If you’re looking to reach #bootygoals glute activation exercises are key before each workout. Aside from looking great, our glutes play an essential role in providing stability for many of our movements. If our glutes become weak, it can cause balance problems and hip, knee, and lower back pain.
That said, it is essential not to forget our glutes in a workout routine. If you want to work out your glutes, but you don’t know how, we’re here to help. We’ll chat about what glutes are, what causes weak glutes, and how to grow your glutes — glute activation.
More importantly, we’ll discuss some of the best glute activation exercises to add to your workout routine. Many of these exercises can be used with your bodyweight alone, making them perfect for at-home workouts.
Let’s get started and help you grow your butt in no time!
What Are Glute Muscles?
Glutes are our largest muscle group. They’re composed of three major muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Gluteus maximus are the main, large muscles that provide your butt shape. On the other hand, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are both small glute muscles that support your gluteus maximus.
Knowing the different muscles can be a game-changer in growing your glutes.
What Causes Weak Glutes?
One of the leading causes of weak glutes is living a sedentary lifestyle. Not only do many of us avoid working out, but many of our jobs involve sitting down for hours. Then, when we go home, many people tend to sit on the couch. Because of this inactive lifestyle, we get weaker — hence the weak glutes.
But what if you work out regularly and still have weak glutes? One reason could be because you simply do not work out your glutes properly.
Unlike other muscles that we naturally use (think of biceps or leg muscles), our glutes are harder to work out. These muscles aren’t easily activated, so they remain relatively inactive and untapped even when you’re working out.
This is why it’s crucial not only to work out your glutes but also to know how to use glute activation exercises. Lastly, doing too much cardio can also hinder butt muscle growth. While cardio is not inherently bad, it can impact your lower body. Instead of maxing out cardio, focus on strength training with cardio or even sprinting dispersed throughout.
What Is Glute Activation?
Glute activation describes a group of exercises that are intended to “activate” or work out your glutes.
Glute activation exercises are typically used as warm-up exercises. By strengthening your glutes, you can prepare them to handle the upcoming intense movements in your workouts.
But if you want to focus on working out your glutes, you can also do glute activation exercises as part of your routine proper, not just for warming up.
It's also important to stretch before you begin glute activation exercises to avoid the risk of injury and soreness.
Adding bands into your exercises whether you're doing a monster walk, a lunge set, or even a set of planks, can challenge your strength and endurance.
Now that we know what glute activation is, let's go over some of the best exercises for glute activation on leg day.
9 Best Exercises for Glute Activation (Gym or Homeworkouts)
If you are looking to grow your gluteal muscles, these pre-workout exercises will help activate them.
1) Crab Walk With A Mini Band (Hip Abduction Warm-Up)
A crab walk is a leg exercise usually used to work out your core and upper body. However, you can wrap a resistance band around your lower thighs to work out your glutes, especially your gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and abductors.
- Wrap a resistance band around your lower thighs. Place your feet hip-width apart, and bend your knee until both your knee and toes are in line. Position your back to a 45- or 90- degree angle to your hips.
- Step your left foot slightly outward (level it from your hips to your shoulder).
- From your current position, step your right foot inward, bringing you to your original/starting position.
- Do 10 reps and repeat the same process starting on your right foot.
2) 3-Way Hip Circles
As the name suggests, this exercise involves “circling” your legs and hips. This exercise is great for your hip flexors, which are key to support during glute growth.
- Take an all-fours position, your hands and knees firmly pressed to the mat, hands in line with your shoulders and knees in line with your hips. Your legs should be at a 90-degree angle.
- Raise your left leg, keeping your leg at a 90-degree angle as you extend your hip and drive your heel up. Be sure to feel the squeeze on your glutes.
- From there, rotate your bent leg, bringing your knee towards the direction of your body. Do it five times. Keep your legs bent.
- Do the exact same movement in the opposite direction five times.
- Once you’re done rotating, rest your bent leg to your starting position. Repeat with your right leg outwards.
3) Hip Thrust
If you want “buns of steel,” you can’t miss this hip thruster exercise. It mainly targets your gluteus maximus but also impacts your glute medius and minimus.
- Get a chair or sofa.
- Lie in front of the chair (or any similar object) and place your feet on top of the chair. Your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Your hands should be flat on the floor on both sides.
- Once you’re in the starting position, thrust your hips upwards as possible. Squeeze and your glutes to the maximum.
- Slowly lower your hips, and then repeat.
This hip thrust exercise can be great to add to a full-body workout. Just make sure you ease into it — it’s a tough one! Challenge: For a barbell hip thrust, do this with a barbell at your hips. Make sure to use a barbell pad.
4) Glute Kickbacks
Just as the name sounds, glute kickbacks (also called donkey kicks) are performed by “kicking” your legs back. This should work out the muscles of your glutes. There are many kickback variations when it comes to a butt workout, but this is one of the best.
- Bring yourself into an all-fours position. Your spine should be in a neutral position.
- Raise and extend your right leg back until your thigh is parallel to the mat. Basically, your right leg should form a straight line along with your body.
- Stretch your leg until you contract your glute, then hold it up for a few seconds. You can start small and then increase your range of motion.
- Slowly return to your starting position, but do not let your knees touch the mat.
- Repeat the steps for around 10-20 reps, then switch legs.
The clamshell or “clam” exercise is not only good for your glutes, but it can also ease down lower back tensions.
- Wrap a resistance band around your lower thighs. Then, lay on your right side with your arm extended along the mat. Relax your head on your arm. Bend both of your knees and slightly bring them forward until your feet align with your glutes. Ensure that there is a small gap between your waist and the mat.
- With your feet together, activate your right glute by elevating your right knee. Ensure that you keep the gap between your waist and the mat.
- Lower your knee and return to your starting position.
- Do this for 10 reps and repeat the same steps on the other side.
6) Glute Bridge
Glute bridges are a simple but very effective way of working on your glute. If you’re looking to reach #bootygoals, this is a great exercise.
The glute bridge targets the three main muscles of your glute: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
- Wrap a resistance band around your lower thighs. Then, lie down on a yoga mat. Bend your knees and place your feet firmly on the mat. Keep your spine in a neutral position. For the arms, simply rest them on your sides.
- Press your heels onto the mat and raise your pelvis off the floor. Keep your body in a diagonal line, from chin to knees.
- Lower your pelvis back to the starting point.
- Repeat 15 times.
7) Glute Ham Raise (GHR)
The glute-ham raise exercise typically uses a machine called the glute-ham raise machine or glute-ham developer (GHD).
If you don't have access to this machine or are working out from home, you can still do it via the Nordic hamstring curl. This is also referred to as the "natural glute-ham raise," because no equipment is necessary.
This hamstring exercise works not only as a glute activation exercise but also as an isometric calf workout too as it utilizes a full range of motion.
It helps build glute muscles and focuses on increasing hamstring strength and the posterior chain, which everyone from powerlifters to cyclists needs to focus on. Other exercises that offer these benefits are leg curls, kettlebell swings, and Romanian deadlifts.
- Place and lock your feet on the glute-ham bench’s footplate. Then rest your lower thigh on the pad in front and bring yourself to a kneeling position (just suspended on the glute-ham bench!) Your knees should hang just below the pad, not resting on it.
- From the kneeling position, slowly extend your knees to lower your body. Once your body is parallel to the ground, slightly bend your hips so you dip your body a few more inches below the parallel level.
- Bring yourself back to the vertical position using your hamstrings.
- Repeat the steps until you feel the burn.
8) Single-Leg Fire Hydrants
Suns out, buns out, which means now is a great time to work on your glutes. Single leg fire hydrants are great because you can do them just about anywhere. Even if you don’t have access to a gym, or even a mat, you can still do this on your bedroom floor.
So, let’s walk through it together.
- Go to an all-fours position, just like in the previous exercises.
- Then, raise your right knee just a tiny bit above the ground. Then, swing your right (bent) leg in an outward direction (don’t overextend).
- Then, bring your right leg inward back to the starting position. Do not touch your knees to the ground.
- Repeat the same motion for 10 reps, then do the same steps on the other leg.
Use Glute Activation Exercises to Maximize Your Glute Gains
Working out takes time, hard work, and effort, so it's key to get the best results. If you're focused on a lower body workout, getting your glutes firing first is important. Next time you work out, make sure to get in a few of these exercises first.
Aside from glute activation exercises, one of the most beneficial things you can do for your muscle growth is supplementing alongside it. Using a pre-workout can help elevate your workout, a post-workout recovery, and a protein powder to use on the day-to-day.