How to activate and strengthen your glutes
Lower Back, Glute and Hip pain is one of the most common problems faced by runners. It can range from moderate discomfort which you can initially "run through", to very severe pain which causes a pronounced limp and prevents you from running.
One of the biggest lifestyle factors which contributes to this pain is too much time spent sitting. Unfortunately, with our modern computer-based lives, sitting too much is unavoidable for most people.
Too much sitting makes our hip flexors overactive and tight, and it makes our glutes lazy. Having lazy glutes changes our posture when we run, and reduces our running efficiency, which ultimately leads to pain and injury.
The good news though is that with the right combination of exercises, performed in the right order, this problem is fixable.
Can you switch your glutes on?
Initially, you need to test and find out if your brain and your glutes have a good connection. You should be able to squeeze your glutes on (one butt cheek at a time) just by thinking about it, and with no other muscles switching on to "help".
This video explains what I mean. Give it a try and see if your brain is connected to your bum.
If you find this exercise hard or impossible to do, then you need to practice, and practice, and practice, until it becomes second nature.
I'm sure you have heard your physio, or a friend, or a personal trainer say that you need to "strengthen your glutes" or you need to "use your glutes more when you run up that hill". They are probably correct, BUT, unless you have mastered this easy conscious activation control of your glutes, then you will never know if you are actually using them properly or not.
If you can't consciously control your glutes, then performing a whole bunch of squats and lunges might actually cause more problems rather than less.
You might find this glute activation method easier
If you struggled to switch on your glutes in a standing position, you might find this lying position is more effective - ultimately you need to master both of them. One of the benefits of this lying glute activation is that it will teach you what a strong glute contraction should feel like, so that you understand what you are aiming for when you switch them on.
Do Bridges Activate and Strengthen Your Glutes?
Possibly! But only if you use a method that makes your glutes fire, while simultaneously switching off your hamstrings, quads and lower back.
It sounds complicated, but if you know what to do, it is actually very simple.
Watch this video to find out more:
Walking Lunges - An excellent pre-running drill to switch on your glutes
If done properly, walking lunges are a great way to switch on your glutes and stretch out your hips at the start of a run. If you do these lunges effectively they will improve your posture and your power, helping you to run faster and more efficiently. For more glute activation exercises check out this 10 min workout for glutes.
What about the smaller glute muscles?
So far, everything we have done has been aimed at activating gluteus maximus, which is the biggest glute muscle and the one which propels us forwards when we run.
There are also two smaller glute muscles (gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) whose main job is to stabilise your hips and pelvis when you run.
You need a different type of exercise to switch these muscles on.
Watch this video:
How does all of this help your running?
This is the simple part. Once you have mastered all of the exercises and techniques in the videos above, you can use this simple 1-Minute Pre Run Glute Activation Drill to switch on your glutes before you run.
This drill includes exercises for all three of the glute muscles, and will help to make you move more efficiently when you run. This will help to make you a faster and stronger runner for many years to come, and it will help to reduce the chances of you picking up any of the common overuse running injuries like shin splints, ITB injuries, plantar fasciitis, runners knee and many more.
Stronger glutes will help you run further, faster.
This 10-minute glute workout is made up of a number of different exercises which help to support your posture, stabilise your hips and pelvis, and drive your bodyweight forwards when you run.
Completing this 10 minute workout three times a week will improve your overall glute strength and stability in just 4 weeks.