Glute Activation has become a hot topic in the fitness world and with good reason - inactive glutes can lead to injury and all too many of us are at risk. If our glutes aren’t working correctly, we’re at risk for lower back, hip and knee pain.
More and more people are suffering from inactive glutes because most of us spend 9 hours a day with our hips in flexion sitting at our desks, driving in the car or watching TV. Tight hips can prevent your glutes from activating correctly. This can lead to imbalances and movement compensations that cause injury.
If you want to prevent injury, and even run faster and lift more, you need to reverse the effects of sitting and get your glutes activated. Try these 4 moves to activate and work your glutes from every angle. And the best part is, they are all bodyweight exercises you can do anywhere!
1. Frog Bridge
Bridging exercises are some of the best movements you can do to get your glutes activated while also opening up your hips. And the positioning of your feet and knees with the Frog Bridge can make it easier for you to feel your glutes activate and work if you often struggle to get them engaged.
To do the Frog Bridge, lie on your back and place the bottom of your feet together, letting your knees fall open like with the butterfly stretch. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees so that only your upper arms are against the ground and then brace your abs before bridging up, driving through your arms, upper back and feet.
Keep your knees open and really squeeze your glutes as you bridge up. Pause at the top and keep your core engaged so you don’t hyperextend your lower back. Then lower back down and repeat.
2. Side Plank Clams
Your glutes help you move in every direction, which is why you need to do activation exercises that strengthen them through every plane of motion. With the Side Plank Clams, you can work your glutes in another direction as you also strengthen your entire core, including your obliques.
To do Side Plank Clams, set up as if doing a side plank from your knee. Your elbow should be underneath your shoulder and your knees should be bent with your feet and lower legs stacked behind you. You can place your top hand on your hip or reach it up toward the ceiling, but don’t touch it down to the ground or use it to help you balance or press up.
Prop up on your elbow with your knees stacked, lift up into a side plank, and lift your bottom hip up off the ground. As you bridge your hips up, rotate your top leg open toward the ceiling while squeezing your glutes forward. Keep your feet together and really use your glutes to rotate your knee open. Then lower the leg back down and lower your hip back down to the ground.
Then repeat on the same side, lifting back up into the side plank as you externally rotate your hip, squeezing your glutes.
3. Glute Bridge with Rocks
Not only can our glutes be inactive, but they can also be imbalanced. One side may not only be stronger, but may actually take over and prevent you from strengthening both sides evenly with bilateral (or two limb) movements. That is why moves like the Glute Bridge with Rocks are so important to include. This move is a great way to isolate each glute without having to do a completely unilateral move (especially if you aren’t yet strong enough for the Single Leg Glute Bridge!).
To do the Glute Bridge with Rocks, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Your feet should be about hip-width apart and your knees should be in line with your feet and hips. Bend your arms to 90 degrees, drive through your arms, upper back and heels, and bridge up. Squeeze your glutes and brace your abs to bridge up.
Then at the top of the bridge, focus on contracting one glute harder. Do not let your hips sink as you focus on engaging one side a little bit more to “rock” your hips. Pause and hold for a second then rock your other hip slightly up to contract that glute harder.
Keep your abs braced as you rock slightly and alternate contracting each glute a little bit extra at the top of the bridge. Do not let your lower back take over as you hold at the top and work to contract each glute a little bit extra.
4. Side Balance Leg Raises
A great abduction exercise to strengthen your glutes and really build hip stability is the Side Balance Leg Raises. This is a more advanced movement so beginners may need to regress to a Fire Hydrant instead.
To do the Side Balance Leg Raises, start on one knee with the hand down, on the same side. It will be a similar position to the side plank, but your knee won’t be out as far. Stretch your other leg straight out to the side and open your chest and hips up so you aren’t rotated towards the ground.
Holding this position, lift your straight top leg up to about parallel to the ground and pause. Then lower back down. Feel the outside of your glutes working to lift as you keep your core engaged so you don’t wobble or rotate! Do not swing the leg or let your body rotate toward the ground.
For even more glute activation moves and workouts, check out these 5 Quick Booty Burners!
Cori is the owner of Redefining Strength, a functional training facility in Orange County, California focused on helping each client find their strong. She started training and writing a fitness blog in 2011 because she wanted to empower people through diet and exercise so that they can lead healthier, happier lives.