Best Exercises to Target your ‘Underbutt’ (Lower Glute Max)
What are the best glute exercises to grow the lower division of the glute max, a.k.a the underbutt?
Well, we need to choose glute isolation exercises that train the key movement patterns involved in working the glute max. This is hip extension. When we extend our hip from a hip flexed position, our lower glute max division is what is doing the bulk of the work.
We often talk about movements like abduction but this is not going to be the best strategy for the lower division. It can be effective for the glutes- yes! But, it’s not the ideal choice for the underbutt. Hip extension is the first key variable we want to look at for exercise selection. Think of hip extension through exercises like a Romanian deadlift.
Now, the next component of exercise selection is understanding the resistance profile. When we perform a movement we take a muscle through a specific range of motion. However, the tension placed on that muscle is not equal throughout the entire range the muscle is being trained. Tension will be greatest in a specific portion of the rep. This is what a resistance profile is in reference to when a muscle meets the peak tension/resistance in the movement. Resistance can be greatest when a muscle is being stretched and lengthened. Resistance can be greatest where a muscle is being shortened and contracted.
As I said previously, hip extension is the key movement to training the glute max. Although, not all exercises performing hip extension have the same resistance profile… This matters! Two very similar hip extension movements are the Romanian deadlift and a horizontal back extension (90*).
Both involve hip extension as the movements are a hip hinge. However, where the tension is greatest (the resistance profile), is not the same between the two movements. In an RDL, the tension will be greatest on the glutes at the bottom of the rep when they are being lengthened/stretched.
In a horizontal back extension, due to gravity, the resistance will be greatest at the top of the rep when the glutes are shortening. Why does this matter if they are both hip extension movements? Because with the glute max where the muscle encounters its greatest tension will impact which division of the glute max is most biased. We want to target the lower division of the glute max to build up the underbutt.
The best way to target the lower division is through hip extension yes! But also, through hip extension exercises which are most challenging when the muscle is being stretched/lengthened. This is what will most bias the lower division of the glutes. The upper division of the glute max will be best worked through exercises like hip thrusts and back extensions which encounter the greatest resistance when the muscle is shortening.
Now that this has all been explained, let’s look at what I would consider the best exercises to challenge the lower division of the glute max:
- Romanian Deadlifts
- Reverse Lunges or Walking Lunges
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Single Leg Press or Feet High and Narrow Stance Leg Press
- Trap Bar Deadlifts
What do all of these exercises have in common?
They all involve hip extension and all have a resistance profile which is most challenging on the glutes when they are in a stretch position. This is the best way to target the underbutt a.k.a., lower glute max! We can use pure hinge-focused movements like a Romanian deadlift. Or we can choose exercises that involve both hip extension and also knee extension like a squat, lunge, etc.
Both are going to be fantastic options as they do exactly what we want to do to optimise that specific area of the glute max.
Building great glutes can come from many underbutt exercises. Just because a kickback or hip thrust is not used here does not mean they are not great exercises. Just because an abduction movement is not utilised here, does not mean that is not effective for more glute medius work.
However, truly trying to bring up a weaker area in a physique. At times, will involve the need to be super specific with your exercise selection. Know why each exercise is there and what each movement will be targeting.
If the goal is to build up the underbutt, make sure you have in your training glute exercises that train both hip extension AND resistance, which will be most challenging when the glute is in that stretched position!
Good luck building your glutes!
Coach Mark Carroll