15 Simple Upper Glute Exercises for A Strong Postpartum Booty

As an OBGYN and fitness professional, I consider glute exercises a vital component of women’s health!

In this post, I’ll cover 15 simple exercises to target the upper glute and a workout routine you can do anywhere.

Let’s get started.

cover image for 15 upper glute exercises

What Are The Upper Glutes?

The muscle at the top of your buttocks is called the gluteus medius, commonly known as the upper glute or the glute shelf.

The gluteus medius is a stabilizer muscle, meaning it helps keep your pelvis level as you walk.

It also helps rotate your leg outward (external rotation). (source)

Targeted exercise focusing on the upper glutes is necessary after pregnancy and delivery.

Many of my patients need to rebuild glute strength to restore muscle balance, and take pressure off the pelvic floor and lower back.

Photo showing muscles of the buttocks

The Formula To Grow Your Glute Medius Postpartum

There are a few key things to remember when trying to gain lean muscle mass, especially in your glutes.

Building your glutes postpartum requires three things:

  • A sufficient number of calories: Aim to consume at least 13 calories per pound of body weight. Without calories, your body cannot recover.
  • Adequate protein:¬†Get at least 0.5 grams of protein per pound from sources like chicken, salmon, greek yogurt, tofu, and legumes. Protein is necessary for muscle development.
  • Twice weekly resistance training: You need to train your glutes on a regular basis to see growth.

As an OBGYN, I always ensure my patients are getting adequate protein intake to help retain muscle mass and promote postpartum recovery.

How To Isolate These Muscles Effectively

The gluteus medius aids in hip abduction, meaning it moves your leg away from the midline of your body.

Any exercise that abducts your hip will train the top part of your glute.

brittany abducting her right leg

The cool thing is that you can do these exercises from a:

  • standing position,
  • side-lying position,
  • quadruped position,
  • supine position (on your back), or
  • prone position (on your belly).

Here are 15 examples of the best glute shelf exercises (confirmed by a large systematic review and meta-analysis of several studies).

My 15 All-Star Upper Glute Exercises For Moms

Okay, now let’s go over my favorite upper glute exercises.

They are divided into weighted, body weight, and banded.

Exercises With Dumbbells

1. Standing Weighted Hip Abductions

brittany performing a standing weighted hip abduction

Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand on an elevated platform with your feet together and your hand against your hip or a wall. (The platform is helpful to let your working leg move in a greater range of motion when bringing it back down).
  • With the other hand, hold a dumbbell, kettlebell, or weighted plate against your leg.
  • Now, abduct the leg with the dumbbell against it while keeping the other leg straight with your foot planted on the ground.
  • Hold the top position for 1 second.
  • Bring your leg back to the center and repeat.
  • Be sure to train both sides equally.

2. Dumbbell Lateral Lunge

brittany performing dumbbell lateral lunges

Here’s how to do it:

  • Hold two dumbbells or free weights at your side, and stand up straight with your feet together.
  • Now step out with one floor laterally, keeping your toes pointing forward.
  • Squat down towards the side that you stepped out to.
  • Keep your other leg straight with your foot planted on the ground. (This exercise will also target the inner thighs)
  • Stand back up with your feet together and repeat.
  • If balancing is an issue, hold onto a chair instead of the dumbbells, or try using a weighted vest.

3. Elevated Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts

Romanian deadlifts are a great compound exercise that trains many muscle groups in the lower body.

brittany performing an elevated dumbbell romanian deadlift

Here’s how to do it:

  • Grab two dumbbells and hold them down at your sides.
  • Now, stand on a platform with your feet hip-width apart. (The platform is helpful if you have the flexibility to go past your toes)
  • Begin bending at the hips while keeping a neutral spine, and try to push your butt back as if to touch an imaginary wall behind you.
  • You can have a slight knee bend, but your arms should be straight down at your sides.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.

4. Weighted Hip Thrust

brittany performing a weighted hip thrust

Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit in front of a bench with your upper back in contact with the bench.
  • Keep both knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  • Put a dumbbell, barbell, or weighted plate across your hips.
  • Now lift your hips by pressing down your heels and squeezing your glutes.
  • Your upper back will naturally lay flat on the bench at the top.
  • Hold this position for one second.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.

Next are the bodyweight exercises.

Bodyweight Exercises To Target The Glute Shelf (No Equipment)

5. Side-lying Hip Raise

brittany performing a side lying hip raise

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie down on your side and rest on one elbow/forearm.
  • Bend both of your knees.
  • Raise your hips off the floor while simultaneously abducting the top leg.
  • Keep the bottom knee in contact with the floor and keep both knees bent.
  • Return your hips to the floor slowly.
  • Repeat the movement and make sure to train both sides equally.

6. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats (AKA Bulgarian Split Squats)

brittany performing rear foot elevated split squats

Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand in front of a platform or a short chair and face away from it.
  • Place your back foot on the platform and balance yourself on the front foot.
  • Put your hands on your hips and stand up tall.
  • Squat down by bending the front knee and go as low as you comfortably can.
  • Stand up slowly and repeat.
  • Be sure to train both sides equally.

*Note: If the Bulgarian split squat is too challenging, you can do reverse lunges or walking lunges instead.

7. Prone Pulse Ups

brittany performing prone pulse ups

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie face down on a bench with your hips right at the edge.
  • Make a diamond position with your legs so that the soles of your feet are touching each other.
  • Keeping your core and glutes engaged, pulse your feet up while keeping them in contact.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.

8. Fire Hydrant Kicks

brittany performing fire hydrant kicks

Here’s how to do it:

  • Get into a quadruped position on your hands and knees.
  • Externally rotate and abduct one of your hips while keeping your back flat.
  •  Now, kick that leg out to the side while pointing your toes forward.
  • Bend your knee and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat and make sure to train the other side.
  • *You can also perform donkey kicks by driving your heel up toward the ceiling after the fire hydrant kick.

9. One-legged Glute Bridges 

brittany performing one legged glute bridges

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on the floor with both knees bent and feet flat.
  • Lift one leg straight out in front of you.
  • Now lift your hips by pressing down into your heels and squeezing your glutes.
  • Hold this position for one second.
  • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
  • Make sure to train the other side.

*Note: If you feel this exercise mostly in your hamstrings, start with two legs until you feel more comfortable with glute activation.

10. Single-leg Box Squat

brittany performing single leg box squat

Here’s how to do it:

  • Grab a chair or box and stand about 12 inches in front of it with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing out.
  • Lift one leg out in front of you and balance yourself on one leg.
  • Bend at the hips and knees with your working leg and squat down until your butt makes contact with the box or chair.
  • Now return to the starting position and repeat.
  • Be sure to train the opposite leg.

*If this exercise is too challenging, start with a higher chair, so that your thigh is higher than parallel.

Now let’s discuss exercises you can do to grow your shelf using bands.

Take Your Glute Workout Up a Notch with Resistance Bands

Using resistance bands is a great way to work the upper glutes from home! Here are some of my favorite banded exercises you do anywhere.

11. Quadruped Banded Kickbacks


Here’s how to do it:

  • Get into a quadruped position, on your hands and knees, with your back as flat as possible.
  • Wrap one end of the closed-loop band on your right hand.
  • Place the sole of your left foot inside the other loop.
  • From the quadruped position, kick back the left leg, so it is straight behind you.
  • You will need to play around with band placement to ensure that it provides enough resistance.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat and make sure to train the opposite leg.

12. Banded Seated Hip Abductions

brittany performing a banded-seat-abductions in pregnancy

Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair or bench with a mini-band wrapped around your knees.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor, with your heels touching.
  • Place your hands on your hips for support and balance.
  •  From here, abduct your legs while keeping your feet in contact.
  • Go through the repetitions slowly.

13. Clam Shells

brittany doing clam shells with band

Here’s how to do it:

  • Get into a side-lying position, resting on your forearm with both knees bent with a mini band wrapped around your knees. (I am using a light band for this exercise).
  •  From here, externally rotate your top leg as high as possible while keeping your feet in contact.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat and make sure to train the other leg.

14. Lateral Banded Walks


Here’s how to do it:

  • Place a medium-strength hip resistance band around your legs at the level of your knees.
  • Next, assume a comfortable stance with your knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart, and toes pointing forward.
  • Keep your core engaged and your chest up.
  • From here, step out to the right with your right foot.
  • Then step out to the right with your left foot.
  • Continue walking laterally for the desired number of repetitions.
  • Finish all the reps on one side before moving on to the next side to keep your glutes in constant tension!

15. Prone Banded Hip Abductions

brittany doing prone banded hip abductions

Here’s how to do it:

  • Grab a band and wrap it around your ankles.
  • Lie face down on a bench with your legs hanging off the edge.
  • Using a quick pace, separate your heels and bring them back together.
  • Squeeze your glute muscles with each repetition.

Now that you know the best glute exercises, let’s go over two glute workouts to grow your booty ( at home or the gym!)

Sculpt Your Glutes in The Gym with This 20 Minute Workout

Workout A

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift312
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats312/each side
Weighted Hip Abduction312/ each side

Workout B

Weighted Hip Thrust . 312
Fire Hydrant Kicks312/ each side
Prone Pulse Ups315

Be sure to take at least 1 to 2 rest days between each workout.

A No-Equipment Upper Glute Workout You Can Do Anywhere

Workout A

Side-Lying Hip Raise 312/ each side
Prone Banded Hip Abductions315
Fire Hydrant Kicks312/ each side

Workout B

Single-Leg Box Squat 38/ each side
Lateral Band Walk312/ each side
Prone Pulse Ups315

Be sure to take at least 1 to 2 rest days between each workout.

Based on the women I have worked with, staying dedicated to glute exercises for at least 6 weeks can lead to significant muscle growth!

If you like these workouts, you can check out my complete 6 week leg and booty guide to get a comprehensive butt and leg workout you can do from home!


Final words on Upper Glute Training

You now have a comprehensive guide to growing your upper glutes.

The key exercises, include weighted hip thrusts, fire hydrant kicks, and banded clam shells target the muscles that round out your booty.

Follow one of the included upper glute workout routines for 8-12 weeks, alongside a proper nutrition plan, to see significant growth!

What’s Next?

Other Related Questions

How do you target all three glutes?

To target all three glute muscles, you need to perform exercises that target the specific action of each muscle.

The best exercises for overall glute engagement include:

  • Squats
  • Hip Thrusts
  • Lunges

If you want more specifics, here is what each of the three gluteal muscles does:

Gluteus maximus

The glute max is the largest muscle of the three, and it’s responsible for hip extension (straightening your hips from a bent position).

In addition, the gluteus maximus helps maintain your erect posture and laterally rotates and abducts your thigh.

Gluteus medius

The gluteus medius aids in hip abduction and helps to stabilize your pelvis when you walk or run.

This muscle also helps flex and extend the hip and medially and laterally rotate the hip.

Gluteus minimus

The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the three, and its function is similar to the gluteus medius.

Photo showing muscles of the buttocks

I go over specific exercises for targeting all three muscles in my post on building strong glutes.

Now, when it comes to exercises that work all three butt muscles, squats are definitely one of the best and my personal favorite.

It is the king of lower body movements!

There are many different types of squats that you can do, so you should find a squat variation that works best for you.

How long does it take to grow these muscles?

If you are dedicated to following a good training and nutrition program, you can expect to see glute growth in about 12 weeks.

You may see results sooner if you have exceptional genetics or are already lean.

Just remember to be patient and consistent with your training and nutrition. Growing any muscle is not a quick fix!

Why is my bum flat at the top?

Your bum may be flat at the top due to one of the following:

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Genetics
  • Hormones
  • Not eating enough calories or the right foods
  • Stress
  • Age
  • Pregnancy or postpartum
  • Weak glutes

Many of my postpartum patients notice a flatness or muscle loss at the top of the glute from pregnancy.

Are my glutes weak?

Your glutes are weak if:

  • Your lower back arches when you extend your hips
  •  You have low back pain and hip or knee pain when using heavy weights (source)
  • You notice that one hip is higher than the other

Also, you likely have weak glutes if you cannot obtain a full range of motion bridge position.


In other words, there should be a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.

But all hope is not lost!

If your glutes are weak, you can do exercises that target them directly.

Targeting the glutes is critical for alignment and injury prevention. I often see knee and lower back issues in patients with muscle imbalances or glute weakness.

Get Four Free Workouts To Help Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor & Heal Your Mommy Tummy!


Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN physician, a NASM certified trainer, and a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist. She holds a Master of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.

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  1. Elzanie A, Borger J. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gluteus Maximus Muscle. [Updated 2023 Apr 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538193/
  3. Buckthorpe M, Stride M, Villa FD. ASSESSING AND TREATING GLUTEUS MAXIMUS WEAKNESS – A CLINICAL COMMENTARY. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2019 Jul;14(4):655-669. PMID: 31440415; PMCID: PMC6670060.