4 Exercises to Activate Your Glutes & Strengthen Your Hips

Short and sweet. Before any workout involving the lower body you should activate your glute muscles. Here’s why.  

Glute activations are a way to wake up the muscles of the booty before they take on a more strenuous load through exercise, but they’re also a great hip and glute strengthener. In addition they stabilize the pelvic muscles and ease low back pain.

Most people have under-active glute muscles which can be harder for them to fire properly during exercise, therefore, other muscles compensate and do the lifting during the movement. Continued compensation can create faulty movement patterns & poor motor mechanics that can cause the secondary muscles to become overactive and lead to possible injury.

Many pregnant & postpartum women are sedentary which causes the glutes to become “sleepy” and de-activated.

Whether you call it “sleepy glutes”, “glute amnesia” or “de-activated glutes” it’s pretty common in pregnant and postpartum women. We become sedentary from being uncomfortable and tired during our pregnancy or nursing/pumping and recovering postpartum. As the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it” so while sitting to feel more comfortable and to rest might feel good, constantly doing so can actually turn off our glutes. That being said, even those who remain activate can still have under-active glutes due to misalignment of the hips, tight hamstrings, and poor movement patterns.

Glute activations should be done at the beginning of your workout during the warmup, but they can also be done at the end of a workout for a booty finisher (or burner). Depending on my client and how they’re feeling that day, I like to switch up the exercises and alternate between lying on the ground or standing and either use bodyweight or loop bands for an added resistance.

There are a variety of glute activations to choose from, but today I’m sharing 4 exercises you can do laying down. I should add these exercises are safe for pregnant women as well as those with diastasis recti. Try the following series of exercises using your own bodyweight while incorporating diaphragmatic breathing and core activation. Once you master the movements with proper breathing and form, then you can add resistance by adding a loop band or resistance band.

Need a refresher on diaphragmatic breathing and proper core activations? Read this and this first.

THE ROUTINE

Clamshells
BANDED CLAMSHELLS - Reps/Sets: 2 x 10-15 per side
  • Loop band position: above knees
  • Lie on your side with hips/knees/feet stacked and legs bent at 45-degrees. The heel of your feet should be in line with your glutes.
  • Take a inhale into your diaphragm and on the exhale activate your PF & TVA then raise your top knee without shifting your pelvis or rocking your torso.
  • Inhale as you lower your knee back down.
  • TIP: If you find yourself rocking, place your hand on your glute to hold the pelvis in place. You can also minimize how far you open your knee.

Side Lying Leg Lifts

BANDED SIDE-LYING LEG LIFTS -  Reps/Sets: 2 x 10-15 per side

  • Loop band position: above knees is easiest, below knees or above ankles is more challenging
  • Remain on your side and straighten both legs and keep your hips/knees/and feet.
  • With a flexed foot, exhale to lengthen the top leg and then raise it as high as you can without breaking form.
  • Inhale as you lower your leg back down.
  • TIP 1: Avoid rocking the body or opening up the hips. If you find you are doing so, slow down the exercise and shorten the distance of your leg lift.
  • TIP 2: Keep toes pointing forward and feet parallel so you avoid rotating the toes or heels. If that occurs you are activating the hip and not the glute.
  • TIP 3: Lengthen the leg first and then lift. It will help you reducing popping the hips ups.

BANDED FIRE HYDRANTS - Reps/Sets: 2 x 10-15 per side
  • Loop band position: below knees
  • Come to a hands and knee position with your wrists under your shoulders and knees are under your hips. Head is in line with your spine so slightly tuck the chin.
  • On the exhale, activate PF & TVA again, and flex your foot. With a bent knee (90-degrees) kick your leg back and up as if you were pressing your foot into the ceiling. Squeeze your glute up at the top and hold for 1-2 counts.
  • Try to maintain the connection with your inner core unit throughout the movement.

Glute Bridge

BANDED GLUTE BRIDGES -  Reps/Sets: 2 x 10-15 per side

  • Loop band position: above or below knees
  • Come down onto your back with your feet sitz bone apart (narrow stance) and arms extended down at your side.
  • Exhale, activate the inner core, and press your heels into the ground as you slowly lift your hips off the ground. Your goal is to bring your hips up to the point where your knees, hips, and shoulder create one nice line. Squeeze your glutes at the top.
  • Inhale and lower back down.
  • TIP: Try not to flare your ribs. Keep them down rather than popping out.

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