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

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

Get ready to strengthen and tighten your glutes with the best glute activation exercises. Whether you’re aiming for a firmer booty or want to improve your athletic performance, these exercises are designed to engage and activate those glute muscles, unlocking their full potential. Say goodbye to a lazy rear end and hello to a stronger, more sculpted backside.

Sporty athletic woman exercising with rubber tape. Image source: iStock by Getty Images

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.

What Is Glute Activation?

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 of 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.

10 Best 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.

1. Glute Bridges with Mini Band

Glute Activation Exercises - Glute Bridges with Mini Band

How to do it:

  • 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

How to do it:

  • 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

How to do it:

  • 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

How to do it:

  • 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

How to do it:

  • 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

How to do it:

  • 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

How to do it:

  • 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

Single Leg Banded Glute Bridge
Source: Fit Gen

How to do it:

  • 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

How to do it:

  • 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

Quadruped Banded Hip Extension
Source: Dr. John Rusin

How to do it:

  • 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.

Why Is Glute Activation 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 pinched 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).

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.

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

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are some effective exercises to activate and strengthen the glutes?

Some of the top glute activation exercises include hip thrusts, glute bridges, lunges, squats, donkey kicks, and fire hydrants. These exercises target the glute muscles, helping to strengthen and tighten the butt.

How often should I perform glute activation exercises?

For optimal results, aim to incorporate glute activation exercises into your workout routine two to three times per week. Consistency is key to seeing progress in your glute strength and tightness.

Can I do glute activation exercises at home without any equipment?

Absolutely! Many glute activation exercises can be done at home without any equipment. For example, bodyweight hip thrusts, glute bridges, lunges, and squats can all be performed effectively to activate your glutes. Additionally, resistance bands can be a great addition to intensify your workout and add variety to your exercises.

Remember to focus on proper form and technique while performing glute activation exercises to ensure maximum activation and minimize the risk of injury.

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