Glute activation exercises are important because your gluteus maximus, medius and minimus play a pretty important role in maintaining your posture and helping you power through the day. Yet they can easily get neglected in your training when the bigger muscles around them take over.
When you do a squat, can you feel your butt muscles working? If you can’t, you’re not alone. For many people, big compound movements like squats engage other muscles to do the heavy lifting. You can tell if this is happening if, for example, you get that burning sensation in your quads when you do squats. Unless you know how to activate the right muscles and fire up your glutes, then you’ll continue to recruit the big, dominant muscles like the quads.
As much as compound (multi-joint) movements provide functionality and great neurological demand, they can easily distract you from focusing on isolation exercises, which are fundamental to growth. Focusing on one muscle or muscle group at a time is an effective way to activate muscles that get ignored by multi-joint movements. As a bonus, it allows you to build muscle as you increase the volume of your training session, without overloading your nervous system and hindering the recovery process.
So if you think you are not engaging your glutes enough (and don’t worry, it’s super common, particularly amongst those fairly new to exercising), try these five glute activation exercises to build strength in your butt and wake up the glutes!
You’ll need a range of gym equipment for this workout – find it all at Fitness First.
Aim to do 3 to 5 sets of the workout, 3 times a week for 12 weeks to start seeing and feeling the difference.
1. Single leg pushdowns (20 reps on each leg)
This is done on the assisted chin up machine. With the resistance under your heel as you push down, you have no choice but to activate those glutes to push the platform to the floor.
Top tip: Maintain your hip alignment, and flex your knee beyond 90 degrees at the top. The bigger the range of motion, the more glute muscle fibres are used.
2. Donkey kicks (20 reps on each leg)
This is done on the leg curl machine, although you’re on the floor and you’re pushing it upwards to get those butt muscles working hard.
Top tip: Activate your core and really squeeze those glutes at the top of the movement.
3. Straight leg cable kicks (20 reps on each leg)
For this one, you’ll need a resistance cable and a bench. To isolate your glutes, keep your leg straight – this way, it’s only your hip joint that’s working, and you won’t rely on your hamstrings to get that leg in the air.
Top tip: Keep your wrists under your shoulders and switch on your core to avoid movement of your spine.
4. Prone hip extension with abduction (20 reps, 1-2 seconds each rep)
This is a great exercise to activate your gluteus medius. In fact, it gives all the muscle fibres in your glutes a great workout! Place an elastic band around your legs just above the knees for further glute activation.
Top tip: Hold your knees as wide open as you can to add resistance, and raise your legs as high as you can to work more fibres.
5. Split squats (20 short reps on each leg)
It’s important to keep the resistance on your glutes in this exercise. Do it on the smith machine with a raised step to increase your range of motion, which in turn activates more of the muscle.
Top tip: The wider the stance, the more of the glutes that you’ll activate.
This article first appeared on Fitness First.