4 Reasons to Strengthen and Activate Your Glutes with Top Exercises

Clarice Cummins, P.T.

May 24, 2020

Fitness Training | Joints & Back Health

4 Reasons to Strengthen and Activate Your Glutes with Top Exercises

It’s Not Just About a Flat Butt 🙂

The largest, most important group of muscles in your body are your glutes. These muscles are key players for mobility, being vital for movements such as walking and going up steps. The gluteus maximus, the biggest gluteus muscle, helps propel you forward when you walk or run. The gluteus medius and minimus stabilize the pelvis and promote hip abduction and thigh rotation.

Vector Flat Gluteus Maximus Illustration

Our current culture leads many of us to have chronically tight and weak glutes due to excessive sitting and living a sedentary lifestyle. Prolonged sitting from driving in the car, hanging out on a couch, sitting at work, etc. have led gluteus muscles to become more dormant than they should be. Our gutes have become weak, “inactive,” and “switched off” because an over-reliance on other muscles during everyday movement that should be performed by the glutes.  As a society, we tend to have overdeveloped quads and underdeveloped glutes with tight hip flexor muscles. In fact, the common condition when gluteus muscles are weak and hip flexors are tight is called a “dormant butt syndrome” and it can cause knee, hip, and back pain.

Having strong, active glutes is extremely important and vital to the health of your overall body. Weak glutes also mean a flat butt, and who wants a flat butt whether you are a man or a woman? But it’s really not about the looks. Weak glutes can contribute to a range of health issues including poor posture, lower back pain, decreased mobility, balance issues, lack of strength, muscle pain, and could potentially increase the risk of injury.

Four Reasons to Strengthen Your Glutes:

Why do P.T.’s recommend core and glute- strengthening exercises above all other both to young people and seniors? Here are the reasons: 

1) Better Posture

Strong glute muscles provide your spine with the support it needs and the stabilization your pelvis requires in order to have a healthy posture.

2) Improves Your Mobility and Balance

This may sound surprising, but your rear end is capable of generating an incredible amount of power. It is the powerhouse of your body’s mobility level and essential for walking and running. You also need strong glutes for stabilization. Strengthening your gluteus can increase both your mobility and balance.

3) Reduced Chance of Knee, Hip, and Back Injury

Strong glutes protect vulnerable areas of the body such as your hamstrings, knees, and lower back. It is essential that these areas function in a healthy manner in order to perform simple daily activities well. Having a strong rear can also help you avoid tears and sprains in your back muscles. Weak glutes negatively affect lower back alignment which puts back muscles at greater risk of injury.

4) Prevent Back Pain

If the glutes aren’t doing their job, the rest of the body — including the spine — has to pick up the slack and can become overworked and injured.  A common cause of back pain is because the psoas muscle acts as the body’s core stabilizer rather than the glutes. When the psoas is overactive, compression occurs in the lower back, resulting in one of the more common causes of back pain.

Related: The 10 Best Core Exercises To Improve Strength and Core Stability

Glute Activation Exercises

1. Glute Bridge

The bridge lift works your glutes and lower back. Begin by lying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your hips until they are in a straight line with your knees and chest. Keep your core tight and do not arch your back. Slowly lower your hips back down after three seconds. Repeat for 60 seconds – should be about 12 reps at the suggested pace. After a rest, do it again for one more minute.

If you’d like a challenge, then hold your hips high for 20- 30 seconds at a time!

2. Clam Shells

Lay on your right side with your legs on top of each other and your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Bend your right arm so that you can rest your head on your right hand. Raise your right knee as high as you can without shifting the weight on your hips. Keep your left leg on the ground and make sure your feet are touching the entire time. If your heels cannot stay connected, then do not raise your knee as high. Practice this for 60 seconds on one side before switching sides.

For added difficulty, you can place a resistance band above your knees and hold a lightweight in your top hand, but it’s not required for the beginner version.

3. Superman

This exercise focuses on strengthening your lower back as well as glutes. Lay on the floor face down, with your arms and legs extended. Take a deep breath, tighten your core, and raise your head, right arm, and left leg at the same time. Do not hyperextend your joints – you only need to raise your leg and arm about two inches off of the ground. Slowly lower yourself down and then do the same with the opposite limbs. You can do this for 60 seconds at a time. For more of a challenge, raise your head, arms, and legs all at the same time.

3. Donkey Kicks

This exercise might remind you of the Jane Fonda DVDs. It might be old-fashioned, but it’s one of the most effective ones as it does a great job isolating and targeting the glute muscles. In addition, it trains our hamstrings and core. It’s a terrific exercise if performed correctly!

Start on a table-top position, with hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips; all about shoulder-width apart. IMPORTANT: Tighten your core muscles so that you spine is in a neutral position. Slowly raise your right leg keeping it bent. Squeeze the glutes at the top of the movement and hold for a moment. Lower your leg. Rinse and repeat.

4. Squats and Lunges

Squats and lunges are great for gluteus muscles. There are many different versions of squats and lunges. If you are a beginner, we recommend that you do squats over a chair as in the Tap Backs Exercise, which we adore and do every day ourselves as a short break from sitting. Please keep in mind that proper form is paramount in squats and lunges: knees must be strictly over your feet without collapsing the knees. Bad squat/ lunge form leads to kneed injuries.

Various versions of squats and lunges with instructions on proper form are included in our Building Strength series and the Back Health and Core Stability program in Wysefit App. The Lower Body Strength class targeting glutes and legs is FREE!

One thing to remember: make sure to stretch out your glutes out after exercising. Our favorite way to stretch them is using a foam roller: 

Check Out: Guide To Foam Rolling For Back Health

And here are some moreLower Body Stretches that you can do without using a foam roller!

Do these exercises and stretches regularly and enjoy having better health, balance, and posture as well as a rounder and more attractive butt 🙂 

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