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Step ups or hip thrusts? Which is better for building a booty?

Ya'll already know I love to salute the glutes. A physical therapist that I follow on instagram recently posted that step ups might actually be more effective for building glutes than hip thrusts... citing this systematic review that does, indeed, say "the step-up exercise and its variations present the highest levels of GMax activation.."

This is pretty mind blowing - and exciting - to me, because I LOVE step ups, AND I think they have a lot more functional benefit than hip thrusts do. Why?

  • They are mirroring a very common movement pattern: stepping up. Walking up stairs. Hiking. Stepping up a curb. This is a super common thing we do every day.

  • They are a single-leg exercise, which improves overall stability and coordination.

  • They can easily be intensified without a ton of extra equipment, like barbells or weights.

Here's the thing, though...to make step ups effective for the GLUTES, you've gotta do a few things.

  • It's not REALLY the same as walking up stairs, unless you're also super intentional about how you go up the stairs. Most people walk up stairs on the balls of their feet. For step ups, you need to drive through the heel of the lifted leg.

  • Pick a step that challenges the range of motion of your hip joint - so you might try picking a step height that's more like a bench or chair, rather than a literal stair step.

  • *THINK* about the back of your leg. Creating a mind-muscle connection can make a huge difference.


If you're going to give them a go, I might recommend setting up by a wall or support so you can hold if you feel unstable. Then do 10 repetitions on each side and see how it feels. You can play with different box heights, and different angles of your torso to see what is most effective in your body.

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