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Exercises for glute activation

Simple guide and exercises for glute activation

The glutes are a powerhouse for human movement, a literal driving force for the posterior chain and many movements that we as humans make.

The glutes pull their attachments (thigh and spine) backwards driving the hips and legs. This posterior abduction is simple yet vital to all movements as it is what allows us to stand erect, and also to walk as it pulls the legs backwards to propel us forwards. The stronger we can make this muscle, the stronger the body in general will be as all force transits through the hips in strength or athletic efforts, whether bracing or building in this phase.

Therefore the greater glute activation, or muscle fibre recruitment, you can achieve in a workout the better.

Given the importance, here is a simple guide to a home workout using some of the best glute exercises to increase glute activation and build a stronger booty.

Glute activation exercise #1: Glute bridges

Glute bridge demonstration
  1. Glute bridges are a simple glute activation exercise performed by lying on your back with your legs bent and feet placed as close as comfortable to your buttocks with the feet just inside shoulder width, hands by your side or slightly outwards palm down (for balance). 
  2. Once in this position you will drive with the glutes forcing your weight through the heels and pushing your hips off the ground and then lowering them back down to the starting position. Activation is the name of the game so try to hold the bridge at the top for a couple of seconds and stay controlled when lowering to the start. 
  3. Repeat these steps for desired repetitions and sets. 

Note: The glutes activate well with this exercise as it allows them to fully contract and minimizes the support of other muscles. Try adding a glute band to increase tension on the muscle.

The glute bridge with bands challenges the muscle in its abduction as well as posterior plane and increases glute activation. The band should be positioned just above the knee to mid thigh depending on comfort and be slightly tense. Non slip fabric bands can provide more comfort in the movement to reduce sliding or sticking. 

You can find more banded glute bridge variations here.

Glute activation exercise #2: Single leg glute bridges

Singe leg glute bridge demonstration
  1. Lay on your back with your legs bent and feet placed as close as comfortable to your buttocks with the feet just inside shoulder width, hands by your side or slightly outwards palm down (for balance)
  2. Extend one leg straight out so that the line from your ankle to shoulders is straight for that leg and tense the glutes. Hold this leg straight with the torso through the movement driving through the heel that remains planted close to the glutes and raise your hips off the ground.
  3. Keep the abdominals tensed for balance and pause at the top for peak glute activation. Lower slowly keeping control of the movement.
  4. Repeat for desired repetitions on both legs. Symmetry is key.

Note: We recommend using your less dominant leg first and training both sides to the same degree i.e. left can only do 5 reps and right can do 10, only do 5 per leg increasing until they can both do 10. Balance is a key aspect of this movement, so to increase difficulty, a balance board or larger and more stable ball can be placed under the driving foot to increase muscle recruitment and activation.

Glute activation exercise #3: Glute kickbacks 

Glute kickback demonstration
  1. Set yourself up on your hands and knees with the abs tensed with weight predominantly on the hands and one knee. Slightly extend the non weight bearing knee so it is still bent but off the ground and maintain the knee angle throughout the movement. 
  2. Drive the foot of the non weight bearing knee backwards and up in a straight arc, tensing the glutes to drive the leg. 
  3. Repeat the movement for the desired repetitions and sets. Swap legs and repeat. 

Note: We recommend using your less dominant leg first and training both sides to the same degree i.e. left can only do 5 reps and right can do 10, only do 5 per leg increasing until they can both do 10.

These exercises are a simple way to activate your glutes and recruit more muscle fibres, which if done correctly, can result in greater power through movements and stability when performing those movements; not to mention adding some junk to the trunk.

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