In Pilates, there are many butt exercises that lift, tone, and sculpt your backside, but they do so much more. As with most Pilates exercises, these affect more than just one part of the body. You will also be working on the rest of your core strength,1 including the backs of your legs, abdominal muscles, and back.
The best thing about these butt exercises is that you can do them at home. There’s no need for a reformer or other equipment; it’s just you and your mat. They’re fantastic additions to your home workout routine and most are perfect for beginners.
Glutes and Your Core
Your glutes—the butt muscles—are a key piece of the “powerhouse” in Pilates. It is made up of the muscles in your abs, lower back, pelvic floor, and hips, along with your butt. Each of these muscles supports one another and, even if a Pilates movement targets one in particular, it affects the others.2
The beauty of keeping Pilates movements slow and deliberate is that you are also working smaller muscles that are often neglected. If you concentrate on controlling your form, you will also maximize the benefits.
Additions to Your Routine
It is not recommended to do all of these exercises in a row. Instead, these are options that you can add to your regular, balanced routine. In Pilates, it’s important to work the muscles in context with the effort you need for the exercise, so don’t over-do your glutes.1
The pelvic curl is a classic warm-up exercise in Pilates. It stretches the spine and abdominal muscles while engaging the glutes and hamstrings.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Exhale: Do a pelvic tilt by engaging the abdominal muscles to pull your navel down toward your spine.
- Inhale: Press down through your heels to curl the tailbone up. The hips raise, then the lower spine, and finally the middle spine.
- Come up to the base of the shoulder blades with a straight line from hip to shoulder.
- Hold the position for five full breaths digging your heels down into the mat. Inhale one last time.
- Exhale: Use abdominal control to roll the spine back down to the floor. Begin with the upper back and work your way down.
- Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Heal beats may be the ultimate butt exercise in Pilates. It directly targets your glutes. It also works and strengthens all of your back muscles as well as your hamstrings and tones the inner thighs.
- Lie on your stomach with your forehead on your hands. Your legs are together, straight underneath you.
- Lift your abdominal muscles away from the mat. Feel your spine lengthen.
- Turn your legs out very slightly at the hip. Draw the inner thighs together and keep the heels as tight as you can.
- Keep your abs lifted as you draw the legs up in the air off the mat. Lengthen them as straight as you can.
- Quickly beat your heels together and apart.
- Do 20 beats. Rest and repeat.
Swimming is both fun and challenging. It’s an exercise you might need to work on, but over time, it will become easier to coordinate your limb movements.3 This one will target your glutes but it also stretches and works all of your core muscles.
- Lie on your stomach with the legs straight and together.
- Keeping your shoulders away from your ears, stretch your arms straight overhead.
- Pull your abs in so that you lift your navel up and away from the floor.
- Lift everything up in the air. The head, arms, legs, and abs all lift up into a lengthened reaching position.
- Paddle the right arm up and the left leg up. Then switch.
- Begin alternating right arm/left leg, then left arm/right leg, pumping up and down in vigorous pulses.
- Breathe in for five counts and out for five counts. Perform a total of 30 counts or three full breath cycles.
Leg Kick Back
The leg kick back is also called the glute kickback and its primary target is the glutes. It’s also a great hamstring stretch. If you don’t have an exercise band, you can do the movement without it.
- Start on all fours with the middle of the exercise band around the right instep. Hold the ends under your hands.
- Lift your abdominal muscles.
- Keep your right knee bent and extend your right hip so your thigh is parallel to the floor.
- While maintaining the height of the knee, slowly kick your heel back until the leg is straight.
- Bend your heel back toward your butt. Don’t let the knee fall.
- Repeat 8 to 10 times, alternating legs.
While the other exercises are good for beginners, the double leg kick is an intermediate level exercise. It’s best to start small, so you might want to work up to this one.
The double leg kick looks simple but it’s very powerful. It helps tone your butt muscles from both ends and is an excellent back extension exercise.4
- Lie face down with your head to one side and legs together.
- Clasp your hands together behind your back, as high as possible.
- Inhale: Pull your abs in, lifting your belly away from the mat.
- Exhale: Legs together, bend both knees and kick your heels toward your butt in a three pulse kick.
- Inhale: Keep your hands clasped and extend your arms behind you, arcing your upper body high off the mat. At the same time, stretch your legs out straight, just above the mat
- Exhale: Return to the starting position with your head turned to the opposite side.
- Repeat three full sets, alternating your head right to left.
It’s a good idea to counter stretch from the front with a spine stretch or single straight leg stretch.