10 Best Dumbbell Exercises For Glutes of Steel (2024)

A well-developed pair of glutes not only looks great in your favorite pair of pants, but it also has several important benefits including significantly better athletic performance and reduced lower back pain. No other muscle group has been immortalized in rap songs and music videos like the glutes.We all remember the famous line..."Oh my God Becky, look at her butt.”

Strengthening the glutes always needs to be a priority and there are several ways to go about it. Squats, lunges, and deadlift variations are the best exercises to make your glutes pop.And a great tool to help with this is dumbbells because of their versatility and ease of use. Here we will go into glute anatomy and function, the benefits of strong glutes, the 10 best dumbbell glute exercises, and dumbbell leg and glute workouts.

Without further ado let’s build those glutes!

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Glute Anatomy & Functions

The glutes are a group of three superficial hip muscles posterior to the pelvis. They are the...

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Gluteus medius
  • Gluteus minimus

The gluteus maximus originates on the posterior of the sacrum and coccyx (lower lumbar spine), the gluteal surface of the ilium, and inserts high on the femur. The primary function of the glute max is hip extension and hyper-extension.

The gluteus medius originates on the gluteal surface of the ilium (pelvis) and inserts on the anterior aspect of the greater trochanter of the femur. The gluteus medius is deep to the gluteus maximus and its main functions are hip abduction and stabilizing the hip joint.

The gluteus minimus also originates on the gluteal surface of the ilium and originates on the anterior greater trochanter of the femur. It stabilizes the hip joint and is abduction and internal rotation of the leg.

There is, of course, more to the glutes than just hip extension. To fully develop the glutes, andto strengthen one of the strongest muscles in your body,you must train all the other movements powered by the glutes. Here are the main movements of the three gluteal muscles.

  • Hip adduction: Gluteus maximus
  • Hip abduction: Gluteus medius, gluteus minimus
  • Hip internal rotation: Gluteus medius, gluteus minimus
  • Hip extension: Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius
  • Hip hyperextension: Gluteus maximus

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Benefits Of Training The Glutes

Besides looking great and the obvious sex appeal, adding strength and mass to the glutes has several important benefits, including:

1. Better Knee Stability and Ankle Mobility

Training the glutes improves glute strength and hip mobility. This helps knee stability and ankle mobility because they will not be required to pick up any shortfalls in hip mobility because you have this covered by training the glutes.

2. Reduced Lower Back Pain and Better Hip Mobility

Improving glute strength and hip mobility by doing the exercises below will help improveposture and lumbar and core stability. If the low back has to pick up any shortfalls because of limited hip mobility this may lead to lower back pain in the future.

3. Improved Balance And Agility

Being able to stop and change direction requires lower body and glute strength. This is needed when you shift your weight one way or another or when you’re rapidly changing direction. By strengthening and adding mass to your glutes you’re improving your ability to change direction at speed.

4. Better Running Performance

Strength training the glutes helps you run faster and more efficiently by improving your neuromuscular coordination, power and improves your running efficiency because of better movement coordination and stride efficiency(study).


There are a few ways you will hold the dumbbells to increase the training effect, particularly on the squats and lunges, except for the sumo squats (which will have adifferent grip than the first one below).

  • At Your Sides: Holding two dumbbells by your side will allow you to use the most weight because the weight is close to the working muscle. Holding one dumbbell by your side will provide an offset that challenges your balance and core stability more.
  • Goblet: Holding the dumbbell Goblet style gives your more anterior core action and is slightly more difficult because the weight is further from your legs.
  • Front Racked: Holding two dumbbells in the front rack position (by your anterior deltoid) is more difficult than the Goblet style because you’re using more weight, it’s further away from your legs and the upper back is engaged to keep you upright.Holding one dumbbell in the front rack position will challenge your balance, core and glutes, and glute stabilizers more.

All in all, there is no right or wrong way to hold the dumbbells. Use the position that challenges you and fits in line with your fitness goals.

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There aremany great dumbbell exercises to develop the glutes and here we have narrowed it down to the 10 best exercises to give you glutes of steel.

1. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

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This is the granddaddy of all split squats. Because one foot is elevated in the Bulgarian split squat, your glutes and quads are challenged through a larger range of motion than most other exercises on this list.

And being unilateral this williron out strength imbalances between sides and improve your leg drive. If you were to do one accessory exercise to improve your squats and deadlift performance, this would be it. This exercise is so effective we even included it in our How To Grow Glutes Guide.

How to do Bulgarian split squats:

  1. Hold one or two dumbbells in your preferred position and keep your chest up and shoulders down.
  2. Place your back foot on an elevated surface and fine your ideal front foot position.
  3. Drop your back knee towards the floor and squat with your front leg while maintaining a slight forward lean.
  4. Push your front foot through the floor to return to the starting position and reset and repeat.

Form tips:Placing a weight plate by your front foot will shorten the time it takes to set up on the other leg.

Best rep range:8-16 reps.

Progression:Barbell elevated split squat.

Regression:Split squat with both feet on the ground.

2. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

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The dumbbell Romanian deadlift (RDL) is similar to the barbell variation but (generally) with less weight load and increased grip strength demands. Yes, the barbell variation allows for a heavier load, but a dumbbelldeadlift is without a doubt a legitimate option.

Because the dumbbell never touches the ground this exercise gives you constant tension in the glute and hamstring muscles. Moreover, you can alter the angles by where you position the dumbbells (i.e. directly in front or slightly to the sides of your legs), making it a better option to isolate areas.

Thismove is so awesome that it even has a spot in our list of best glute exercises for women!

How to do Dumbbell RDLs:

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart and grip two dumbbells with an overhand grip in front of your quads.
  2. Keeping your chest up and shoulders down, hip hinge until the dumbbells are below your knees. Keep your spine in neutral.
  3. Pause for a second and engage your hamstrings and glutes to pull you back to a standing position. Be sure to really squeeze your glutes at the top.
  4. Reset and repeat for reps.

Form tips:Keep the dumbbells close to your leg at all times.

Best rep range:8-16.

Progression:Single leg deadlift.

Regression:Hip thrusts.

Related: RDL Exercise Guide

3. Dumbbell Single-Leg RDL

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The Single-leg RDL is one of the harder hinge variations simply due to balance demands, but when you nail it, it provides you many benefits. These benefits include reducing muscle imbalances, hamstring strains, better balance, and glute hypertrophy. This is best performed at the start with bodyweight and when you master it then add dumbbells.

How to do Single Leg RDLs:

  1. Hold one or two dumbbells at arm’s length either in front or besides your quads.
  2. Pick one foot up off the floor, balance on one foot, and soften your working knee.
  3. Keeping your chest up and shoulders down, hinge back trying, and don’t rotate the working hip upwards.
  4. Hinge until your belly button is parallel with the floor, feeling a stretch in your hamstring.
  5. Stabilize and return to the starting position and repeat.

Form tips: Really grip the floor with your feet for better balance and if you need, place your foot down each rep. If you have trouble balancing, you can put your back foot up on a slight platform and perform the deadlift (like an elevated staggered stance deadlift) or you can hold onto something for balance, but we recommend working on the balance for the full benefits of the single-leg RDL.

Best rep range:6-12 reps per side.

Progression:None (besides heavier dumbbells, of course).

Regression:Romanian deadlift.

4. Dumbbell Weighted Step Up

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Dumbbell step-up is one of the simplest single-leg exercises and really hits the glutes through a large range of motion. In fact, it makes the list of our best glute exercises due to its serious glute activation.

The major advantage of the step-up is that it can be performed by all ability levels. You can adjust the height of the box to make it more or less difficult and you can load this with one or two dumbbells depending on your goals. This exercise can develop explosive leg power too depending on the speed of your reps, which helps you jump higher and run faster. Finally, because of minimal eccentric muscle contractions, step-ups are easier on your knees.

How to Do Weighted Step Ups:

  1. Stand facing a box holding one or two dumbbells at arm’s length.
  2. Place one foot on the box and step up, pushing through your front foot until your knee is fully extended
  3. Slowly step down to the floor with the non-working leg and then reset and repeat.

Form tips:Perform without shoes for more of a balance challenge.

Best rep range:6-15 reps.

Progression:Increase the height of the box and balance on one leg when you’ve finished the movement.You can also try side step ups, to hit your glutes from a different angle.

Regression:Reduce the height of the box and perform with bodyweight only.

5. Dumbbell Goblet Squat

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The goblet squat is one of the most popular dumbbell leg exercises there is, and for good reason. Goblet squats are not only great for building the glutes like all squat variations, but it helps improve hip mobility and squat form too. With the weight being anteriorly loaded it keeps your body more upright, allowing you to get deeper into the squat. This greater range of motion puts a bigger stretch in the glutes, which means more muscle-building potential. Plus, the hip mobility benefits will help with your barbell squats and deadlifts.

How to do Goblet Squats:

  1. Set your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell under your chin with your elbows tucked in.
  2. Keeping your chest up and shoulders down squat down keeping until your elbows are on the inside of your knees.
  3. Pause for a second and drive your feet through the floor and stand straight up.
  4. Reset and repeat for reps.

Form tip:Keep your chest up, shoulders down and upper back engaged to keep a neutral spine.

Best rep range:8 to 20.

Progression:Front squat.

Regression:Sumo squat.

6. Dumbbell Sumo Squat

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Sumo squat is one of the easiest squat variations because the weight is close to the muscles being worked. The wider stance of the sumo squat helps to engage your glutes more and being easier allows you to perform more reps for better glute building potential. This can be performed with one dumbbell (easier) or with two dumbbells depending on how much load is needed for your goals.

How to do Dumbbell Sumo Squats:

  1. Hold one dumbbell lengthways or two dumbbells are arm’s length.
  2. Get your feet ins a wider than hip-width stance and turn both feet out.
  3. Keeping your chest up and shoulders down, squat down until the dumbbell(s) touch the ground.
  4. Pause for a second and drive your feet through the floor and stand up straight.
  5. Reset and repeat for reps.

Form tip:Squeeze your glues at the end of the movement for more glute activation.

Best rep range:8 to 20.

Progression:Goblet squat.

Regression:Bodyweightsumo stance squat.

Related: Best Dumbbell Squat Variations

7. Dumbbell Donkey Kicks

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Donkey kicks is a popular glute exercise in nearly every exercise video you watch and classes alike, and this is because it works. Although holding a dumbbell between your calf and hamstring can be uncomfortable, this exercise directly targets the glutes and hamstrings and will have you feeling the burn. Because of the lighter load, this is best performed for higher reps, aiming for a real glute pump. We love this move so much that you'll also see it in our best butt lifting exercises - hello, rounded, shapely backside!

How to do dumbbell Donkey Kicks:

  1. Get on all fours with your hands underneath your shoulders and knees under your hip.
  2. Wedge a light dumbbell in one leg holding it tight on the inside of your knee.
  3. Take the working knee slightly off the ground and raise your bent leg back until you feel a contraction in your glute and hamstring.
  4. Pause for a second and return to starting position.
  5. Do all reps on one side before switching to the other.

Form tip:There is a temptation to hyperextend the lower back for more ROM. Don’t do this.

Best rep range:15-20.


Regression: Bodyweight donkey kicks or banded donkey kicks.

Related: Glute Kickback Variations

8. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

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The dumbbell hip thrust has the disadvantage of load but for some lifters, the dumbbell will feel more comfortable than the barbell. Nevertheless, this variation will still build strength and mass in your glutes when performed for higher repetitions and maximum glute contraction.

And as it's far more likely that you own a set of dumbbells, rather than a barbell, it's also a great variation to include in at home glutes workouts.

Hip thrust variations like this are great for building lockout strength in your glutes for squats and deadlifts.

How to do dumbbell Hip Thrusts:

  1. Sit with your back up against the edge of a bench that’s parallel to you, holding a dumbbell across your pelvis with both hands.
  2. With the dumbbell secure, drive your feet and back towards the bench.
  3. Your shoulder blades need to be on the bench and upper body and hips in a straight line.
  4. Keep your upper body steady when you’re lowering the glutes toward the ground and then extend your glutes till lockout and reset and repeat.

Form tips:Make sure your legs form a 90-degree angle to properly train the glutes.Use a little wider of a stance for more glute activation, and be sure to squeeze the heck out of your glutes at the top and hold.

Best rep range:8 to 15 reps

Progression:Single-leg hip thrust.

Regression:Dumbbell hip extensions (glute bridges) on the floor.

Related: Hip Thrust Exercise Guide

9. Dumbbell Side Lunge

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Side lunges help strengthen your glutes in a different plane of motion and involve the gluteus medius and minimus more than the other variation on this list. This lunge variation strengthens and mobilizes your adductors (groin) muscles which improve your overall hip mobility and help to prevent groin strains. And it improves your ability to go side to side, improving your overall agility.It should be noted that while this exercise improves hip mobility, it will require it in the first place so if you have poor hip mobility, work on that first.

How to do dumbbell Side Lunge:

  1. Stand tall with your feet together, holding one or two dumbbells at arm’s length or in the front rack position.
  2. With both toes pointed forward and take a big step to the side with your left leg.
  3. Hinge your left hip back, keep your right leg straight with toes pointed forward, and feel a stretch in your right adductor muscle.
  4. Push your left foot into the ground and return to feet together position.
  5. Reset and repeat for reps.

Form tips:Only hinge into your working hip as much your opposite leg allows. No need to strain a muscle here.

Best rep range:8-12 reps.

Progression:Single leg deadlift.

Regression:Mini band lateral walk.

10. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge

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Reverse lunges are easier on your knees than other lunge variations on this list because stepping back makes it a glute-dominant exercise. This variation is great if and when you’re suffering from knee pain. Because this is glute dominant it helps to improve hip mobility which has direct carry over to your squats and deadlifts. As with most single-leg variations, reverse lunges help to decrease muscle imbalances between sides.

How to do dumbbell Reverse Lunge:

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart holding one or two dumbbells in the position of your choice.
  2. Then take a small or large step back with your left foot and lower your hips until your right quad is parallel with the floor.
  3. Keeping your chest up and shoulders down with a slight forward torso lean.
  4. Pause and then push through your right foot and return to the starting position.
  5. You can either alternate sides or do all reps on one side and then switch.

Form tip:Taking a larger step back will increase the tension on your glutes.

Best rep range:8 to 15 on both sides.

Progression:Side lunge.


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Dumbbell Leg and Glute Workout

Pulling from the exercises above, we can create a complete lower body dumbbell workout. By complete we mean it hits all the muscles of your lower body - gluteal muscles, thighs, and calves.

Hereare two sample workouts that you can rotate between...


  1. Dumbbell Goblet Squat: 4 sets x 8-12 reps
  2. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat: 3 sets x 8-12 reps each side
  3. Dumbbell Side Lunge: 3 sets x 8-12 reps each side
  4. Dumbbell Hip Thrust: 4 sets x 10-15 reps
  5. Dumbbell RDL: 3 sets x 10-15 reps


  1. Dumbbell Sumo Squat: 4 sets x 8-12 reps
  2. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge: 3 sets x 8-12 reps each side
  3. Dumbbell Donkey Kicks: 3 sets x 15-20 reps each side
  4. Dumbbell Weighted Step Ups: 3 sets x 10-12 reps each side
  5. Dumbbell Single Leg RDL: 3 sets x 10-12 reps each side

Want other glute exercises with different equipment?

  • Best Gluteus Maximus Exercises
  • Best Gluteus Medius Exercises
  • Best Gluteus Minimus Exercises
  • Best Glute Isolation Exercises

Looking for more great lower body exercises? Check out the 8 Best Glute And Hamstring Exercises of All Time!

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    10 Best Dumbbell Exercises For Glutes of Steel (2024)


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