The best glute activation exercises of all time, and how they could help you

Full Length Of Young Woman Exercising In Gym
5 best glute activation exercises of all timeCarina König / EyeEm - Getty Images

Glute activation is a term that personal trainers love to talk about, but does anyone actually understand what it means?

"Lifting heavy in the gym but feeling like the results aren't quite showing all the hard work you're putting in? Well, I'll let you into the worse-kept secret - glute activation" says Alice Liveing. There's good reason why it's so important, as glute activation exercises are key for building strength and preventing injury.

"Rarely does a session with a client pass without mention of glute activation. Why? Because if you’re a person who spends most of their time sitting down – whether that’s at a desk, on a sofa or in a car – chances are the muscles in your behind are becoming lazier by the day.

If a sculpted bum appears anywhere on your wish list, something’s got to give."

Why are the glutes so inactive?

Because people – even active ones – use their glutes primarily for one main purpose: sitting down. And having groggy glutes means they are less prepared to handle strenuous exercise and transfer the added stress to other muscle groups.

"Poor glute activation (from not practicing glute activation exercises) is extremely common," says elite personal trainer Harry Jameson. "It leads to a higher probability of injury, poor running form and lack of tone."

"Expecting your glutes to strengthen and lift after doing a few squats a week is wishful thinking," says Liveing. Instead, the secret to getting the most out of lower-body work is to wake up your glutes with specific glute activation exercises.

So, what is glute activation?

Glute activation is done through a series of warm-up exercises to properly strengthen the muscles in your bum, which help to boost your ability to perform everything from pulls and squats to jumps and sprints.

How can you do glute activation?

Switching on your glutes with glute activation exercises before you train them means they do the work, rather than relying on surrounding muscles to pick up the slack.

By firing up your entire posterior chain – the muscles that run up the back of your body, including the glutes, the erector spinae, calves and hamstrings – you’ll get the most out of each move, plus, you’ll lower your risk of injury.

It’s why we advise incorporating various glute activation exercises into a 15-20 minute dynamic warm-up before any lower-body movement, such as cycling, running or weight training.

Focus on glute-activation exercises like these, which target the gluteus medius, minimus, maximus, and even your tensor fasciae latae (a muscle on the outside of your hip that helps to keep your pelvis balanced when you walk or run).

Best glute-activation exercises

1/ Single-leg glute bridge

Cartoon, Leg, Arm, Drawing, Footwear, Illustration, Sitting, Sketch, Muscle, Art,
Cartoon, Leg, Arm, Drawing, Footwear, Illustration, Sitting, Sketch, Muscle, Art,

Targets: Glutes, core

Do: 2 sets of 8-12 reps on each side

(a) Lying on your back, bring your right knee up towards your chest while keeping your left leg bent, with the sole of your foot planted on the floor.

(b)Drive down through your left foot while raising your pelvis up towards the ceiling. Slightly tuck under and squeeze your glutes at the top before returning to the floor and repeating.

2/ Lateral Banded walk

Cartoon, Shoulder, Arm, Leg, Standing, Joint, Illustration, Animation, Knee, Human body,
Cartoon, Shoulder, Arm, Leg, Standing, Joint, Illustration, Animation, Knee, Human body,

Targets: Hip abductors, glutes

Do: 3 sets of 10 reps on each side

(a) Place a resistance band just above your knees, then stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.

(b)Slightly bend at the knee, take a large step left with your left foot, then follow with the right, keeping tension in the band. That counts as 1 step. Do 9 more, then change direction.

3/ Banded side-lying clam

Long jump, Leg, Muscle, Swim brief, Illustration, Undergarment, Abdomen, Athletics,
Long jump, Leg, Muscle, Swim brief, Illustration, Undergarment, Abdomen, Athletics,

Targets: Hip abductors, glutes

Do: 3 sets of 10 reps

(a) Loop a resistance band around your legs just above your knees. Lie on your side, propped up on your elbow, with your knees bent at 90°.

(b) Keeping your feet glued together, lift your top knee as high as you can without rotating your hip. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, then return to the starting position.

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