The best exercises for your bum!

A wonderful review of the scientific literature was carried out looking at the research between 1966-2010 on glut activation in certain exercises.

Let’s just recap first, where are the gluteal muscles? Well, they are your bum muscles. Gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the whole body and the one that you think about when you shake your booty. It has attachments on the hip, the sacrum and the coccyx. It inserts onto the IT band and the inner thigh muscles. It’s role is to extend the thigh backwards, such as rising up from a squat.

Gluteus medius is higher up and sometimes I find people confuse this with their lower back because it does attach there. It helps move the thigh out to the side and rotate the thigh.





Poor posture often leads these muscles weak as can too much sitting! So building in some glut activation exercises is important. If you come to one of our pilates classes then you will be working those muscles in a shoulder bridge, an oyster, a squat or swimming for example.

Back to the research. They found the following exercises have the best activation of glut max:

Forward step up
Single leg deadlift
Single leg squat
Wall squat
4 point kneel with opposite arm and leg lift


The glut med exercises giving the most muscle contraction were:

Side bridge to neutral
Single leg squat
Single leg deadlift
Side lying hip addiction (leg lift)
Wall squat


This is not to say other exercises are redundant as sometimes we need to start with lower level exercises and build up. But it does make interesting reading and highlights the role of squats and bridges 🙂 2 of my fav exercises.

If you like to multitask then exercises that worked both gluteus medium and gluteus maximus at once:

Single leg squat, single leg deadlift, wall squat and forward step-up.


Here are some good starter exercises to try out:

Step ups, use your bottom step at home and step up and down.

<a href="">WorldArtsMe</a> Swiss ball or pilates soft ball squat against the wall with the ball behind your back.

Shoulder bridge making sure you squeeze and activate the bum muscles.

Shoulder Bridge End


Squat & Scapular Squeeze: a perfect combo for working the upper and lower body.

Squats Rock. Period. One of the best exercises if you are pregnant or postnatal. They strengthen your legs, bum, thighs, work your pelvic floor and your core. Just to add in a bit extra I’ve used a resisitance band to work the upper back too. A fabulous all-rounder of an exercise.

If you aren’t pregnant/postnatal this is ALSO a fabulous exercise. Try it out and let me know how you find it.

Squats – I’m a fan. How to perfect your technique.

Squats are back people and they rock. I’ve always been a fan of the squat, now that I’ve learnt even more about the body I’m an even bigger fan…. and it’s not just me, squats are everywhere I look. Why?

1. They work your pelvic floor without you having to think about switching it on… this happens when you push up to standing from your squat.

2.  They’re simple and safe to perform throughout pregnancy, post-natally and beyond. 

3.  They work your thighs and glutes, perfect for toning those areas and for helping with weak gluts which is a frequent issues I see in people.

4. They are functional, so they train you for everyday activities. I squat when picking things up, and putting the washing in the machine for example.

Pilates with Priya: how to perfect your squat
Priya squats whilst pregnant.


Start in neutral with your feet hip distance apart, in parallel. Check your pelvis is in neutral, your shoulders blades are down in your back and your core is engaged.

Now sink your weight back, letting your hips go back and feeling the weight go right into your heels so your gluts engage. You may feel you are about to topple over so try it out near a chair or windowsill to start with, preferably with a mirror nearby.


Now in that squatting position check in a mirror that:

  • your back is not arched
  • you are not leaning too far forward through your upper body
  • your knees should not be further forward than your toes, if you can keep them over your ankles
  • your heels are down
  • you have bent from your hips and not your back
  • your core is still engaged

If you are pregnant the added bonus is… They prepare your body for labour (particularly useful if you’re wanting an active birth where you’re encouraged to stay active and move around during labour).

Now get squatting!