Your glutes are a super-important muscle group, as they not only provide the powerful hip extension required to help push us forwards from one stride to the next as we run, but also the stability and control around the pelvis, hips and lower back.
As runners, we’re so often told that we need to work on glute activation, and make time to strengthen our glute muscles so that we can run stronger and remain injury free.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to activate your glutes, and share with you some of my favourite exercises and drills you can use to activate your glutes before running.
Runners with weak glutes, or those with muscular imbalances causing gluteal inhibition can often become susceptible to injuries including (but not limited to) calf strains and runner’s knee, as their body tries to compensate.
Glute Activation Exercises: Try these before your next run
Incorporating glute activation exercises and active mobility drills into your warm-up before a workout or run will make it easier for you to use your glues properly as you run or exercise.
It’s a fact of modern day life that many of us spend far too long sit throughout an average day. This prolonged time spent sitting puts us in a position where, over time, our glutes become weak and our hip flexors become tight.
Of course, taking steps to change these daily habits would be a great idea – move more – sit less.
However, there are also steps you can take before you run to help ensure that you begin to undo the negative effects that being stuck behind a desk, or in the car all day, will have on your hips.
The glute activation exercises featured below will help train your body to use your gutes while running…
Banded Glute Bridge
The video below shows a simple glute bridge variation, with a mini resistance band (probably my favourite piece of training gear!).
As part of your pre-run warm-up, perform 10 reps of 10 second holds in this resisted bridge position. Research shows us that this glute activation exercise does a great job of engaging gluteus maximus – the biggest of the glute muscles, responsible for hip extension, abduction and external rotation.
Hip Hitch Drill
This next video shows an exercise which focuses specifically on gluteus medius, an important muscle around the side of the hip, which provides lateral stability to the hips and pelvis as we weight bear on one leg.
Runners who notice that the run with a “hip drop” running gait, or those who have suffered with ITB syndrome, should certainly incorporate this into their pre-run routine, as engaging glute medius and learning to improve stability around the hips is even more important in such cases.
Aim for 2-3 sets of 15 hip hitches on each leg, to activate your glutes before you run.
Resistance Band Crab Walk Drill
The third drill I want to show you, the crab walk drill, combines the resistance elements of the bridge exercise above, with the important weight bearing aspects of the hip hitch drill. Running is a weight bearing activity after all, so we need to train your glutes to engage while you’re in an upright posture… not just while you’re on your back!
The crab walk drill forces your body to work against the bands to create both hip abduction and external rotation and targets all three gluteal muscles: maximus, medius and minimus.
Perform 2 sets of 60 seconds as part of your glute activation warm-up routine before you run. Be sure to balance steps to the right with the same number of steps to the left!
Best Glute Activation Exercises for Runners
There are so many glute activation exercises that we runners can use as the foundation for developing strength and stability around the hips. Each exercise has its own specific focus and serves a particular purpose.
If you’re looking to develop strength, then heavy resistance exercises like barbell squats and deadlifts are hard to beat. If you’re going to go down the heavy resistance route though, be sure to get professional guidance in terms of form.
Having a trainer take a look at your squatting technique and give you some coaching points can save your low back in the long term.
Trust me, I wish my 18-year-old self would have taken that advice!
However, you don’t need to be restricted to heavy resistance exercises to build glute strength. Squat variations such as the Bulgarian split squat are fantastic for training single leg strength and stability all at once.
If you really want to challenge yourself, grab a couple of dumbbells and hold them as you work through the movement.
If you want to focus on gluteal engagement, then simple ground-based exercises like a side-lying straight leg raise are great for teaching you to engage glute medius, before moving on to the hip hitch exercise featured in the video above.
You might also want to try the glute march variation of a glute bridge to work on low-load rotational control of the hip.
I’m sure that gives you plenty to work on, both in terms of exercises to active your glutes before running, and exercises build strength and stability around your hips by developing your glutes.