Get Maximal Results From Your Booty Workout by Activating Your Glutes First, a Trainer Says
You may have heard trainers in your workout class or through your computer screen (because hello, home workouts!) tell you to activate your glutes before picking up the weights. Why is that important, though? We tapped Charlee Atkins, CSCS, founder of Le Sweat, and James Shapiro, NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Primal Power Fitness, for some answers.
Activating Your Glutes Helps You Warm Up and Perform Moves Properly
Activating your glutes is basically a wake-up call to your muscles. Charlee explained, "Every workout should begin with activation and mobility drills that will mimic or use the muscles in patterns that will be the focus of your strength-training session. Activations are used to 'prime,' or 'prep' the body for a load." It's kind of like warming the car up in the winter, she told POPSUGAR. Some trainers say glute activation helps with something called "dormant butt syndrome," when your glutes are essentially asleep or "turned off" after sitting for extended periods of time. Charlee stated that while activation exercises definitely warm up your glutes, "often, trainers tell their clients that their client's glutes aren't firing, but if that were true, then you wouldn't be able to stand up."
James said it's important to fire up your glutes before any kind of strength workout because of the prime role they play in many multi-joint movements. "Whether you're doing squats, deadlifts, cleans, jerks, overhead pressing, or even benching, you should warm up and activate your glutes," he said, explaining that one of the glute muscles' main functions is the extension of the hips, which we can see in most lower-body movements. In upper-body motions, the glutes need to be activated as well to make sure the kinetic chain is working. The kinetic chain, he said, is the notion that an entire sequence or chain of muscles serve a role in movement.
"When performing compound motions that are complex, even though some muscles work to move the weight or resistance around, others are firing simply to stabilize your body in motion," James explained. "In a standing overhead press motion, even though the shoulders, triceps, and deltoids are working hard to push the weight, the glutes should be squeezing alongside your core to enable less stress on your low back." So, he said, if your glutes aren't activated in multi-joint movements like the bench press or overhead press, you could be using more of your lower back than you should.
Activating Your Glutes Helps You Get the Most Out of Your Booty Workouts Specifically
As a reminder, adding weights into your lower-body workout is essential if you want to truly see your glutes grow (aside from other things like proper nutrition and recovery). Doing glute activation exercises before you lift weights can aid in getting "maximal booty pump results," Charlee said. "By doing glute activation exercises, we can help 'turn-on' or 'remind' the body how to recruit more from the entire glute muscle group: the glute maximus, glute medius, and glute minimus." Charlee also noted that banded glute activation exercises can be used for rehabilitation purposes in physical therapy since they use minimal resistance and the bands control the amount of movement allowed.
How to Activate Your Glutes Before a Workout
Though you can't really overactivate your glutes, James said you should be mindful of how much time you're spending doing this kind of warmup. If your goal for a workout is to squat for strength or perform power cleans, activating your glutes for too long might make that goal harder to achieve.
Both trainers named some bodyweight and banded exercises that activate the glutes. They include:
- Leg swings
- Glute bridge
- Reverse lunge
- Banded hip thruster
- Lateral band walks
- Banded seated abduction
Ahead, check out how to do each of these moves for glute activation. These are, of course, only a few examples. Here are some more to try.
- Stand with the feet together, arms out wide. Raise your right leg out to the side, balancing on your left foot.
- Swing the right leg in front of the left, and then swing it back out to the side.
- Repeat the same amount of reps on both legs.
- On your mat, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Be sure to keep your feet underneath your knees, not in front. Plant your palms by each side, facing down.
- Press through your heels to raise your hips up to the ceiling, tensing your abs and squeezing your butt as you do. You should be making a long diagonal line with your body, from shoulders to knees.
- Hold for a few seconds, making sure your spine doesn't round and your hips don't sag. Keep your abs and butt muscles engaged.
- Lower down to the ground; this is considered one rep.
Alternating Reverse Lunge
- Stand with feet together. Take a controlled lunge (or large step) backward with your left foot.
- Lower your hips so that your right thigh (front leg) becomes parallel to the floor and your right knee is positioned directly over your ankle. Keep your left knee bent at a 90-degree angle and pointing toward the floor. Your left heel should be lifted.
- Step the left foot in, and lunge back with the right foot. Continue alternating!
Banded Hip Thrusts
- Sitting on the floor with bent knees and a booty band around the bottom of your thighs, rest your upper back against a stable bench.
- Brace your core. As you drive your heels into the ground, squeeze your glutes, lifting your hips up to full extension, meaning your hips are even with your knees.
- With control, lower back down to the ground. This is one rep.
Lateral Band Walks
- Place a resistance band just below your knees.
- Begin standing with feet directly underneath your hips, and squat about halfway down.
- Take a step sideways to the right as far as you can. To fully activate your muscle, be sure to step onto your heel, rather than your toes.
- Actively resist the pull of the exercise band as you bring your left leg slowly toward your right, returning to the starting position.
- This completes one rep.
Banded Seated Abductions
- Sit on the floor with your elbows resting on a bench (or chair, etc.) behind you and a booty band around the bottom of your thighs. Make sure you're seated tall, lengthening through your spine. Do not slouch.
- Open your knees to either side, pushing against the booty band for resistance as you do.
- Go as far as your hips allow without causing pain, then bring your knees back together. This counts as one rep.