11 Excellent Glute Activation Exercises For Runners

If you’re a runner, you’ve probably heard endless times that to improve your running performance and reduce your risk of injury, you must add strength training into your general training program.

Running success is also a result of other important components such as dynamic stretching before running, static stretching after running, healthy nutrition, adequate sleep, and even massage and physical therapy when needed. 

Strength training has many benefits, not only to your running but to every aspect of your daily life. In this guide, we will focus on glute activation exercises that you can add to your training program to feel stronger, run faster, and stay healthier. 

We will look at:

  • What Are The Glute Muscles? 
  • The Importance Of Glute Activation and Strengthening For Runners
  • 11 Glute Activation Exercises For Runners 

Ready? 

Let’s strengthen those glutes! 

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a lateral abduction.

What Are The Glute Muscles? 

Our “glutes” or gluteal muscles are a group of three different muscles, the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the human body, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. These muscles are more commonly referred to as the buttocks. 

These muscles originate in the pelvis and insert into the femur. They have many important functions that are crucial to walking, running, and simply standing about, maintaining our body in an upright position.

These three muscles are responsible for the following hip movements: 

  • Extension
  • External Rotation
  • Internal Rotation
  • Abduction
  • Adduction
  • Pelvis Stabilization 

As you can see, they play a pretty important role, don’t they? Now let’s take a look at why glute activation exercises are so important to add to your routine:

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a donkey kick.

The Importance Of Glute Activation and Strengthening For Runners

As you can see from our list of functions, our glutes play a vital role in our movement and stabilization but are often overlooked in terms of strengthening. They tend to be weak from lack of use and an abundance of sitting, turning them into the famous “sleepy glutes.” 

If not properly strengthened, weak glutes can cause some of the most common running injuries and other unwanted issues such as:

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a single leg bridge.

To help avoid these injuries and improve your running performance overall, add the following glute activation exercises to your weight training routine to see results. 

If you are not accustomed to working your glutes, be ready for a case of the DOMS, or muscle soreness the next day. Since these muscles are often inactive, waking them up may shock your body a bit. 

Ready to get active? 

11 Excellent Glute Activation Exercises 

If you are a beginner, you can start by doing two to three rounds of 8 repetitions of the glute activation exercises you choose from our list. Don’t do all of the exercises on the same day, as they will tire those poor glutes out. Choose a few to add to each of your strength training programs. 

As you become stronger, increase the number of reps to 10, 12, and so on, depending on your strength training goals. 

#1: Double Leg Glute Bridge 

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a double leg bridge.

The most popular of the glute activation exercises is most certainly the double leg glute bridge. There are endless variations to this exercise to keep things interesting. 

Once you’ve mastered this basic version, you can add a resistance band above your knees to increase tension and work your glutes, even more, raise your feet onto a bench to activate your hamstrings or hold a weighted plate or a dumbbell on your hips for added difficulty.  

Here are the instructions for the basic version of a double leg glute bridge:

  1. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, arms by your sides, and heels on the floor at hip-width apart.
  2. Engage your core and lift your hips up off the ground, aligning them with your knees. 
  3. Hold this position for a couple of seconds, activating your glutes and keeping your hips aligned. 
  4. Lower your hips to the starting position. 
  5. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time. 

#2: Single Leg Glute Bridge 

Once you have the double leg glute bridge under control and need to add more difficulty, try it with one leg suspended in the air! 

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a single leg bridge.
  1. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, arms by your sides, and heels on the floor at hip-width apart.
  2. Lift your left leg and extend it straight parallel to your right thigh. 
  3. Engage your core and lift your hips up off the ground, aligning them with your right knee. 
  4. Hold this position for a couple of seconds, activating your glutes and keeping your hips aligned. 
  5. Lower your hips to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

#3: Lateral Leg Lifts With Resistance Band 

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a lateral leg lift.
  1. Begin by looping a resistance band around your ankles. 
  2. Lie on your left side, leg extended and stacked one upon the other, propping yourself up on your left elbow. 
  3. Lift your right leg toward the ceiling as high as possible without sacrificing good posture. 
  4. For an added challenge, hold your leg in the active position for a couple of seconds. 
  5. Lower your right leg back down to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time. 

#4: Monster Walks With Resistance Band

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a monster walk.
  1. Begin by looping a resistance band around your legs, around the mid-calf area. 
  2. Stand with your legs a bit wider than hip-width apart and bend your knees slightly. 
  3. Keeping this wide stance, take a large step forward with your right leg, and then with your left. 
  4. Walk forward for a few steps, and then backward for the same number of steps. 
  5. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time. 

#5: Clamshells With Resistance Band

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a clamshell.
  1. Begin by looping a resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees. 
  2. Lie on your left side, propping yourself up on your left elbow. 
  3. Bend your knees at 90 degrees so that your feet are lined up with your glutes and your knees stacked one on top of the other. 
  4. Lift your right knee toward the ceiling, while keeping your left leg on the floor. 
  5. Lower your right knee to its starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

#6 Donkey Kicks

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a donkey kick.
  1. Begin on all fours, knees directly under your hips and hands directly under your shoulders. 
  2. Keeping your knee bent and your foot flexed, lift your left leg until it is lined up with your body.
  3. Return your left knee to its starting position. 
  4. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Note: This can also be done with a resistance band to add difficulty.

#7: Standing Glute Kickback With Resistance Bands 

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a kickback.
  1. Begin by looping a resistance band around your ankles. 
  2. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  3. Keeping your foot flexed and activating your glute, extend your left leg behind you. 
  4. Hold your left leg in the extended position for 2 seconds. 
  5. Bring your left leg back to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

Note: When extending your leg behind you, only extend as far as you can without sacrificing good posture. Your body must be stable and firm at all times. If you need help balancing, you can perform this exercise in front of a wall.

#8: Lying Kickbacks With Resistance Band

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a lying kickback.
  1. Begin by looping a resistance band around your ankles. 
  2. Get into a high plank position. 
  3. Keeping your foot flexed, lift your left leg off the ground, toward the ceiling. 
  4. Pause for two seconds in this active position. 
  5. Bring your left foot back down to the ground. 
  6. Alternate feet for the desired amount of time or reps. 

Note: You may also do this exercise in a unilateral form, performing all reps on one side before switching to the other. 

#9: Fire Hydrant 

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a fire hydrant.
  1. Being on all fours, knees directly under your hips, and hands directly under your shoulders. 
  2. Keeping your knee bent, activate your glute to lift your left leg, moving your knee out to the side. 
  3. Pause for two seconds in this active position. 
  4. Bring your knee back to its starting position. 
  5. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Note: To increase difficulty, you can add a resistance band to this exercise. 

#10: Standing Abductor With Resistance Band

Glute activation exercise: A person doing a hip abductor.
  1. Begin by looping a resistance band around your ankles. 
  2. Stand tall with your feet at hip-width apart.
  3.  Keeping your foot flexed, lift your left leg out to the side.
  4. Pause for two seconds in that active position. 
  5. Bring your leg back to its starting position. 
  6. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

Note: If you need help balancing, you can perform this exercise in front of a wall.

#11: Squats With Resistance Band

Glute activation exercises: A person doing a squat.
  1. Begin by looping a resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees.
  2. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 
  3. Sit back as if you were going to sit in a chair, lowering yourself to 90 degrees. Be sure and keep your knees from collapsing inward by engaging your glutes and pushing against the resistance band. 
  4. Push yourself back up to a standing position. 
  5. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time.

These 11 glute activation exercises are a great addition to your strength training program helping to keep you happy, healthy, and injury-free. 

If you would like to add in some stretching after your runs, take a look at some of our stretching guides: quads, glutes, IT band, calves, and hamstrings!

Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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