It’s true, runners are notoriously lazy asses.
It’s not our fault, it’s our lifestyle. Hours of sitting for work cause our glutes to slowly stop firing due to the reduced oxygen and tightened hip flexors. The result is less powerful running.
But most of us don’t even know we’ve gone radio silent. I mean, I can still see my ass…it’s still there and I feel it, so what do you mean my glute is not active??
Issues with poor glute activation:
- Over reliance on hamstrings
- Less control over internal rotation of legs, leading to knee injuries
- Increased lower back pain
What is your glute?
When we talk about the gluteal area, it’s not just one large muscle, but 3: gluteal medius, maximus and minimus. Working all three is required to keep us running strong. Glute activation exercises are designed to help us engage all parts of the bum, so we can run injury free.As explained by Kelly Bagget, there are 2 main problems that occur with regard to the glutes:
In this situation the glutes are on permanent shutdown mode. For a variety of reasons, they don’t contract in your daily life when you walk, stand, get up off the pot, or when you move in sport. This situation has probably been overblown in the sports world, but does exist.
Here the glutes DO fire correctly, but are not as strong as other lower body muscles (like the quadriceps), thus the body will use other muscles to do what the glutes SHOULD be doing, resulting in inefficient performance and often some type of pain or injury over the long haul.
Whenever you perform a movement such as a squat, lunge, deadlift, jump, sprint, or any exercise that involves several different muscle groups, the majority of work will tend to be done by the strongest of those muscle groups.
Glute Activation Test
Not sure if your glutes are firing or taking a nap?
You can try these two quick glute activation tests to find out what’s firing and what needs some extra work! Of course you’ll always learn more from going to a PT, but these are things you can do at home.
Both of these tests are demonstrated in the video below along with the glute strengthening moves (starting at 28 seconds).
Cook Hip Lift
I feel like this is a good exercise to do in general as it fires all kinds of muscles.
Laying on your back, place both feet on the floor, knees bent. Pull your right knee in to the chest and place a ball between your calf and thigh. Release your hands from the leg, while your foot on the floor is driving the heel in and the toe up off the floor, try to hold for 2 seconds when you raise up.
The ball will force you to focus on the glutes because going too high starts using your back muscles and the ball will fall. DON’T drop the ball, literally.Are you relying on your hamstrings instead of glutes when running? Find out and fix it! #runchat Click To Tweet
Single Leg Activation
There are a couple of different methods of testing via single leg activation, from squatting to balance.
Runner’s World provides this video explanation…I think it’s a decent way to test, but not as good as one’s that allow you to feel whether your glute or hamstring is activating.
Glute Activation Exercises
How do you activate your glutes? By including a number of glute strengthening exercises in your workouts. As with every single physical therapy move I share the key is to work these in to your existing running routine.
If you include a couple as part of each warm up then you’re consistently activating the glutes, rather than trying to remember to add an entirely new workout to your schedule.
For all of these glute strengthening exercises for runners you can add a resistance band to increase the intensity. The more you incorporate the moves, the more you’ll need to find little changes to continually progress and challenge the glutes.
Clam shells (forward and reverse)
Standard clam shell is laying on your side with knees bent at 90 degress, while keeping your ankles together raise the top knee and you should feel the activation in your hips and glutes.
Additionally, do a reverse clam shell where you keep your knees together and raise the foot!! This is often overlooked, but allows you to hit a different muscle head.
Single Leg Bridge
The single leg bridge is very similar to the cook hip lift. Instead of keeping your knee bent to the chest, you keep the leg as straight as possible while lowering and lifting. Again if you start to notice the work coming from your hamstring, go back to the cook hip lift.
Bulgarian Goat Belly Squats
Standing with the kettlebell pressed in to your core, engaging the entire core, bend from the waist and then quickly power back to vertical. This is a unique, but effective way to force your entire core to work together and fire up the glutes.
Prone Leg Lifts
Lying flat on your stomach, focus on raising first one leg at a time. If the knee bends you are using too much hamstring.
Focus on keeping the leg long and raising 1 leg at a time with toes pointed. You can do 1 leg at a time, move up to both legs or using a resistance band. This increases hip extension, you should contract the core, but never feel tension in the back.
Looking for more resistance band glute exercises? Checkout this post, it dives deeper in to how and why the bands work, plus provides new moves to help you keep progressing.
And just as important is to ensure you’re warm up fires up those glutes, checkout these moves from the pro’s!
Sorry for the initial audio gang, still working through my video equipment! The moves start at 28 seconds.
Additionally, we need to ensure that our hip flexors are not tight because that can deactivate the glutes. Take a look at these stretches and these moves to stabilize your hips, which are also key to getting a hard working ass.
PS – For anyone who cares it should really be glut, but most of us hear it with an e and thus that’s how we most commonly spell it.
Do you do exercises to counteract your daily sitting?
How often do you focus on the booty?
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