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How To Get a Shelf on the Upper Glutes: Exercise & Diet Combo

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David J. Sautter post Reviewer David J. Sautter post Reviewer
Verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist

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Are you considering how to get a shelf on the upper glutes? You’ll need to add some targeted glute exercises to your strength training program, alongside checking in with your diet. 

Losing fat in combination with sculpting muscle definition is a process called body recomposition. And it’s not a process reserved for bodybuilders. That said, there are a few tips and tricks worth learning for the average gymgoer. 

Read on for our exercise and diet combination for those learning how to get a shelf on the upper glutes and why it matters.

Muscles You Should Target To Get A Shelf On The Upper Glutes

When it comes to building the upper glute shelf, your focus should be on the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius.

If you’re unfamiliar with glute muscle anatomy, let’s introduce you to it. [1] 

You have three main glute muscles — the gluteus maximus (the biggest and most powerful glute muscle), gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Sure, the names sound like something from an Ancient Greek film set, but these muscles really do exist!

The glute muscles are part of your core musculature alongside your abs and help protect your lower back and strengthen your posture. Weak and undertrained glutes could lead to injury and contribute toward lazy hip flexors over time. Your glutes also keep your pelvis stable, rotate the hip joint, and support lower body movement.

The gluteus maximus supports extension, external rotation, abduction, and adduction of the thigh.

The gluteus medius and minimus are responsible for the abduction and internal rotation of the thigh and stabilizing the pelvis. 

There’s also the tensor fasciae latae, which internally rotates the thigh, externally rotates the leg and supports joint stabilization. 

How to Get a Shelf on the Upper Glutes

There are three main components of building the glutes:

  • Exercising
  • Progressive overload
  • Diet

Sedentary lifestyles can contribute to weak hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings, leading to joint problems and back pain. 

Exercise helps strengthen the glutes and build functional muscle in the area — this can include walking (especially on an incline), strength training, and cardio like HIIT, swimming, and running. 

Progressive overload refers to gradually manipulating the variables of resistance training to build muscle — the process of hypertrophy. That could include increasing sets, reps, load, or frequency to add volume or reducing rest to work muscles harder, for longer, over time. 

Your diet refers to anything you put in your mouth! Protein provides the building blocks for muscle growth and repair, so prioritizing ample protein intake and a well-balanced diet are crucial for weight loss and muscle growth. 

How To Target Upper Glutes With Exercise

Here are nine of the best glute exercises for hitting your glute muscles hard.

Single-Leg Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift

  • Stand upright, holding a kettlebell in one hand.
  • Lift one foot off the ground, keeping it slightly bent.
  • Lean forward, extending the lifted leg behind you while lowering the kettlebell towards the ground.
  • Keep your back straight and your core engaged.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.

Reverse Lunge

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a step back with one foot and lower your body until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle.
  • Keep your back straight and your core engaged.
  • Push back up to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.

Glute Bridge

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold a dumbbell on your hips.
  • Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line.
  • Lower your hips back to the ground and repeat.


  • Stand in front of a step or bench.
  • Step up onto the bench with one foot, followed by the other.
  • Step back down, leaving the leading foot on the bench.
  • Use dumbbells to add resistance to the exercise.


  • Start in a kneeling side plank position.
  • Keep your feet together and lift your top knee, keeping your bottom knee on the ground.
  • Lower your knee back down and repeat.

Curtsy Lunge

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Step one foot diagonally behind you and bend both knees into a lunge.
  • Keep your front knee directly above your ankle.
  • Push back up to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.


  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower your body as if sitting back into a chair, keeping your knees over your ankles.
  • Push back up to the starting position and repeat.

Hip Thrusts

  • Sit on the ground with a kettlebell, dumbbell, or barbell in your lap and your back against a bench.
  • Bend your knees and plant your feet on the ground.
  • Lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Lower your hips back to the ground and repeat.

Bulgarian Split Squat

  • Stand in a staggered stance with one foot resting on a bench behind you.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
  • Lower your body until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle.
  • Push back up to the starting position and repeat.

Workout Samples

Below, we’ve created two glute workouts to help you learn how to get a shelf on the upper glutes using weights or your body weight. 

45-minute dumbbell glute workout

ExerciseSetsRepsRest (seconds)Equipment
Glute Bridge3-4 12-1560-90Dumbbell
Bulgarian Split Squats3-48-12 per side60-90Dumbbells
Clamshells2-312-15 per side60Bodyweight or glute band
High Step-Ups2-38-12 per side60Bodyweight and box or bench

45-minute kettlebell glute workout

ExerciseSetsRepsRest (seconds)Equipment
Squats3-48-12 per side60-90Kettlebell
Hip Thrusts3-4 8-12 per side60-90Kettlebell
Curtsy Lunges2-38-12 per side60Bodyweight
Single-Leg RDLs2-38-12 per side60Kettlebell
Reverse Lunges1-2 8-12 per side60Bodyweight or kettlebells

How to Achieve Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is crucial if you want to build and hit your upper butt muscles. So, how is it achieved? 

During glute training, keep challenging your muscles to adapt and grow. To do this, focus on increasing overall training intensity and volume. You can do that in a few ways:

  • Add sets and reps 
  • Reduce rest time
  • Increase the load and weight you use
  • Increase the frequency of training
  • Change exercises or workout routines every 4-6 weeks to keep things fresh and your muscles guessing

This should stop you from getting bored and help stimulate the muscles in different ways. We love these side glute exercises as a go-to!

Prioritize compound exercises when building your glutes, meaning moves that target multiple muscle groups rather than isolating a single muscle. Think glute bridges, lunges and squats.

Diet Tips

Here are some diet basics that are essential for hitting the upper butt muscles.

Achieve Calorie Surplus

You’ll need to eat more calories (around 200-400) than you burn and consume more protein to help you build your butt. 

A slight calorie surplus is necessary to promote muscle growth, and you can work out how many calories you should consume a day based on biological factors like age, weight, and sex, plus your goals and current activity levels, using a calorie calculator online. 

Remember, this is just an estimate, and you might need to adapt accordingly, especially as you build muscle and lose fat. 

Increase Protein Intake

The type of food you are eating matters. Protein provides the building blocks for muscle growth and should be spread throughout the day. Focus on adding protein to each meal using natural sources like animal meat or tofu. 

Protein supplements are a great way to top up, but shouldn’t be your main go-to source of protein. 

Consume Complex Carbohydrates

When learning how to build a shelf booty, carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel your body uses for energy, so remember that carbs are friends! Your muscles require energy to stimulate hypertrophy and will need carbs to help store glycogen in the muscles for exercise and recovery. 

Focus on complex carbs, meaning oats, sweet potatoes and whole grains (for example). These are 9 good carbs for muscle building and 15 foods that make your butt bigger for inspiration.

In addition, remember to drink plenty of water and limit processed and sugary food, drinks and alcohol. Adults should aim for at least 2.7-3.7 liters a day consumed throughout the day.

Bottom Line

Here’s what we’ve learned about how to get a shelf on the upper glutes:

  • You’ll need to target your gluteus maximus and medius to build a shelf on the upper glutes.
  • Focus on diet and progressive overload principles. Including compound exercises that hit various glute muscles at once.
  • Do upper booty exercises several times a week and adapt your strength program every 4-6 weeks to keep things fresh.
  • Focus on your diet by drinking more water throughout the day, increasing your protein intake and including complex carbs each day.
  • You’ll need to consider a slight calorie surplus when building glute muscle, which will depend on how often you train and biological factors — we recommend a calorie calculator to get you started.
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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