Beware! Your strongest running muscle may be asleep! Wake up your glute muscle and have an all-around better running experience. According to many in the fitness/running industry, the glute muscle (your butt) is not only the strongest muscle in your body, but may also be neglecting its fair share of work.
Glute activation is a concept that requires simple exercises to “wake up” or activate the muscles. This is necessary prior to running, as you want an activated glute for optimal performance.
Just as any other muscle group, the glute needs to be worked (both activated and strengthened) or its effectiveness will be diminished. Because the glute is so important for runners, below you’ll see a list of glute activation exercises as well as glute strengthening exercises.
As I mentioned earlier, glute activation should be done prior to running. The simple, yet powerfully effective exercises “wake up” the glute, allowing it to work optimally during exercise. Cory Lefkowith writing for RedefiningStrength.com says it perfectly when he says, “Glute activation exercises should be included in your warm up to get your butt ready and activated for the bigger exercises you plan to do in your workout so that your low back doesn’t try and take over.” Not only will your activated glute muscles work to alleviate some of the pressures on its surrounding areas, it will also provide serious power for your workouts.
Here’s a list of some great glute activation drills you can incorporate into your pre-running routine:
*During these moves, move slowly and with purpose. It will also help to put your hand on or near the glute to add a mind/body connection to the exercise.
- Clam shells
- Forearm Front Planks
- Glute Bridge
- Donkey Kick (both legs)
- Side Plank (both sides)
- High Plank with a leg lift
- Side Plank with a leg lift
Glute Strength Work
Now that your glute is activated or awake, it’s time to build it up and make it stronger. A lot of the exercises that are used to activate the glute can also be used for strengthening purposes.
A strong glute muscle is very important for overall running success because not only does the glute provide power, it also provides support for other muscle groups. According to Nikki Kimball, who writes for Runner’s World, “When we run, the glutes hold our pelvis level and steady, extend our hip, propel us forward, and keep our legs, pelvis, and torso aligned. So when our glutes are faulty, our entire kinetic chain gets disrupted.”
If your glutes aren’t pulling their weight, the rest of your body must compensate. When any one muscle group, especially a smaller, weaker muscle group, they have a much higher likelihood of an overuse injury. They will be worked too hard and therefore will break down quicker.
- Single Leg Deadlifts
- Squats (and single leg squats)
- V-lifts (with physio ball)
- Resistance band routine
- Hamstring press (with physio ball)
The glute muscle is a very powerful, yet often overlooked muscle. It’s time that we got back to focusing our attention on this strong muscle and got it to do its fair share of work. With activation prior to running, we are actively seeking to recruit the glute to fire and do work.
With strength training, we are building a more powerful muscle. Both activation and strength training the glute muscle will make a big impact in our running.
Need more on strength training?
More about glute work?
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I am a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!