Glute Activation Exercises

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Glute Activation Exercises

Man and woman doing yoga stretch in a gym
Gary Burchell/Digital Vision/Getty Images

If you sit much of the day, you may have weak glutes, tight hamstrings, and tight hip flexors. Use this glute activation program to get your backside firing properly during exercise.

To maximize the proper involvement of your glutes, perform this basic glute activation routine as the first part of your warm up, before your workouts, or after sitting for a long time.

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Glute Activation Exercises: Hip Flexor Stretch

Hip Flexor / Psoas Stretch
Hip Flexor / Psoas Stretch. Graham Mitchell/Getty images

Before jumping into the glute activation exercises, make sure your hip flexors are relaxed. Use this slow, static hip flexor stretch to help inhibit the hip flexors, particularly the powerful psoas muscle, while you get your glutes firing.

The Hip Flexor / Psoas Stretch

  • Begin in a forward lunge position and drop your back knee to the floor.
  • Raise your arms and hands up over your head and look up.
  • Press your hips forward and down toward the floor. Feel a stretch through your torso, hip, groin and thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds, release and repeat on the other leg.
  • You can modify this stretch based upon your own flexibility and limitations, but be sure to keep your forward knee over or behind your ankle -- not in front of it.

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Glute Activation Exercises: Bridge Exercise

Bridge Exercise
Bridge Exercise. Photo (c) John Giustina / Getty Images

The bridge exercise is the first and generally the easiest way to get your glutes firing. The movement is small and targeted, so go slow and you will feel your glutes "waking up."

 

The Bridge Exercise

  • Lay on your back with your hands by your sides, your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Make sure your feet are under your knees.
  • Tighten your abdominal and buttock muscles.
  • Raise your hips up to create a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  • Squeeze your core and try to pull your belly button back toward your spine. The goal is to maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your knees and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

If your hips sag or drop, lower yourself back on the floor.

Be sure to contract the glutes hard and keep the hamstrings relaxed. You may need to place your hand on your hamstrings to make sure they stay soft.

You may need to begin by holding the bridge position for a few seconds as you build your strength. It's better to hold the correct position for a shorter time than to go longer in the incorrect position.

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Glute Activation Exercises: Quadruped Hip Extension

Quadruped Hip Extension
Quadruped Hip Extension. E. Quinn

To wake up your glutes, use the hip extension exercise. In order to isolate the glutes and reduce hamstring involvement, it's best to perform the hip extension in a quadruped position rather than laying prone (face down).

The Quadruped Hip Extension

  • Start in a quadruped position (on your hands and knees).
  • Tighten your core and contract your abs to stabilize the spine.
  • Focus on contracting the left glute. You may need to place your hand on your glute to be sure it contracts.
  • Slowly lift the left leg up while keeping a 90-degree bend at the knee.
  • The left thigh should be nearly parallel with the ground.
  • Slowly lower to the start position and repeat 10 reps per side.
  • To increase the intensity of this exercise, place a small dumbbell behind your knee or add an ankle weight.

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Glute Activation Exercises: Single Leg Bridge Exercise

Single Leg Bridge Exercise
Single Leg Bridge Exercise. Hamish Blair / Getty Images

After you've mastered the basic bridge exercise, you're ready to move on to the single leg bridge exercise.

 

The Single Leg Bridge Exercise

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet are under your knees.
  • Tighten your abdominal and buttock muscles and slowly lift your hips up to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders.
  • Slowly raise and extend one leg while keeping your pelvis raised and level. If your hips sag or drop, place the leg back on the floor and do a double leg bridge until you become stronger.
  • Hold to position for 10 seconds and lower. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Make sure to maintain level hips throughout the exercise. It's better to hold the correct position for a shorter time than to go longer in the incorrect position.

If you can't hold this position, return to the basic Bridge Exercise to build strength and then progress to the one-leg bridge.

As you get stronger, you can hold the position longer or do 10 reps of lifting and lowering on each side before you switch.

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Glute Activation Exercises: Side Lying Hip Abduction - Clam Exercise

Clam Exercise - glute medius activation exercise
Clam Exercise - glute medius activation. E. Quinn

The first three exercises for glute activation specifically target the gluteus maximus, the prime mover during hip extension. This next exercise targets the gluteus medius, which fires during hip abduction and rotation. To isolate the glute medius, use the clam exercise.

The Clam Exercise

  • While lying on your side, keep both knees bent and flex the hips to 30 degrees.
  • While keeping your heels touching and pelvis still, open your knees by contracting your glute medius. This is a very slow, small and targeted movement.
  • Place your hand on your gluteus medius (just below and behind your hip) to ensure that it is firing during the movement.
  • Repeat the movement slowly 10 to 15 times and switch sides.

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