Glute activation Exercises – a popular topic nowadays. Whether you heard about it on social media or through your friends or co-workers, glute activation has really become something to talk about. A big part of this is due to our increasingly chair-laden lifestyle, which pertains of sitting on our butts all day.
Long-term effects of this lifestyle inhibit our glutes from properly activating, causing gluteal amnesia. Gluteal amnesia also is known as anterior pelvic tilt that causes your gluteal muscles to go into a relaxed state which results in delayed activation of gluteal muscles which leads to weakness causing your glutes to go and stay in “sleep mode”. Inhibiting the glutes and causing them to not “fire”–activate when they are supposed to.
The Gluteal Muscles
The glutes are composed of three gluteal muscles:
- Gluteus maximus (biggest)
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus (smallest)
These 3 muscles work together to abduct, extend, and rotate the hips. So they are incredibly important! Especially when most of us have desk jobs that require us to be sitting all day long. This leads to weak and underworked glutes.
So What Exactly is Glute Activation?
Glute activation helps to switch your glutes back “ON” by recruiting and correcting the correct muscle patterns. Glute activation WAKE-UP and PREPARE your gluteal muscles causing a change in the relative muscular involvement within an activity.
To make things less complicated, more simple, and understandable glute activation is simply a“warm-up ”, and because glute activation is a warm-up all you need to consider is stretching prior to performing glute activation exercises.
The overall goal of glute activation is to really focus on squeezing and contracting the glutes and not necessarily exhausting them. While performing glute activation exercises you should feel the “burn” in your glutes but glute activation should not necessarily be demanding on the body. It’s important to note that over-performing glute activation will lead you to exhaust your glutes and will provide you with a lack of strength and energy if you are performing a lower body workout after glute activation, so it’s important to not over-do it.
How Often Should Glute Activation Exercises be performed?
If your lifestyle consists of sitting down for long periods of time glute activation should be done on a DAILY basis. Performing glute activation exercises daily can help prevent lower body injuries due to inactive weak glutes such as strains and tears.
Making glute activation part of your daily routine will prevent your glutes from becoming inactive, tight, and weak.
Performing Glute Activation Prior to a Lower Body Workout
Do you have a hard time feeling the “burn” in your glutes during your workouts? Are your glutes never sore?
If your answer is “yes” to these questions the reason for that is probably due to a chair-laden lifestyle that can make it difficult to target the glutes properly during an exercise. So activating your glutes prior to a lower body workout is not only important but NECESSARY.
Performing glute activation exercises prior to a lower body workout improves muscle performance by facilitating the use of the glutes and providing you with movement quality during your workouts.
Recently a study was conducted to test the overall effects of a glute activation warm-up prior to performing an explosive workout and found that the main benefits of glute activation include:
- Greater gluteal activation during workouts
- Greater external rotation of the hip
- Knees closer to a neutral alignment
- Increased hamstring and gluteus maximal forces
All of these benefits will positively affect every lower body compound movement like squats, lunges, hip thrust etc. Not only that but they will also improve core stability, enhance performance, and help prevent lower body injuries.
Does Glute Activation Help Build Muscle?
My short answer –YES!
My long answer……..The main objective of glute activation is to wake-up and TURN-ON the glutes in order to help boost your glute’s ability to perform better during your workouts, preventing weak glutes. Glute activation will help strengthen glutes by providing you with a better QUALITY movement which in turn will help improve overall muscle performance.
Glute activation gives you the ability to properly TARGET and make better USE of your glute muscles. This will help provide you with better results in terms of both strength and muscle.
So if your goal is to gain muscle in your glutes, make it a habit to make glute activation part of your routine.
The Best Glute Activation Exercises According to Science
Now that we’ve gotten familiar with glute activation and its main aspects it’s time to take notes of the best glute activation exercises to get your glutes properly activated.
Like previously mentioned, our current lifestyle habits turn-off our glutes into sleep mode causing the glutes to become inactive, making it harder to target the glutes. This causes your quads and hamstrings to become OVER-ACTIVE, dominating all lower body exercise movements.
So in order to effectively activate your glutes, you will need to focus on performing glute isolation exercises. Exercises like squats or lunges will not simply do because these are compound movements that will most likely activate your quads instead of your glutes.
A study conducted by the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy tested the overall best exercises to activate the gluteal muscles. The main objective of this study was to examine muscle activity during common exercises used to strengthen the gluteus medius and the gluteus maximus.
According to their findings the top exercises for muscle activation for both the gluteus medius and the gluteus maximus are as follows:
Front Plank with Hip Extension
- Begin in prone plank position with the trunk, hips, and knees in neutral alignment.
- Next, lift the left leg off of the ground, flex the knee of the left leg, and extend the hip past neutral hip alignment by bringing the heel toward the ceiling. Hold for one second at the top and then return to parallel for one second. This is one rep.
- Then repeat on the other leg for the desired number of repetitions with each leg.
2.Side Plank abduction with Dominant Leg up
- Lie on your side and position yourself on your bottom elbow and side of your foot. Lift your hips in the air, forming a straight line from ankles to shoulders, and brace your
- While keeping your torso stable, raise your top leg without bending your knee. Do not let your hips drop. Return to the starting position.
Side Plank Abduction with Dominant Leg Down
- Start in a modified side plank position, with your top leg extended and your bottom leg bent back with the knee in the matt.
- Lift your top leg as high as possible and then lower it back down.
- Repeat and switch sides
4.Single Limb Squat (Single Leg Squat)
Stand with arms extended out in front.
Balance on one leg with opposite leg extended straight leg forward as high as possible.
Squat down as far as possible while keeping the leg elevated off of the floor.
Keep back straight and supporting knee pointed same direction as foot supporting.
NOTE: Because I have a hard time keeping my balance while performing this exercise I use a chair for extra assistance and balance. I don’t sit on it I only “tap” it.
The Best Glute Activation Exercises: My Experience
After implementing the exercises above into my daily glute activation routine, I found some exercise activated my glutes more than others.
The glute activation Exercises that activated my glutes the MOST were:
Single Limb Squat (Single Leg Squat)
Side Plank Abduction with Dominant Leg Down
I felt my glutes activated the most with these 2 exercises but overall my glutes were on fire with the single leg squat. I love this exercise, it is a staple exercise in my glute activation routine.
The glute activation exercises that activated my glutes the LEAST were:
Front Plank with Hip Extension
Side Plank abduction with Dominant Leg up
I felt I lacked glute activation with these two exercises because I felt that most times I was focusing too much on my core rather than my glutes, especially with the side plank.
My Favorite Glute Activation Exercises & Routine
I have incorporated a glute activation routine for quite some time now. Through my experience, I have stuck to the exercises I have found to activate MY glutes the most.
Here are my favorite glute activation exercises:
- Glute Bridge (using a band) *
- Frog Pumps*
- Body weight Hip Thrust*
- Quadruped hip extensions (using a band)
- Fire Hydrants (using a band)
- One Leg Squat
- Standing band abduction (using a band)
Tip: I always like to start with one of the first three exercises because these do a good job of working out the entire glutes instead of just the sides or upper glutes.
My Routine consists of:
I will usually choose 3-4 exercises from the list above and perform about 2 sets of about 12-15 reps each. One set includes all the exercises BACK-TO-BACK, rest for a minute and repeat one more time.
Tip: I like to use mini bands for certain exercises because it keeps constant tension in my glutes through the whole movement. These are the bands I use, I like these because they come in a set from light to heavy. At times I will also stack them to add more tension.
Glute Activation using Bands
I highly recommend performing glute activation exercises with the use of bands as they can help provide you with a DEEPER CONTRACTION by adding more tension as you perform the movement.
However, if you are a beginner and have never performed any type of glute activation exercises I highly recommend for you to perform these exercises WITHOUT a band instead focus in getting your form right and once you feel comfortable with these exercises you can start to incorporate the use of bands.
Overall, glute activation has become a trending topic for a reason. Our increasingly chair-laden lifestyles are leading to weak and under-active glutes and are becoming the underlying cause of many other issues.
Glute Activation is important and needs to be performed constantly if you want to prevent injuries. Performing the correct glute activation exercises is critical as these will help you properly TARGET your glutes.
Above all, solely just going through the movements of these glute activation exercises will NOT maximize activation and will lack to provide you with the best results. Instead, you will really need to focus on CONTRACTING and SQUEEZING your glutes while performing these glute activation exercises to really feel the burn that will result in the best glute activation possible.