The glutes are one of the largest and most important muscle groups in the entire body. They are the primary stabilizers of the hip joint and the powerhouse muscle of the lower body. Having strong glutes isn’t just for looks. They play a crucial role in one’s posture, performance, injury prevention and everyday functioning.
Many people are unaware that their glute muscles aren’t functioning properly. When performing glute dominant exercises such as squats, step downs etc., more often than not, individuals with weak glute muscles don't actually activate the intended muscles. Instead, their hamstring muscles or back extensors will take over and act as the primary movers. This will cause these muscles to become extremely tight and over active. To effectively work your glutes, it is important to prep and activate the muscles prior to your workout. Not only will these exercises help activate your glutes, they will also improve the strength and functioning needed for everyday activities.
Here are some glute activation exercises to implement prior to exercise to help get those glutes “fired up” and ready to work!
Leg lifts target your left and right glute separately. You may notice that one side is stronger than the other. Lay on your stomach and think about squeezing your glute. Lift your leg a few inches off the ground and then lower it back down. The hamstrings and/or erector muscles of the spine will try to take over for the glutes during this exercise. To ensure it’s the glutes initiating the work, take one hand and place a few fingers on your glute and a few on your hamstring. Make sure that you feel the glute muscle contract under your fingers before your hamstring! Complete 15 reps on one leg and then switch to the other.
Banded Side Shuffle
The Banded Side Shuffle or Monster Steps targets your lateral glutes, the gluteus medius, which helps with proper knee function. For this exercise, place a band just above the ankles with your feet far enough apart to create tension. Begin taking lateral steps to one side, maintaining tension at all times. Make sure you keep a slight bend in the hips and a nice flat back. Take 6 to 8 steps in one direction, then to shuffle 6 to 8 steps in the other direction.
Glute Bridging is a really effective exercise for targeting your glutes. As you build more strength, you can increase the reps or add weight. Lay on your back with your knees bent up and feet flat on the floor. Think about driving your heels into the ground and contracting your glutes to help lift your hips off the floor. Keep a straight line from your knees to your chest to ensure you are lifting your hips high enough off the ground.