Best booty exercise revealed by science

The front squat, with barbell.

Want the most effective exercise for a great booty? Science has discovered it. Wendi Mauro reports.

Any woman who’s working on getting a more shapely behind will know the list of exercises that are meant to deliver one: the deadlift, various squat variations, barbell hip thrusts, lunges, step ups, and so on. And that’s not to mention booty bands!

The  main goal is to grow the gluteus maximus muscle to make it pop out for a curvier bottom, and every trainer tends to have a favourite combination of exercises to do the job.

In a perfect world, in which you have plenty of time in the gym, you would make sure you trained not just the gluteus maximus but the other two glutes and nearby muscles for the ultimate booty. However, if you want to maximise your time in the gym, the gluteus is your muscle, and we can now reveal the bang-for-buck exercise that activates it the most: the front squat, below.

US researchers decided to see which of the booty holy trinity of the squat, deadlift and front squat would result in the greatest activation of motor units in the gluteus maximus. They recruited 13 fit women for the study, and put them through two days of testing.

For each of the deadlift, back and front squats, the women did a one repetition maximum (1RM) estimation, which is an estimate of the maximum weight someone can lift based on an estimation, then an actual 1RM, and three repetitions at 75% 1RM load.

Afterwards the women were given a surface electromyography (EMG) procedure to assess the activity of the gluteus muscles and the motor neurone cells that control them (an EMG uses tiny devices called electrodes to transmit or detect electrical signals).

After analyzing the data and applying statistical modelling, the researchers discovered that the three exercises differed in their ability to activate the gluteus muscle.

The exercise that resulted in greater muscle activity in the gluteus maximus was the front squat (Mean = 94%, Statistical Deviation = 15%) compared to the deadlift (M = 72%, SD = 16%; p < .05).

The researchers said no significant differences were observed between the different lifts in nearby vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris, and rectus femoris muscles.

Their conclusion: ““Strength and conditioning specialists and trainers can utilise these findings by prescribing the front squat to recruit greater motor units of the gluteus maximus.”

Note that the front squat is equally effective with dumbbells or kettlebells (below), which may make it easier because you’re carrying not carrying a heavy barbell weight on your collarbones.