The 10 Best Glute Activation Exercises for a Stronger, Tighter Butt | Yuri Elkaim

The 10 Best Glute Activation Exercises for a Stronger, Tighter Butt

Getting a tight bum is one of the ultimate aesthetic goals of a workout program.

In fact, I can’t say I’ve come across anyone who was unhappy with a firmer, lifted backside.

However, while having “the butt” is indeed a major plus of working out, truly activating your glutes during your workouts is not only a faster, more efficient way to sculpt your bum, but is also essential in preventing pain and injuries.

Why Glute Activation is So Important

You might be thinking, “Well, I squat during my workouts – aren’t I activating my glutes?”

The truth is, most people fail to activate their glutes correctly, if at all.

Mostly this occurs due to excessive sitting and inactivity, which lengthens and loosens the muscles along our posterior chain (your backside).

When these muscles become lax, so does our ability to maintain good posture. The hip flexors tighten, pulling our upper body and shoulders forward. In turn, this sets us up for a nasty blend of low back and neck pain, and possibly even sciatica pain due to pitched nerves around the hips and glutes.

Not only that, but a weak bum can also set us up for injuries in the gym and on the field.

You see, most of our power to perform any movement comes from the posterior chain – the muscles running all along the backside of the body.

The glutes in particular are a huge muscle group in this region. They propel us forward, help us stop, make our jumps higher, and also aid us in picking things up off the floor.

In addition, studies have even shown that strengthening weak muscles in the hip and glute region can help improve leg and knee pain in runners (1).

So what exactly is glute activation, if not just performing glute exercises?

You see, glute activation is different from just performing lower body exercises. Even though you’re doing squats and bridges, if you’re unaccustomed to “turning on” or using your glutes correctly, you’ll unconsciously place stress and tension on surrounding muscles, like those in the legs and low back.

The goal with glute activation exercises is to train the glutes to fire throughout all of your lower body exercises, so the muscles become stronger and act as a support system for your core and legs.

We can get this level of activation with one of my favorite pieces of equipment, combined with specialized exercises.

Glute Activation Band

The one piece of inexpensive equipment you’ll need for these exercises is a mini band. I know, they don’t look like much, but trust me: you’ll change your mind when you feel the burn!

These unassuming bands will take your squats, bridges, and other exercises to the next level by keeping all three major muscles in your bum – the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus – firing at once.

Glute Activation Exercises

Now that you’re pumped and ready to get a strong, tight butt, let’s get into the best glute activation exercises out there.

Perform these exercises 2 to 3 times per week by either adding them to your lower body workout routine or making them a workout on their own, i.e. active recovery.

Another popular way to use these is during a glute activation warm up as a way to get your glutes firing properly before your lower body workout.

1. Glute Bridges with Mini Band

Glute Activation Exercises - Glute Bridges with Mini Band

  • Begin on your back on the floor, your mini band looped around your waist.
  • Place your hands inside the band, being prepared to hold the band on the ground as you push your hips toward the sky.
  • Engage your glutes and hold for a beat at the peak of your bridge.
  • Lower and repeat for 10 to 15 reps.

2. Side Shuffle

Glute Activation Exercises - Side Shuffle

  • Begin standing, placing the band around your legs. Keep in mind that the lower you place the band (say, around your skins) the more difficult these shuffles will be.
  • Keep your feet parallel with toes facing forward, and be sure to keep tension in the band at all times (don’t fully close your legs).
  • Take two large side steps to your right, then repeat with two to your left.
  • Continue alternating for 24 steps total.

3. Standing Abductor Lift

Glute Activation Exercises - Standing Abductor Lift

Source: Redefining Strength
  • Begin standing, wrapping your mini band around your legs just above your ankles. You can face a chair or a wall to help you keep your balance.
  • Lift your right leg out to your side, flexing your foot and keeping your toes pointing forward.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 reps on each leg, maintaining tension in the band throughout each rep.

4. Monster Walk

Glute Activation Exercises - Monster Walk

Source: Redefining Strength
  • Begin standing, looping your band around your legs. As with the side shuffle, the lower you place your band, the harder this walk will be.
  • Instead of bringing your feet closer together like in the side shuffle, here we’re going to take a wide stance and keep it as we walk forward.
  • Take a large “monster” step forward with your right leg, then your left, keeping your wide stance.
  • Walk forward for 4 steps, then backward for 4 steps. Repeat for 24 total steps.

5. Banded Squats

Glute Activation Exercises - Band Resisted Squat

  • Begin by looping your band around your legs just above your knees.
  • Standing with your feet hip-width apart (keeping tension in the band), engage your glutes and push your hips back into a squat.
  • Keep your weight in your heels and chest up as you push back to standing.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 reps, never letting the tension leave your band.

6. Standing Kickbacks

Glute Activation Exercises - Standing Kickbacks

Source: Skinny Mom
  • Stand facing a wall of chair for balance. Loop your band just above your ankles.
  • Keeping your leg straight and flexing your right foot, extend it behind you, squeezing your glute to lift your leg (don’t rock forward to get your leg higher).
  • Pause for a beat during your extensive, then lower slowly.
  • Repeat on both legs for 10 to 15 reps.

7. Clamshells

Glute Activation Exercises - Clamshells

Source: Redefining Strength
  • Begin lying on your side, propping yourself up on your forearm.
  • Wrap your band just above your knees, then slightly bend them, placing one foot on top of the other.
  • Keep your feet together and lift your right knee open and up toward the sky.
  • Focus on engaging your glute through each rep, pausing at each opening.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides.

8. Single-Leg Banded Glute Bridge

Glute Activation Exercises - Single Leg Banded Glute Bridge

Source: Fit Gen
  • Begin on your back on the floor, your mini band looped around your waist.
  • Place your hands inside the band, holding it on the floor.
  • Push your hips toward the sky and extend your right leg out and off the floor.
  • Engage your glutes and hold for a beat at the peak of your bridge.
  • Lower and repeat on each leg 10 to 15 reps.

9. Lying Kickbacks

Glute Activation Exercises - Lying Kickbacks
Source: Redefining Strength
  • Begin lying facedown on the floor, your band looped around your ankles.
  • Lift one flexed foot toward the ceiling, engaging your glutes against the band resistance.
  • Avoid arching your back and turning your feet.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 reps, then switch legs.

10. Quadruped Banded Hip Extension

Glute Activation Exercises - Quadruped Banded Hip Extension

Source: Dr. John Rusin
  • Begin by looping your band around a sturdy poll, keeping one end free to place your foot in.
  • Get on all fours (hands directly beneath your shoulders and knees directly beneath your hips) and secure your right foot in the band.
  • Fully extend your leg behind you, then return to your starting position. Be sure to focus on engaging your glutes by flexing your foot throughout the movement.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 reps on each leg.

Better Butt = Better Strength

Once you incorporate these banded glute activation exercises into your routine, you’ll notice a huge difference in the development of your butt, as well as a noticeable improvement in glute strength.

Don’t be surprised if a stronger butt makes all the difference in the efficiency and effectiveness of every workout you do from here on out.

Get a FREE Fat-Burning Workout

Now that you’ve learned how get those butt muscles firing, the next step is getting leaner and more sculpted.

That’s an easy fix: download my FREE Fat Blaster Workout! A $29 value, it includes an instructional video, workout tracker, and follow-along audio.

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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.