I can think of a few good reasons to strengthen your glutes if you’re a runner: better form, less potential for injury, and looking better in your shorts or tights, to name three. But I’ve also been dealing with a weak left glute and searching for the best glute exercises to strengthen my butt muscles.
First of all, before I get started, let me tell you about the glutes. There are actually four gluteal muscles, and these three form your butt:
- The smallest of the three is the gluteus
mimimus. It’s right under your gluteus medius.
- The gluteus medius is on the outside of your pelvis.
- The biggest, most obvious is the gluteus maximus. It’s the muscle that makes up most of the shape of your hips – and the largest muscle in your body.
Anatomy lesson aside, I started looking for the best glute exercises out there. I’m training for a marathon, and all that running requires strong, healthy glues.
The Best Glute Exercises I Found
I found five glute exercises that will help isolate my glutes, particularly my weak left glute. The problem with exercises like barbell deadlifts and squats is that, while they do an excellent job strengthening glute muscles, they also use both at the same time. If you have an imbalance, one side will be overcompensating for the other side. That’s not going to help and may in fact lead to other issues, like hip, knee, and lower back problems. So before it becomes a problem, work three sets of 8-12 reps of a couple of these exercises into your routine:
- Single leg bridges
- Bird dogs
- Single leg deadlifts
- Banded clamshells
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Single Leg Bridges
- Lay on your back on a yoga mat, hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Keep your feet under your knees.
- Raise your hips to create a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Squeeze your core and glutes, then slowly raise and extend one leg. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat. That’s one rep.
- Start on all fours on your yoga mat, hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Keeping your core stable and your back and pelvis still, reach your right arm forward and your left leg back. Focus on keeping your back steady, like a table. Reach through your left heel to engage your left glute muscles.
- Slowly and with control, bring your hand and knee back to starting position. Extend your left arm and right leg. Return to start. That’s one rep.
Single Leg Deadlifts
If you do these correctly, single leg deadlifts can be the best glute exercises you’ll ever do. Keep your hips square to the floor and squeeze your active glute on the way up.
- Hold either a kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand, hanging to your side. Stand on the leg on the side that’s holding the dumbbell or kettlebell.
- Unlock your knee, bend at the hip, and extend your other leg behind you for balance. Lower the weight until you’re parallel with the ground, being careful not to round your back. Return to the starting position.
You can do lunges several ways: holding two dumbbells at your sides, holding the dumbbells in the front rack position, holding a single dumbbell or kettlebell in front of you, and either walking lunges or stationary lunges. I prefer stationary lunges since I get crunched on space.
- Hold your preferred weight how you want. For the purposes of this demonstration, I’m holding a kettlebell as I would for a goblet squat.
- Take a step forward, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Your front knee should be directly over your ankle. Your back knee can touch the floor.
- With your weight in your heels, step back to the starting position.
- Place a looped resistance band around both legs, just above your knees. (You can also do these without resistance bands if you’re just starting out.)
- Lie on one side with your knees at a 45-degree angle and your legs stacked on top of one another. Stabilize your core.
- Keep your feet together as you lift your top knee as high as you can, keeping your hips and pelvis still. Keep your lower leg on the floor.
- Return to the starting position.