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Are Your Glutes Really Activated? 5 Exercises to Test and Strengthen Your Glutes for Running

But how do I know my glutes are on?

If you've ever thought this question: you're in good company.

Sleepy glutes.

Lazy glutes.

"Runner's glutes".

You've probably come across at least one of those on your pursuit to building stronger glutes.

Because stronger glutes improves running form, decreases injury rates...

blah blah blah.


A lot of the "solutions" for runners to build STRONG glutes are pretty dang basic.

clam shells. glute bridges. single leg glute bridges. air squats.

And I get it; I've been there.

I've had to walk the walk and start with these too.

But the catch is....

if you've EVER googled

"how to do I activate my glutes?"

"...strengthen my glutes?"

"...KNOW beyond a doubt my glutes are working on my run"

You've probably searched this MORE THAN ONCE. You've been looking for MORE or DIFFERENT exercises that specific to your needs as a runner.

This is your sign.

It's time to level up your glute strength game.

When you do, THAT'S when you can guarantee you're glutes are actually on and working during your run.

Because HARD TRUTH: you're not necessarily going to "feel" your glutes while you're running. You will if you sprint, run a hard tempo, or do hill repeats for sure!

But on your regular run, you're not going to receive a text from your glutes saying "yep, we're up and working!".

Activated and "on" glutes is something you TRAIN during strength workouts.

Running is where they reach their full potential.

Let's jump in.

5 Exercises to ACTIVATE & STRENGTH Your Glutes.


3 sets each // Medium-Heavy weights

Bulgarian Split Squat: *Pick 1 from the 3 variations!

Bulgarian Split Squat (BSS) with Rotation

BSS with overhead weighted plate

BSS with single arm overhead weight

  • 8 -10 reps ea side X heavy weight

Lateral Step Down with Weight in Front

  • 5-8 reps ea side X medium weight

High Knee Skater Jump with Medball Slam

  • 8 reps ea side X medium

Active Your Glutes for Your Next Run


  • I know what you're thinking: "how can these get any worse!?"

  • THE SECRET: if you want to be absolutely sure your glutes are on for your next run, you need to build glute strength so that there's something to active in the first place! The best way to do that: build glute strength with exercises that look like running. These squats are all single leg which work single leg strength, stability, balance and with these small variations, they help you progress your glute strengthening exercises in ways don't require a ton of fancy equipment

    • BSS with rotation: I love this added rotation as it works deeper, small glute muscles that are as equally important for your running as larger and in charge ones like your glute max and med.

    • BSS with weighted plate OH: don't underestimate the impact that holding a weight overhead can add: you might need to go down in weight here! This is a great way to work on upper body strength and core for endurance and improved running form

    • BSS with single weight OH: I heard you like more core ;) a single heavy weight overhead is the perfect challenge to build an injury proof core. Greatest challenge: holding the weight in the same side arm of the leg that is squatting.


  • the good news: THESE AREN'T BORING

  • MY CONFESSION: I'm guilty of avoiding step ups/step downs because they bore me half to death. But, not if you spice them up with an extra challenge and a dose of purpose.

  • Stepping DOWN and SIDEWAYS is a double whammy: it works glute muscles that help control your hip and keep it stable instead of dipping down during the single leg stance of your stride. Controlling and mastering a STEP DOWN builds eccentric strength, is a harder to build, more forgotten type of strength that's imperative for strong downhills and long distances. Watch out: this may result in spicy quads and a torched core.


  • These may look a touch intimidating...but you'll feel your glutes working!

  • THE SECRET: every runner wants strong glutes ...but not everyone wants to do the hard work to make them happen. YOUR KEY TO SUCCESS: break this down into parts.

  • Plyometrics or exercises that involve jumping (producing power) is literally how to train your glutes to activate powerfully and build strength!

  • starting in a single leg position with a knee raised to chest starts the exercise in a position that already looks like running. Jumping sideways and landing on one leg trains your leg and glutes to stay strong and balance resembling your running stride. Adding the med ball slam trains your core to stay strong in a way to mimics the natural torso rotation that occurs with every step. Get running specific with your strength and reap the rewards.


Will your glutes be on fire after these?


But the buns of steel you'll build will be well worth it :)

Not to mentioned the peace of mind of knowing you're

  • building strength

  • and your glutes WILL begin to learn how to activate for your runs.


"glute activation" isn't something we can just "will" into happening, not any more than you can wish your next marathon PR into existence.

Building glutes that activate and stay strong during your runs is something you train. But not many runners know this or are willing to do the hard work to make this desire a reality.

It's not guess work.

It's programming



Reliable Science.

And you showing up for yourself.

I know you've got this. ;)

If you want more strength exercises that look like running and help you build running-specific strength, I want to give you ALL my RUNNING FREEBIES!

If you want to grab them, you can check them out HERE!

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

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