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When we think “Glute Activation,” we think about all of those amazing moves done on the ground – glute bridges, donkey kicks, fire hydrants…
But what if you can’t get down on the ground?
What if you have knee pain that makes kneeling uncomfortable?
Or what if you have shoulder issues that don’t allow you to really support yourself with your upper body?
You can STILL get those glutes activated and working to strengthen that oh so important muscle group WITHOUT getting down on the ground!
Work your glutes from every angle without getting down on the ground with these 7 Glute Activation Moves!
Standing Mini Band Lateral Raises And Kickbacks:
A must-do glute activation series if you don’t want to get down on the ground is the Standing Mini Band Lateral Raises and Kickbacks.
Pairing these two moves together, allows you to work all three gluteal muscles and you can do so while standing in one place even! No space? No problem!
To do the Standing Lateral Raises, place the band around both legs. Placing it around your ankles will make the movement harder. Face a wall, chair or anything you can use to slightly balance with. Standing tall, lift one leg out to the side.
Keep the leg straight (but don’t lock out the knee) and lift to the side. Try not to let the toe rotate open so that you don’t turn this into external rotation instead of abduction, unless you WANT to. Keep the foot you are lifting parallel to the foot on the ground. Squeeze your butt as you lift.
Do not lean to the side just to lift the leg higher. Keep the core tight and stand up nice and tall. Then lower the leg back down and repeat. You can even pulse more at the end range of motion, never fully bringing the foot back down.
Kick BACKWARD slightly instead of straight out to the side to help yourself focus on the glute medius if you are only feeling your TFL or the front, outside of your hip working instead of your glute.
Complete all reps on that side before switching.
You may also feel this in the standing glute as well because that leg is working to resist the band and keep you stable.
To do the Standing Kickback, place the band around your ankles. Higher up on your leg will make the movement a bit easier. Face a wall, chair or anything you can use to slightly balance with and help make sure you engage your core.
Stand tall and then kick one leg back behind you. Keep the leg fairly straight and flex your foot so you are driving the heel back into the wall behind you. Squeeze your glute as you lift. Do not rock forward to try to get the leg up higher. Height doesn’t matter. Just focus on squeezing your glute and keeping your core tight.
You may have a very slight lean forward as you stabilize on the standing leg, but you don’t want to rock forward and open up your hip just to kick back higher. You also want to engage your abs so you don’t hyperextend your lower back. Rocking forward may also put the move in your low back instead of forcing your glute to work to lift the leg.
It may not be a huge range of motion. The important part is to really feel your glute extending your hip to kick back. You can even pulse at the end range of motion to create a pump.
Two tips to get even more out of these moves:
- Place the mini band up below your knees to start to help you focus on the right muscles working.
- For the Lateral Raises, place your pointer finger on your hip bone and your thumb back along the top of your glute. As you do the raises, feel the muscle under your thumb work. This can help you make sure the right muscles are working AND even help establish that mind-body connection!
Mini Band Side Step Squats:
If you have no knee pain that would limit your knee flexion and want a great way to get your glutes firing during squats, plus a glute activation move that will get your blood pumping a little bit more, Mini Band Side Step Squats are a great option!
To do Mini Band Side Step Squats, start standing tall with the mini band right below your knees and your feet a few inches apart. To make the move easier, use a lighter resistance or place the band above your knees.
Then step out to one side so your feet are about shoulder-width apart and squat down. Make sure to sit back and keep your chest up. Make sure you also press out against the band. You don’t want your knees to cave in.
Squat down then stand up and step your feet back together. Then step out to the other side and squat down. Alternate stepping out to each side and squatting down. Do not step out too wide and make sure to press your knees out against the band.
Band Pull Throughs:
This hip hinge exercise is a great way to prime, aka ACTIVATE, your glutes before more compound hinging exercises like the deadlift. It is also the perfect way to really target that glute max.
And while it may look a bit awkward, the pump you’ll feel from this move is worth the awkward looks you may get! (Plus if you are trying to teach anyone a proper hinge hinge, this is a great way to do it!)
To do Resistance Band Pull Throughs, anchor the band around a pole, furniture or in a doorway. Step over the band and reach down between your legs to grab the handles. Walk away from the anchor point with your back to it, holding the handles between your legs.
Then hinge over, keeping your knees soft. Push your butt back toward the anchor point as you lean forward and reach your hands with the bands back between your legs.
Then squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward to come back up to standing. Keep your arms relaxed and straight down, holding the handles between your legs. Stand up nice and tall, fully extending your hips and squeezing your glutes.
Don’t hyperextend your low back as you extend your hips and squeeze your glutes or lean back too much at the top. Almost tuck your hips up forward as you squeeze and contract your glutes.
Then hinge back over, pushing your butt back toward the anchor point. Keep your core tight so that you don’t feel this move in your low back. Also, do not pull the bands with your arms. Your glutes should do all the work. And make sure to keep your back flat. Do not round over as you hinge over.
To make the move harder, use a heavier band or walk further from the anchor point.
Band Hip Rotations:
For strong glutes and stable hips, you want to work your body in every plane of motion. And that means, including some rotational exercises like the Band Hip Rotations as well. Plus, this glute activation exercise will get your abs working as well!
To do Band Hip Rotations, anchor the band and hold one end in both hands. Stand with your side to the anchor point and your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. Your front toe should be turned slightly open while your back toe should point straight ahead.
Then squat down very slightly, pushing your butt back as you reach your arms back toward the anchor point. Make sure there is tension in the band even as you reach back. Brace your abs and keep your chest up nice and tall. Do not shrug your shoulders.
Keeping your arms fairly straight (aka do not actively bend them, but they may have a slight bend to start), bring the band across your body and up outside your far shoulder. Feel the glute of the leg closest to the anchor point engage and power the rotation. Do not turn it into an arm movement or simply rotate at the waist.
Your back glute should power the rotation. Feel it squeeze as you rotate. Concentrate on using it to power the move. Do not get to focused on bringing the band to a certain point. If you rotate and you don’t bring it up to the shoulder that is ok as long as the glute powers the rotation across.
Bring the band back across your body to the starting position in a controlled fashion. Do not pivot your feet as you perform the move. You want to rotate at the hip because the glute is powering the movement. You do not want your feet to move.
Complete all reps on one side before switching. Focus on squeezing your glutes and bracing your abs. Do not shrug your shoulders or round over.
Seated Mini Band Clams:
Seated glute activation exercises are another great option if you can’t get down on the ground. They can also be an option if you have an ankle issue that doesn’t allow you to balance on one side.
One essential seated move to use is the Seated Mini Band Clams. They are a great way to work your glute medius and minimus to improve your hip stability!
To do the Seated Mini Band Clams, place the mini band right below (more advanced) or right above (a bit easier) your knees. Whichever place you choose or whatever weight mini band you use, just make sure you feel your glutes and outside your hips actually working.
Sit up nice and tall with your hands on the edge of the bench and your feet about hip-width apart. Then press your knees open against the band as you sit up tall. Really use your glutes to open the band.
Do not slouch or rock back. Press your hips forward as you press your knees open. You may rock open on your feet, but don’t simply rock and bend your ankles. Really press the band open with your knees.
You can change the way you focus on your glutes by changing your body positioning. You can lean back, not rock back as you do the move, but actually lean back through the entire move, sit up straight or even lean forward. Playing around with all three positions can even help make sure your glutes are firing no matter the degree of hip flexion.
Bench Hip Thrusters:
Improve your hip extension and get your core working with this bridging variation that you don’t have to get down on the ground for – the Bench Hip Thruster!
You can do Hip Thrusters as purely a bodyweight movement, as a feet-raised movement or even perform a single leg variation to help work on correcting imbalances.
Or you can try the Mini Band Bench Hip Thruster Variation below.
To do Mini Band Hip Thrusters, place the mini band right below your knees to make it harder and right above to make it easier. Lie with your back on a bench and feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. Press out on the band. Don’t let your knees cave in.
Then bridge up, driving through your heels and upper back on the bench. Make sure to press out on the band as you bridge up. Keep your abs engaged with a pelvic tilt so you don’t hyperextend your back at the top. Pause and engage those glutes then lower back down and repeat. Even slightly tuck your chin to look down at your knees to help engage your abs more.
Feel your glutes working and do not let your knees cave in at any point. Keep constant tension on the band.
Bench Reverse Hypers:
Work on your hip hyperextension with this lying glute activation move you can do off a bench! No need to get down on the ground while you can still reap the benefits of a prone glute activation exercise.
You must be careful though with this movement to not allow your lower back to simply take over. If you feel your lower back trying to compensate for your glutes, modify the movement or pause and reset, even rolling out your hips and lower back to relax the overactive and tight muscles.
To do a Straight Leg Reverse Hyper (top photos), lie face down on a bench with your hips right at the edge of the bench. Make sure you aren’t too far off or you will engage your low back. You will keep your legs straight. You can let your feet stay apart or bring your legs together.
You may need to play around with the positioning to start to see which allows you to get the best glute contraction, especially if you are struggling to engage your glutes. You can also put your heels together and choose to turn your toes out. The external rotation can sometimes make it easier to get your glutes to fire.
Then, keeping your legs straight, raise your heels up toward the ceiling. Squeeze your glutes as you lift. Lift till your legs are about parallel to the ground and lower back down. Only lift higher if you don’t feel your lower back take over. You want to focus on and make sure your glutes are working to lift NOT your low back.
If you do feel your low back, make sure you are pressing your pelvic down into the bench as you squeeze your glutes to lift. Hold at the top and lower back down. Really contract your glutes at the top and don’t worry about swinging your legs up higher. Only lift as high as you need to feel those glutes engage and contract.
To mix things up with the Reverse Hypers, you can even do a bent-knee (bottom photos) or mini band variation!
Ready to get those glutes activated and working?
Check out my Booty Burner Program! 15 minute workouts to get those glutes firing!