Recruit Your Glutes: How to Use Your Backside Better - Movement-Rx

Recruit Your Glutes: How to Use Your Backside Better

Have you ever done a heavy back squat day, or deadlift day and feel NO soreness in your glutes? Or you just did any activity in a day that was very leg intensive, and you were sore everywhere but your glutes? If so, you need to recruit your glutes!

Watch Dr. Megan’s recent live webinar on the topic, or continue on to read all about it!

Why should you Recruit Your Glutes?

Well, the gluteus maximus, the largest of the 3 glute muscles, is the BIGGEST MUSCLE IN THE BODY! Don’t you want it pulling its share of the weight (literally!), when you’re performing a movement? The glutes are a powerful group of muscles, so we want them engaged the best possible way when we perform a movement such as squats or deadlifts.

By focusing on your glutes when you perform a lift, it may be less about “feeling them work” or “feeling sore” in your glutes the next day, and more about just doing something different. If you’re experiencing pain, or you feel like you strength has plateaued, working on your mind-body connection to recruiting your glutes may be the “something different” that your body needs to improve.

Back to the Basics

Below is a great progression of exercises to focus on from most basic, to more challenging in order to recruit your glutes. Try a set of 10 of each exercise (on each side), really focusing on driving the movement by squeezing your glutes as hard as you can*. Be sure to check out the video above for demonstrations of each movement and helpful tips on form.

*Note: these hard effort squeezes are only for the sake of building your mind-body connection, you don’t want to do this for every single lift when you’re working out. More on this later…

  1. Prone (face down) glute squeeze: lie on your stomach and squeeze both butt cheeks. From here, try practicing squeezing one at a time.
  2. Sidelying clam shell: lie on your side with knees bent, hips stacked (with or without a band around your knees). Keeping your ankles together, squeeze your top glute to lift your top knee–only as high as you can without your top hip rocking backward.
  3. Feet Elevated glute bridge: with your feet on a chair/bench, perform a bridge, focusing on squeezing the glutes before you lift your hips. You can also try this with a band around your knees, to add an outward force against the band as you lift. Progress it by trying the same movement lifting with only one leg (single leg elevated glute bridge).
  4. Hand heel rocks: on all fours, with hands directly under shoulders and knees a little wider than hips, get you back in neutral (flat back position), squeeze your glutes and try to sit your hips back onto your heels.
  5. Kneeling banded hip hinge: with a band attached behind you, step into the band to where it is around your pelvis. Kneel down, squeeze your glutes, then slowly let go of the glute tension to allow your hips to sit back toward your heels, while your shoulders stay over your knees. Also try the single leg variation demonstrated in the video.

Putting it All Together

Now that you’ve built a stronger connection with these glute focused movements, let’s add it back into standing exercises.

  1. Standing hip hinge: You can still do this with a band attached to an anchor behind you, step into the band, then step forward to where the band is taut. Perform the same hip hinge that you did kneeling, allowing your hips to move backward, but trying to focus on keeping tension in the glutes throughout the range of motion.
  2. Assisted squats: Perform a squat holding onto a rig or other sturdy surface. Adding assistance allows you to focus on keeping your back flat and “sitting back” into you glutes. Use assistance on the way down, and try to get a firm glute squeeze from the bottom to stand back up.
  3. Banded free standing pause squats: perform your squats with a band around your knees. Focus on pushing out against the band, starting with tension in your glutes, and slowly letting that tension go so it’s your glutes that are “lowering” you down.

Start from the basics and work your way up, once you feel like you have a good connection to better utilizing your glutes, pick your favorite 2-3 drills to use as a warm up before your workouts. Another key thing to remember is that with these exercises, it’s helpful to try to create maximum tension in the glutes, however in your workouts you only want enough tension for the task at hand. If you’re lifting a PVC pipe off the ground, you don’t need to squeeze your glutes and core like you’re about perform a max attempt deadlift. If you create excessive tension throughout a workout, you’ll wear yourself out. So be mindful of recruiting your glutes in your workout, but it doesn’t need to be 100% tension, 100% of the time.

Want to learn more about how well you’re moving and how to ensure that you recruit your glutes? Schedule a 30 minute movement screen online or in-person here!

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