Skip to content

How to Activate Glutes: 11 Best Glute Activation Exercises

How to activate glutes

 

A year or so ago, our founder, Ben, launched a series on our YouTube channel that focused on how to activate glutes


He covered it all: how to massage glutes, stretch them, and our top glute activation exercises


Here are some of the top videos from his series: 


“Best Exercises For Gluteus Medius & Minimus (TOP 4)”

 

“Glute Activation Exercises From Beginner To Advanced [Ranked]”


“Glute Activation Exercises For Lower Back Health”


“Fire Hydrant Exercise For An UNREAL Glute Pump [And Low Back Health]”


“Gluteus Medius Exercises Before And After [LOWER BACK PAIN KEY]” 


“Lateral Band Walks To Activate And Fire Up Your Sleepy Glutes”


The results? Wild


We got thousands of views! 


So, how do we interpret that? 


People CARE about how to activate glutes


And rightly so. Glute activation is pivotal for us in a day and age when most people sit at their computers for 8+ hours a day. The result of this is weak glutes that like to snooze instead of engage throughout the day. 


And once our glutes start taking a snooze, that’s when the real trouble begins. Other muscles with good intentions try to pick up the slack for those lazy glutes. This is when we’ll start feeling lower back pain as a result of weak glute muscles. 


So, when we activate our glutes, wake them up, build them up, and make them stronger–they serve as a sort of armor for our lower backs. 


Let’s tap into that armor today. I pulled 11 of our best glute activation exercises from Ben’s YouTube series and put them here in this article for you to read! 


If you’re hitting it hard at the gym with glutes, you can use these as pre-workout glute activation exercises. 


Or if you’re keeping it light–these can serve as your main glute exercises. 


Today, we’ll cover: 

  1. Glute Bridge
  2. Single-Leg Glute Bridge 
  3. Banded Glute Bridge 
  4. Lateral Band Walks 
  5. Fire Hydrant
  6. Fire Hydrant With Kick Out 
  7. Clam Shell
  8. Standing Bent Over Glute Kickback
  9. Side-Lying Hip Abduction
  10. Band Pull Through
  11. Single Leg Deadlift 

And then after that, we’ll dive in to the best way to get a good glute massage. 


Let’s learn how to activate your glutes! 


How to Activate Glutes: 12 of Our Best Glute Activation Exercises 

 

1. Glute Bridge

From the Video: “Glute Activation Exercises From Beginner To Advanced [Ranked]”

how to activate glutes: glute bridge

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

  1. Lie down on a yoga mat on your back. 

  1. Raise your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor. 

  1. Activate your glutes, using them to thrust your hips up and off the floor. 

  1. Hold at the top. 

  1. Then, slowly release down to the starting position, and repeat. 

The glute bridge is one of the easiest ways to tell if you’re able to activate your glutes. And I mean really activate those glutes–and nothing else. 


Allow your glutes to take the FULL pressure here–not putting any strain on your hamstrings or erectors. 


One tip is to picture pinching a playing card between your cheeks! 


You can add weight to this and hold for longer periods to make this more challenging. 


2. Single-Leg Glute Bridge 

From the Video: “Glute Activation Exercises From Beginner To Advanced [Ranked]”

how to activate glutes: single leg glute bridge

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

  1. Lie down on a yoga mat on your back. 

  1. Raise your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor. 

  1. Now, raise your right leg off the floor, keeping your knee bent and the bottom of your foot facing the wall.  

  1. With one leg supporting you, use your glutes to explosively thrust your hips up. 

  1. Then, slowly release down to the starting position, and repeat. 

  1. When you’re done, switch sides. 

Just like the regular glute bridge, adding weight to this exercise can really elevate how much you activate your glutes. 


In the video, Ben recommends keeping your sights on a goal: glute-bridging one-third of your body weight with a single leg. This will set you up perfectly for those bigger-ticket glute exercises like squats or deadlifts

 

3. Banded Glute Bridge 

From the Video: “Banded Glute Bridge Exercise For Lighting Up The Glutes

how to activate glutes: banded glute bridge

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

  1. Lie down on a yoga mat on your back. 

  1. Raise your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor. 

  1. Wrap a resistance band around your knees–pushing out with your knees to create that tension. 

  1. Activate your glutes, using them to thrust your hips up and off the floor. 

  1. Hold at the top. 

  1. Then, slowly release down to the starting position, and repeat. 

This fires up just about every hip mover in your body–including your gluteus maximus–along with a special emphasis on those adductors. Your inner thigh muscles will be in for it as they work against the band here. 


In the video, Ben recommends shooting for a feeling goal rather than a rep goal. The main goal is to activate those glutes and get them fatigued. 


4. Lateral Band Walks 

From the Video: “Lateral Band Walks To Activate And Fire Up Your Sleepy Glutes” 

how to activate glutes: lateral band walk

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

  1. Place a resistance band around your ankles. 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. 

  1. Now, bend slightly at the hips and at the knees. 

  1. Begin taking steps side to side, feeling your glutes activate as you walk. 

  1. Walk for a minute on one side. 

  1. Then, switch sides. 

Some ways to keep this challenging: Pick a band that actually feels like it’s working your glutes. And avoid bringing your feet fully together as you walk laterally. 


Ben recommends placing a bit more weight on the outer feet during the walking motion of the banded lateral raise. 


5. Fire Hydrant

From the Video: “Fire Hydrant Exercise For An UNREAL Glute Pump [And Low Back Health]

how to activate glutes: fire hydrant

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

  1. Get into a tabletop (all 4’s) position on a yoga mat. 

  1. Keep a neutral spine, a braced core, and a tucked chin throughout this exercise. 

  1. Now, lift your left leg out to the side, holding it parallel to the ground and maintaining a bend in your knee. (Think dog peeing on a fire hydrant!) 

  1. Pause briefly at the top. 

  1. Then, slowly return to the starting position. 

  1. Repeat for 20-30 reps. Then, repeat on the other side. 

This is one of the best gluteus medius exercises. Depending on your goals, you can go faster and more explosive with this motion to build glute speed and power. OR you can keep it slow and steady to emphasize size and strength

 

6. Fire Hydrant With Kick Out 

From the Video: “Gluteus Medius Exercises Before And After [LOWER BACK PAIN KEY]

how to activate glutes: fire hydrant with kick out

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

  1. Get into a tabletop position on a yoga mat. 

  1. Keep a neutral spine, a braced core, and a tucked chin throughout this exercise. 

  1. Now, lift your left leg out to the side, holding it parallel to the ground, keeping your knee bent. 

  1. Now take it further, extending your leg out fully to the side, so it’s nice and straight. (Show the soles of your shoes to your neighbor!)

  1. To bring back to the starting position, bring your leg back in the fire-hydrant pose (knee bent at your side). 

  1. Then, lower your knee back down to the floor. 

  1. Repeat for 20-30 reps. Then, switch sides. 

This one’s a level-up from the regular fire hydrants and also one of the best gluteus medius massages, and you’ll feel some hip flexor activation during this exercise! A good TFL massage can help if you’re feeling tight during this move.

 

7. Clam Shell

From the Video: “Glute Activation Exercises From Beginner To Advanced [Ranked]

how to activate glutes: clam shell

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

  1. Lie on your side on a yoga mat, supporting your torso with one elbow on the ground. 

  1. Keep your knees together with your legs slightly bent. 

  1. Keeping your leg bent, raise the top leg up and off the other leg–feeling your glutes activating with this motion.

  1. Then, slowly lower the leg back to the starting position.

  1. Repeat, and then switch sides when you’re ready. 

Ben recommends placing your fingers on the upper glute muscles and feeling them activate every single time you open your legs. 


Ways to make this harder: You can wrap a band around your legs for more resistance. Or you can lift your torso fully off the ground–making the glute activation deeper. 


8. Standing Bent-Over Glute Kickback

From the Video: “Glute Activation Exercises From Beginner To Advanced [Ranked]

how to activate glutes standing bent over kickback

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

  1. Set up a chair or another sturdy surface to balance yourself. 

  1. Stand in front of the chair, placing both hands on the chair for balance. 

  1. Lean forward slightly at your torso. 

  1. Then, bring your left leg straight back behind your body–feeling the activation in your glute. 

  1. Then, bring the leg back to the starting position. 

  1. Repeat as needed, and then switch sides. 

When you’re ready to ditch the chair, you can use this as a balance exercise–slightly bending at the hips as you bring the leg back and contract the glute. 


9. Side-Lying Hip Abduction

From the Video: Best Exercises For Gluteus Medius & Minimus (TOP 4)”

how to activate glutes: side lying hip abduction

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

  1. Lie on your side on a yoga mat–with your legs straight out and stacked. 

  1. Place your fingers right on the gluteus medius muscle. 

  1. Lift your top leg up, feeling the contraction in your gluteus medius. 

  1. Then, slowly return the leg to the starting position. 

Ben recommends this one for beginners–just learning how to activate glutes. This is one of the easiest ways to contract the gluteus medius muscle. It’s also a great way to practice being able to tell how to activate glutes. You can then mimic this feeling in other glute activation exercises as you advance. 


10. Band Pull Through

From the Video: “Glute Activation Exercises From Beginner To Advanced [Ranked]

how to activate glutes: band pull through

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

  1. Attach a resistance band to a sturdy object such as a weight bench or a rack. 

  1. With both hands, bring the band through your legs, so you feel some resistance there already. 

  1. Hinge back at your hips, bending your knees slightly. 

  1. Then, use your glutes to propel your hips forward, pulling the band with you. 

  1. Slowly return to the starting position, and repeat. 

You can also use a cable machine to get a similar effect. 

 

11. Single Leg Deadlift

From the Video: Best Exercises For Gluteus Medius & Minimus (TOP 4)”

how to activate glutes: single leg deadlift

How to Activate Glutes With This Exercise 

    1. Position yourself in front of a wall, so you can use it for stability when you lean back. 

    1. Select a weight, and hold it in your right hand. 

    1. Hinge your hips back, and bend your knees slightly. 

    1. Now, bring your right leg back behind you–letting it hit the wall. 

    1. This will only work your left leg only, so you’ll want to switch sides after you’re done. 

    In the video, Ben recommends holding the weight in the opposite hand to the leg you work. 


    This unilateral glute activation exercise is great for building up to heavier exercises like the deadlift, and it even activates some lower back muscles, such as the QL


    Gluteus Medius Massage

    Now that you know how to activate glutes, it’s gonna be helpful to back up just a bit. 


    These glute activation exercises are clutch, but if your glutes are weak, sore, and causing lower back pain–you’re missing a step if you jump RIGHT into these exercises. 


    That step?  


    Massage


    The truth is: We can’t effectively exercise a tight muscle that hasn’t been massaged and stretched. 


    It would be like trying to use a frozen bungee cord. Not great. 


    So, if you’re here, and you want to know how to activate glutes–you probably also would benefit from knowing how to massage your glutes–specifically your gluteus medius, a HUGE culprit when it comes to causing lower back pain. 


    For a tutorial on how to massage your gluteus medius, check out this video: 


    “Gluteus Medius Massage – A Secret To Lower Back Relief”


    And definitely check out the QL Claw–our at-home back massage device that hits all 5 muscles responsible for lower back pain, including the gluteus medius

    QL Claw

    Check out the QL Claw HERE! 


    How to Activate Glutes FAQs


    How do I know if my glutes are activated?

    To know if your glutes are activated: Some people recommend doing a glute kickback on all 4’s–meaning stretching one leg out and slightly up. When you do this, you should feel your glutes engage, so you know exactly how to activate glutes and what this should feel like as you complete all of the exercises in this article. 


    How to fix inactive glutes?

    To fix inactive glutes, I recommend some lighter glute activation exercises–like the ones in this article. 


    How to wake up dead glutes?

    Dead butt syndrome happens when you’re sitting too long. A great way to wake them up is to massage your glutes, stretch the glutes, and then try the glute activation exercises in this article. 


    Does walking activate glutes?

    Walking and other movement can help awaken and activate the glutes. 



    Sources

    [1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7039033/ 


    [2] https://bmjopensem.bmj.com/content/bmjosem/3/1/e000245.full.pdf 


    [3] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-023-05400-3

    Leave a comment

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Receive emails every few days with back pain relief tips, testimonials, and resources