Do you regularly hit the gym to counter the effects of a sedentary lifestyle? You could be exposing yourself to injury if you jump right into the workout without activating the glutes, first.
The glutes or gluteus maximus refers to the buttock muscles which play a key role during exercise. A sedentary lifestyle tends to make the glutes inactive making it necessary to activate them before a workout. Activating the glutes ensures that the right muscle groups are used during the workout session, especially if squats and lunges are a part of your exercise regimen. Doing squats or lunges that entail 50 or more reps without activating the glutes leads to use of the wrong muscles for the exercise (the lower back muscles which act as compensatory muscles instead of the glutes), increasing the risk of injury because of workout.
Exercises to activate the glutes before a workout
Activating the glutes is, in fact, the last stage in a three step process that includes loosening the hip flexor and hamstring muscles through stretching and foam rolling exercises.
Here are six exercises to help you activate your glutes:
#1 Fire Hydrant
- Get on your hands and knees on the ground.
- Hold this position, and move your thigh away from the midline of your body.
- Pause at the top of the motion, then slowly return to the starting position.
- Perform this slowly and repeat on the other side.
#2 Bird Dog
- Get on your hands and knees, on the ground. Your knees should be placed underneath your hips and your wrists directly underneath your shoulders. Don’t sag — pull your shoulder blades toward your hips.
- Slowly lengthen your left leg by lifting it off the floor until it is parallel to the ground. Don’t lift the leg above hip height.
- Now, slowly raise and straighten the right arm until it is parallel to the ground. Keep your head aligned with your spine.
- Gently lower yourself back to your starting position, then change sides.
#3 Donkey Kick
- Get down on all fours so that your hands are shoulder width apart and your knees are right below the hips.
- Keeping your knee bent, lift one leg up behind you until it is in line with your body and your foot is parallel to the ceiling.
- Get down to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
#4 Glute Bridge Single Leg Progression
- Lie on your back in a bent-knee position with your feet flat on the floor. Place your feet hip-width apart with the toes facing away.
- Gently contract your abdominal muscles to flatten your low back into the floor. Maintain this gentle muscle contraction all through the exercise.
- Lift left leg up and clasp behind left thigh. Draw the left knee toward your chest and slide the right foot slightly toward the midline of the body.
- Exhale gently. With abdominals contracted, lift hips up off the floor, with your right heel pressing into the floor for added stability.
Avoid pushing hips too high.
- Inhale and slowly lower yourself back. Maintain control using your right hip. Do 10-12 repetitions and change legs.
#5 Kneeling Hip Circle
This exercise is a combination of Fire Hydrant and Donkey Kick.
- Get on your hands and knees with knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. Flex your feet.
- Drive one heel back toward the ceiling, keeping the knee bent to 90 degrees and the foot flexed (the Donkey Kick).
- Now without lowering it to the ground, bring that same leg out to the side keeping the knee bent to 90 degrees and the foot flexed (top of the Fire Hydrant position).
- Without bringing the knee down, drive it forward into the elbow. Keep the foot flexed and elbows straight. When you drive into the elbow, you should feel your abs engage. Lower the knee and repeat.
- Lie on your right side and bend both knees.
- Raise your left knee while rotating it slightly out, up to a maximum of 12 inches or to the extent it is painless.
- Pause for a second at the top and then slowly lower the leg.
- Complete 10-15 reps for each leg.
While doing these exercises, keep in mind
- Do not exceed more than 10-15 reps for each of the exercises mentioned above.
- Hold each position for 2-5 seconds.
- Don’t forget these exercises before a workout, especially if your regimen entails squats and lunges.