top of page

Glutes NOT ON while running? Use These Activation EXERCISES!

Updated: May 31, 2023

Be real with me for a second, runner.

Has this thought EVER crossed your mind?

"My glutes won't turn on; how do I fix this?"

Because you've probably been told 100x just because you're a runner:

"YOuR gLuTeS aRe WeAk."

Eh, maybe. Maybe not.


THE TRUTH:

If I test enough

and push hard enough...I can find a weakness.

On ANY RUNNER.

But since I can't be there in person, let you show you what Lazy Runner Butt/ "my glutes won't turn on" *actually* looks like so you can determine for yourself:

  1. Do I maybe have this?

  2. Am I doing the *right* exercises currently to fix this?

Let's dive in.


INJURY QUIZ: HAVE YOU EVER…

Have you ever had ANY of these injuries before?

  • Shin splints

  • ITB issues

  • Achilles tendonitis

  • Patellar femoral pain syndrome (aka Runner's Knee)

This specific runner did (from the research article we're skimming today):

  • 16 years old

  • she should be VERY healthy, running well-but instead

  • ...she's sustained ALL of these running injuries! Not to mention, has a general history of tight muscles.

(welcome to being a runner).

Feel like you're reading a blog about yourself yet?

When I see that list of injuries one after another, I think of ONE thing: "This runner NEEDS Stronger Glutes."

But there's a twist.

There's a difference between:
  • your glutes "being on" and activated

  • vs. your glutes being strong.

Case in point:

"Electromyography research has shown that the single-leg squat and clam shells activate the gluteal musculature. A variety of hip extensibility exercises have been proven in the literature to increase hip range of motion in runners. No research measured the effects of a combined hip strengthening protocol with a hip stretching protocol on the presence of lower crossed syndrome in high school runners and the effect on running economy and performance."

Translation:

  • Are you doing single leg squats?

  • Are you doing clam shell exercises?

Technically, fancy EMG studies say these two exercises are some of the best when it comes to "turning on" glute muscles.


But from working in the clinic with you, I know from firsthand experience, sometimes you tell me "I can't feel anything working".

So to build strong glutes, FIRST you glutes must be "on".

And like this runner, if you're encountering this whole slew of injuries, you're probably struggling with lazy runner butt.

Because…

  • Achilles strain

  • Runner's knee

  • ITB issues

  • Shin splints

...ALL stem from poor glute activation, stability, strength…general "turning the glute muscle on".

BUT I'M DOING THESE EXERCISES….

Let me guess, you've done your fair share of single leg squats and clam shells.

(good for you, really!)

But do you still find yourself struggling with even one of those listed injuries?

Maybe you're struggling with TIGHT HIP FLEXORS too?

What if I told you, ALL OF THAT was connected and you're NOT crazy?

"The lower crossed syndrome (LCS) is characterized by specific patterns of muscle weakness and tightness that cross between the [back] and the [front] sides of the body. In LCS there is over activity and hence tightness of hip flexors and lumbar extensors. Along with this there is underactivity and weakness of the deep abdominal muscles on the ventral [front] side and of the gluteus maximus and medius on the dorsal [back] side. The hamstrings are frequently found to be tight in this syndrome as well."

Whether lower-crossed syndrome actually exists is debate for another time…


But does the pattern fit for YOU?
  • Do your hip flexors feel tight REGULARLY?

  • And your hamstrings?

  • Do you feel you're constantly warding off ITB and achilles strains? Maybe had shin splints or runner's knee previously?

Is a picture of your past few years of running coming into focus?

WHAT DO I DO?

Easy answer: you Dare to Train Differently.

Definition of Insanity: doing the same stuff over and over again, expecting different results.

Runner, if you've been doing the clam shells and single leg squats for what feels like forever and you still "can't turn your glutes on" and/or continue to struggle with tight hip flexors…

How about we make a change?

Because you probably don’t want to hold on to either of those.

And before you say "I'll just stretch more.." check this out from the same paper:

The study deliberately added the (infamous) half kneeling hip flexor stretch along with other glute strength exercises to the 16 yr old's runner program for 6 weeks.


"the runner demonstrated improvements in her pelvic tilt angle, her gluteus medius and gluteus maximus strength, and her step-down and single-leg squat mechanics.

The runner’s hip extensibility remained the same throughout the entire six weeks."


Hip extensibility was measured with a fancy physical therapy test called "the Thomas Test", meant to measure hip flexor length and tightness.

That test DIDN'T CHANGE.

Despite 6 WEEKS of regularly doing it.

But everything else DIRECTLY related to running improved.

So I'm not here to say "never stretch". But I am here to say, if you're looking for *genuinely* stronger runner glutes, you need to Dare to Train Differently.

HOW DO I TURN ON MY GLUTES?

This is going to sound weird,

…but you can turn on your glutes with your opposite shoulder blade.

Just hang with me for a moment.

I've been practicing this in the clinic for YEARS , and it works.

But I've danced around sharing it for YEARS now with my content and blogs because it takes some time grapple with and feel.

But I want to give you a new way to get stronger and fix lazy runner butt.

To do that: We need to talk about running.

The movement of running.

Imagine your arms out in front of you like you're saying "stop!"

This is a PUSH.


Now imagine your arms up overhead like you're waving to someone "come over here!"

This is a PULL.

How this translates to running:

If you get into a your start position as if you're toeing the line of a race, what does that look like?

One arm forward and one arm back, right?

The FRONT ARM = a PUSH

That BACK ARM = a PULL

But you don't stand at the starting line in a squat or ramrod straight.

You learn forward with ONE LEG LEADING, one leg trailing behind.



Today, we care about the back leg trailing behind...

because I promise you

....it's the opposite leg of your pull arm.


Confusing?

Check out the youtube video.

Don't worry, I got you.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Because the way to TURN ON your glutes and strengthen them is by using exercises that follow this pattern we talked about above.

Exercises that LOOK like the movement pattern of running.

This pattern repeats WITH EVERY stride you take:

  • Your forward "push" arm always coupled with the opposite leg coming forward (into hip flexion)

  • And your trailing "pull" arm is always coupled with the opposite leg trailing behind in hip extension…where your glute reigns supreme.

Starting see the connection between the shoulder blade and opposite glute?

HOW DO I DO IT?

Lucky for you, I have some exercise ready to go!

They're in a NEW FREE GUIDE I just made so you can download these and MORE!

Because I want you to start seeing this pattern repeated over and over again in different postures and positions…

But this is HIGH LEVEL STUFF.

This will be too much for some runners, but NOT YOU.

Because you're here, Daring to Train Differently.

Once you can see this pattern while you practice the exercises:

  • you become more confident

  • aware of how your body (and glutes) are responding.

  • You begin to feel them firing, fighting to stay upright, and activating,

And when your glutes are strong, it gives your hip flexors permission to relax and not carry the full load of your body.


And when all those muscles are working together, intead of fighting each other…
  • Your ITB calms down

  • Your achilles strain pops up only after a really hard hill day

  • And your runners knee disappears.

It takes work and effort.

But you're a runner.

You eat determination for breakfast ;)

Heres' the list of GLUTE ACTIVATING exercises below like I promised, but I strongly encourage you to go grab the FREE STRENGTH GUIDE for RUNNERS. I've packed even more goodies in there!

Exercises:

3-4 rounds using a medium to heavy weight

Single leg bridge with chest press // x10-12 ea side

Focus: single leg strength, glute strength, push strength

Runner's Lunge with mid rows // x10-12 each side

Focus: single leg strength, glute strength balance pull strength

Hint: there's a pictures and tips in the FREE GUIDE

RDLs // x10-15 each side

Focus: ankle stability, balance, eccentric hamstring strength, glute strength

Split Squat with goblet hold // x10-15

Focus: single leg (quad + glute strength), push strength, balance

WRAP UP

Probably not the blog post and video you we're expecting, huh?

Don't worry if it's confusing the first time around.

We'll be talking about this some more.


And…If you've ever struggled with any of the injuries we talked about today, you're going to want to stick around.

Because I've been working on something new you're NOT going to want to miss!

Until next time….

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //@dr.whitt.fit

P.S. FIX LAZY GLUTES and HIP TIGHTNESS with the FREE STRENGTH GUIDE FOR RUNNERS!

 

References

Lower crossed syndrome. Physiopedia. (n.d.). https://www.physio-pedia.com/Lower_Crossed_Syndrome

Soholt, C. (2019). Lower Crossed Syndrome in a Runner: Can It Be Improved through the Combination of a Modified Single-Leg Squat and a Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch?" (dissertation). ProQuest LLC, Ann Arbor, MI.

91 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page