Properly activating your glutes before starting any exercise is important to ensure safety and optimal performance. Complex lifts such as deadlifts or squats not only require a strong and engaged core, but also activation of your large leg and glute muscles to help generate a desired level of power for the movement.
The glute muscles consist of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medium, and gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three muscles and its primary function is to extend and externally rotate the thigh at the hip joint. The gluteus medius, which spans laterally to the side of the hip and thigh, works to abduct the thigh at the hip joint. Lastly, the smallest muscle in the group is the gluteus minimus works in conjunction with the gluteus medium to abduct the thigh and helps prevent the hips or knees to collapse inwards. Engaging all three muscles will help stabilize the hip, pelvis, and trunk. Try these exercises below to engage your glute muscles:
1) Side Stepping with a Band
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a circle band placed just above your knees. Bend at your knees and hips to maintain a squat position. Then step to one side, driving the leading knee outwards and engaging the glute muscles. Bring the trailing leg back to the starting position. Continue stepping for another 10-15 repetitions before stepping in the other direction, driving the opposite knee outwards.
Lie on your side with your hips at 45° and your knees at 90° with a band above your knees. Keep your feet together at all times as you open your top knee up against the resistance of the band. Slowly bring the top knee back to meet the bottom knee. Repeat for 10 repetitions. Then complete on the other side.
3) Sidelying Leg Holds
Begin by lying on your left side to strengthen your left Gluteus medius “Butt” muscles. Keep your right hip stacked on top of your left and place your right hand on your right hip. Then bring your right foot on the ground in front of your left knee and bend the left knee to 90 degrees. Bring your left foot up, while maintaining the ninety degree bend in your knee. Hold this for 10 seconds; Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
4) Lateral Step-Downs / Runner’s Step-Ups
Stand with one foot on a step box and your hands on your hips. Then bring the other foot down to the side and touch the floor. Engage your glute muscles at all times and repeat for 10 repetitions for 3 sets on each leg. Progress the exercise by beginning in the same starting position with one foot on a step box and the other leg straight out to the side. Then kick back with the side leg to about 45° behind your body. Repeat for 10 repetitions for 3 sets on each leg. The third progression is a step-up. Begin in the same starting position, step down with one foot, then drive the same leg and opposite arm upwards. Repeat for 10 repetitions for 3 sets on each leg.
5) Ball Raises on the Wall
Wrap a resistance band around your inside hip.Lean your inside hip onto the exercise ball against the wall and pull with the band towards the outside hip with your hand. With your inner core engaged and your posture tall flex your inside knee up to your chest. Start by driving your outside hip into the ball to bring the inside hip upwards so it’s level with your other hip. Then release and drop your inside hip back down and repeat. Do 10 repetitions for 3 sets.
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