The glutes are a very common area of weakness for people. It’s not uncommon to find poor glute activation in individuals with a history of lower back injury. When glute activation is poor, the quads and hamstrings are typically overworking with exercises and the glutes are underworking.
This is not ideal in regards to injury prevention as discussed and won’t help you build your butt if this is your goal!
The 3 exercises below help you re-educate the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius so that they activate properly.
This is great to perform if you are new to exercise or if you feel like you’re not seeing the gains you want in your glutes. Glute activation is key to gaining muscle in your butt! You can also use these exercises as a warm-up prior to your leg workouts to get the glutes to fire even better!
I also have a video where I talk you through these exercises if you find that helpful in learning, I’ll link it below.
3 Simple exercises to improve glute activity
1. Prone TKEs (5 sec hold, 10 reps, 1 set)
Lying on your stomach, tuck the toes on one side under with the knee still relaxed on the floor. (1st photo below)
Place your hands under your forehead and rest your head on your hands (this keeps the neck in neutral).
Squeeze your butt and then begin to lift your knee off the ground so that your knee is straight. You will be lifting the knee on the side that you are on your toes. Keep your toes on the ground as you lift your knee. Also, keep your hips where they started and focus on only moving from the knee joint. (2nd photo below)
Try to keep the glute engaged while lifting and hold for 5 seconds.When lowering the knee back down, still try to keep the glute squeezed until the knee is back on the floor.
Once the knee is back down, relax the glutes and then re-contract before the next rep. As with any exercise, make sure you don’t hold your breath!
2. Prone hip extension (5 sec hold, 10 reps, 1 set)
Start by lying on your stomach with the legs relaxed on the floor.
Place your hands under your forehead and relax your head on your hands on to keep your neck in neutral.
Squeeze your butt and lift one leg at a time. Hold 5 seconds, then lower the leg back down and switch sides. Don’t lift too high because this can cause you to lose correct form.
For example, if you lift and you feel your pelvis really pressing into the floor, you may have lifted too high. If your pelvis is totally off the floor, you may be rotating your body too much. When starting out, it’s best to start with a smaller lift to gain muscle control.
3. Sidelying hip abduction (2 sec hold, 10-15 reps, 3 sets)
This exercise works the outer portion of the glute, your gluteus medius.
For the starting position of this exercise, lay on your side, bend your bottom leg, and allow your top leg to be straight with the foot relaxing on the floor.
You can straighten your arm out and relax your head on your upper arm or you can bend your elbow and relax your head in your hand as seen in photo.
Keeping the knee straight, lift the top leg but keep a few things in mind:
1. Make sure your toes of this leg are pointing forward and NOT up to the ceiling. If they point up to the ceiling, this totally changes the muscle activation.
2. Start with a smaller lift and keep your leg in a straight line with your pelvis. If you can keep your toes pointing forward, you can lift as high as you see in the photo but NO higher!
3. Lastly, keep the knee straight on the leg you are lifting.
Hold the lifted leg for 2 seconds, then lower back down and repeat.
Glute activation video for verbal instructions on these exercises:
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Exercise and physical activities:
Before beginning any of these exercises, you should consult with your physician, assess your fitness level, and follow all safety instructions.
Any/all information provided by Dr. Tara Salay is of general nature and should not be taken as medical and/or other health advice pertaining to any individual specific health and/or medical condition. You should be in good physical condition and able to participate in these exercises and you should understand that when participating in same, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in these exercises, you agree that your participation is voluntary and that you are participating at your own risk. By engaging in these exercises you agree to assume any/all risk(s) of injury. Should your participation in these exercises result in injury, you agree to release, discharge, and hold Dr. Tara Salay a harmless from any/all losses, liabilities, injuries, and/or damages resulting from any/all known or unknown claims and/or causes of action.