4 Effective Exercises for a Beach-Ready Butt

By , Zayna Gold, Pilates and Barre Expert
Whether you are curvy, muscular, or slim, chances are you want to have a swimsuit-ready backside, especially in the area where the buttocks meet the upper thigh (called the gluteal fold).  Strengthening this area can help lift, tighten and tone our bottoms.  But despite endless repetitions and time spent on toning this area, many women aren’t getting the results they want.  Why is it so difficult to strengthen and tone this key area? And what are the secrets to getting a strong and sculpted bottom?
For better or worse, I have become an expert on getting toned buttocks— mainly because my own backside needs constant toning to stay lifted and firm.  Many fitness experts and trainers seem to be born with airbrushed bodies.  On the other hand, I tell my clients I probably had cellulite when I was in diapers!  Even at my thinnest throughout my teens and 20’s my thighs were riddled with stubborn cellulite no matter how many butt toning exercises I did.  And believe me; I did every single one I could find every day.  It wasn’t until I started working out smarter, not harder that I finally saw the results.  Now I use Pilates and (ballet) barre techniques and each year, I get a little more lifted and toned.  You can’t ask for better than that, right?  I love sharing these tightening and toning techniques with other women—and hearing about your results!
First, let’s identify the three muscles that lie under our gluteal fold area.  First is the gluteus maximus. Just as the name suggests, this is the largest of the buttock muscles and is responsible for giving our bottoms curves and shape.  Next are the hamstring muscles of the back thigh.  This muscle group runs from the back of our knee all the way up to our buttocks.  Hamstring muscles form the “smile” of our gluteal fold area and they are powerful leg movers.  Finally the external rotators form the “outer smile” of our gluteal fold. 
These three muscles are all involved in hip extension (bringing the leg behind the body).  Every effective buttock and gluteal fold exercise involves hip extension so you will notice that in each buttock toner you are bringing the leg behind the torso.  This sounds so simple, yet getting fantastic results doesn't always come easy. It requires using precise and controlled movements with proper form throughout each repetition. Plus, it helps to increase resistance by varying body position and using our own body weight make these muscles work harder.  The exercises below use these techniques to truly fatigue these strong and powerful muscles.

 Kneeling Straight-Leg Kicks
Works outer thigh and butt
Begin on all fours position with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Keep a long straight back with abdominals pulled in and up. Bring right leg straight behind you with foot pointed and leg turned out from the hip, lifting leg as high as possible without changing your hip or back position. 
Hold top position for 5 counts keeping glutes and abdominals contracting throughout. Release and lower knee back down to the floor to complete one rep. Complete 10 reps then switch sides.
Kneeling Bent-Knee Crossover
Works from inner to outer gluteal fold and entire butt
Start in an all fours position with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.  Keep a long straight back with abdominals pulled in and up. Lift right thigh behind you to hip height with foot pointed, knee bent and facing the floor.  Engage the inner gluteal fold and bend/lower right knee across left knee. Keep pelvis and back stable by co contracting the abdominals and glutes.
Tighten glutes and outer thigh to return leg to starting position to complete one rep. Complete 10 reps then switch sides.

Standing Straight-Leg Lift
Works gluteal fold, outer hip and outer thigh

 Start standing with hands on a wall in front of you at chest height, elbows slightly bent, both feet directly under the hips, and abdominals pulled in and up.  Bring right leg straight back with toes on floor and leg turned out. Contract right glutes and lift the back of the right knee as high as possible without changing your pelvic or back position. 
Hold top position for 5 counts, keeping glutes and abdominals contracting throughout. Release contraction and lower right leg to the floor to complete one rep.  Complete 10 reps then switch sides. 
Standing Bent-Knee Pulse
Works glutes and upper portion of back thigh

Start standing with hands on a wall in front of you at chest height, elbows slightly bent, both feet directly under the hips, and abdominals pulled in and up. Bring right thigh slightly behind left leg, knee bent and leg in parallel. Contract glutes and bring leg behind torso several inches without changing your pelvic or back position.
Hold position for 5 counts keeping glutes and abdominals contracting throughout. Return right leg to starting position to complete one rep.  Complete 10 reps then switch sides.   
4 Guidelines to Performing These Exercises for Maximum Results
Less Is More!
For the average adult, the range of movement for hip extension is 0 to 15 degrees. This is a very small range of motion, so it requires small and precise movements.  Your flexibility when bringing your leg behind your body is limited by the ligaments and muscles (hip flexors) in the front of your hip and also by the hip joint itself.  Once you achieve your own greatest range of hip extension, you can only bring your leg further back by arching your low back or anteriorly tilting your pelvis.  This can cause low back strain and tightness in the hips. 
Boost the Resistance
The "All Fours" (quadruped) position creates more resistance for the buttocks and hamstrings than standing does. Gravity wants to push the leg towards the floor so your muscles are working against gravity to lift the leg towards the ceiling.  This is just like adding resistance on a weight machine. This makes your muscles work harder which gives you better results.
Feel The Burn
You will know you are doing these exercises properly when you “feel the burn” by the third repetition.  Using small and precise movements and maintaining a neutral pelvic position will immediately make your buttocks start working overtime.  If you don’t feel the intensity, go back to the starting position and check your form.  Quality wins over quantity!  The pain is worth it when you have a bottom you can be proud of.
Use Proper Form for Every Hip Extension
  1. Keep pelvis and spine neutral.  Use your inner core to support a long and straight torso.
  2. Think about stretching the front hip as you begin to bring your working leg behind you a few inches. Stop when you have achieved the greatest range that your hip flexibility allows.
  3. Next, use your hamstrings to move the leg a few more inches back. Focus on lifting your leg from the back of the knee to focus on hamstring engagement. Keep your lower back and pelvis quiet and calm.
  4. Finally, lift lower abdominals in and up and lengthen your upper back straight and tall.  Your back muscles will work to keep your spine straight and lower back will be free from stress and strain.
  5. Keep balancing the muscles in the front of your body (abdominals) and the muscles in the back of your body (back, buttocks and hamstrings.)  This will isolate the gluteal fold area and start lifting your buttocks quickly for your bikini ready body.
Try this routine every other day, up to four times per week!

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PIZZA5152 5/17/2021
Thanks good info Report
PATRICIAANN46 10/18/2020
Thank You for a great article............. Report
EVILCECIL 8/2/2020
Good article. Thanks. Report
Great Article! Report
Great article! Thanks! Report
These exercises look great! Report
Great Article Report
Great exercises Report
Thank you for the guidelines. When I had my "own" knees prior to bi-lateral total knee replacement, I did these exercises. However, I can no longer kneel. I will do the standing exercises and hope for good results. Report
I do the one where you get down on the floor on your knees, but thank you for these other great tips! Report
Gonna try these moves today :) Report
I'll be trying these next Report
A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
A successful woman is one who can find such a man.
- Lana Turner Report
Awesome! Report
It's time to get in shape Report
I used to do wall sits for 5 minutes about 12 years ago. Report
Great exercises. Well illustrated. Report
I just want to say that although these exercises look great for building strength, which is a worthy goal, the implication that anyone should hold off on wearing a swimsuit and getting in the water just because they don't look perfect is really obnoxious! If they make a swimsuit in your size, and that's most women, then just go swimming! Don't wait for anything. Swimming is a great way to get healthier. If you can't swim well, or you're somewhere with rapids, or super-cold water, you should wear a life vest. Report

Good tips Report
Good article. I like the standing exercises because you can do them anywhere Report
I just did the moves described here against the wall since I had a few minutes alone in the office.

I have no interest in wearing a bikini or how I look in a bathing suit so I overlooked the whole "swimsuit" thing, that doesn't bother me. I love any strength exercise no matter how it's packaged.

Great blog! Report
We do these moves in some of my barre classes, and I have definitely noticed an improvement in just a month's time going semi-regularly! Report
Good ideas, I already do some of these from Nicole Nichols workouts. Report
Let's see some moves for men next, shall we...? Report
Great moves! Report
I love the idea of stronger muscles to support knees, posture, & back. Great exercises! I'm just disappointed in Spark for in any way perpetuating an idea that women should "look better in a swimsuit". I haven't seen an article yet aimed at guys looking better in their trunks! ;-) Report
I'm willing to try these, because they look safe to do, unlike the Piloxing exercises in another blog. And the tip about helping knee joints is a great one, since a "bikini worthy" butt is *not* a goal of mine. And frankly, I kind of resent the implication that we should be obsessing about how we look in swimsuits: not an empowering concept, and at odds with the Summer of Acceptance theme raised in a recent Spark article. Report
It would be nice if these were in the exercise search so that we can log them. Report
I agree that these exercises will help your knees. I am 57 years old, and have weighed well over 200 lbs. for most of the past 25 years (not anymore thanks to SP!). I have been doing these types of exercise and other lower body such as squats and lunges for the past 6-9 months. I have no knee, hip, or back pain. The stronger your muscles are, the more they support the joints! Report
Thank you Climbers Rock. I was wondering why I would care what my butt looks like in a swim suit. But I do care about my knees. I'll try some of these. Report
This is very helpful. Thank you, Report
Great to get to do these. Report
My four sons look at women's bottoms and consider whether each woman has had children. They tell me that a woman's bottom drops when she has children. Could these exercises prevent or reverse that bottom drop?
These are very effective exercises but they are not as easy as they look! Report
Dear EthylMerz, I can answer your question. It helps your knees. I have bone on bone in my knees. All the physical therapists I went to told me to stengthen my quads. When I went to my new doctor of physical therapy doc for my first eval he told me my leg muscles were strong, but my buttocks was weak. He has me doing excercises to strength my buttock not not my quads to help my knees. Do them now before you have knee issues. Report
And how can these be done by people with disabilities? Report
Going to do this workout this morning. Report
ooo. I'm going to try t hese right away. Saggy Butt is my worst feature Report
What purpose does having a "perfect butt" give a gal, really? True Love or what?? Report
Going to do this tomorrow. Report
Thanks for the tips! Report
My favorite butt work out is a kettle bell class! Everything is working your legs and hips Report
gonna get to it now! Report
I can feel the burn, I hope I'm getting the form right. Report
good to know Report
Thank you for the guidelines and explanations! This will be part of today's activities. Report
I can't wait to start this workout! Report