Glute Activation and Training: Revised

Property of zee boyfriend.

Property of zee boyfriend.

2013: The year dedicated to bigger, stronger, better glutes.

Admittedly, in the past I hadn’t given enough thought to my glute training.

Shameful.

Within the past year or so however, I’ve become rather glute-obsessed. I’ve been dedicating lots of research into ways of activating and firing the glutes properly so that not only can I lift heavy weights more efficiently and improve my athleticism, but I can aid in the development of my glutes as well.

Throughout the years, my glutes have gone through various phases. I went from no bum at all, to kind of having a bum, to not so much bum again (after my figure competition), to HUGE (like, in every which direction), and finally down to medium-sized, though more lifted, rounded, and better proportioned. Though I have no issues with very large badonkadonks, I like to make sure that in whatever size bum my body is carrying, it is shapely in all the right ways, and functional.

Example of progress: The following picture on the left was taken in April 2009, just 6 months before I joined my first gym. The picture on the right was taken today, after 3 consistent years in the gym.Picture 006

Left picture: 116 lbs. Non-functional, weak, not-so-existent glutes

Right picture: 129 lbs. Functional, strong, better-developed glutes.

The thing that made the biggest difference for me was properly warming up the glutes by performing glute activation exercises before my lower body training sessions. By doing this, I made sure that in all my lower body movements, my glutes were being incorporated as much as possible. I thank Bret Contreras. He’s kind of like a glute god, that I pray to daily. Kidding. Kinda.

Before I paid proper attention to this stuff, I couldn’t really feel my glutes working as much in my movements. I forgot what it was like for my ass to be sore. I saw this as a problem, because I wanted to feel them working in movements. They are the largest muscle group after all, and if you’re a powerlifter or just someone who wants to get stronger, having your glutes fire properly in things like the squat and deadlift (even the bench) will make a huge difference. Not to mention, it’ll whip them into shape. Win/win!

Now, I feel my glutes working with everything I do. So I’d like to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained over the past year or so, to help you achieve similar results with your training.

In fact, I felt like demonstrating some movements myself to save on some surfing time, since it can be annoying trying to find some of the movements in pictures and I’m not sure how much everybody likes having their picture posted on random websites. (Then again, this is the interwebs)

Bear with me though, I only had my phone on me so the pictures are not going to be professional quality or anything. Just appreciate my willingness to take photos in a very awkward fashion.

Also, my dog dragged her toys/blanket out of her crate. She seems to like doing that as soon as I start trying to take pictures. She needs to learn some manners.

ACTIVATION EXERCISE #1: Glute Bridges

You will start in this position:

IMG_0860

And from there, by squeezing your glutes, not your lower back, raise your hips up from the floor, contracting your glutes and hamstrings hard:

Oh look, a blanket magically appeared...

Oh look, a blanket magically appeared…

REVISED GLUTE BRIDGE:

Alternatively, you could do single-leg glute bridges to isolate each side more.

IMG_0867

IMG_0868

ACTIVATION EXERCISE #2:  Single-Leg Glute Lifts

I don’t even know if that’s the right name for these things, but it’s what I like to call them.

In fact, I don’t even know if these fall under the classification of glute activation. However, I’ve been including them in with my little routines with pretty good results, so I’d say they work. Though, you do need to make sure that you are really only lifting with the glutes and not the low back, or swinging, or rounding, etc.

This would be the starting position. Take note that at my leg is fully extended, and my toe is slightly behind my bent leg, but my hips remain squared:

IMG_0882

Weeeeeeee

Weeeeeeee

Alternatively, you can get on your elbows rather than your palms. I find it’s easier to tell when you are using too much back from a position on your elbows.

ACTIVATION EXERCISE #3: Bent-Leg Glute Raises

While these are similar to the last exercise, they’re not the same.

Hips remain squared, and it is a straight up and down movement. The movement comes from contracting your glutes to raise your leg, with no swinging or fast motions, and no rounding or hyperextending of the back.

Keep your stomach tight, and really squeeze the glutes at the top, and also while lowering. These can be done resting on your palms, or on your elbows.

IMG_0870

ACTIVATION EXERCISE #4: “Hanging” Glute Bridges

Once again…no idea if these are called that but I’ll leave it that way for now.

You’re basically performing a glute bridge, but with your shoulders and upper back up on a bench, as well as your feet resting on another bench in front of you (or couch and coffee table, if you’re fancy like me).

You’ll raise your hips up once again, by squeezing your glutes and making sure the abs stay tight and the back is not hyperextending or doing the movement for you. You will bring your hips to a full lock-out position at the top.

IMG_0895

ACTIVATION EXERCISE #5: Lying Hip Abduction

I thought I would forget about these when I put aside my pilates days. But it appears I have reverted back to them for warm-ups.

Though I am up on my elbow for these for the sake of taking a picture, it’s preferable that you are lying on your arm or propping only your head on your palm. (Hence, “lying” hip abduction)

IMG_0899

Doopdeedoo

Doopdeedoo

That’s basically it. Nothing fancy.

Of course, there are so many different things that you could do to activate your glutes. Some of my other favorites involved banded work. But anyway I think that these are some pretty good basic movements that you can do along with your hip mobility drills to really help you fire your glutes properly with your training.

Some other movements worth mentioning:

  • X-band walks
  • Side clams
  • Fire Hydrants

As for stretching the glutes, I’ve also demonstrated some of my favorite movements. I can’t tell you enough how difficult it is to perform exercises while taking pictures at the same time without a regular camera. But these are basic start-up positions.

#1: Leg Crossover

IMG_0908

In this movement, you could either keep the non-stretched leg straight or bent. I prefer it bent, but this will depend on your own flexibility and comfort. The main thing is that the leg that is crossed over is getting a very good stretch. You will want to bring in your knee as close as you can to your body, while rotating your upper body in the opposite direction.

#2: Bent-Leg Hamstring Stretch Part 1IMG_0911

So of course, with this stretch you’ll want to reach down, grab your toes and bring your upper body down as close as your can to your hamstring to feel a good stretch.

#3: Bent-Leg Hamstring Stretch Part 2

IMG_0916

Keeping your toe pointed, and hips squared, grab hold of your calf or ankle, and bring your upper body down as close as you can to your leg. If that isn’t possible, you could place both hands on the upper leg and simple push down lightly on the straight leg.

#4: Seated Glute Stretch

Starting position:

IMG_0918

From here, keeping your back straight and your abs tight, lean forward towards your bent leg. Stop when you feel a good stretch in the glutes.

TRAINING THE GLUTES

I made a post awhile back about glute training, but since then have made some serious changes as to what I include in my training to target the glutes more efficiently.

Exercise #1: Hip Thrusts

The KING of glute exercises. Bar none.

Example:

Exercise #2: High Step-Ups

Exercise #3: Box Squats

Glutes respond very well to high AND low repetition workouts. A direct note from Bret Contreras to me when discussing this topic:

“There are no rules set in stone, except that whatever rep range you do you need to feel the glutes working maximally. Some days 3 x 5, some days pyramids, some days 2 x 20, etc.”

So make sure you add in that variety with your sets and rep ranges when training your glutes, and remember that glute training is about not only lifting heavy, but also lightening the load from time to time and adding a couple more reps in. And of course, whether you are doing 3 reps or 20, you need to feel your glutes contracting hard in every rep. If you are not concentrating and creating that mind-muscle connection when training your glutes, you will be limiting how much you can really develop them.

Anyway, kind of short and sweet. Hopefully you can add in some of this stuff with your regular training, and if all of this is nothing new to you, perhaps it could be a refresher or a reminder to start doing them again.

Here’s to creating better glutes!

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16 thoughts on “Glute Activation and Training: Revised

  1. Great exercise, thanks, Christine! I have HUUUGE plans on incorporating mobility/stretching/glute activating work into my daily routine (I admit it’s because I got really scared of my knees constantly popping and cracking). My favs are fire hydrants. You’re supposed to do it standing on your knees, but on my capoeira classes we did it with both straight legs, palms on the floor. To get it even harder, you can draw a cicrcle with your leg over standing chair.

  2. When I was a teenager we did a lot of these glute exercises during dance class, only we weren’t doing it to activate our glutes but to “lengthen and tone”. Haha. In the past six months or so, I’ve really started hammering the glute work and I’ve noticed a big difference already. I was already blessed with a booty but it is growing. I also feel much stronger during squats and deadlifts now that I’m firing my glutes properly.

    Your progress is awesome and I love the pink pants!

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  10. Your glutes are amazing! You are truly my inspiration!
    ps. I LOOOVE the pants. Where did you get them from? I need them in my life!

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  12. Great article, I already weight train my legs and glutes are strong my only problem to building my glutes are what I eat. I’m not sure what foods I should really be feeding my body. What do you recommend for the best results? I take protein right after I workout but I have a hard time staying on an eating schedule and eating food that will help my muscles

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