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We Like Activated Glutes and We Cannot Lie

Tuesday, February 8, 2022
We Like Activated Glutes and We Cannot Lie

The glutes are a very important muscle group when it comes to exercise and strength training. While training we find many of our clients struggle to properly engage them. When the glutes fail to activate, other muscles must take over to perform the exercise. This can lead to many problems including lower back, knee, and hip pain plus muscle imbalances.

The gluteals are comprised of three parts. The largest is the gluteus maximus, which is responsible for maintaining the body’s upright posture. The gluteus medius controls sideways movements and stability of the hip. Lastly, the smallest gluteal is the gluteus minimus. The gluteus minimus helps to stabilize the hip and abduction of the leg.

So why are my glutes not activating? There are multiple reasons for the lack of glute activation. The most common cause for weakness is the lack of activity or sedentary lifestyle. Reciprocal inhibition occurs when tightness in one muscle creates length in the muscle on the opposite side of the joint. If you have a desk job or spend most of your day in a seated position, the hip flexors become tight, and the glutes are lengthened. You can check to see if this is the case for you with a simple test. Stand in your normal posture and look at your hips from a side view in a mirror. Do you have an anterior pelvic tilt? You would see an arch in your lower back and your hip bones tilted forward. Another way to test is to lay on your back and try to squeeze your right butt cheek, then repeat the same to the left side. You may notice one side will activate and the other side will not. Finally, you can try a single leg bridge position and determine if your glute is doing the work or are your hamstrings or lower back trying to take over during this exercise?

Single leg glute bridge

There are many ways to start activating your glutes in and out of the gym. First, if you have a job that requires you to sit during the day, try to get up and go for a short walk every hour. This could be to go refill your water bottle, use the restroom, or just saying hi to a friend. This will give your hip flexors a chance to stretch. If you didn’t feel your glutes engaging while performing the single leg bridge, try it again but this time have both feet on the floor. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can for 10 seconds then relax. Complete this 5 times then retest the single leg bridge. Your glutes might just need some activation before performing more complex exercises.

Double leg glute bridge

Exercise Examples

*Check with your trainer before performing these exercises to make sure they are safe for you.

Glute Bridges

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  • Push your heels into the ground, squeeze your glutes and lift your hips up off the floor
  • Hold the top position for 3-5 seconds squeezing your glutes as hard as you can
  • Slowly bring your hips back down to the floor
  • Complete 15-20 bridges

Banded Side Steps

  • Get a miniband and put it on your ankles
  • Slight bend in your knees step to the right with your right foot slightly turning your foot inward (this might feel awkward like you are pigeon toed, but it will help your gluteus medius fire)
  • Keeping tension on the band step to the right with you left foot
  • Repete for 10-15 steps to the right
  • Complete the same steps to the left

Banded Glute Kickbacks

  • Get a miniband and put it on your ankles
  • Stand next to a wall or railing for balance
  • Stand on your left leg with a slight bend in your knee
  • Keeping your right leg straight kick the leg behind you as much as you can only using the glute. If your back is arching you are kicking too high.
  • Complete 20 kickbacks each side

Slow Banded Squats

  • Get a miniband and put it on your quads, right above the knees
  • Push your knees outward into the band engaging the glutes and lower into a squat position
  • Keep tension on the band and stand back up to the starting position
  • Complete 20 squats

Banded Squat with Abductions

  • Get a miniband and put it on your quads, right above the knees
  • Push your knees outward into the band engaging the glutes and lower into a squat position
  • Staying in the bottom position, pulse your knees outward into the band
  • Do not let the knees fall inward
  • After 20 pulses stand back up to the starting position

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