Are your glutes firing when you squat, lunge, jump, and deadlift?
Believe it or not, most of our glutes aren’t, and there’s a fix for this.
You want dem glutes firing on all cylinders when you lift. Even if you train hard everyday, taking time to turn them “on” will go a long way in optimizing your lifts and preventing low back pain, hip pain, even knee and ankle pain.
Even though I am very active, I’m still sitting for long periods of time in front of the computer, which contributes to having dormant glutes. I can usually tell in a squat or deadlift if my glutes are “on” or not, but that may not be the case for you or even myself every time you train.
The glutes are the largest and strongest muscle group in the body responsible for movement of the hip and thighs.
A quick breakdown for my anatomy nerds:
Gluteus maximus: This is the part of your butt that gives you its shape. He is the older brother, team leader, and quite the show off. This muscle’s primary objection is to extend the thigh and assists with lateral rotation of the lower limb. It’s big, it’s strong, and the most visible of the glute group.
Gluteus Medius: The middle child of the Glute Gang, the gluteus medius sits between big bro gluteus maximus and little sis gluteus minimus. This fan-shaped muscle abducts and medially rotates the lower limb, secures the pelvis, and is basically the MVP of movement. Someone give this dude a brand new car!
Gluteus Minimus: Enter the youngest sibling of the glute trio – the gluteus minimus. This gal is the deepest and smallest of the Glute Gang and quite a team player. Together with the gluteus medius, she helps stabilize the hip and pelvis when the opposite leg is raised. Her primary action is in ABduction and inward rotation of the thigh.
With that said, it helps to activate your glutes from all angles in order to fire all the glute muscles. Anything from lateral band walks, monster walks, and clamshells will hit the Gluteus Medius and Minimus.
Below are three additional activation exercises to add to your glute toolbox.
3 Glute Activation Exercises
Supine 1-Leg Bridge
A fairly simple variation of the single leg glute bridge, this one helps in a few ways. First, pushing your shin into your hand & vice versa enables you to anchor your pelvis and connect the arms to your back. This helps you really lift from your glutes and protect your back at the same time.
As you lift up, be sure to push the opposite foot into the floor so you can connect to the backside of the leg. Pause at the top and give that booty a squeeze 6-8x per side.
Banded Kick Back
Using a resistance with low to medium tension, lift the leg behind you while keeping your hips facing forward. A mistake people make is trying to lift the leg as high as possible, creating unnecessary hyperextension in the lumbar spine or rotation of the hip. Just lift enough to feel the muscle, squeeze, and repeat x8-10.
Prone Leg Lifts
With the heels together, toes apart, and knees bent, lift the thigh an inch or less off the floor & hold. The goal is to lift from the glute not the low back. Core should be wrapping UP + IN the whole time. Repeat x8-10.
The beauty of these three exercises is that they can be used during your warm-up, as additional accessory work on a rest day, or supersetted with a main lift. It’s fairly low effort work but enables you to really focus on waking up dormant glutes after a long day of sitting so you can get the most out of your training.