Your glutes (otherwise known as your buttocks) are key muscles when it comes to running performance.
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.
This is why it’s good to activate your glutes in your pre-run warm up and incorporate movements like the glute strength exercises for runners in this guide.
When your glutes become underused or weak, your entire kinetic chain can be disrupted.
Disruptions to your kinetic chain can often lead to injuries and imbalances in other parts of your body.
If left untreated, these imbalances can turn into chronic injuries.
So what’s the best way to strengthen your glutes? You may be thinking where do you start when it comes to glute strengthening exercises for runners.
In this guide we’ll explore:
- What are the glutes?
- Why is glute strength is important for runners?
- How running strengthens the glutes
- How often you should do glute strengthening exercises for runners
- 7 of the best glute strengthening exercises for runners
Let’s get started!
What are the glutes?
Your glutes are the strongest and most powerful muscle group in the human body, commonly referred to as hips or the buttocks. They play an integral role in movement and athletic performance.
There are actually three muscles that make up the glutes: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
- The gluteus maximus is the largest of these three muscles. It makes up a large part of the hips and buttocks.
- The gluteus medius is situated on the outer surface of the pelvis.
- The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the three muscles. It is situated immediately beneath the gluteus medius.
All three of these muscles work to extend, abduct and internally and externally rotate the hip joint. The gluteus maximus also supports the extended knee through the iliotibial tract.
Why is glute strength important for runners?
Many experienced runners will tell you that the key to staying injury free for longer is to work on your glutes and keep them strong.
This is because your glutes are essential for many of the major movement patterns in running, so when they become faulty or weak, a lot of these movement patterns become disrupted.
When you run, your glutes:
- Hold your pelvis level and steady
- Extend your hips
- Help to propel you forward
- Keep your legs, pelvis and torso aligned
This is why it’s important to include glute strengthening exercises for runners into your routine.
Basically, exercises that strengthen glutes and hips are recommended as part of a well-rounded training plan.
Need more convincing?
Leading a sedentary lifestyle is thought to be a major contributing factor to glute weakness.
Prolonged periods of sitting reduce glute activation and over time the glutes become weak.
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.
Can running strengthen glutes?
While running can help to build muscle in the glutes, it really depends on the type of running that you are doing as this will determine the types of muscle fibres you are using.
There are two types of muscle fibres in the human body: slow twitch (type I) and fast twitch (type II).
- Slow twitch (type I) muscle fibres. These are smaller and are better for endurance activities like running and cycling. These types of fibres endure fatigue really well but as a result they don’t produce much output. As such, they don’t get very big so whilst your glutes will get stronger, you won’t see a noticeable increase in glute size.
- Fast twitch (type II) muscle fibres. These are larger and are more suited for short bursts of activity like sprinting. These types of fibres get bigger when you sprint, and because your glutes are key muscles when it comes to sprinting, you will see an increase in glute size.
The key takeaway? You need to be doing high intensity running alongside endurance running to build muscle in your glutes.
How often should runners do glute strength exercises?
It’s best to do glute strength exercises for runners every day if you can.
If that’s not feasible, then aim to include 2 to 3 glute strength workouts each week.
In the next section you will find some easy glute exercises for runners. These are great hip and glute strengthening exercises for runners.
All of the exercises can be done from the comfort of your own home or at the gym. They can also be done as part of a warm up before a run.
Some of the exercises include a resistance band which is a piece of kit that I recommend to a lot of runners because they are great to use for strength training.
They are also widely used in injury rehabilitation.
7 of the best glute strength exercises for runners
#1 Leg swings
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.
#2 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.
Glute strengthening exercises with resistance bands are a great way to activate your glutes.
- 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 by 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.
#3 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.
#4 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.
#5 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.
#6 Power skips
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.
#7 Fast feet
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.
More injury prevention tips:
- 5 essential hip flexor stretches for runners
- 5 important things to do once you have a running injury
- 3 quick and easy habits for injury free running
- 5 tips for returning to running after an injury
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- The 9 best pre-run stretches (and how to do them properly) - September 8, 2023