Glutes Strengthening Exercises

By Tom 0
07 April 2015

As a Personal Trainer, it is common for us to adapt and overcome obstacles that clients’ present to us. We need to be knowledge enough to be flexible and work around a clients’ needs. Recently, one of the most common occurrences with some of my regular clients is that they seem to have weak or inactive gluteal muscles (the bum muscles).

Weak glutes are more common that one would think; they can occur due to muscular imbalances, natural imbalances (hip dysfunction), sitting for prolonged lengths of time or even down to previous injuries, pains or structural issues.

I have designed the workout below to aid the activation of the glutes and to help strengthen them up, which in turn would aid posture, squatting power and strength, balance and overall ability.

Always remember to warm up prior to any exercise activities to prevent any risk of injury.

First start with isometric contractions of the muscles to ensure that they are being correctly engaged and activated. Isometric contractions are when you tense the muscles and hold them for a certain length of time. There are several ways to do this:

  1. Laying down flat in a prone position, squeeze your gluteal muscles very tight, holding them together as tight as possible. Hold for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times through.

  2. Sitting down on a chair or exercise ball, squeeze your gluteal muscles very tight, holding them together as tight as possible. Hold for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times through.

  3. Standing tall, squeeze your gluteal muscles very tight, holding them together as tight as possible. Hold for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times through.

Second, once we are comfortable with these exercises and are aware of how to correct activate our gluteals, we can start to perform small, dynamic movements. For these exercises aim for around 15-20 repetitions and repeat 2-3 times throughout, completing all exercises in succession of each other with a one minute rest at the end.

  1. Laying “clam” – Laying on one side with your feet on top of each other, bend your knees so that you create a triangular shape from your hips to your feet. Next, keeping your hips still and ensuring that the only muscles working and contracting are your glutes, abduct the upper knee away from the other opening the legs. When performed correctly, this exercise is fantastic for aiding the medial glutes.

  2. Laying side leg raise – Still laying on the same side, this time legs both down straight. Abduct the upper leg into the air, hold for a second and go back down. Remember, control is key, focus on the gluteal muscles working, not moving from the hip complex.

  3. Laying glute bridges – This exercise is great for targeting the lower back, glutes and hamstrings. Lay completely flat on your back with your feet flat, knees raised. Slowly push through your heels and lift your hips up off the floor and end up in a “bridge” position. The only parts of your body in contact with the floor at the top should be your feet and shoulders / head. Ensure that you are contracting and sqeezing your glutes as tight as possible. Slowly go back down and repeat.

  4. Single leg glute bridges – This exercise is good for unilateral work, one side at a time and can really help to identify which side is stronger or weaker. It’s the same exercise as above but with only one leg.

A third option to utilise is working with resistance bands. Resistance bands are fantastic because they offer ‘progressive resistance’ meaning that at the beginning of the exercise it’s easy, as the band gets stretched through the movement is gets harder therefore making the muscles work harder.

The following exercises should be done with a resistance band. Complete each exercise with around 10-15 repetitions, 3 times round with a 1 minute rest at the end.

  1. X-Band Walks – This exercise is great for hitting the weaker glute medius. Grab a band and put both feet on it, if you make the band tight before you stand on it, you’ll find the exercise a lot more beneficial. The key to this exercise isn’t the width of the movement but it’s in the strength of the movement. Once your feet are together and the band is underneath, cross the bands over in your hands so your create an X from your feet to your hands. Pull the band up high, keep lots of tension on and perform the repetitions from right to left then left to right.

  2. Resistance Band Deadlifts – With the band still under your feet, take hold of the handles again and create tension in a bent over position. With this exercise you’re going to start up tall with the band at its highest tension, slowly lower yourself until your feel your hamstrings start to engage and stretch slightly then pull back up pulling through the glutes.

  3. Resistance Band Squats – By all means, do continue to squat but just remember not to overload yourself with weight. By completing this exercise with a resistance band you can reap the benefits of the progressive resistance while squatting, which is a great way to practice and engage your glutes. Keep the band under your feet, hands up a shoulder height and squat, ensurnig that you’re correctly engaging your glutes.

  4. Hip Extension – Wrap the band around something at ankle level in front of you, place your ankle inside the band and have the band rest behind your ankle. Standing up tall push your leg backwards, ensuring that your correctly activate your glutes.

Once you have mastered the above exercises, it’s time to try something a little trickier that really will put your glute strength to the test.

The following exercises are quite hard especially if you have poor balance as a result from the weak glutes. These are specific ‘unilateral’ exercises that only work one side of the body at a time. Be careful not to overdo them on the weaker side as you’d also then be creating an imbalance and have yet another weaker side. Repeat each exercise 10-15 times each and remember not to go too heavy.

  1. Single Leg Deadlift – Similar to the deadlift described above but this time you’re on one leg. Keeping your body posture controlled and a neutral spine through-out, aim for an object on the floor to touch with your hand. Use the same side arm and leg for this movement.

  2. Exercise Ball / TRX Single Leg Squat – Not as challenging as the Pistol Squat, but still a good challenge. Using an exercise ball, rest against a wall and position your feet hip width apart at a slight angle against the ball. Take one leg off the ground and perform a squat. Remember to ensure you engage your glutes properly and that you don’t overdo the movement. Only work within your ability.

  3. Single Leg BOSU Balance – Finally, the last exercise for glute strength and balance is using a BOSU (both sides up) board. These are great for core stability, balance work and adding an extra edge to your unilateral or bilateral movements. Stand with your foot in the centre of the board, keeping a neutral spine and ‘soft’ knees, balance for as long as you can. Try concentrate on one particular area ahead and stay focused. A good challenge is to log down your times and try to improve on them each time.


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author: Tom

Tom has been in the fitness industry for over 8 years. He is qualified in functional movement, Kettlebells, Boxercise, Nutrition and many other qualifications. Tom is also the founder and director of ActivityX. For more information on Tom, see his trainer profile.


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