Glute Activation and Strengthening for Runners

Did you know you can go a lifetime of running without knowing your biggest muscles aren’t doing any work to help your runs?

That was me – until I was put to the test and discovered that my glutes weren’t doing anything to improve my running. In fact, they were so sleepy and lazy that they were actually causing some of my injuries!  

Activating & Strengthening Your Glutes Will Improve Your Running Performance
A stronger glute has improved my running tremendously

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.  Since I struggled for so many years with a weak butt, I want to make sure this never happens to you!  

This post is set up to help you activate your glutes prior to running and strengthen your glutes so they are able to withstand a lot of work that is required of them.


Glute Activation for Runners

Glute activation is a concept that requires simple exercises to “wake up” or activate the muscles that make up our butt. This is necessary prior to a run, as you want an activated glute for optimal performance.

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.

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.

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Glute Activation Drills

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. 

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.

  1. Clam shells
  2. Forearm Front Planks
  3. Glute Bridge
  4. Donkey Kick (both legs)
  5. Side Plank (both sides)
  6. High Plank with a leg lift
  7. Side Plank with a leg lift

Glute Strength Work

Now that you know your glute needs to be activated, it’s time to strengthen them!  A lot of the exercises that are used to activate the glute can also be used for strengthening purposes, which is really good for us because we don’t have to recreate the wheel to both activate and strengthen our glutes.

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.”

Glute activation is done prior to a run to help "wake up" sleepy muscles
Glute activation has given me more power and reduced my injuries

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.

Here’s a list of some great glute strengthening drills you can do as part of your overall strength training routine.

  1. Single Leg Deadlifts
  2. Squats (and single leg squats)
  3. V-lifts (with physio ball)
  4. Resistance band routine
  5. Hamstring press (with physio ball)

For a FREE glute strengthening PDF, fill in the form below. It’ll be sent to you within 24 hours.

Conclusion:

Our glutes are a powerful force for good, especially when they are working like they are supposed to.  When the glute is overlooked, however, the rest of our muscles have to pick up the slack and often times, that’s when breakdowns occur.  If you can find 5-10 minutes prior to you starting your run to activate and “wake up” your glutes, you’ll not only have a better run, but your smaller muscles won’t have to work overtime for your sleeping glutes.  This quick activation routine will improve your power output and your efficiency, especially over longer distances.

After your run, use strength training to build more powerful glutes with the strength exercises listed above.  

Both activation and strength training of the glute muscle will make a big impact in our running.



Marc is a middle school Special Education teacher and the distance track and cross country coach who also works with distance runners seeking personal bests. He blogs at TrainwithMarc.com and writes a Friday newsletter. You can find everything Marc is working on here.


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Gear I Love

Garmin is my go-to brand of running watches

My Favorite RUNNING gear from Amazon ⬇️
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Coach Marc does strides after easy runs to prime his legs

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