Why We Need Glute Activation And Not Just More Squats. You might be thinking, “Well, I squat during my workouts – aren’t I activating my glutes?”
The truth is, most people fail to activate their glutes correctly, if at all. I see this time and time again in my exercise classes. People are doing the squats, the lunges, the lower body exercises, but not really “turning the glutes on”. When this happens the glutes can become “lazy” overtime, which inevitably make other muscles pick up the slack. (hamstings, lower back…)
This can occur from too much sitting, lack of movement or not understanding how to “turn them on”, which results in the muscles along our posterior chain becoming tight, while over stretched. (Picture an elastic band pulled tight).
When these muscles become lax, so does our ability to maintain good posture. The hip flexors tighten, pulling our upper body and shoulders forward. In turn, this can lead to lower back and neck pain, and even sciatica from pinched nerves around the hips and glutes. Piriformis Syndrome is a good example of this.
How Do We Activate Our Glutes?
Glute activation is quite different than just performing lower body exercises. Even though you may be doing squat or lunges, if you are not accustomed to “turning on” those glutes, you’ll put extra stress and tension on the surrounding muscles such as the hamstrings and lower back. This can lead to tight muscles, imbalanced muscles, poor posture and even lower back and hip pain.
The goal with glute activation exercises is to train the glutes to turn on and fire while performing any of your lower body exercises, so the muscles become stronger and act as a support system for your core and legs.
In these 4 exercises that I show you below, the glute maximus, medius, and minimus get a workout and our brought back to life! You’ll actually get more out of the squats and lunges, increasing your power, stability and strength.
4 Glute Activation Exercises:
1. Side lying hip lift- (*Side Plank Optional)- You wouldn’t think of a plank as a glute activation exercise, necessarily, but it is. Especially a side plank with a leg lift.
The side plank with leg lift is an advanced move. You can regress this move and do a lying abductor lift like shown in the video.
To do the lying abductor lift support your head in your hand while lying on your side and place the other hand in front of you on the ground. Stack your feet on top of each other and then lift your top leg straight up as high as you can.
Do not lean forward or backward or let your hips rotate forward or backward. Keep your core engaged as you lift. Also, keep the foot that you lift parallel to the one on the ground. If you rotate the toe up toward the ceiling, you will be working your external rotators, which is a great variation that you can also include.
2. Clam shell- This is one of my favorite moves to isolate the glute medius. This move is commonly used by people rehabbing hip injuries and low back pain BUT it is also a great move to activate the glutes and PREVENT those problems!
Lie on your side with your back stacked up against an imaginary wall. Engage your core. Use the top hand to help you balance in front as needed. Keeping the feet together, open up the hips by lifting the top leg. To make this move more advanced, (shown in video) lift both feet off the ground.
3. & 4. Bridge March & Pulse – The glute bridge is a versatile move that can be used for activation as well as developing great glute strength. It is a great move to strengthen your glutes and open up your hips. You can do it with just your own bodyweight or even add weight or a mini band!
A great variation of the glute bridge for activation is the bridge march shown above. Just make sure that as you do the glute bridge, you don’t hyper-extend your low back to get your hips up higher. You want your glutes to really have to work to raise your hips up. Also remember to keep both hip bones level and not tipping side to side as you do the march.
By adding in these glute activation exercises to your current exercise routine, you can develop stronger, more toned hips that will turn on and support you during your day to day activities and other exercises. So why not keep your hips happy and healthy with these 4 moves!
PS. Don’t forget that exercise & eating well go hand in hand.
And one of the easiest ways to improve your health and reduce joint inflammation and pain is to include antioxidants & healthy fats into your diet.
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