Your glutes (otherwise known as your buttocks) are key muscles when it comes to running, but they are often neglected in warm ups and strength workouts. That’s why it’s good to learn some of these best glute strength exercises for runners.
Your gluteus maximus muscle is one of the largest and most powerful muscles in the human body. It plays an integral role in movement and athletic performance.
Glute strength exercises for runners: Why are they important?
The glutes help to extend your hips and propel you forward when you run. They also hold your pelvis level and steady and help to keep your legs, pelvis and torso aligned.
So when you have a problem with your glutes, or they become underused or weak, your entire kinetic chain can be disrupted.
Disruptions in your kinetic chain can often lead to injuries and imbalances in other parts of your body. And if left untreated, these imbalances could turn into chronic injuries.
A 2019 study links glute weakness to chronic pain, injury and athletic under-performance.
It also describes how glute weakness has been implicated in numerous injuries, including anterior knee pain, lower back pain, hamstring strains and ankle sprains.
Lifestyle is thought to be a major contributing factor to glute weakness. Leading a sedentary lifestyle and prolonged periods of sitting reduce glute activation and over time the glutes become weak.
In these posts I describe how lifestyle is also a reason for your hips to become weak and underused. You can think of your glutes and your hips as the ying and yang of proper running form.
So what exactly can you do in order to strengthen and activate your glutes? One of the best ways is to include glute exercises in your warm up and strength programme.
Here are the best glute strength exercises for runners.
This is probably one of the simplest glute exercises out there when it comes to warming up before a run. Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s not effective.
- Start standing and place your hands on your hips for balance.
- Shift your weight onto your left leg by bending your right knee slightly.
- In a controlled motion, swing your right leg in front of you.
- Without placing your right foot back down, swing your right leg behind you then back to the starting position.
- Repeat 10-12 leg swings then repeat on the other leg.
Resistance band leg raise
This exercise is similar to the leg swing above, but by adding a resistance band you make it more challenging. It’s also a lot more slow and controlled than a normal leg swing.
This exercise can be done with other resistance band exercises for runners as part of your normal warm up.
- Start standing and place a resistance band just above your knees.
- Place your hands on your hips for balance then shift your weight onto your left leg bu bending your right knee.
- In a slow, controlled motion, draw your right knee toward your chest against the band’s resistance, then back to the starting position.
- Without placing your right foot back down, move it out to the side, then back to the starting position.
- Kick your right foot back behind you, then back to the starting position.
- That’s one repetition. Repeat on the other leg.
- Repeat 8-10 times on each leg.
Resistance band donkey kick
This exercise is great to do as part of a warm up or as part of a workout after your run.
Make sure you find a resistance band that is four or five on the strength scale in order to make it challenging enough.
- Wrap the resistance band around both of your ankles then pull it up so its just above your knees.
- Turn over so that you’re on your hands and knees (all fours).
- Place your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders or slightly forward.
- Push your leg back from your heel and remember to squeeze your buttocks at the end of the movement.
- Repeat 12-15 times on each leg.
Side-lying leg lift
This exercise is also great at activating the glutes. You can choose to do it with a resistance band or ankle weight to make it a little more challenging.
- Lie on your side and extend your legs out straight.
- Prop yourself up using your forearm and rest a hand out in front of you on the floor to help balance your trunk.
- Lift your leg up while keeping your legs steady and facing forward. Do not rotate backward as this may hurt your back.
- Lower your leg up and repeat.
- Repeat 12-15 times on each leg.
Single-leg glute bridge
The glute bridge is such a versatile exercise. You can do it almost anywhere with or without equipment, making it a simple glute strength exercise.
If you want to make it more challenging, add a resistance band around your legs just above your knees.
- Lie down on a mat with your knees bent whilst keeping your feet flat on the floor. Rest your arms at your side.
- Extend your right leg straight out. Make sure you keep your both knees in line.
- Press through your left heel to lift your hips up towards the ceiling, then slowly lower back down.
- Repeat 12-15 times then repeat on the other leg.
Power skips are one of my favourite warm up glute exercises as they are a great way to activate sleepy glutes.
They’re also quite fun to do, especially if you’ve been sat behind a desk all day!
- Start in a lunge position. Remember to keep a 90 degree bend in both your knees.
- Position your arms as if you’re sprinting.
- Press into your right heel to rise up as you draw your left foot forward and jump (like you’re skipping), while drawing your left knee toward your chest.
- Use your arms to help propel you up.
- Land lightly on your right foot first, before placing your left foot on the ground behind you to return to the starting position.
- Complete 8-10 times then repeat on the other leg.
This is one of my favourite running drills for glute activation.
Glute strength exercises like this will help prepare and engage your glute muscles before your run. Many runners swear by exercises like these.
It’s also a great way to get your heart racing.
- With your feet hip width apart, lower your body down into a half squat position and reach out with your arms in front of you.
- Lift up your heels so you are on the balls of your feet.
- Hold this body position, then start running as fast as you can on the spot.
- Stay low as you run and you will feel the burn in your quads.