Best exercises to activate your butt! (aka glutes)

Your glutes (butt!) are one of the strongest muscle groups in the body and make a massive contribution to power production when jumping and sprinting. So, from a performance perspective it’s crucial to develop good glute activation. But for many people performance rates lower; instead the aim is to tone and look good. Whichever category you’re in, in this blog we’ll explore the best workout exercises to get your bum in shape!

Some recent research (McCurdy et al, JSCR 2018) compared hamstring (back of thigh) and glute activation across a squat (two-legged), single leg squat and stiff-legged deadlift (Romanian Deadlift). Muscle activation was assessed using EMG (Electromyogram). The results? Essentially they found that glute and hamstring activation was highest in the single leg squat (see photo below for demo).

Another recent study (Vidar et al, JSCR 2018) compared glute activation (again using EMG) in the hex deadlift, traditional deadlift and hip thruster. The hip thruster exercise came on top for glute activation (see photo below).

The images below demonstrate how to perform the single leg squat and hip thruster exercise. In a typical workout you may do 3 x 10-12 hip thrusters and 3 x 4-6 reps of single leg squats (on each leg). The single leg squats can be done to a bench or using the TRX before progressing to a single leg pistol squat.

Figure 1 From top left clockwise: Single leg squat with TRX suspension trainer, single leg squat to bench, pistol squat and hip thruster

In summary, integrating hip thruster and single leg squat exercises into your workout can help increase activation of your glutes which has an advantage from an aesthetic and performance perspective.

by Dr Laurence Houghton, High Performance Coach at Warwick Workout

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