Dumbbell glute exercises are a very effective way to build a strong lower body and glutes. Here we provide a variety of dumbbell exercises and information that can be used to build a dumbbell glute workout.
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Adding dumbbells into your training if you’re looking to build strong glutes is a great way to ensure results. They will not only provide far more variations compared to bodyweight training but they will also create better results as the glutes will be presented with a greater stimulus in comparison to bodyweight training.
Mechanical tension is what drives hypertrophy (muscle growth), creating sufficient mechanical tension in the glutes without an external load can be very difficult. This makes bodyweight glute exercises far less effective at eliciting a hypertrophic effect. Thus making dumbbell glute exercise very effective as they can produce more mechanical tension and are far superior at overloading the glute muscles, having more of an impact on muscle growth.
Having strong glutes is very important when it comes to running speed, hip stability for injury mitigation and agility. All three of these elements add up to not only be important for everyday functions but also for athletic development, making glute work a key part of any strength and conditioning regime.
Let’s break down the different types of movements that can be used when using dumbbells to grow the glutes.
This is the most specific movement pattern that works the gluts and the most popularised, but that doesn’t mean that other movement patterns arn’t a key part of building strong glutes.
Feet positioning is a key part of getting hips dominant exercises correct when doing this common dumbbell glute. If foot positioning is incorrect it can result in the hamstrings doing more work than the glutes, if the exercise is performed to create adaptation in the glutes then performing the exercise in this manner will take away from that potential adaptation to the body.
It’s also important to press the back into the floor when doing hip dominant exercises in a glute dumbbell workout. This will position the pelvis in such a way that the glutes can be much easier activated. This pressing the lower back into the floor should be done every rep not just for the first rep.
The hinge pattern is one of the three movement patterns that promote muscle growth and strength adaptations in the glutes. Have a look at our full library of hinge movements here .
Finally the squat, both bilateral and unilateral, movement pattern is very effective at building strong glutes.
Squat exercises isolate the glute less specifically but the glutes play a key role in the squatting motion. The dumbbell goblet squat is a good example of a knee flexion (squatting) movement that requires a great deal of glute activation. It also requires a strong, stable core and midline. Have a look at our full library of squat movements here .
The key aspect to building strong glutes is moving through these movement patterns consistently with good technique. Each movement pattern should be performed 6-12 sets throughout the week depending on the training age of the individual. These working sets should be challenging and close to failure (4-1 reps from failure). This will ensure great results and muscular growth of the glute muscles.
If you want to read more about how volume effects muscle growth have a read through the study referenced below by Brad Jon Schoenfeld, Jozo Grgic & James Krieger (1). For more practical training volume advice specifically related to body building, have a read through RP Strengths volume landmark guidelines .
The glutes are a group of three muscles that are behind the pelvis. These consist of
This is the largest of the three muscles and it creates that shape of the glute muscle. The gluteus maximus lies on top of the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus hence why it makes the shape of what we refer to as the glutes or buttocks. The gluteus maximus extends and externally rotates the hip joint.
The glute medius is underneath the gluteus maximus and helps to support the hip joint. It is often under utilised and worked on during rehabilitation programmes. Other than stabilizing the hip, it’s primary movement is hip adduction. It’s also very important in walking as it stabilizing you whilst you are stood on one leg.
The glute medius is underneath the glute medius and acts as a flexor, abductor and rotator. It also acts as a stabilizer of the hip.
Yes. They are a very effective tool for building the glutes.
It really depends on a number of factors. Your training age, your current strength levels etc.
Yes, dumbbell squats do build glutes, if done at the correct volume and intensity.
No they are not, the barbell hip thrust is probably the most effective glute exercise as it can be effectively loaded to create high levels of mechanical tension.
Complete 3 rounds
The dumbbell squat in lunge is one of the best exercises for beginners to develop their glute muscles using a dumbbell. As you stay in a fixed position throughout the movement it is easy to maintain balance throughout the entire exercise whereas a dumbbell reverse lunge will require more balance. This is great for beginners who want to grow their glutes by accumulating high repetitions, the last thing you want to be thinking about is balance when trying to create large amounts of fatigue. This should be done for high repetitions and relatively light weights if you’re attempting to grow your glute muscles using this exercise. One consideration if using this exercise to grow the glutes is having caution when touching the knee to the floor, as you get more and more fatigued it will be tempting to accelerate the eccentric phase of this movement, keep control through the fatigue, if this is to hard, add a tempo to the movement and reduce the amount of repetitions performed.
The dumbbell hip thrust is one of the most direct and simple exercises that can be used to develop the glute muscles. Just because it's simple doesn't mean it is not effective. One key aspect of this exercise to remember is that it does usually require high amounts of repetitions to be effective. Unlike other exercises where repetitions traditionally stop at between 12-15 or max 20, this can be performed for a very high number of repetitions due to the way it only isolated the glute muscle which has large amounts of work capacity. It also doesn't create any systemic fatigue unlike say an exercise like a deadlift or a back squat, meaning it has a little detriment to perform this exercise for a high number of repetitions. Another important factor for this exercise when trying to grow the glutes specifically is foot positioning, if your feet re to far from your hips it will put more emphasis on the hamstrings rather than the glutes, so much sure you're getting maximal glute activation and not putting emphasis on the hamstrings.
The single leg DB foot elevated hip thrust is a slightly more advanced exercise for people looking to grow their glutes. Although it is more advanced it doesn't by any means restrict it from being performed by beginners. However some beginners may struggle with the mobility required as well as base-level hamstring strength to perform this exercise correctly, some beginners will be capable to perform this exercise while others won't. It's very important that the hips are not to far away from the hips otherwise this exercise will turn into a hamstring exercise and a very challenging one also. Another important aspect of this movement is the lower back positioning, the lower back needs to be pressed into the floor every repetition and the glute squeezed at the top. The hands should always be on the dumbbell as a guide to ensure the weight doesn't move throughout the exercise.
The rear foot elevated dumbbell squat in lunge is one of the most challenging lunge variations in the gym and should only be used by those who are very comfortable in the lunge already. An exercise like this should never be uncomfortable for flexibility as it requires a lot of control and if there is a loss of control it will result in an injury. If you have never done this exercise but feel confident in the lunge position then it may be an exercise you consider using when developing the glutes, make sure you start with lighter weights that you use in the traditional lunge to allow you to ease into the exercise. For those that have already used this exercise, try adding a tempo onto the eccentric phase to make it extra challenging and increase the stimulus placed onto the glutes. A three-second tempo on the eccentric will really allow you to hit the glutes and create a large stimulus. Do not attempt a tempo if you're just starting to use this exercise.
The DB lateral step-up is a great single-leg exercise that has multiple uses including the growth of the glutes. It can be very hard to perform with correct form, this can even be seen in our video where our model (who is in excellent shape and has great technique) uses the momentum of the foot on the ground to get on top of the box. To prevent this, start with just the heel on the floor, this will make the exercise very very challenging, so ensure you're using weights you feel confident with. Not only will this exercise allow you to create growth in the glutes but also improve hip stability and strength, which will encourage long-term consistent training. If you’re looking to get every drop of adaptation out of this exercise, make sure your moving slowly towards the floor and use the leg on the box to control the eccentric phase as much as possible.
The DB b-stance squat is a great single-leg exercise that can be performed with a dumbbell to grow the glute muscles. This exercise needs to be performed with precision and control, the maximal amount of weight needs to be put on the front foot and the back foot needs to be on it's tiptoes and just acting as a guide. This can be very challenging as it requires you to intentionally make the exercise more challenging whilst you are accumulating fatigue. Before attempting this exercise make sure you are in the right frame of mind as it is very challenging. To make it slightly "easier" to put emphasis on the front leg doing the work, you may want to consider using a plate under the front foot to ensure your emphasis is in the right place. Another way to ensure control of this exercise is to add a small tempo, 2 seconds eccentric and 1-second pause at the bottom will be a great way to slow the exercise time down and focus on technique.
The dumbbell crush grip away from body straight leg deadlift is one of the best exercises when you find yourself with only a single light dumbbell and wanting to perform a challenging workout. The away-from-body aspect will enable you to put in more tension on the lower body and create more adaptation than say a traditional straight-leg deadlift. This should only be done by those who have good hinge technique already as it will put a lot of pressure on this position. One thing people often struggle with in this exercise is the ability to keep the weight mid foot and end up falling forward, try and keep the weight evenly spread throughout the foot whilst the dumbbell moves away from the body.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.