Glutes! Lately they seem to be the only thing people are talking about and taking pictures of. But there is a lot more to that perky bubble butt than having a picture worthy behind. Keep reading to find out why the Glutes are so important and how to activate/strengthen them with some bodyweight exercises.
The overall sedentary lifestyle of modern people (especially working from a desk all day) can cause one of the bodies major muscle groups to weaken. This time, I’m not talking about your core (although I’ve already shown how important core strength is MORE CORE), but I’m talking about GLUTES!
Your glutes, which are the muscles commonly known as your butt. Your glutes are actually composed of three muscles: gluteus maximus (which covers your entire seat), gluteus medius (which radiates from your butt over onto the sides of your pelvis and your hips) and gluteus minimus (which is underneath the other two gluteal muscles). Your gluteus maximus is one of the largest and most dominant muscles in your entire body. It powers almost all your movements, as it connects to your core, quads and hamstrings, and your iliotibial band (IT band) which runs along the side of your legs to connect your glutes to your knees. That’s a lot of action and responsibility for one muscle group!
For such a dominant muscle group, the glutes are also known to be “sleepy” and need some encouragement to “wake up.” This is only made worse by the fact that most of us spend the majority of our days sitting at a desk.
What are “sleepy” glutes? This means that your glutes are less likely to activate when you need them, which means that other smaller muscles are going to have to take over where the glutes should be doing the majority of the work. This can lead to injuries in your lower back, knees, shins and ankles; as well as decreased performance in the gym, running, or for any athlete.
I know most of us rush through a warm-up before we jump into really strengthening those glutes through squats, deadlifts and lunges. Maybe you do a 5min jog on the treadmill or some bodyweight squats before rushing to the bar to load it up. Contrary to what you may see in the gym or read in the big fitness magazines, strengthening your glutes shouldn’t solely be done by squats, deadlifts and lunges. It is so important to make sure to incorporate a smart warm-up where you are activating (“waking up”) your glutes before hitting some of those big compound lifts. As well, some of the best ways to strengthen your glutes can be done with simple bodyweight exercises (yes I’m talking about those funny Jane Fonda inspired exercises). These are the moves that most people, especially guys, avoid, but are so important to not only activating the glutes before and during a workout, but also strengthening them even further and therefore improving your speed, allowing you to lift more, and giving you that instagram worthy behind.
Glute activation exercises should be included in your warm up to get your butt ready and activated for the bigger exercises you plan to do in your workout so that your low back doesn’t try and take over. They can also be included in your actual workout to make sure your glutes continue to work throughout the session.
So how do you activate “sleepy” glutes and build strength on your backside? You want to incorporate specific strength training exercises that isolate and target your glutes. Sure, squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, and lunges will work your glutes along with several other muscle groups, but they won’t suffice for strengthening one of your largest muscles. You need to activate them first to make sure they are the muscle group that is doing the majority of the work in these big compound lifts. As well, you can benefit from isolating the glutes with some simple exercises to build even more strength. These exercises can be done using your own body weight (and the addition of a resistance band) or with kettlebells, dumbbells, or barbells if you want to make them more difficult.
Watch the video below Glute Activation as I demonstrate just a few ways to target and activate the glutes. You can choose 2 of the below exercises to incorporate into your warm up and/or use during your session. Any of these can also be incorporated into an at home session:
- Lying Side Glute Abduction
- Hip Raised Side Glute Abduction
- Side Plank Glute Abduction
- Banded Clams
- Donkey Kicks
- Standing Glute Matrix
- Banded Glute Bridge
- Isometric Glute Bridge with Banded Abductions
- Single Leg Glute Bridge
- Banded Monster Walks
- Banded Squat Walks
- Couch Single Leg Hip Thrust
**This video is sped up, make sure to perform each movement slowly and controlled**
Any questions about what you have just read? Ready to start working towards your goals and looking for a coach and program that is right for you? Feel free to contact EVOLVE by Melissa at any time. http://www.evolvebymelissa.com.
Written by: Melissa Gut; Strength and Conditioning Coach