Essential Hip and Glute Activation

3 moves to unlock your hips and activate your glutes.


By Cori


Low back pain? Knee pain? Hip pain? Want to lift more? Run faster? Heck simply even develop a strong and sexy-looking butt?

Then you need to work on loosening up tight hips and activating your glutes!

Because we spend way too much time out of the day seated, our hips get tight which can cause our glutes to become underactive. That means they don’t work when they should, which can lead to movement compensations and injuries. It can also mean we aren’t able to run as fast or lift as much as we should be able to if our glutes are working properly. AND it may be the reason why no matter how many leg workouts you do, your glutes never seem to change and you only ever feel your quads working!

With these 3 basic bodyweight moves, you can unlock your tight hip flexors and activate your glutes!

Frog Hip Thrusters

If you struggle to get your glutes activated and always feel your low back taking over, this is a great glute bridge variation to use. The position of your feet can help activate your glutes and the extended range of motion using the bench can also force you to engage your abs as you work through a full range of motion to open up your hips.

To do Frog Hip Thrusters, place your upper back on a bench and the bottoms of your feet together so the outsides of your feet are resting on the ground and your knees are open. Stretch your arms out on the bench. Then bridge up driving through your upper back and the outsides of your feet.

Squeeze your glutes to extend your hips but look down toward your knees and keep a pelvic tilt at the top. This can help prevent you from hyperextending your lower back so you can get a fuller glute contraction. Pause then lower back down and repeat. Keep your knees open as you bridge up and down. Do not let your lower back engage but instead focus on squeezing your glutes to extend your hips.

Single Leg Glute Bridge

It’s very important when you activate your glutes that you address any imbalances you may have between both sides. Often due to injury or our lifestyle, we create imbalances A.K.A. have a weaker and stronger side. Unilateral, or one sided moves, can help us correct the imbalances and get both sides working properly. That is why this Single Leg Glute Bridge variation is so key.

If you struggle to keep your hamstring from taking over or your lower back from engaging during this single leg variation, try the Glute Bridge with March instead.

To do the Single Leg Glute Bridge, lie on your back on the ground with both knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Start with your heels just beyond your fingertips and arms down by your sides. Then bring one knee in towards your chest and wrap your arms around your knee to pull it in and even get a stretch.

Hugging your knee in, drive through your heel on the ground and upper back to bridge up. Squeeze your glutes to extend your hip. Pause at the top and lower back down. Make sure you keep your abs engaged so you don’t hyperextend your lower back. Focus more on engaging the glute than on how high you lift up. Complete all reps on one side before switching.

3-Way Hip Circles

It is important that you open up your hips so you can move safely in every direction, which is why it’s important to use circles and even lateral movements in your glute activation routine. Plus including movements in every direction helps you activate all three gluteal muscles. That is why moves like the 3-Way Hip Circles are so important to include. Plus, this move will even activate your abs!

To do the 3-Way Hip Circles, start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Flex your feet. Then, keeping your knee bent to about 90 degrees, kick one leg back driving your heel up toward the ceiling as you squeeze your glute.

Do not let your hips rotate open and focus on contracting your glute as you hold there for a second. Make sure to keep your arms straight as you extend your hip and drive your heel up toward the ceiling.

Then, keeping your knee bent, bring your leg up and out to the side into the Fire Hydrant position. Do not lower your leg down as you move from the Donkey Kick to the Fire Hydrant. Keep your foot flexed and knee bent to 90 degrees. Also do not bend your arms or lean away to try to lift the leg up higher. Try to keep your knee and ankle level and your lower leg parallel to the ground. Pause for a second and feel the outside of your glute working.

Without touching your knee down, then drive that knee forward and in toward your elbow. Feel your abs engage as you hold and drive your your knee into your elbow. Then repeat the circle, kicking your foot back to repeat the first piece of the movement.

Along with these 3 moves, check out these 3 moves you can do daily to stretch your hips!

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.

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