Exercises

Glute Activation – What it is and Must-Know Exercises

Ever feel like your booty progress is at a standstill?

Or have you been drilling squats, but you’ve plateaued when it comes to the weight you can lift?

If any of this sounds familiar, it might be time to start taking a look at glute activation exercises.

In the modern world, we all spend a lot of time sitting down. While it’s a big part of our days for many of us who work in offices and sit at a computer most of the time, it can actually do some really bad things to your muscle development – even if you are a regular gym bunny.

If you’re sat not using your butt, it can actually switch off the muscle fibres in your glutes as they become used less and less. They kind of fall asleep.

So that means when you head to the gym to smash out a fire booty workout, you may not be getting the best out of those muscles, as they might be asleep for quite a while until they’re fully warmed up. This makes building size and strength very difficult.

Luckily, we’re here with some tips, tricks and some of the best exercises for glute activation, that are proven to heighten muscle contractions in glutes, which can help support your goals and accelerate your progress [1].

Check it out.

What is glute activation?

For so many of us, especially those who sit at a desk all day, our glute muscles remain ‘switched off’ or inactive.

This means they’re weak, they go unused and they aren’t easy to recruit during exercise. Even if you go ahead and start squatting, without the right wakeup routine, it’s very unlikely you’re getting the most out of these muscles.

And if you’re not using them properly when you’re exercising, you’ll find it very hard to build size and strength in these areas.

To get them working well, you need to give them a little TLC with some glute activation.

Glute activation is the process of utilizing targeted exercises specifically to ‘wake-up’ the fibres in your butt. By focussing in on your glute muscles before you head out to do your squats or hip thrusts, your muscles will be active, ready to go and working harder for you.

Think of glute activation like a warmup for your butt. So many of us stretch and work our muscles to get them going before we start lifting, but often the booty goes neglected. That’s because this is the biggest muscle in your body and it needs extra special attention to get it working.

And the harder they work the easier it is to strengthen and grow them.

[Related Article: Best Butt Workout for Women]

Do you need a glute activation workout?

Sitting down for long periods of time is the mortal enemy of any well-developed glute. The more you sit, the less your glutes are used or needed, so they gradually start to deactivate and shut down.

So, if you’re chained to the desk all day, glute activation exercises can be a game changer for your butt development, your health and overall fitness.

This is the largest muscle in your body after all, and you can’t neglect it.

For example, when you’re squatting you’re using your legs and butt to lift the weights. Your glutes are much larger than your thighs and hamstrings, so it makes complete sense that you should recruit them as much as possible.

But without activating them, you could be lifting weights without being able to get the most out of this huge muscle. Needless to say it will limit your lifts and the amount of muscle you can grow in your booty.

Whether you want to add another 10kg to your squat, or you simply want a perkier butt, the only thing standing in your way could be a 10-minute glute activation workout before you get to work.

Check out these glute activation exercises below to get the party started.

[Related Article: 5 Best Resistance Bands for Glutes

How to activate your glutes – the best glute activation exercises

The best way to get your glutes fired up and primed to go is by warming them up with a few simple glute activation exercises that specifically target this muscle.

This will take around 5-10 minutes before you start your full training session, and it can have a transformative effect on your results. Trust us! It’s a huge bonus to be able to fully recruit your glutes in heavy weight lifting sets.

Remember, this is just a warmup so don’t go crazy. While these exercises should definitely burn, they shouldn’t leave you too fatigued to do your full squat or deadlift set. Instead they should help you engage these big muscles with ease.

Take your pick of two or three of these exercises and perform three rounds of each one with a minute or two break between each set. Then when your glutes are all fired up and ready to go, start your workout.

We’d recommend using a resistance band for some of these exercises, but don’t worry if you don’t have one, they can all be done at bodyweight too. And, if you’re just starting out, it might be better to start with bodyweight to warm up to those harder sets.

And don’t worry about going to hard or heavy with your glute activation workout, we’re just waking these muscles up rather than working them super hard, that will come in your training session later. You should be able to feel it, but you shouldn’t be fatigued for your weights session.

[Related Article: Best Glute Exercises to Perfect your Peach]

Crab walks

woman doing the best glute activation exercise crab walk

  1. Place the band around your knees
  2. Stand with your feet at shoulder width apart and drop into a half squat
  3. Step out sideways with one leg to widen your stance
  4. Bring the other leg inwards so you’re back at shoulder width apart
  5. Repeat for the allocated number of reps, then step out with the other leg and repeat the process on that side to work the other glute

Reps: 12 each leg

Note: As we mentioned previously, don’t go too crazy with the resistance on this one. Start with a light band to provide some intensity on the glutes, without totally fatiguing them before your full workout.

Banded glute bridges

best glute exercises banded bridges

  1. Pull the band up over both knees so it sits at the lower thigh
  2. Lie on your back with your arms straight on the floor by your side and your feet flat on the ground around a foot away from your butt
  3. Pushing through the heels, raise your hips up until your body is straight from your shoulders on the floor to your knees
  4. Squeeze your glutes together at the top of the movement and ensure your knees aren’t pulled inward by the band
  5. Return your butt to the floor

Reps: 10

Note: As you develop over time, you might want to consider slightly widening the feet and adding a resistance band just above the knees to recruit more muscle fibers into this movement as you continue to activate your glute muscles.

[Related Article: 3 Resistance Band Workouts for Women

Clams

best glute exercise banded clams

  1. Lie on your side with the resistance band around your lower thighs
  2. Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and draw your feet in so your ankles are in line with your butt and your knees are forward slightly
  3. Keeping your bottom leg on the floor and your feet together, raise your top knee up in a sweeping motion
  4. Throughout the movement, aim to keep your hips completely still and don’t roll back as you raise the knee
  5. Return your top knee to the bottom before moving on to the next rep
  6. Lie on the other side to target the other glute

Reps: 10 each leg

Note: this glute activation exercise might not look very challenging, but it can be. So feel free to start without the band if you find you’re feeling the burn.

Donkey kicks

woman doing donkey kick

  1. Begin on your hands and knees with your toes on the floor and your feet flexed
  2. With one leg, kick your foot back and up whilst maintaining the 90-degree bend at the knee
  3. During this movement, keep you back flat and straight, without allowing it to arch at all
  4. At the top of the kick, squeeze your glute before returning your knee and foot to the floor
  5. Repeat the movement on the other leg

Reps: 10 each leg

Bodyweight feet-elevated hip thrusts

feet elevated hip thrust glute activation

  1. Take a bench or a step and lie on the floor with your feel closest to the edge of it
  2. Place your feet up on the bench, edging forward so you create a 90-degree angle at the knee
  3. Keep your hands out flat as you drive your hips directly upward
  4. Stop when you have a straight line going from your knees to your shoulders on the floor. Don’t overextend at the hip
  5. At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes then slowly lower your butt back down to the floor
  6. Repeat the movement

Reps: 8

Note: Again, if you feel like you can progress onto something more challenging after doing this for a while, consider adding a resistance band in at some point, or even a weight. Again, don’t fatigue yourself though, this is a glute activation exercise, not the full workout!

Fire hydrant

woman doing the best glute activation exercise fire hydrant

  1. Start on all fours, with your knees directly below your hips and your hands below your shoulders
  2. Maintaining the 90-degree angle at the knee, move one leg directly out to the side
  3. Stop when your knee is about level with your hip and squeeze the glute. This is where the movement gets it’s name, because right now you kinda look like you’re peeing on a fire hydrant…
  4. Return the knee to the floor and repeat the movement on the other side

The final word

Begin your next lower-body or booty workout with the best glute activation exercises to accelerate your progress.

Whether you’re trying to build size and shape, or feel like your glutes just aren’t doing their fair share during a squat, these movements could be the difference between a plateau and next level development. Both in the size and in the strength of the muscles in your derriere.

Simply take two or three of these movements and perform three rounds of each to get those muscle fibres firing ahead of a workout.

It can be super tempting to grab a few more of the exercises on the list and create something bigger out of your glute activation. We’d say try to avoid this. It’s more of a warm up than something that will fatigue you. And, as you continually work on this area, your muscles will be more consistently awake, so you shouldn’t have to go crazy with it as time goes on either.

References

  1. Lindsay J. Distefano, PhD, ATC, J. Troy Blackburn, ATC, PhD, Stephen W. Marshall, PhD, Darin A. Padua, ATC, PhD. Gluteal Muscle Activation During Common Therapeutic Exercises. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 2009 Volume:39 Issue:7 Pages:532–540 DOI: 10.2519/jospt.2009.2796

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gymgirlfit was created by health and fitness enthusiasts, with backgrounds in powerlifting and writing. We've written for a number of well-known fitness publishing companies.

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One Comment

  1. Hi,

    it’s Gesina. Thank you for downloading my picture. Would you mind writing my name Gesina Kunkel and website http://www.happyveganfit.de in the description please? and give me some credit? I’d really appreciate it.

    pic: girl sitting (red outfit)

    Thank you.

    Looking forward hearing from you.

    Best
    Gesina

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