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Does Hiking Build Glutes?

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

eing known as both the outdoors guy and an athletic trainer I often get asked if hiking builds your glutes?

While it isn't exclusive, it won't be surprising that many of the people who ask this are women. The boys seem to be concerned with chest and biceps while the ladies want that booty popping. But aesthetics aside everyone should work for a strong set of glutes as they are the engine of almost all athletic performance.

Hiking is one of the fastest-growing activities as it ticks off a lot of boxes. Aside from being easy to get into, it is an exercise out in nature, lets you see cool sites and for those who are into Instagram, it lets you get some great shots.

As with most fitness-related questions, the answer of whether hiking builds glutes is a bit complicated. First, we have to understand what are the glutes and how muscles grow.

What are the Glutes?

The muscles of your butt that we refer to as the glutes are actually three muscles. The gluteus maximus which is the biggest muscle in the body, the gluteus medius which a smaller muscle on the side of the hip, and the gluteus minimus which is a little muscle under the glute Maximus.

The role of these muscles is to extend the hip, spread your legs apart, and externally rotate your thigh. The glute medius also acts to stabilize the knee from caving in. As such, these are the movement patterns you will need to do to train the glutes.

Hiking, especially going uphill has a strong component of hip extension and uneven terrain requires stabilization so it makes sense why people ask if hiking builds the glutes.

How muscle is built

Hypertrophy is the fancy science word for muscle growth. The gym bros will refer to this as getting jacked or buff. Either way, to grow muscle you have to create enough of a stimulus that you have a positive protein synthesis.

Muscles are constantly growing (Anabolism) and breaking down (Catabolism). To get bigger muscles we have to have the anabolism outweigh the catabolism.

Training regularly with enough intensity, volume, and frequency combined with adequate protein and calories will lead to bigger muscles. The body is pretty lazy so you have to force it to grow new muscle so don't believe any programs that say this is easy.

While not all the factors that go into muscle growth are understood, science has identified three main mechanisms of muscle growth.

Mechanical Tension

This is loading the muscle with progressively heavier weights or resistance. The tension created by moving these weights will elicit muscle growth if there is enough volume. Hiking won't have very high mechanical tension since you are going to be going for longer periods of time.

Muscle Damage

When the muscles are worked hard enough micro-tears occur. When these tears heal it leads to increase muscle size.

Metabolic Stress

When you do exercise that leads to burning in the muscles and a pump you are causing metabolic stress. Studies have shown that lightweights done for high reps at or near muscular failure (going until you can't do another rep) will lead to a similar level of growth compared to heavier weights done for moderate reps.

Does hiking build Glutes?

The answer is yes but only up to a point. Hiking will build glutes for untrained people especially hiking uphill. But you will quickly become too fit for it to be enough to lead to further muscle growth. To get the most glute building out of a hike you need to focus on engaging the glutes by consciously contracting them each step.

To continue to get muscle-building stimulus from hiking you will need to find ways to increase the workload. Carrying a loaded pack, steeper hills and hiking faster are all ways to up the intensity level but don't expect it to be as effective as a dedicated glute-focused muscle-building program.

Since hiking is a longer duration activity it will certainly help burn a lot of calories which will assist in lowering body fat levels. Most people don't hike with enough intensity to create a high level of muscle-building stimulus but will help build conditioning both cardiovascular and the targeted muscles which will help with improving work capacity for targeted glute workouts.

Ways of making hiking a better glute workout

Add in walking lunges as part of your hike. If you are on level terrain without a lot of rocks then mix in some sets of walking lunges with the focus of pushing off the heel of the front foot and with a slight forward torso angle. This will lead to more glute engagement.

Take longer steps when going uphill. Longer steps will engage the glutes more than short ones. Focus on pushing off the heel for the most glute engagement.

Carry a weighted pack to increase resistance. With this watch how heavy you go as it also increases the risk of injury on rough terrain.

Top 5 Home Glute Exercises

There are a ton of great glute exercises you can do if you have access to a full gym but the pandemic has made the home gym more popular than ever so we are going to focus on exercises you can do with the equipment you can easily get for your home.

Equipment Recommended


Kettlebells are our favorite training tool. You can use them to build muscle, strength and endurance in the same workout.

For swings and goblet squats a good starting weight is 12 Kg for women and 16 Kg for men. Remember, that this is general advice as the right starting weight will vary based on your current fitness and training history.

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Check out their selection of Kettlebells and other functional fitness equipment.

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Hip Circle Type Bands

These resistance bands are a loop of stretchy fabric that you put around your thighs just above the knee. It adds resistance to the glutes. Side leg lifts, pushing your knees apart squatting, and any other exercise that you have to push your legs apart become much harder.

Large Loop Resistance Bands

These are the long looped resistance bands that come in different thicknesses. The thicker the band the more resistance you will have. We use the bands to add resistance to kettlebell swings, goblet squats, and Romanian deadlifts in this program. With bands, the further you pull the harder they get so it adds a lot of resistance on the top of an exercise.


Kettlebell Swing

If your goals include being lean, athletic, and having a nice butt then kettlebell swings should be part of your program. Swings are a ballistic exercise so take the time to understand how to do them and in the beginning keep your sets to under 10 reps with adequate rest between sets so you can work on technique without being fatigued. While swings are a great exercise they can lead to injury if done wrong.

I like doing them either in EMOM (Every Minute On The Minute) or Tabata style as you get a lot of muscular work and a heavy cardio load for conditioning. In the workouts below I show how to incorporate swings into a muscle-building/fat-burning workout.

Swings can be done with other implements but kettlebells are the most convenient. One of my favorite techniques is to add a resistance band to increase the resistance and require a more explosive hip snap.

Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is squatting while holding a weight in front of your chest. This weight can be a kettlebell or dumbbell. The front or anterior loading adds a lot of core and upper back engagement that you don't get just by having a barbell on your shoulders.

To maximize glute engagement take a slightly wider than shoulder-width stance and angle the toes out slightly. Push your knees out as you lower down. To further hit the glutes, push your feet apart against the floor to come up rather than just pushing down. Your feet shouldn't actually move but imagine trying to split the floor apart by pushing with your feet. This will really add to torching all the glute muscles.


In essence, lunges are taking a giant step and bending the legs until the rear knee touches the ground and coming back up again. They work almost all of the muscles of the legs including the glutes. There are many ways to do lunges but I recommend the rear stepping lunge for most people as it is kinder to the knees.

Banded Side Steps

With a wide resistance band around the thighs just above the knees, assume a partial squat position. From here take a big step to the side. If you have the room then go multiple steps in one direction and then come back to the start with an equal number of steps.

If space is limited just move a couple of steps in one direction and then come back to the start, repeating this pattern until you have accumulated the required reps. Keep in the partial squat the whole time.

One-legged and Two-Legged Glute Bridge

For the two-legged version: Lay on your back, bend your legs, and put your feet flat on the ground. Pushing through your heels, lift your hips up until you are in a straight line from knee, hip and shoulder. Hold for a second and come down.

For the one-legged version: Assume the same starting position but before you raise uplift one foot off the floor. With the foot remaining on the floor push through the heel and lift your hips. Do an equal number of reps for each leg.

One-Legged Romanian Deadlift

Unless you have a barbell and enough weights at home it can be hard to hit the glutes hard enough to elicit growth doing two-legged exercises. With a light dumbbell or kettlebell, you can torch your hamstrings and glutes by doing a Romanian deadlift on one leg.

Principals for building your glutes (or any other muscle)

If you want to build your glutes or any muscle you have to understand that there are training principles that need to apply to get the best progress.


Building muscle takes time so the most important thing is to be consistent. It will take months of hitting a muscle group at least twice a week to see real progress.

Progressive Overload

Muscles don't like to change so will do the minimum necessary to adapt to a stimulus. Because of this, you need to increase the load over time to force them to adapt. Your body gets more efficient at things you do regularly so you need to regularly find ways to make exercise harder.

A Few Ways to Make Any Exercise Harder

  • Add Weight

  • Add Reps

  • Add Sets

  • Slow Exercise Tempo Down

  • Shorten Rest Periods

  • Add Pauses at the hardest part of the exercise

  • Train to muscular failure. This is doing as many reps as possible with good form.


In exercise terms, this is how close to your one-rep max you are using for resistance. If you use a weight you can only do 5 reps with you will get stronger but will need to do a number of sets to get enough stimulus for muscle growth. Medium intensity for medium reps pushed to the point near muscular failure is the classic formula for muscle growth.


Muscles will stay in a state of increased protein synthesis for 24-48 hours after a workout. The more frequently you can trigger this the quicker growth you will experience. All things being equal you will get more progress hitting a muscle group 3 times per week than you will be hitting it only once.


This is how much total work you do. Think of it as Sets X Reps X Weight. Studies and experience have shown that higher volumes correlate to more muscular growth. But as a beginner, you don't have to do a lot to see progress. When starting out a few hard sets of an exercise will get you to progress whereas a more advanced athlete may need many sets to get enough work to see progress.

At Home Glute Workouts

Beginner Workout

Equipment needed: Hip Circle Type Band

Do this workout 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days.

Do as a circuit with a short rest between exercises. Once you have done the circuit rest for 2 minutes.

3 rounds

10 One-Legged Romanian Deadlifts ( No added weight)

10 Two-legged glute bridges

10 Banded Side Steps Per direction

10 Rear stepping lunges per leg

10 Bodyweight squats

Progression: Add One Rep Per week Until you are at 20 reps per exercise.

Intermediate Workout

Equipment needed: Kettlebell (12 KG for women, 16 KG for men)

Do this workout 2 times per week. It will be demanding so you will need time to recover. Make sure there are at least 2-3 days between workouts.

Get an interval timer for your phone. You can find them free in the app stores for Android or IOS

This will be an EMOM (Every Minute On The Minute) workout

With a timer set to beep at the start of each minute, you do the prescribed number of reps and whatever time is left is your recovery. When the next minute beeps you go again until you have done the total number of sets required. A 10-minute EMOM means you will do 10 sets in 10 minutes.

In addition to a good muscle builder, this will be taxing on your cardio but over time you will get fitter.

Each exercise will be done starting with a 6-minute EMOM. Each week you will add one minute until you are at 12 minutes per exercise. This progression will make this a 7-week cycle. For week 8 go back to 6 minutes per exercise to give yourself a recovery week. Then for week 9 start a new program.


5 Rear Stepping Lunges per leg holding a kettlebell in the Goblet position

8 One-Legged Glute Bridges per leg (Do the reps for one leg and then do the reps for the other each set)

20 Kettlebell Swings

10 Goblet Squats with kettlebell

Advanced Workout

Equipment needed: Kettlebell (20 KG for women, 32 KG for men), Hip Circle Glute Band, Resistance band 13-15 mm wide (band should be a loop of around 6 feet)

Do this workout 2 times per week. It will be demanding so you will need time to recover. Make sure there are at least 2-3 days between workouts.

Get an interval timer for your phone. You can find them free in the app stores for Android or IOS

This will be an EMOM (Every Minute On The Minute) workout

With a timer set to beep at the start of each minute, you do the prescribed number of reps and whatever time is left is your recovery. When the next minute beeps you go again until you have done the total number of sets required. A 10-minute EMOM means you will do 10 sets in 10 minutes.


8-minute EMOM per exercise

20 Banded Kettlebell Swings

10 Banded Goblet Squats

5 Rear Stepping Lunges

10 Banded Side Steps per side

Progression: Add one rep per exercise per week for 4 weeks. Next 2 weeks add a minute to each exercise. After 6 weeks plan a deload or recovery week as this will be intense.

The Wrap Up

While hiking is a great exercise for building endurance and burning calories it isn't the most effective glute builder. Hiking just doesn't create enough stimulus to cause much muscle growth.

If your goal is to have bigger glutes then combining hiking with dedicated a muscle-building program will give you the best results. And remember that muscle takes time to build so stick with it for the long term to achieve your goals.

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