on perfect form and a mind-muscle connection.
  • Ice or use heat therapy on the hips after exercise.
  • Stop any exercise that aggravates the pain and substitute for others.
  • See a physical therapist if pain persists despite rehab exercises.
  • Be patient; it may take several weeks to see improvements.

With appropriate precautions and modifications, strengthening the side glutes can relieve multiple types of hip discomfort.

How often should I perform side glute exercises?

Here are some recommendations for how often to train the side glutes:

  1. Frequency & Consistency:
  • Aim for 2-3 focused side glute sessions per week.
  • Daily or every-other-day sessions are ideal for optimal development.
  • Allow at least 1 full rest day between sessions to allow muscle recovery.
  • Be consistent with the same exercises for 4+ weeks before changing the program.
  • Don’t neglect the side glutes – incorporate exercises consistently in lower body routines.
  1. Balancing with Other Exercises:
  • Combine isolated side glute moves with compound lower body lifts like squats.
  • Alternate emphasis between side glutes and larger muscle groups from session to session.
  • Spend 10-15 minutes 2-3 times a week solely focused on side glute activation.
  • Can do brief side glute burnouts after lower body workouts for extra volume.
  • Vary rep ranges from high to low reps for muscular endurance and strength.

The side glutes benefit from focused, frequent stimulation to grow and strengthen. Balance targeted sets with training other lower body muscles for optimal programming.

What’s the best diet for enhancing side glute development?

Proper nutrition can enhance the development of the side glutes. Here are some diet tips:

  1. Nutrition for Muscle Growth:
  • Eat in a slight caloric surplus to fuel muscle growth. Aim for 300-500 extra calories per day.
  • Prioritize protein intake to support muscle repair and synthesis. Aim for 0.5–1 grams of protein per day per pound of body weight.
  • Eat plenty of complex carbs to fuel workouts and recovery. Whole grains, veggies, and some fruits are great sources.
  • Healthy fats from oils, nuts, seeds, and fish are key for hormones and joint health.
  • Stay well hydrated before, during, and after exercise.
  1. Balanced Diet Suggestions:
  • Lean proteins like chicken, fish, tofu, eggs, Greek yogurt.
  • Fibrous vegetables and moderate fruits and berries.
  • Whole grain rice, oats, quinoa, potatoes.
  • Legumes, nuts, and seeds for plant protein and fats.
  • Limit processed foods, sugar, saturated fats, and sodium.

Aim for a diet of mostly whole, minimally processed foods focusing on protein, quality carbs, and healthy fats to support side glute gains. Stay hydrated and watch overall calories.

Can side glute exercises help with posture?

Yes, strengthening the side glutes can help improve posture in several ways:

  1. Side Glutes and Posture:
  • Weak glute meds allow the pelvis to tilt forward, causing hyperlordosis (excessive arch) in the lower back.
  • Tight hip flexors also tilt the pelvis forward. Strong side glutes counteract this pull.
  • Activating the side glutes helps rotate the pelvis back into a neutral alignment.
  • This takes the pressure off the lower back while re-establishing proper spinal curves.
  1. Exercises for Posture:
  • Clamshells target the side glutes in a posteriorly rotated position.
  • Bridge variations like one-leg bridges can improve lumbopelvic positioning.
  • Planks effectively engage the side glutes isometrically to stabilize the core.
  • Band-resisted side steps strengthen the glute meds in an upright posture.
  • Low cable abduction mimics natural hip motion while correcting imbalances.

In summary, making the mind-muscle connection with the side glutes assists positive postural adjustments. Targeted strengthening helps sustain good positioning.

Can I perform these exercises at home without equipment?

Yes, several effective side glute exercises can be done at home without any equipment:

  1. Equipment-Free Alternatives:
  • Bodyweight clamshells
  • Side-lying hip abduction
  • Side leg lifts
  • Curtsy lunges
  • Side-to-side squats
  • Lateral walks or shuffles
  • Donkey kicks
  • Fire hydrants
  • Resistance band side steps
  1. Tips for Success:
  • Focus on contracting the side glutes and feeling the burn
  • Go slow and controlled, avoid momentum
  • Increase difficulty with added reps or time under tension
  • Combine static holds with dynamic movements
  • Get creative – use furniture for support on single-leg moves
  • Mix in cardio bursts between sets
  • Stay hydrated and fueled properly for your workouts
  • Maintain consistency with the routine

With some creativity and dedication, the side glutes can be targeted effectively at home with no equipment for noticeable strengthening and tone.

Do squats work all 3 glute muscles?

Yes, when performed correctly with a full range of motion, squats do work all three gluteal muscles – the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus:

  • Gluteus Maximus: This large, powerful muscle is the main driver extending your hips to stand up from the squat down position. It works eccentrically to control the descent.
  • Gluteus Medius: This muscle stabilizes your pelvis and hips during the squat. It prevents the pelvis from tilting and keeps the knees tracking properly.
  • Gluteus Minimus: Along with the medius, this smaller muscle plays a key role in stabilizing the hip joint throughout the squat pattern.

To fully activate all the glutes during squats:

  • Go deep – squat to parallel or below to increase glute engagement.
  • Push knees outward – this cues glute medius and min activation.
  • Drive through heels – think about pushing the floor away to use the glutes.
  • Squeeze glutes at the top – fully extend hips and contract the glutes.

So in summary, yes squats can effectively strengthen the entire gluteal complex when done with proper depth and technique. They’re one of the best compound exercises for total glute training.

Which exercise engages the glutes the most?

There are a few exercises that maximize gluteal activation and engagement:

  • Barbell Hip Thrusts – Lifting the hips using a barbell loaded on the hips isolates the gluteus maximus through its full range of motion. Studies show very high glute activity.
  • Weighted Glute Bridges – Like hip thrusts, bridges drive glute contraction when pushing through the heels to lift the hips against gravity. Adding weight increases activation.
  • Quadruped Hip Extensions – Extending one leg back while on hands and knees provides high glute activation with an increased range of motion.
  • Kettlebell Swings – The powerful hip hinge pattern of kettlebell swings heavily utilizes the glute muscles. Explosive contraction is needed.
  • Lunges – Step-forward and reverse lunges shift loading to the front/back leg glutes. Bulgarian split squats target the rear glute intensely.
  • Deadlifts – Major glute engagement is required to perform deadlifts properly with a hip hinge and lockout.

For maximizing overall glute strength and development, prioritizing these movements with good form will provide excellent activation.

How do you hit all three glute muscles?

Here are some of the best ways to target all three glute muscles – the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus:

Gluteus Maximus:

  • Bridging exercises – Hip thrusts, glute bridges, single-leg bridges
  • Deadlifts – Conventional and Romanian deadlifts
  • Squats – Wide stance squats, box squats, sumo squats
  • Lunges – Reverse, lateral, and walking lunges

Gluteus Medius:

  • Clamshells – Banded or bodyweight clamshells
  • Side steps – Banded or bodyweight side steps
  • Lateral band walks
  • Side-lying hip abduction

Gluteus Minimus:

  • Pelvic lifts – Bridge variations with legs in adduction
  • Mini-band walks – Forward, backward, and lateral
  • Cable abduction – Low pulley cable hip abduction
  • Side plank with leg lift – Activate glutes in side plank

Combining moves like squats or deadlifts with isolation exercises like clamshells, side steps, and cable abduction is a great way to train the full gluteal complex.

Tips for Maximizing Your Side Glute Gains

Properly warming up and cooling down is important for maximizing side glute gains:

  • Warm-Up – A dynamic warm-up prepares the glutes for the work ahead. Do bodyweight moves like squat walks, leg swings, and hip circles to increase blood flow and range of motion.
  • Activate Glutes – After the general warm-up, do specific activation exercises. Clamshells, donkey kicks, and band walks “wake up” the glutes and muscle connection.
  • Cool Down – Spend 5-10 minutes allowing the glutes to recover. Light cardio and static stretching reduce post-workout muscle tightness.
  • Use Foam Roll – Rolling out the hips, glutes, IT band, and quads prevent delayed onset muscle soreness.
  • Stay Hydrated – Drink plenty of water before, during, and after workouts. Hydration helps muscles work optimally and recover.

Proper warm-up and cool-down allow you to train the side glutes effectively and minimize achy muscles. Take time to activate before and flush out after for best results.

Combining side glute exercises with overall lower body workouts

Here are some tips for effectively combining targeted side glute exercises into your overall lower body workouts:

  • Pair isolation moves like clamshells or band walks with compound lifts like squats, lunges, and deadlifts. The compounds load the glutes, and then isolate work burns them out more.
  • Start workouts with side glute activation exercises as part of your warm-up routine. This kicks the glutes into gear and turns them on before heavy lifting.
  • Alternate between sets that focus on side glutes and sets for quads, hamstrings, adductors, etc. This keeps the workout balanced.
  • Save side glute exercises until the end and perform as “finishers” after your main lifts. The pre-fatigued glutes have to fire harder.
  • Maintain good form on compound lifts – pushing knees out cues glute medius/minimus. Don’t let them take over for the bigger gluteus maximus.
  • Monitor imbalances and increase side glute volume if needed to bring them up to par with the main glutes.

Strategically programming side glute exercises will enhance lower body workout efficiency, fire up muscle imbalances, and lead to better overall development.

Rest and recovery for muscle growth

woman hotel room scaled

Getting adequate rest and recovery is crucial for maximizing muscle growth in the side glutes. Here are some tips:

  • After performing strong side glute workouts, give your muscles at least one full day off to allow them to recover and adjust.
  • Avoid doing the same exercise twice in a row for the same muscle group. The side glutes need 24-48 hours rest between sessions.
  • Sleep is essential. Aim for 7-9 hours per night to promote muscle protein synthesis. Lack of sleep hampers hypertrophy.
  • Eat in a slight caloric surplus and consume sufficient protein to provide the muscles with proper nutrients to recover and grow. Aim for 0.5–1 grams of protein per day per pound of body weight.
  • Utilize deload weeks, when you lower your total training volume by 30–50%, to give your body time to recover from intense training.
  • Get massages, use foam rollers, or try other forms of self-myofascial release to help muscles relax, restore range of motion, and prevent excessive tightness.
  • Avoid chronic cardio sessions that create excessive muscle breakdown. Weight training should be the priority for glute growth.

Proper programming, diet, and rest are all crucial components for maximizing hypertrophy results and avoiding overtraining when developing the side glutes.


Here are the key takeaways about developing the side glutes:

  • For hip stability, posture, injury prevention, and function, the gluteus medius and minimus on either side of the hip are essential.
  • Strengthening the side glutes contributes to a wider, rounder, more lifted butt shape. They enhance lower body aesthetics.
  • The side glutes are directly targeted by exercises such as clamshells, side steps with tension bands, and side-lying hip abduction.
  • Proper form, mind-muscle connection, focused technique, and progressive overload are important when training the side glutes.
  • Combining targeted isolation exercises with heavy compound lifts provides comprehensive glute training.
  • Consistency and frequency – aim for 2-3 side glute sessions per week for optimal development.
  • Good programming, nutrition, and recovery practices support muscle growth in the side glutes.
  • Patience is needed. It takes time to correct muscle imbalances and grow the side glutes to their full potential.

In summary, direct work for the side glutes is needed to strengthen these smaller muscles for performance and aesthetic benefits. A thorough approach produces superior outcomes.

Importance of incorporating side glute exercises into your fitness routine

Your exercise regimen must include particular side glute exercises. Here’s why you absolutely should not neglect directly training your gluteus medius and minimus muscles:

  • Prevents imbalances and injuries – Weak side glutes are linked to knee, hip, and back injuries. Strengthening them corrects muscle deficits.
  • Enhances athletic performance – Lateral power and hip stabilization from strong side glutes translate to improved sports capability.
  • Achieves an aesthetically rounded butt – Well-developed side glutes lift, widen and define the hips and outer thighs for an enviable shape.
  • Supports overall leg training – Activated side glutes allow you to squat and lift heavier by stabilizing your knees and pelvis.
  • Improves posture – Side glute strength helps maintain proper pelvic alignment and spinal curves by preventing anterior tilt.
  • Alleviates low back pain – Taking pressure off the lumbar spine and re-balancing the pelvis eases back discomfort.

Simply put, you cannot afford to have weak, underactive side glutes. Prioritizing this often neglected area pays huge dividends for function, performance, physique, and pain prevention. Train them directly 2-3 times per week!

The time is now to take action if you want to build a stronger, curvier, more athletic lower body. Don’t allow your side glutes to continue being underdeveloped and weak. With focused effort, you can sculpt these overlooked muscles for major functional and aesthetic gains.

Imagine feeling more stable and powerful in your hips – no more wobbling or knee caving during squats. Envision your jeans fitting better around your hips as your side glutes grow and lift your butt. Your posture will improve as your pelvis sits in a neutral alignment.

It may feel awkward at first directly isolating and activating your side glutes. But stick with it – the mind-muscle connection will click as you repeat targeted exercises like clamshells and side leg lifts. The burn and pump you’ll feel will be extremely rewarding.

Don’t wait for the “perfect” routine or program. Start right now by adding a couple of side glute moves to your next workout. Over time, watch your hip and thigh definition transform as you unlock your side glutes’ full potential. You absolutely can do this with focus and consistency. Let’s get to work building those strong, sexy side booty curves!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *