As a personal trainer, I often see clients that are unable to maximally activate and engage their glute muscles (i.e. gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus). The glute maximus’, due to its large size and position, allows humans to stand upright and maintain an erect posture. Besides walking, it is involved in a number of sports, from running to weight-lifting and is used in numerous exercises, such as squats, kettlebell swings, deadlifts, hip thrusts and the glute bridge. Without proper activation of the glutes, people may experience low-back pain or be more susceptible to lower-body injuries such as patellar tendinitis.
The following video shows two exercises I commonly incorporate into many of my clients’ workouts to help them activate and strengthen, first, the gluteus medius, followed by the gluteus maximus.
Side-Lying Leg Abductions
Set-up: Lay on your side facing away from the wall. The bottom leg’s knee is bent at 90 degrees with the sole of the foot against the wall. Hips are perpendicular to the floor with a slight lean forward to further target the posterior aspect of the gluteus medius.
Movement: Slowly slide the top leg’s heel up the wall. Ensure the hips do not move (i.e. roll backwards). Squeeze the back of your glute (should feel the muscle contract just below the spine of your pelvis).
Curtsy Back Lunge
Set-up: Stand straight forward, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and spine tall.
Movement: Step one leg behind you on a 45-degree angle. As you lunge backwards, allow the upper body to hinge forward at the hips and drive the same-side arm forward (e.g. left leg lunges behind and left arm drives forward). Aim to get both knees to 90 degrees. Finish the repetition by driving the back leg up towards the chest.
Having glute muscles that function properly is of utmost importance for daily functioning, sports performance, and injury prevention. I often incorporate one or both of the above exercises into my client’s workout routine, either in a dynamic warm-up or as part of the main strength exercises, depending on their skill and fitness level.