3 Exercises to Strengthen Your Glutes

The gluteal muscles are the powerhouse of the human body. They are made up of the gluteus minimus, the gluteus medius and the gluteus maximus, all of which create stability in your core. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body and moves the hips and thighs. When these muscles are weak, your body starts to compensate through other body parts that are not meant to take the strain, like your knees and ankles. This can lead to injury and being sidelined during the season.

The gluteus maximus has three major functions when running: to generate power, to control flexion of the trunk on the stance-side (the leg on the ground) and to decelerate the swing leg (the leg in movement), according to a 2006 study in “The Journal of Experimental Biology.” However, in our day-to-day activities our bottoms are firmly glued to a comfy sofa, office chair or driver’s seat. We don’t use those muscles in the same way we did in prehistoric times. This is why it’s important to take the time to strengthen them daily to improve running form, avoid injury and get a stronger butt.

Cody McGrath from Mondo Sports Therapy in Austin, Texas, provides three exercises to help strengthen your glutes.

The Exercise: Prone Hip Extension

Why This Exercise Is Important: Many people–runners included–have a difficult time activating their gluteal musculature, and if you can’t get those muscles to fire, then it doesn’t matter how strong they are. This exercise trains you to put your mind’s eye in the glutes and keep the hamstrings and lower back quiet.

When to Perform It: This move can be performed prior to any cardiovascular exercise that might require hip extension, as well as before any other lower body or core strengthening exercises, in attempts to activate the right muscles at the right time.

How to Make It More Challenging: Once you have this motion down, transition to a doorway when performing this exercise in order to replicate gluteal activation while running (see video for details).

4 Simple Exercises to Get Your Glutes Fired Up

Your glutes are an incredibly important muscle group for many reasons, including preventing injury, improving performance, and helping you fit nicely into your jeans.

This is why I want to show you some of the best exercises you can do to get your glutes properly fired up and working for you. These will help you move better, feel better, and kick your training up a notch.

RELATED: The Do it All Exercise to Go From Dead Butt to Active Arse

Glute bridge

Most People Can’t Properly Fire Their Glutes

Almost every one of the people I see in my clinic has at least one muscle group that isn’t functioning properly. Very often, one of these muscle groups is the glutes. Many of these people can’t even properly fire their glutes without first undergoing some teaching or activation, on one or both sides.

“Even when people train hard every day, if they spend the majority of the remainder of the day sitting down, then they are simply not using their glutes.

And I’m not talking your average desk-worker who exercises once in a while. I’m talking your five-times-a-week fitness enthusiasts, your elite-level athletes, your weekend warriors, and their sedentary friends alike.

Why Are the Glutes So Inactive?

There are many potential reasons, but I am going to keep it simple and give you just two. The first and most common reason people suffer from underactive glutes or “glute amnesia” is due to lifestyle. Even when people train hard every day, if they spend the majority of the remainder of the day sitting down, then they are simply not using their glutes. And remember the old saying – if you don’t use it, you lose it. Unfortunately, this is just what happens with your glutes.

RELATED: The Butt of a Backbend: A Lesson in Gluteal Anatomy

Another common reason I see glutes that aren’t working properly is due to injury. Often an injury happens that changes the mechanics and motor programming of a person’s body. This can lead to some muscle groups becoming overactive, while others become underactive (think: compensation). This can alter things for a long time without the person even knowing it.

RELATED: Glute Activation Warm Up for Squats and Deadlifts (Video)

Enter Glute Activation

Simply put, glute activation is waking up your glutes. It makes the connection from your brain to your muscle and gets the muscle fired up and ready to do some work. Glute activation should be done prior to your workout, but it can also be done as an active rest between sets. And trust me when I say that doing some glute activation prior to your squats, lunges, and deadlifts will result in an excellent glute workout!

“Simply put, glute activation is waking up your glutes. It makes the connection from your brain to your muscle and gets the muscle fired up and ready to do some work.”

So, how do you go about activating them prior to your workout for the best results? Check out these four awesome glute activation exercises I regularly use with my athletes.

The Modified Clamshell

I’m sure you’ve seen the clamshell before. It is a fan-fave when it comes to glute activation and glute med strengthening. However, at our studio we don’t love how this movement is typically taught.

Modified clamshell – top knee on the ground

Modified clamshell – top knee off the ground

We’ve found the traditional way the clamshell is taught ends up leading to the athletes overusing their hip flexors and not feeling the exercise where they should. In other words, it usually just cements in already poor movement patterns. This is why we always teach a modified version.

To do this modified clamshell:

  1. Lie on your side with your head resting comfortably.
  2. Your bottom leg should be straight, with your top hip bent up to ninety degrees and your top foot resting behind your bottom knee. Your hips should be forward, and should remain in this forward position throughout the entire movement to come.
  3. Squeeze your glutes and lift your knee off the ground, keeping your top foot rested on your bottom knee (make sure your hips don’t roll back because they most certainly will try to do so).
  4. You should feel this exercise approximately where your jeans pocket would be. If you feel it here, you’re doing it right!

“We’ve found the traditional way the clamshell is taught ends up leading to the athletes overusing their hip flexors and not feeling the exercise where they should.”

The Glute Bridge

This is a great, functional exercise, and one I have written about in the past. The basic glute bridge is simple, just lay on your back with your knees bent, lifting your hips in the air. This is an excellent starting point, but most of you will quickly need to move on to more challenging variations to really get your glutes fired up. Check out my two favorites:

The Cook Bridge/Cook Hip Lift – Developed by physical therapist Gray Cook, this exercise eliminates lumbar spine movement, forcing the work to happen at the glutes. To do this movement:

  1. Get into the bridge position.
  2. Place a tennis ball below your bottom rib on one side, and hug the same knee to your chest, pinning the ball down with your thigh.
  3. Holding onto this position, lift your hips in the air, and repeat. You’ve just done the Cook Bridge!

Cook bridge

Glute Bridge With March – This one forces you to engage all of your stabilizer muscles. To do the glute bridge with march:

  1. Get in to the bridge position and lift your hips in the air.
  2. At this top position, and without allowing any movement at your hips, slowly lift one leg off the ground and hold for two seconds.
  3. Put it down and lift the opposite leg.
  4. Repeat this about twenty times, ensuring your hips remain stable throughout the entire exercise.

RELATED: The 4 Most Important Exercises You’re Probably Not Doing

Glute bridge with march

Mini Band Walks

Mini bands are becoming more popular and with good reason. They are a great way to get the glutes geared up for a workout. The best way to do them? Put the mini band around your feet – yes, your feet – and walk laterally, trying to move your upper body as little as possible. This is usually a pretty fail-safe way of getting a burn in that pocket muscle.

Mini band walks

Slider Reverse Lunge

The slider reverse lunge is simple to perform and doesn’t need much in the way of instructions. Simply grab a Valslide, or a similar tool that will allow you to move smoothly across the ground. Put the slide under one foot, and use that foot to slide into a reverse lunge, and then return to standing. Try doing this exercise after one of the ones above, and just wait until you feel the burn!

RELATED: Product Review: The Valslide

Slider reverse lunge

Give Them a Go

There it is. Four of my best and all-time favorite glute-activation exercises. Give them a try before your normal workout and trust me when I say you will feel it tomorrow!

Photo 2 courtesy of .

Strengthening your glute muscles is a worthy goal, and not just for aesthetic reasons. Weak glute muscles don’t just result in a less-than-shapely butt; they can also lead to back pain and increased risk of injury, according to ACE-certified personal trainer Rachel MacPherson. “As the largest muscle in your body, they work as part of your core to support your spine and knee joints,” Rachel explained. If you sit all the time or don’t work your glutes enough, the muscles “can become stretched and weakened,” Rachel explained. That can lead to back pain and quad tightness, which increases the risk of pain, injury, and dysfunction.

You can work the following 11 glute-strengthening exercises into any lower-body or full-body workout to build up muscle strength. You can also use a few of the bodyweight options to “activate” your glutes before a workout, which readies your body for the entire workout, said Jason Raynor, CSCS, fitness director at the JW Marriott Chicago. “You’re getting more muscle engagement and optimizing your workout if you do these before,” he explained.

Keep reading for 11 trainer-recommended glute exercises that will help you increase strength, power, and stability in these crucial core muscles.

The 10 Best Glute Activation Exercises for a Stronger, Tighter Butt

by: Yuri Elkaim

Getting a tight bum is one of the ultimate aesthetic goals of a workout program.

In fact, I can’t say I’ve come across anyone who was unhappy with a firmer, lifted backside.

However, while having “the butt” is indeed a major plus of working out, truly activating your glutes during your workouts is not only a faster, more efficient way to sculpt your bum, but is also essential in preventing pain and injuries.

Why Glute Activation is So Important

You might be thinking, “Well, I squat during my workouts – aren’t I activating my glutes?”

The truth is, most people fail to activate their glutes correctly, if at all.

Mostly this occurs due to excessive sitting and inactivity, which lengthens and loosens the muscles along our posterior chain (your backside).

When these muscles become lax, so does our ability to maintain good posture. The hip flexors tighten, pulling our upper body and shoulders forward. In turn, this sets us up for a nasty blend of low back and neck pain, and possibly even sciatica pain due to pitched nerves around the hips and glutes.

Not only that, but a weak bum can also set us up for injuries in the gym and on the field.

You see, most of our power to perform any movement comes from the posterior chain – the muscles running all along the backside of the body.

The glutes in particular are a huge muscle group in this region. They propel us forward, help us stop, make our jumps higher, and also aid us in picking things up off the floor.

In addition, studies have even shown that strengthening weak muscles in the hip and glute region can help improve leg and knee pain in runners (1).

So what exactly is glute activation, if not just performing glute exercises?

You see, glute activation is different from just performing lower body exercises. Even though you’re doing squats and bridges, if you’re unaccustomed to “turning on” or using your glutes correctly, you’ll unconsciously place stress and tension on surrounding muscles, like those in the legs and low back.

The goal with glute activation exercises is to train the glutes to fire throughout all of your lower body exercises, so the muscles become stronger and act as a support system for your core and legs.

We can get this level of activation with one of my favorite pieces of equipment, combined with specialized exercises.

Glute Activation Band

The one piece of inexpensive equipment you’ll need for these exercises is a mini band. I know, they don’t look like much, but trust me: you’ll change your mind when you feel the burn!

These unassuming bands will take your squats, bridges, and other exercises to the next level by keeping all three major muscles in your bum – the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus – firing at once.

Now that you’re pumped and ready to get a strong, tight butt, let’s get into the best glute activation exercises out there.

Perform these exercises 2 to 3 times per week by either adding them to your lower body workout routine or making them a workout on their own, i.e. active recovery.

Another popular way to use these is during a glute activation warm up as a way to get your glutes firing properly before your lower body workout.

1. Glute Bridges with Mini Band

  • Begin on your back on the floor, your mini band looped around your waist.
  • Place your hands inside the band, being prepared to hold the band on the ground as you push your hips toward the sky.
  • Engage your glutes and hold for a beat at the peak of your bridge.
  • Lower and repeat for 10 to 15 reps.

2. Side Shuffle

  • Begin standing, placing the band around your legs. Keep in mind that the lower you place the band (say, around your skins) the more difficult these shuffles will be.
  • Keep your feet parallel with toes facing forward, and be sure to keep tension in the band at all times (don’t fully close your legs).
  • Take two large side steps to your right, then repeat with two to your left.
  • Continue alternating for 24 steps total.

3. Standing Abductor Lift

Source: Redefining Strength
  • Begin standing, wrapping your mini band around your legs just above your ankles. You can face a chair or a wall to help you keep your balance.
  • Lift your right leg out to your side, flexing your foot and keeping your toes pointing forward.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 reps on each leg, maintaining tension in the band throughout each rep.

4. Monster Walk

  • Begin standing, looping your band around your legs. As with the side shuffle, the lower you place your band, the harder this walk will be.
  • Instead of bringing your feet closer together like in the side shuffle, here we’re going to take a wide stance and keep it as we walk forward.
  • Take a large “monster” step forward with your right leg, then your left, keeping your wide stance.
  • Walk forward for 4 steps, then backward for 4 steps. Repeat for 24 total steps.

5. Banded Squats

  • Begin by looping your band around your legs just above your knees.
  • Standing with your feet hip-width apart (keeping tension in the band), engage your glutes and push your hips back into a squat.
  • Keep your weight in your heels and chest up as you push back to standing.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 reps, never letting the tension leave your band.

6. Standing Kickbacks

Source: Skinny Mom
  • Stand facing a wall of chair for balance. Loop your band just above your ankles.
  • Keeping your leg straight and flexing your right foot, extend it behind you, squeezing your glute to lift your leg (don’t rock forward to get your leg higher).
  • Pause for a beat during your extensive, then lower slowly.
  • Repeat on both legs for 10 to 15 reps.

7. Clamshells

  • Begin lying on your side, propping yourself up on your forearm.
  • Wrap your band just above your knees, then slightly bend them, placing one foot on top of the other.
  • Keep your feet together and lift your right knee open and up toward the sky.
  • Focus on engaging your glute through each rep, pausing at each opening.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides.

8. Single-Leg Banded Glute Bridge

Source: Fit Gen
  • Begin on your back on the floor, your mini band looped around your waist.
  • Place your hands inside the band, holding it on the floor.
  • Push your hips toward the sky and extend your right leg out and off the floor.
  • Engage your glutes and hold for a beat at the peak of your bridge.
  • Lower and repeat on each leg 10 to 15 reps.

9. Lying Kickbacks

  • Begin lying facedown on the floor, your band looped around your ankles.
  • Lift one flexed foot toward the ceiling, engaging your glutes against the band resistance.
  • Avoid arching your back and turning your feet.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 reps, then switch legs.

10. Quadruped Banded Hip Extension

Source: Dr. John Rusin
  • Begin by looping your band around a sturdy poll, keeping one end free to place your foot in.
  • Get on all fours (hands directly beneath your shoulders and knees directly beneath your hips) and secure your right foot in the band.
  • Fully extend your leg behind you, then return to your starting position. Be sure to focus on engaging your glutes by flexing your foot throughout the movement.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 reps on each leg.

Better Butt = Better Strength

Once you incorporate these banded glute activation exercises into your routine, you’ll notice a huge difference in the development of your butt, as well as a noticeable improvement in glute strength.

Don’t be surprised if a stronger butt makes all the difference in the efficiency and effectiveness of every workout you do from here on out.

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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.

Top 7 Glute Activation Exercises to Build Strength & Power

In addition to the obvious aesthetic benefits of having a shapely backside, strong glutes are the key to unlocking your full-body power potential. Want to hit a PR in your deadlift? Strengthen your glutes. You get the added benefit of protecting your spine.

Physical therapy starts and ends with “the butt and the gut.” Most people understand that having a strong core is imperative to keeping their spine stable and strong so they can lift heavy things without breaking form and risking injury. But in order to actually lift those heavy things and safely transfer that force across your body, you need to be able to generate enough power. Most of that power comes from your hips, more specifically your glutes.

Before we get into the exercises, let’s look at the muscles that comprise your glutes.

What Are Your Glute Muscles?

The main powerhouse of your hips is the gluteus maximus.

The primary action of glute max is hip extension (pushing your leg backwards, like in a running stride), which is where the majority of your power comes from.

Located just underneath glute max is the second largest muscle, similarly named gluteus medius. It primarily helps stabilize the hip by preventing the opposite hip from dropping or the knees from collapsing inwards.

Glute med is assisted by many other smaller muscles underneath that help to stabilize and rotate the hip. Most people will be able train these muscles automatically through a varied exercise routine, but in the cases of early recovery after injury or surgery, you may benefit from targeting these muscles individually.

Key Benefits of Strong Glutes

Any time you bend over at your hips, your glute muscles need to engage to control that movement. Maybe you’ve heard a trainer or health practitioner say, “You need to turn your glutes on.” What they mean is that your glutes are being underutilized and you’re actually using your trunk or knee muscles to move instead, which is not ideal because it can lead to a breakdown in those respective body regions and cause injury.

Having strong glutes will enable you to generate more power in just about every movement, including running, jumping, and squatting. It also helps you with sport specific movements like swinging a golf club or baseball bat. In addition to generating power, the hip muscles work to stabilize your pelvis and trunk, especially when you’re standing on one leg. And having strong glutes will also help prevent excessive movement in your low back and knees, thus reducing injury to those regions.

Basic Glute Activation Exercises

Complete one, or all of these exercises as part of your warm up routine. While basic, these exercises are very effective in activating your glutes so they will be working hard for the rest of your workout.

1. Quadruped Hip Extension

This is a great exercise to help you feel your glutes, so consider adding it to your warm-up routine. Perform this exercise with your knee bent, which shortens the hamstrings and further isolates your glutes. To prevent “cheating” by overarching your back, use your opposite hand to touch your abs. This will cue you to keep your core tight and your spine stable.

Instructions: Start in a table-top position on hands and knees. Your shoulders should be directly over your wrists, hips over your knees. Keeping your knee bent and your core tight, raise your right foot up to the ceiling and squeeze your right glute. Then bring your leg back down to the start position before completing another repetition. Exhale as you raise your leg, inhale as you bring your leg back down. Complete 15 reps on one side, then repeat on the other side. Repeat for two sets.

2. Glute Bridge

The two-legged bridge is one of the easier exercises that most people can start with. I call this exercise “the walnut cracker” because your focus is on squeezing and engaging your glutes as you raise your hips off the ground. Make sure to keep your spine completely straight as you extend your hips, lifting your pelvis off the floor. When you do this, you should feel the bottom of your shoulder blades raise off the floor as well.

Once you master the two-legged version, try this exercise with one leg, extending the other in the air or holding your knee into your chest with your arms. In each variation, focus on keeping your hips square and your core tight as you squeeze your glutes. Don’t let your pelvis rotate!

Instructions: Lay down on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground about hip-width apart. Extend your arms by your sides. Press your feet into the ground as you drive your arms down, raising your hips off the ground. Squeeze your glutes at the top. Then lower your hips all the way back to the ground. Keep your spine long and core tight as you lift and lower your hips. Exhale as you bridge up, inhale as you lower your hips down. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps.

Progressions: Single Leg Bridge, Bridge with Weight

3. Clamshell

If you’ve ever done physical therapy, there’s a good chance you’ve done this exercise. Clamshells target your hip rotators as well as gluteus medius. To further emphasize the hip muscles, slightly roll your hip forward so that your belly button is pointed diagonally toward the ground. Keep your trunk and pelvis at this orientation for the entire exercise. In this exercise, you should feel the back and side of your hip working, and sometimes this feeling radiates down the side of your thigh (which is completely normal).

Once the clamshell gets easier, perform the same movement while holding a side plank. This progression will work both of your hips at the same time.

Instructions: Start laying down on your side, resting your head on one arm or a pillow. Bend your knees slightly in front of you, heels behind you. Slightly tilt your pelvis and torso forward so your belly button angles diagonally towards the floor. Maintaining this position and keeping your heels touching, raise your top knee away from your bottom one, contracting your core and squeezing your glute. Your body should remain completely stable as you lift and lower your knee. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps on each side.

Progression: Clamshells in a side plank

Intermediate – Glute Strengthening Exercises

These early exercises are great for the initial activation of your glutes. After you activate a muscle, the next step is to strengthen it. Now that you know what your glute contraction is supposed to feel like, use that new feeling to help “rewire” your movement pattern by engaging the glutes through the following strengthening exercises.

4. Lunge

Lunges are fantastic for strengthening your legs. In any lunge variation, make sure that your knee points right over your 2nd toe, and keep your pelvis neutral throughout the exercise. To emphasize the hips and glutes more, keep a forward lean while maintaining a straight spine. My favorite lunge variation is the reverse lunge, where you step one leg back into a lunge and then step back up. This exercise naturally encourages a forward bend at the pelvis, which engages the hip extensors more.

If you want to target gluteus medius, hold a weight in the opposite hand of your front leg. By placing the weight on the opposite hand, you should instantly feel the lateral hip muscles work harder. For example, if you’re doing a reverse lunge by stepping the right leg back, hold the weight in your right hand.

Instructions: (Reverse Lunge) Standing tall with or without weights in your hands, step your right leg back and bend both knees down to 90 degrees. Then drive off your left leg by pushing strongly into your left foot and engaging your left glute to return to standing. Keep your shoulders packed, your chest high, and your core tight throughout the exercise. Complete 2 sets of 10 reps on both legs.

Progressions: Lunge with forward trunk lean, lunge with weights.

5. Skater Hops

Skater hops are a great exercise if you want to add some speed and power to your workout. By jumping sideways, you target the gluteus medius and the lateral hip muscles. Stay in an athletic stance with your hips drawn back to emphasize the hips and help with shock absorption. Keeping the hips back when you land will train your body to protect your knees.

Instructions: Start in an athletic stance with your knees bent, hips back, and chest high. Cross your right leg behind you as you load the left leg. Then drive off the left leg, jumping sideways to land on your right and naturally letting the left leg cross behind you. Immediately drive off the right leg to jump sideways, returning to the left. Your arms will swing as if you were ice skating, helping you drive off your legs and also maintain balance. Start with small lateral jumps, and increase your jump-distance as you get stronger and more comfortable with the exercise.

Advanced – Glute Activation Exercises

Once you’ve activated your glutes and built up some strength, now it’s time to take your strength and power to the next level. The following exercises can help a weekend warrior or elite athlete reach new heights of athletic performance.

6. Deadlift

This is a foundational strength move that builds total body strength and power. Remember to push your hips back as you keep your chest high, maintaining a long spine and tracking your knees towards your toes. Once you master the two-legged deadlift, switch to one-legged to target the hip stabilizers and rotators.

Instructions: Use a kettlebell, dumbbells, or a barbell. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Pull your hips back as you keep your chest high, keeping your shoulders packed as you reach the weight towards the ground. Then press strongly into your feet to bring yourself back up to standing. At the bottom of the movement, the weight will hover above the ground. Your abs should remain tight and your spine long throughout the movement. Inhale as you reach the weight towards the ground and exhale as you powerfully bring yourself back to standing.

Progressions: Single-leg deadlift.

7. Kettlebell Swing

The Hardstyle kettlebell swing will train you to generate power in the sagittal plane (forwards and backwards) by loading and then powerfully contracting your hamstrings and glutes. When the swing is performed with just one hand instead of two, studies have shown a significant increase in activation of the opposite hip muscle. As the weight pulls one side of your body, your opposite hip engages to stabilize your trunk. The hip external rotators are forced to fire significantly more than in two-legged exercises.

Instructions: With your kettlebell two feet in front of you, start in an athletic stance – feet hip-width apart, knees bent and tracking over your toes, hips pulled back, chest high, and shoulders packed. Grab the bell with both hands. From the ground, swing the bell back behind you without changing your form. Then powerfully press through your feet and drive through your hips to bring yourself up to standing, swinging the bell up to chest-height. Squeeze your glutes and abs strongly at the top. Let the bell begin to fall, then follow it with your torso, hinging your hips back to catch the bell before swinging it back up again. The swinging of the bell should come from your hips, not your shoulders.

If you’re unfamiliar with this exercise, I highly recommend that you learn proper form and technique from a certified kettlebell instructor.

Progressions: Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing

Glute Activation Form Tips

There are a ton of exercises that people recommend for glute activation and strength. As you complete the preceding exercises, or any others, keep the following tips in mind so that you choose the best exercises to target your goals. Remember, an exercise is only as good as your form. If you do a great exercise poorly, it can actually become detrimental.

Tip #1: Always Move From Your Hips.

This might seem like a “no-brainer” but it’s imperative, and many people either forget or do it wrong. For instance, when you squat, don’t let the weight pull you down. Instead, actively push your hips back while keeping your chest high, which helps emphasize hip flexion and makes you use your glutes more. Visualize the hip joint moving as this may help you isolate it from spinal movement. Generally, the further back your hip goes and the further forward your trunk goes, the more you will use your hip muscles. Try a regular lunge and a lunge where your hip is behind your trunk, and feel the difference. You can make the same adjustment to almost any standing exercise to target your hips more than you otherwise would.

Tip #2: Perform 1-Legged or Asymmetrical Exercises.

Single-leg or asymmetrical exercises challenge your stability and develop strength in the entire leg, while also training all of the smaller stabilizers that might otherwise be neglected by two-legged strengthening exercises. These exercises target all of your hip muscles as they not only have to generate movement and power like the two-legged versions, but also help with stability and balance. Some examples include exercises like lunges, Bulgarian split squats, and single leg deadlifts.

The exercises in this article are a few of my favorite exercises that build glute stability, strength, and power. When you master the basics, progress to more advanced variations. By incorporating a variety of these exercises, you’ll strengthen both glute max and glute med and build a solid backside.

Try out these exercises and let me know how it goes!


Practicing daily glute exercises like these can help prevent many common runner injuries.

So much running power is generated from the glutes. A strong backside can prevent most common running injuries–but are you training yours for maximum output? Probably not. This is why you should (and we’ve got some exercises to help you get started).

Behold The Power Of The Glutes

Our glutes have a big job when it comes to running. They hold our pelvis level and steady, extend our hips, propel us forward and keep our legs, pelvis and torso aligned. So when our glutes are weak or not “firing” correctly, our entire kinetic chain gets disrupted. Studies have linked glute weakness to a variety of running maladies, including achilles tendonitis, shin splints, runner’s knee and iliotibial band syndrome.

Hamstrings, hips and glutes all play roles in propelling your body forward as you run. Many of the exercises below are geared toward strengthening these three key areas.

Put Your Backside To The Test

First things first: you need to find out if your glute muscles are doing their job. Perform these simple tests to find out just how much work you need to do:

Single-Leg Stand

Perform a single leg stand with your eyes closed and feet facing forward. If you cannot hold this position for one minute without falling forward, your glutes are not working properly. Do the test on each side multiple times and compare.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

You should be able to perform several repetitions of weighted, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, touching the weight to the floor in front of your standing leg before returning to the start position.

Pain Check

Low back pain and/or knee pain can be additional signs of weakness in the glute area.

Sitting Time

Even if you run 50 miles a week and then spend the majority or remainder of your day sitting down (at a desk, in a car, on the couch, etcetera), you are essentially turning your glute muscles off.

Glute Activation Exercises

Let’s wake up those glutes! These exercises can be done every day, but aim to do them at least two to three times each week.


Some of you may be familiar with this exercise if you have done any kind of physical therapy for runner’s knee or IT band syndrome, which is why it’s so good to do it as a preventative measure. Lying on your side, bend knees at a 90 degree angle. Stabilize your core and open repeatedly open and close legs at the knees, keeping heels pressed together.

Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms at your sides with palms facing down. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.

Reverse (Slide) Lunge

You can do this move with or without the “slide,” but if you have a wood or tile floor and a dishcloth (or a gliding disc if you’re feeling fancy), place the cloth under your back foot and, in a lunge position, gently slide your back foot away from you as you ease into a deep lunge and pull the leg back toward you as you return to the start position. Switch sides and do as many repetitions as you can.

Related: 4 Glute Exercises With Weights For Runners

Band Walking

Mini bands are inexpensive and can be found in many gyms. You can do a variety of exercises with the band by simply moving it from your ankles to just below your knees. Start with the band around your ankles, feet facing forward with a slight bend in the knee and take steps laterally, using the full resistance of the band. For “monster walks” move the band to just below your knees and take large diagonal steps–10 steps forward and then 10 steps back–and feel the burn.

Stability Ball V-Lift

Lay on your stomach over a stability ball and lift one leg at a time, squeezing your glutes with each lift. Then place both hands on the floor in front of you, over the stability ball, and lift both legs at the same time, then lower down and repeat. Don’t forget the squeeze at the top!

Single Leg Deadlift

Stand on one leg and, keeping that knee slightly bent, perform a stiff-legged deadlift by bending at the hip, extending your free leg behind you for balance. Continue lowering down until you are parallel to the ground, then return to the upright position. Repeat on both sides and find your balance.


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Top Glute Strength Exercises

16 Nov Top Glute Strength Exercises

Posted at 18:00h in Core, CrossFit, Exercises, Injury Prevention, Lower Body, Mobility, Physical Therapy by zlongdpt

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Sub-optimal glute strength is one of the most common faults I see in athletes. This can lead to a host of injuries as well as decreased performance.

We’ve previously discussed using the push press as a test of hip (glute) versus knee dominance in athletes. Analyzing an athlete’s movement while doing high rep push press’s will show their default mechanics. Below left, the athlete is not effectively load her hips and demonstrating a quad dominance pattern. To the right, she is loading her hips to most efficiently develop power.

You can read more about this test, and another glute activation test in my CrossFit Journal Article “The Hip and Athletic Performance”.

If your glute strength is sub-optimal, here are the best glute exercises I find work for my athletes. These can be used as part of a program designed to build up strength or as a warm up drill to get the glutes ready to work.

The Best Glute Exercises

Side-Lying Clams

A very simply, low-level drill but when you really focus on pushing your foot into the wall and keeping the foot flat this clamshell variation will make your backside burn. Works great as a warm up drill or as a way for those having trouble feeling their butt muscles work or always cramping in their hamstrings to get back in touch with their glutes.

Frog Pumps

This is another lower level exercise that I’ll transition athletes towards for higher reps making it (1) a great hypertrophy exercise and (2) another great drill for those who tend to feel their hamstrings take over glute exercises.

McGill Side Plank

The gluteus muscles don’t work in isolation so this exercise from Craig Liebenson is great because it also incorporates more lumbar stabilization at the same time.

Glute Bridge Variation

This simple variation on your standard bridge takes it to the next level. Emphasize a glute squeeze prior to each repitition and progress to performing with a band across your hips or other resistance.

Side Plank with Hip Abduction

Take your standard side plank and raise/lower the top leg repeatedly. Research on this exercise has shown HUGE gluteus medius and gluteus Maximus muscle activation.

Single Leg Deadlifts

When performed properly there are few exercises that work the hips as well as the SLDL does. Focus on the keys discussed in this video to get the most out of this exercise.

Hip Thrusts

Whether banded, with a barbell, bodyweight, or single legged, hip thrusts are an awesome exercise to build serious butt strength! The set up position of this exercise with performed by bending your knees without the hips going deep into flexion we can minimize the contributions of the hamstrings and adductors…simply put this forces more work on your butt muscles.

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Here’s the lovely Mary @mj_gines Gines busting out barbell and double band hip thrusts like a boss! #glutesquad #glutelab #gluteguy #hipthrusts #hipthruster #thethrustisamust

A post shared by Bret “Glute Guy” Contreras PhD (@bretcontreras1) on Nov 11, 2015 at 12:57pm PST

4 Powerful Glute Activation Exercises

In the workout world at the moment, glute activation seems to be a primary focus for a lot of women.
Have you been wondering what this refers to though and why it feels like so many ladies out there seem to be working on their glutes?!
Find Out:

  • What is Glute Actvation?
  • What Are Your Glutes?
  • What Causes Weak Glutes?
  • Why Is Glute Activation Important?
  • Best Glute Activation Exercises
  • Summary

In this blog post, learn what glute activation is, why it’s important and some of the best glute activation exercises for women.

What is glute activation?

Glute activation refers to ‘activating’ (also known as ‘firing up’) the gluteal muscles in an effort to strengthen them. For many individuals, their glutes often remain ‘inactive’ or ‘switched off’. Inactive glutes can mean that the muscles are weak and are not relied on as much as they should be during physical movements.

What are your glutes?

Your glutes — or your gluteal muscles, as they are more formally known — refer to the muscles in your butt. Specifically, there are three major muscles in this area: your gluteus maximus (the main, large muscle that shapes your backside), your gluteus medius and your gluteus minimus (two smaller muscles that assist the gluteus maximus in moving your body).

What causes weak glutes?

While there are many reasons why an individual might have weak glute muscles, one of the main causes is that many of us are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Many jobs now involve people sitting down for a big part of their day, or after a long day of work we go home and sit on the couch; this means that the gluteus muscles can become dormant more than they should be. Another reason why someone might have weak glutes could be because of poor form and generally over-relying on other muscles during everyday movements, which contributes further to the muscles remaining inactive.

For these reasons, even if you perform posterior exercises regularly, there is still a good chance that you might have weak glutes. This is especially true if you have not tried to actively work on activating the muscles in this area.

Why is glute activation important?

Learning to activate your glutes is important so that you can strengthen them. Strong glute muscles are extremely important as these muscles can have a major impact on your overall body strength; your glutes support your core, help to support a range of exercises and compound movements, as well as help avoid muscle imbalances which can lead to decreased mobility.

Considering this, it makes sense that under-utilised glutes can contribute to a range of health issues including poor posture, lower back pain, balance issues, lack of strength, muscle pain, and could potentially increase the risk of injury.

So what can you do to strengthen these muscles?

Gluteus Maximus

Original Editor – Joanne Garvey

Top Contributors – George Prudden, Joanne Garvey, Ahmed Nasr, Kim Jackson and Rachael Lowe


Gluteus Maximus

Gluteus maximus the largest and heaviest muscle in the body. It is the most superficial of all gluteal muscles that are located at the posterior aspect of hip joint. This makes it the largest muscle at the hip representing 16% of the total cross sectional area (TCSA).

Gluteus Maximus’s size allows it to generate a large amount of force. The muscle evolved from an adductor of the hip which is still seen in lower primates today. The development of the muscle’s function is associated with the erect posture and changes to the pelvis. It now functions to maintain the erect posture as one of the muscles that extends the hip joint.

The fibres of Gluteal maximus are largely perpendicular to each other and line up in the direction of pull giving it it’s quadrilateral shape and course appearance. There are two layers to the muscle which pass down to the insertional attachment.

Gluteus maximus covers all of the gluteal muscles except for the antero_superior third of the Glutes medius. This uncovered part of Gluteus medius is the safe area at which we should apply buttocks dorso gluteal intramuscular injections .

The ischial tuberosity can be felt deep to the lower part of the Glutes maximus , When the thigh is flexed the lower border of Glutes Maximus moves superiorly , exposing the ischial tuberosit subcutaneously .Therefore you don`t sit on your Glutes Maximus muscle but you sit on the ishial tuberosity , ischial bursae , subcutaneous fat and skin.


  • Posterior gluteal line of the ilium and portiom of the bone superior and posterior to it .
  • Posterior surface of the lower part of sacrum .
  • Side of the coccyx .
  • Aponeurosis of erector spinae .
  • Sacrotuberous ligaemnt .
  • Gluteal aponeurosis .
  • Attaches to thoracolumbar and it`s associated raphe .By this attachment Glutes maximus is coupled to the ipsilateral multifidus and contralateral Latissimus dorsi forming posterior oblique and deep longitudinal myofascial slings you can read more in details of these in the Anatomy Slings and Their Relationship to Low Back Pain.


  • The lager proximal portion of the muscle and the superficial fibers of distal portion of the muscle. The larger proximal portion, which forms three-quarters of the fibres inserts into the Iliotibial tract the other fibres insert indirectly by the lateral intermuscular septum into linea aspera of femur .
  • The deeper fibres of the distal portion of the muscle form an aponeurosis which attaches to the gluteal tuberosity of the femur.

Nerve supply

The gluteus maximus is supplied by the inferior gluteal nerve (root L5, S1 and S2). Cutaneous supply is mainly provided by L2 and 3.


  • Gluteus maximus main actions are to extend and laterally rotate the hip joint. Furthermore, upper fibers can abduct the hip whereas the lower fibers can adduct.
  • As a powerful extensor of the hip joint, the gluteus maximus suited to powerful lower limb movements such as stepping onto a step, climbing or running but is not used greatly during normal walking. Gluteus maximus and the hamstrings work together to extend the trunk from a flexed position by pulling the pelvis backwards, for example standing up from a bent forward position. Eccentric control is also provided when bending forward. Superior fibers of the gluteus maximus can extend the knee through its attachment to theIliotibial tract.
  • Gluteus maximus has several stability roles: balancing the pelvis on femoral heads thus maintaining upright posture, the attachment throught the iliotibial tract supports the lateral knee, and lateral rotation of femur when standing assists raising the medial longitudinal arch of the foot.
  • Attachment of Glutes maximus to fascia of SIJ and it`s ligaments made the Glutes maximus to become a contributing force in self _ bracing mechanism of SIJ .
  • Gluteus maximus works to offload the ischial tuberosities when supporting body weight in sitting by a static of dynamic contraction.
  • If the gluteus maximus is paralyzed climbing stairs and running will become very difficult however, other muscles can extend the hip. Gluteus maximus can be trained to produce functional knee extension when quadriceps femoris is weak or paralyzed.
  • Research has indicated that contraction of the deep abdominal muscles may assist with the contraction of gluteus maximus to assist with the control of anterior pelvic rotation. Gluteal muscle weakness has been proposed to be associated with a number of lower limb injuries.

Anatomy Overview

Inhibition of Glutes maximus

As mentioned by vladmir janda`s Glutes maximus is one of phasic muscles that tends to be inhibited in our body by many causes ::

  1. Arthrogenic inhibition from the hip joint .
  2. Tight iliopsosas which sends a reciprocal inhibition to Glutes maximus as in Posterior lower crossed syndrome.
  3. Pain reflex inhibition either hip pain or lumbopelvic pain.
  4. Stretched weakness of Glutes maximus .
  5. Sedentary life style and not doing sports since all the work will be done by hamstring as an Energy conservative mechanism of the body to save Glutes maximus for hard activities as running, raising stairs ,etc .So not doing sports won`t engage your Glutes maximus and increase it`s inhibition and making hamstring to take over it`s action and becomes synergistic dominant.

All these causes will not only affect the timing of the Glutes maximus but also will affect the amplitude of activation of Glutes maximus

Activation of Glutes maximus

There are many exercises that help in activation of Glutes maximus each exercise activate Glutes maximus by a certain percentage as shown by EMG activity. We divide them as following :

  • MVIC = maximum voluntary isometric contraction

N.B The prone bridge/plank are unique from the other exercises in the low-level activation because of it`s static nature to maintain

a neutral hip and spine position during this exercise. The low-level activation (9%MVIC)exercises group are most likely reflected the GMax’s role as a hip and spine stabilizer.



Locate the iliac crest then move posterior along the crest to a small bony process called the posterior superior illac spine (PSIS). Place the palm of your hand with fingers pointing down and towards the mid line of the body. The upper hand now covers the origin attachments and under the palm is the bulk of gluteus maximus.

Contraction of the muscle can confirm this. Gluteus maximus can be palpated whilst it acts during standing hip extension, a step-up, or whilst standing raise the medial borders of the foot.

Evaluation of movement pattern

Hip extension movement pattern


  • Hip extension in prone
  • Body weight good morning
  • Step up
  • Functional tasks (steps, etc.)


You should first search for the cause of the Glutes maximus inhibition in your patient ,Then try to solve this problem,Then begin by activation of your Glutes maximus gradually and progressively as mentioned in the Activation exercises above .


See also

  • Gluteus medius
  • Lower crossed syndrome
  • Ober’s test
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  6. Kim TW, Kim YW.Effects of abdominal drawing-in during prone hip extension on the muscle activities of the hamstring, gluteus maximus, and lumbar erector spinae in subjects with lumbar hyperlordosis; J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Feb : 27(2):383-6.
  7. Distefano LJ, Blackburn JT, Marshall SW, Padua DA. Gluteal muscle activation during common therapeutic exercises. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009 Jul :39(7):532-40
  8. 8.0 8.1 Page .P, Frank C, Lardner R. Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance: The Janda Approach .Champaign . Human Kinetics. 2010.
  9. Freeman S, Mascia A, McGill S. Arthrogenic neuromusculature inhibition: a foundational investigation of existence in the hip joint.Clinical Biomechanics .February 2013:28(2):171–177.
  10. Josephine Key. A Movement Problem E-Book: A clinical approach incorporating relevant research and practice 1st Edition .Edinburgh .New York .Churchill Livingstone ELSEVIER.2010
  11. Arab ِA M, Ghamkhar L, Emami M , Nourbakhsh M R. Altered muscular activation during prone hip extension in women with and without low back pain .CHIROPRACTIC & MANUAL THERAPIES.2011.19_18 .

Exercises to activate glutes

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