How do I activate my Glutes?
Your bum (i.e. gluteus maximus) is the largest muscle in the body, but when it comes to training, one of the most common deficiencies many people share is underutilizing their glutes!
Learning how to use your ass during movements like squats, cleans and deadlifts starts with learning how to activate it. Whether you want a nicer-looking behind, or a better, squat, you’ll be happy you did!
Here are 4 simple movements with video instruction, to include in your warm-up that are sure to at least get your bum firing:
• Glute Bridge variations
Real simple. Lay on your back with your feet on the ground and your knees bent. Raise your hips as high as you can and squeeze your butt cheeks together. Here’s a video that show how to do both a glute bridge and marching glute bridges: https://youtu.be/bcH0wa_6-pY
Add to your warm up: 20 glute bridges, 20 marching glute bridges. On the 20th rep, hold your hips up for another minute in a static glute bridge hold.
Attach a circular band around your thighs just above your knees, lay on your side, bend your knees to a 90 degree angle. Keep your feet together and raise your top leg as high as your can. Control the movement as your raise and lower your top leg. The slower the better. You’ll probably feel like you’re in a 80s aerobic video, but I promise you your glutes will turn on. See the glute bridge video for a demo of these, too.
Add to your wam-up: 20-30 clamshells on both legs.
• Bird Dogs
On all fours, slowly raise one arm and the opposite leg as high as you can. Hold for 2 seconds at the highest point, and then slowly lower back down to the ground. Make sure you’re squeezing the bum cheek of the leg you’re raising. Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiFNA3sqjCA
Add to your warm-up: 20 per side
• Bowler Squats
Bowler squats are essentially single-leg RDLs but without holding any weight. The idea here is to keep your torso completely neutral as you hinge on one leg. Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=samSmOkMrxY
Add to your warm-up: 10-20 on each leg
Now that your glutes are activated, here are some additional strength and accessory movements for your bum:
• Single-leg KB or barbell RDLs
Essentially a single-leg stiff-legged deadlift. Use a KB or a barbell and load up if you can, while keeping a slow, controlled tempo. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfiAOQfFWQk
• Bulgarian split squat
The Bulgarian split squat is almost more of a lunge then a squat. Step one is to grab a box or a bench and place your back leg on the bench. Then make sure your front leg is in front of your hip, so as you squat your chin stays perpendicular to the ground (i.e. don’t let your knee shoot out too far in front of the foot that’s on the ground). Ensure you don’t have an anterior pelvic tilt as you’re ding this movement, because if you do, your spine will be in extension, which we don’t want. Keep these slow and controlled, and add weight in each hand (or a barbell on your back) if you can. Go as deep as you can into that squat/lunge while keeping good posture. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2C-uNgKwPLE
• Weighted single-leg step-ups
The main goal of the single leg step-up is to step onto the box by only using one leg (the leg on the box). This might mean stepping onto a low box, where you don’t have to rely on pushing off with the foot on the ground. Once again, a slow tempo is best. In my opinion, the guy in this video is cheating these a little bit, as you can see him pushing off with the leg that’s on the ground a little bit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFapgeXigLk
• Suitcase isometric hold
You might feel silly doing these, but if you’re keeping tension in your body and squeezing your butt cheeks together, you will work those glutes!
Very simple: Hold onto a heavy DB or KB in one hand and stand with perfect posture for 1 minute, all the while keeping tension throughout your entire body. If your glutes are weak, you’ll probably feel them after just 20 seconds.
• Lunges of all sorts
From front rack lunges to back rack lunges to farmer carry lunges and even overhead lunges, there’s no way to ignore the lunge in all its glute-strengthening potential.
Don’t be scared to load up on these bad boys! Here’s a challenge: Try working up to a max load 15-meter back rack or front rack walking lunge. You will feel your ass screaming at you the next day.
Remember, your bum is the biggest muscle in your body. If trained properly, it should also be the strongest.