Top 10 Exercises to Sculpt Your Upper Glutes & Boost Your Booty Shape

The allure of perfectly sculpted buttocks is undeniable. Central to this is the development of the upper glutes, colloquially termed the “shelf.” This region plays a pivotal role in achieving that desired fuller and rounder look. But what exactly are upper glute exercises?

If you’ve been noticing that your upper glutes are less pronounced compared to your lower ones, you’ve come to the right place. Dive in as we unveil 10 of the top exercises specifically tailored for enhancing and shaping those upper glutes.

Understanding the Upper Glute Muscle: The Gluteus Medius

Upper Glute Muscle

The buttocks, an essential part of our body’s anatomy, are made up of three primary muscles. One of these is the gluteus medius, responsible for shaping the upper glute region. Together with its counterparts, the gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus, they form the robust structure of the buttocks.

Functionally, the gluteus medius is a powerhouse. It’s pivotal in ensuring pelvic stability during various activities, from simple walking to more vigorous jogging. Acting as the dominant hip abductor, it provides the necessary force when you need to lift your leg sideways. Additionally, one of its lesser-known roles is in the medial rotation of the hip, where it aids in drawing the thigh inward. Understanding the anatomy and functionality of the gluteus medius can guide targeted exercises for a well-defined upper glute region

How Is an Upper Glute Workout Beneficial

An integral component of our physique, the buttocks comprise a trio of primary muscles. Among them, the gluteus medius stands out, playing a pivotal role in sculpting the upper glute contour. This muscle, along with its counterparts, sets the foundation of our buttock region.

Key Functions and Roles:

  • Pelvic Stability: Ensures our pelvis remains stable during various activities, from casual walks to more intense runs.
  • Hip Abduction: Acts as the primary hip abductor, springing into action especially when there’s a need to lift the leg laterally.
  • Medial Rotation: A lesser-known but vital role is its contribution to the medial rotation of the hip, which assists in the inward movement of the thigh.

To achieve a well-defined upper glute region, understanding the intricate anatomy and diverse roles of the gluteus medius is essential.

How to Get a Shelf on the Upper Glutes

Sumo Squat

Achieving a pronounced “shelf” on your upper glutes is a blend of targeted exercises, nutrition, and consistent dedication. Here’s how you can accentuate that curve:

1. Engage in Targeted Upper Glute Exercises:

  • The anatomy of glutes means they’re always working. Yet, to sculpt them, the right exercises are vital.
  • Opt for varied upper glute exercises. Incorporate resistance using bands, equipment, or even your body weight.
  • The key lies in focusing on the specific muscles. Utilize manageable weights for optimal growth.

2. Ensure Caloric Intake Aligns with Your Goals:

  • While focusing on fitness is paramount, those seeking to enhance their upper glutes need to ensure they’re consuming adequate calories.
  • Having the right amount of energy is vital for muscle growth.

3. Prioritize Protein Consumption:

  • Beyond just calories, the type of nutrition is crucial.
  • Protein is fundamental for muscle growth and repair.
  • Aim for 0.7 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily.
  • Incorporate diverse protein sources in your diet, including poultry, fish, meat, eggs, cheese, and supplements.

By adhering to this integrated approach, you’ll be on the path to crafting that desired upper glute shelf in no time.

10 Best upper glute workouts

While every individual’s body may respond differently, certain workouts have proven to be effective for many in sculpting this particular region. As you embark on this fitness journey, remember that consistency is key. Moreover, ensure you’re complementing your exercise regimen with a balanced diet and ample rest. Now, let’s delve into the top workouts tailored for enhancing that upper glute curve.

1. Clam Shell: Sculpting the Upper Glutes

Clam Shell exercise

Starting Position:

  • Lie down on your right side, ensuring your body is in a straight line.
  • Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, and stack them on top of each other.
  • Support your head with your right arm while placing your left hand on your pelvis to ensure it remains stable throughout the exercise.


  • Keeping your heels touching, lift your left knee as high as possible without moving your pelvis or lower back.
  • Gradually lower the knee back to the starting position, ensuring you maintain tension in the glutes.


  • Aim for two sets, each comprising 25 repetitions.


  • The Clam Shell exercise is a great way to target the gluteus medius, effectively enhancing the upper glute area. Always remember to maintain proper form for optimal results.

2. Curtsy Squat: A Graceful Glute Toner

Curtsy Squat

The Curtsy Squat isn’t just elegant by name; it’s a graceful move that targets the glutes while also engaging the thighs and core. Here’s how you can master it:


  1. Positioning: Begin by setting your shoulders back and activating your core, ensuring a tall and confident stance.
  2. Squat Movement: Gently drop your right foot diagonally behind your left, while keeping your front foot squarely aligned. As you descend, ensure your front thigh achieves a parallel alignment with the floor, creating a 90-degree bend at the knee.
  3. Repetitions: After reaching the desired depth, rise back to the starting position. Complete this motion for three rounds, with 15 repetitions on each side to ensure balanced muscle engagement.

This exercise is an excellent addition to any lower body workout, targeting the side glutes and providing an extra challenge compared to the standard squat.

3. Sumo Squat: A Powerful Move for the Upper Glutes

Sumo Squat

Starting Position:

  • Stand upright with your feet positioned wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Point your toes slightly outwards, resembling a sumo wrestler’s stance.


  • Begin by bending your knees and pushing your hips back, descending into a squat.
  • Ensure your knees align over your toes, moving diagonally outward as you lower.
  • Press through the heels, engaging your glutes and thighs, to return to the starting position.


  • Aim to complete three sets, each consisting of 12–15 reps.


  • The Sumo Squat places a unique emphasis on the inner thighs and upper glutes. Ensure your chest remains lifted and your back stays straight throughout the motion to maintain proper form.

4. Lateral Lunge: Targeting the Side Glutes

Lateral Lunge

Starting Position:

  • Stand tall with a neutral spine and your feet set hip-width apart.


  • Initiate the movement by taking a large step out to the side with your left leg.
  • As you step, bend the left knee, ensuring it aligns over the toes, while keeping the right leg extended.
  • There will be a slight forward lean from the waist, but make sure to keep the chest lifted and avoid rounding the back.
  • Push off the ground using the left foot to propel yourself back to the starting position.


  • Aim for 12 to 15 repetitions on the left side before switching to the right.


  • The Lateral Lunge is excellent for activating the side glute muscles. To increase intensity, consider holding dumbbells at your sides.

5. Banded Walk: Activate and Sculpt the Glutes

35 3120456 Lateral Band Walk GIF 4886c968ffc64cbeb8cd71aa92d551af


  • Securely position a resistance band around your shins. Ensure it offers a comfortable level of resistance yet challenges the muscles during the exercise.

Starting Position:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart. Engage your core and lower yourself into a half-squat position, as if preparing to sit in a chair. Keep your chest up and back straight.


  • Step to the side using your right foot, keeping it parallel to the left foot.
  • Follow through with the left foot, returning to the initial hip-width stance.
  • The resistance band should remain taut throughout the movement.


  • Aim for 15 side steps in one direction, then reverse and perform 15 steps in the opposite direction.
  • Complete three sets.


  • The Banded Walk is particularly effective for targeting the gluteus medius, which is responsible for stabilizing the pelvis. Ensure you maintain the squat position throughout to maximize glute engagement.

6. Dumbbell Front Squat: Enhance Glute Activation

Dumbbell Front Squat

Equipment Needed:

  • Two dumbbells of suitable weight for your strength level.

Starting Position:

  • Stand with feet roughly hip-width apart, ensuring a stable stance.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and elevate them to shoulder height. Keep the elbows slightly bent and the dumbbells facing each other.


  • Initiate the squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Ensure your chest remains upright, and your knees track over your toes.
  • Squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground, or go deeper if flexibility allows.
  • Push through your heels and return to the starting position, fully extending your legs.


  • Aim to complete 12-15 reps, ensuring proper form throughout.
  • Perform three sets.


  • The Dumbbell Front Squat not only targets the glutes but also activates the quads and core. Ensure you maintain an upright torso throughout the movement to protect your spine and maximize muscle engagement.

7. Romanian Deadlift: Strengthen Your Glutes and Hamstrings

Romanian Deadlift

Equipment Needed:

  • Pair of dumbbells suitable for your strength level.

Starting Position:

  • Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart and toes slightly pointed outward.
  • Grasp the dumbbells with palms facing towards your thighs, arms fully extended.


  • Engage your core and draw your shoulders back, ensuring a straight back throughout the movement.
  • Inhale as you hinge at your hips, pushing them backward while maintaining a slight bend in your knees.
  • Lower the dumbbells smoothly along the front of your legs, stopping when they reach below the mid-shin or as far as flexibility allows.
  • Exhale as you engage your glutes and hamstrings to push the hips forward, returning to the upright position. The dumbbells should naturally return to their starting position in front of your thighs.


  • Perform the movement in a controlled manner, focusing on the stretch in your hamstrings and the engagement of your glutes as you stand up.
  • Aim for repetitions that maintain good form throughout.


  • The Romanian Deadlift is a great compound exercise that primarily targets the hamstrings and glutes, but it also engages the lower back and core. Ensure a neutral spine and avoid rounding your back during the movement.

8. Sumo Deadlift: Targeting the Inner Thighs and Glutes

Sumo Deadlift

Equipment Needed:

  • A barbell or weight suitable for your strength level.

Starting Position:

  • Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed outwards at a slight angle.
  • Ensure that your knees are aligned with the direction of your toes.
  • The weight or barbell should be centered between your legs.


  • Begin by pushing your hips back and bending your knees to lower your body towards the weight.
  • With a neutral spine, grasp the weight with both hands, ensuring a firm grip.
  • Engage your core and glutes, then push through your heels to stand upright, lifting the weight as you do so.
  • Ensure your chest remains lifted and shoulders are pulled back at the top of the movement.


  • Slowly reverse the movement by pushing your hips back and bending your knees to lower the weight back to its starting position.


  • Maintain a controlled pace throughout, focusing on engaging the glutes and inner thighs during the lift.
  • Aim for three sets of 15 repetitions, ensuring to maintain proper form throughout.


  • The Sumo Deadlift is particularly effective in targeting the inner thighs and glutes, with the wide stance and outward foot position emphasizing these muscle groups. Make sure to keep your back straight and chest lifted throughout the movement to avoid strain or injury.

9. Single Leg Hip Thrust: Targeting the Glutes and Hamstrings

Single Leg Hip Thrust

Equipment Needed:

  • A flat bench, couch, or any elevated sturdy platform.

Starting Position:

  • Begin by sitting in front of the bench with the edge touching the bottom of your shoulder blades.
  • Both feet should be flat on the ground, hip-width apart.
  • Keep your arms straight out or rested on the bench for balance.


  • Engage your core and glutes.
  • Lift one leg off the ground, pointing it straight out in front of you.
  • Press through the heel of your planted foot, raising your hips towards the ceiling. Aim to create a straight line from your shoulders to your knee at the top of the movement.
  • Ensure that your glutes are tight and engaged at the topmost position. This will maximize the contraction and benefits of the exercise.


  • With control, lower your hips back to the starting position, ensuring not to rest fully on the ground before the next rep.


  • This movement might be challenging, especially for beginners. The goal is to maintain a controlled motion and keep the working glute engaged.
  • Aim for two sets of 25 repetitions for each leg. Ensure to rest briefly between sets to avoid excessive fatigue.


  • The Single Leg Hip Thrust is an excellent exercise for targeting the glutes and hamstrings. The unilateral nature of this exercise ensures each glute gets an isolated workout, helping address any muscle imbalances. Make sure to keep your foot close enough to the bench, so your knee is at a 90-degree angle when you thrust upwards. This helps in avoiding any undue stress on the knee joint.

10. Prone Pulse Ups: A Glute-Engaging Powerhouse

Prone Pulse Ups

Essential Equipment:

  • A sturdy bench or similar elevated platform.

Initial Setup:

  • Lay face down, positioning your hips right at the edge of the bench.
  • Join your legs in a unique diamond shape, ensuring the soles of your feet make contact with one another.


  • Engage your core and tighten your glutes for stability.
  • Elevate your feet skywards, ensuring they remain in contact with each other. Imagine squeezing an imaginary ball between your heels.

Recovery Movement:

  • With control, lower your feet back down to the starting position, ensuring a fluid movement without jerking.

Repetitive Guidance:

  • As with any exercise, the effectiveness lies in controlled, deliberate movements rather than speed.
  • Work on repeating the motion for a set number of repetitions and sets, ensuring adequate rest in between to maximize muscle recovery.


  • The Prone Pulse Ups are specifically designed to target and engage the glutes intensely. The diamond shape leg position adds an extra layer of resistance, ensuring optimal muscle engagement. It’s an excellent addition to any glute-focused workout regime. Remember to breathe evenly throughout the exercise and maintain a tight core for best results.


Final Thoughts on Upper Glute Exercises

These ten upper glute exercises are tailored for those aiming for a toned and shapely backside. Each offers unique benefits, making it crucial to incorporate them consistently into your fitness regimen.

Many of these can seamlessly integrate into your leg workout routines. For instance, begin with foundational leg exercises like squats, then transition to targeted moves like clam shells. Remember, while the focus is on the upper glutes, some exercises also activate the quadriceps and hamstrings, ensuring balanced muscle growth.

The key to success? Consistency. Rotate through these exercises, maintain regularity, and watch your upper glutes transform.

Medical Disclaimer: The exercises and recommendations provided in this article are for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert.

Kelly Han

Dr. Kelly Han is a seasoned medical professional with a passion for holistic wellness and integrative health. Based in San Francisco, her expertise spans across various domains of health, from fitness and skincare to oral health and weight management. Understanding the intricate connections between different aspects of health, Dr. Han believes in a comprehensive approach. Whether it's the latest skincare regimen, effective weight loss strategies, or understanding hormonal imbalances, she's dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based advice and actionable insights on a wide array of health topics. Through her articles, Dr. Han aims to empower individuals to take charge of their well-being, offering them the knowledge and tools they need to lead healthier, more vibrant lives. Join her in exploring the multifaceted world of health, beauty, and wellness.

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