How to Activate Your Glutes Before a Workout

I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “switch on” or “activate” your glutes. Your glutes are super important for a whole range of movements and it’s crucial they’re working properly. So what exactly are they, why do we keep talking about them, and how to do you actually activate your glutes?

What are the glutes?

The glutes comprise of three muscles:

1. Gluteus Maximus

Glute Maximus is the biggest of the three, accounting for 16 percent of musculature of the hip. It’s responsible for hip extension and external rotation. It’s also crucial for movements such as sprinting and jumping.

2. Gluteus Medius

Glute Medius is responsible for hip abduction and internal rotation. It also stabilises the femur and pelvis during weight bearing activities. Glute Med is also important for stabilising the hip during single leg movements. These two muscles are important in many activities!

3. Gluteus Minimis


Why do they matter?

If you think your glutes don’t matter (except to look great in jeans), think again! Weakness of the gluteal muscles can lead to low back pain, hip pain and patellofemoral (knee) pain. In the case of glute medius, poor strength can lead to increase knee valgus, which in turn increases the risk of knee injuries such as an ACL rupture. Glute Activation prior to completing exercise training or sports performance can lead to increase in performance due to increase force production and improved movement efficiency.

What exercises can I do to help?

There are plenty of easy ways to active your glutes. Try doing the following exercises using a band around your thighs to “turn on” your glutes:

  • Hip abductions- bilaterally and unilaterally
  • Lateral/crab walks
  • Monster walks
  • Clams
  • Bridges

squats glute

Glute activation exercises can be easily incorporated into a dynamic warm up prior to your exercise session or sports training.  A recent literature review found that step ups, single leg deadlifts and wall squats had high level activation for glute max as well as high level activation for glute minimus, alongside side bridges, lunges and side lying hip abduction.

In terms of general glute strengthening, exercises such as squats, lunges and deadlifts are highly beneficial. Being compound movements, (using multiple muscle groups) they engage the posterior chain and also develop the strength of the hamstrings as well as the glutes.

Strengthening your glutes will improve athletic performance but can also decrease the risk of developing lower limb injuries. In a rehab setting, strengthening of all the muscles associated with the hip may be important for decreasing low back pain or other lower limb pathologies.

Where to begin?

Your local exercise physiologist of course! They can complete a physical assessment and prescribe you exercises tailored towards your goals, whether that be performance based as an athlete or in a rehab or clinical based setting. They can also monitor technique and progress and regress those exercises for you too. To find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you, click here.

Cassie is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Stay Tuned Sports Medicine.