Those glutes of yours are more important than you may think when it comes to running, other sports, and everyday activities. We spend a lot of time just sitting around on them, and not giving them the activation love they deserve!! If they do not receive this attention they will sleep the day away, and it will be harder to engage them each time you workout. If you learn to train and activate your glutes, you will have an advantage in improving your running economy, get stronger, go longer, & build speed! Here are a few exercises that I like to use as simple activation & strength exercises to wake my booty up!

The posterior chain works in conjunction with the quadriceps to control all locomotor movements from walking to running. The glutes are a part of this chain. Runners are considered quad dominant, which could lead to injuries especially in the knees, because imbalance can occur if the posterior chain is weak. Being that most people these days spend so much time sitting, it leads to the front of the hips (hip flexors/psoas) to become short and tight, while the glutes get bored and become weak due to inhibition. To further the problem, when the hip flexors take over it can result in a anterior pelvic tilt. Your glutes function optimally while in a neutral position; putting your glutes in a neutral position allows for the greatest available leverage to act on the hip, giving it the ability to produce the most power & potential.

Since the gluteal muscles are in essence asleep, their neural action gets diverted to the muscle close by to carry out the job instead. This chronic compensation can lead to injury. Which we obviously don’t want to happen!

Weak or Inhibited Glutes can cause:

  • Hamstrings to become overactive due to compensation
  • Low Back Pain (compensation by hamstrings & lower back)
  • Tight IT Bands
  • Patello-Femoral Pain & Patella Tendonitis (a.k.a Runner’s Knee)
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Achilles Tendonitits
  • Shin Splints
  • Piriformis Syndrome (due to compensation of weak glute medius)


Your glutes also help to align your pelvis, femur, knee, & ankle, which allows you to load your leg properly and run efficiently. Weak glutes results in increased internal rotation of the femur, which could cause knee valgus & foot pronation. This is why STRONG glutes are the key to proper alignment of the pelvis and lower musculature. Furthermore, it helps in the prevention of lower body injuries, and could increase sports performance. So how do we reactivate these bad boys and stop muscular misfiring? It first starts with testing your glute strength, then adding activation & strengthening exercises to your core/strength training routine. Whether you are a distance runner or a sprinter you will benefit from having stronger glutes.

Switch your glutes back on and re-establish correct movement patterns today! Re-activating your glutes will have a positive affect on every compound lower body movement and enhance your sport performance!

Basic Test For Glute Strength

  • Do 5 repetitions of a glute bridge and hold for 15 seconds on the last rep. Make sure the action is coming from your hips and you DO NOT feel pain in your back.
  • If you feel most of this exercise in your hamstrings, it’s save to say you have weak glutes or your glutes are misfiring and you could have a gluteal dysfunction.

Basic Test For Quad Dominance

  • Do 5 reps of a squat.
  • If your knees are shifting forward over your toes, and/or your heels begin to lift of the ground. This could be a clear indication you are quad dominant, and could use some posterior chain strengthening to balance things out.

Determine Your Pelvic Tilt

  • Anterior: Back is arched, and your butt is sticking out, top of your pelvis is tilting forward.
  • Neutral: Your pelvis and back is aligned; optimal position for glute function.
  • Posterior: Your butt is tucked under and the top of your pelvis is tipping backward.

Pelvic Tilt 2

In my strength training routines, I always begin with a few activation exercises to prep the muscles for activity. Here are a few you can begin with, and you can also incorporate them in your strength/core routines.

Activation Exercises (Included in your dynamic warm-up)

*Usually I pick 2 – 3 exercises and do about 10 – 15 reps. For Single Leg Balance & Step Down I will hold for 30s – 1:00.

*For beginner’s these exercises could be used as your strength routine.

  • Band Seated Abductors
  • Monster/and Sumo Walks
  • Side lying raises
  • Glute marches
  • Body Weight Glute Bridges/Hip thrusts
  • Clamshells
  • Firehydrants
  • Single Leg Balance & Single Leg Step Down
  • Super Band X Walk

Re-activating the glutes will re-establish correct muscle recruitment patterns and enhance strength and performance. Activating and strengthening your glutes should be incorporating into your core/strength routine 2-3x’s a week.

Strength Exercises To Activate Your Glutes

*I strength train about 2x a week. During Base Training or if I am not training for a race I bump it up to 2-4x a week. For runners, I suggest adding about 2 – 6 exercises per session. Depending on your level of fitness, you can do 2 -3 sets and from 8 – 15 reps per exercise. I tend to do total body workouts, adding in upper body exercises between my lower body exercises.

  • Lateral Squats
  • Goblet Squats
  • Glute Hip Thrust
  • Single Leg Squat
  • Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
  • Deadlifts
    • With deadlifts, if your hamstring are tight this movement may be too difficult. You can regress it to rack pulls (towards end of video), until you increase your hamstring flexibility.
  • Single Leg Hip Thrusts
    • Hip flexors that are tight, it may make it harder for the glutes to activate during this movement. Make sure that you dynamically warm up your hip flexors.
    • DO NOT arch lower back. Motion is at the hips
  • Walking Lunges
  • TRX Single Leg Squats
  • TRX Lunge
  • Step Ups
  • Reverse Hypers
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Horizantal Back Extension
    • Be sure to NOT round your back. Keep your spine neutral, and move at the hip joint.
    • This exercise helps to teach the glutes to become the primary hip extensor and not the secondary.
  • Barbell Glute Bridge
  • Cable Pull Throughs
  • Slide-Board Lateral Slide
    • Combines hip extension & abduction to activate the glute max, med, and min.
  • Resisted Slide-Board Back Lunge
    • Cable creates hip flexion force, so that the glute max has to stabilize. Mimics the hip action of running; therefore, it’s useful. The standing leg is activating the glute med, min, & upper glute max.

***Always master body weight exercises first, and make sure you are activating the glute muscles. MIND/MUSCLE CONNECTION!***

Stretches & Foam Rolling

  • Supine Piriformis Stretch
  • Kneeling Psoas and Quadricep stretch
  • Runner’s Lunge w/ Rotation
  • Foam Roll IT Band, Quads, Psoas, & Adductors

I know there is a TONNNN of information here!! I will post videos over the next few weeks (once I figure out how best to do it!) on all the exercises in this post! Stay tuned!!



***************Natalie Johnston is USATF certified runner coach serving areas PA, NYC, & NJ.*****************