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5 of the Best Exercises for Glute Activation (and why should include them in your workouts)

5 of the best exercises for glute activation using mini resistance bands. Also, why it's so important for you to include these into your workout routine!

Glute activation exercises are something that I include in almost every one of my sessions with my personal training clients. I wasn’t surprised to discover when I started working with my trainer that she was on board the glute activation train too. We do a lot of it in our sessions.

You might be wondering…what is glute activation and why is it so important?

Your glutes are the biggest muscle in your body and they have a play a few important roles. Proper movement of the hip comes from the glutes. Your glutes are responsible for hip extension, hip abduction and internal and external rotation of the hip joint. In my book, Ultimate Plank Fitness, I consider the glutes part of the overall core makeup along with a group of other muscles that all work together to build the “trunk of your tree.”

Unfortunately in today’s sitting culture, weak glutes that have lost their ability to fire correctly have become a widespread problem. When this happens you are prone to experiencing low back pain, hamstring injuries, knee pain and more.

Glute activation exercises specifically target the muscles that make up the glute and both strengthen them and train them to fire correctly.

Perform Better Mini Bands for Glute Activation

How should you work glute activation into your routine? 

It’s easy! You can do it at home or at the gym. All you need for my five favorite exercises is a mini resistance band and about 10 minutes. First, let’s talk about the mini bands. I love these from Perform Better. They are available on Amazon Prime and are only $14.95 for a set of four in varying resistance levels.

Do these exercises 3-4 times a week on their own or add them into your workout routine. I’ll either warm up with them or add a set of them in before I squat or deadlift to make sure that my glutes are awake and firing before going into the movement so I can get the most out of it.

For my runners, I can’t stress the importance of you adding some of these to your pre-run routine. Especially before you go out for a run after you’ve been sitting all day long!

The 5 Best Mini Band Exercises for Glute Activation.

I’ve put together a photo and description along with a video demo of each exercise.

Mini Band Side Shuffle for Glute Activation

ALL HAIL THE SIDE SHUFFLE! I have been doing these with my clients for years (they don’t even ask anymore, they just put a band on after they finish warming up) but my trainer introduced me to the two-step sidestep (versus taking like 10-15 steps one way and 10-15 the other). With the two step you’re able to stay more equally fired in both glutes throughout. I also love that they work in the frontal plane, something that isn’t incorporated enough in our training routines. If you only have time to add one of these exercises to your routine, do a set of these before a run or before you squat or deadlift.

Form cues: 

  • Position mini band above the ankles
  • Slightly bend the knees
  • Draw in the belly and engage the abs
  • Place feet hips distance apart
  • Take two steps to the right while keeping good tension in the band (never step the feet together to touch) and then take two steps to the left
  • Do this for 45 seconds or 20 steps total (each two-step in a direction counts as one)

Mini band air squat for glute activation

The glute activation squat is just an air squat with a mini band above the knees.

Form cues:

  • Position mini band above the knees
  • Place feet slightly wider than the hips (just a tad)
  • Sit butt back like you were sitting down in a chair and keep your chest lifted and abs engaged
  • Push out on the band the entire time and never let knees cave in
  • Squeeze glutes to stand
  • Repeat 20 times

Mini Band Monster Walk for Glute Activation

The monster walk is a little funky to master but I like it, especially because it moves forward and backward.

Form cues:

  • Position mini band above ankles
  • Slightly bend the knees
  • Take six steps forward, with each step you will make a semi-circle with the foot by drawing it in and then back out again (watch the video)
  • Take six steps back, reversing the movement
  • Perform 5 sets (up and back = 1)

Mini Band Glute Bridge for Glute Activation

Bridge is another one of my top exercises that I would add to your core training. They are so beneficial for so many reasons but we’ll focus on the band exercise for today.

Form cues: 

  • Position mini band above the knees
  • Lay down on your back and bend your knees so that the heels are directly under the glutes
  • Place your hands by your sides, palms down
  • Press into the palms and lift your hips, lower back down
  • Keep pressing out with the knees the entire time (up and down) and never let that tension off the band
  • Repeat 20 times and hold the last one up for a 10 count

Mini Band Clamshell for Glute Activation

Don’t laugh at the clamshell. It’s super legit when it comes to adding a mini band to the movement. All of my clients look at me with bewildered eyes when I make them do these. They don’t understand how it can burn so badly!

Form cues: 

  • Position mini band above the knees
  • Lay on your side with knees bent and stacked
  • Support the head with the hand and place the opposite hand on the hip/glute that is working.
  • Lift the top knee away from the bottom and lower it back down. Keep feet together as you do this.
  • Use the hand that’s on the hip/glute as a reminder of what you’re working and what you’re engaging
  • Perform 20 on each side.

So there’s your crash course on glute activation. DO IT! As always, let me know if you have questions or feedback.

Do you include glute activation into your workout routine? 

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Emily My Healthyish Life May 31, 2016, 9:15 pm

    This is such a great post! So thorough and well-written. Bookmarked 🙂

    I’m working with a coach for marathon training and hip and glute activation are priorities. I’m so glad these types of exercises are built into my training.

    • 2
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 4:02 pm

      Thank you Emily! I’m happy to hear your coach is adding this into your training. I can’t wait to read more about your experiences working with a coach!

  • 3
    Amanda May 31, 2016, 10:09 pm

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been working on doing flute activation more often and I do some of these already but not with a band. The mini band sounds like a great way to take it up a notch.

    • 4
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 4:00 pm

      Yes, you must add the band!

  • 5
    Jodie May 31, 2016, 10:45 pm

    I always add glute activation exercises in to my own routine as well as clients. It’s a good burn.

    • 6
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 3:59 pm

      Yes, the best burn!

  • 7
    Meah June 1, 2016, 8:15 am

    These are the perfect moves to do to warm up for my lower body days or runs! I’ve seen a lot of people using those mini bands, but never knew which one to get. I’ll have to try the Perform Better ones, thanks so much for your suggestion 🙂 .

    • 8
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 3:59 pm

      You’re so welcome. These exercises are really great, especially for you being an athlete!

  • 9
    Angie June 1, 2016, 8:56 am

    I always save your workouts!! Thank you! I just did this one and feel the burn!

    • 10
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 3:59 pm

      Aw, thanks so much! Glad you like them!

  • 11
    Amy K June 1, 2016, 10:04 am

    Great post, I’m going to get some of those bands, these exercises are great for SI joint issues, thanks!

    • 12
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 3:59 pm

      Thanks Amy! Definitely get the bands!

  • 13
    Jennifer June 1, 2016, 1:03 pm

    Great post!! I’ve been doing these for almost a year now. I learned them in PT last year during an IT Band flare up.

    • 14
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 3:58 pm

      So happy to hear this Jennifer!

  • 15
    Lisa June 1, 2016, 2:57 pm

    Great advice! I’ve been struggling with hip/glute issues for a few years now. I haven’t been doing these exercises lately, but plan to pick them up again after I get the current issues worked out! Love the videos. They are very helpful!

    • 16
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 3:58 pm

      They help so much. Definitely add them back in. One of my clients was just telling me yesterday how much better her glute issue has gotten since working with me and doing a ton of activation work.

  • 17
    Julianna June 1, 2016, 4:05 pm

    I’m so glad you posted this! Glute activation is so so important, and as a fitness instructor, I put these exercises in my classes all the time. And I always do them before I do any heavy lifting, especially squats and deadlifts!

    • 18
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 3:56 pm

      I’m really happy to hear you’re teaching them to the masses! Awesome girl!

  • 19
    April June 2, 2016, 8:47 am

    Thanks so much for this post, Jenn! I, too, have tight hips and definitely feel it after sitting all day then hitting the gym for lower body workouts. Yesterday happened to be leg/glute day so I incorporated these into my warm-up. Thank you for providing great info for all of us! 🙂

    • 20
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 3:52 pm

      You’re welcome April! I’m happy to hear that you used the exercises!

  • 21
    Tara June 2, 2016, 1:44 pm

    i tried some of these last night while watching youtube videos. LOL gotta love the ability to “exercise” and watch videos or tv. the monster walks were new to me and i really felt it in a weird place. and oh the clamshells ! my band is very tight so i couldnt really open up much but i could feel it. i added in standing leg lifts where standing on one leg you lift the other one sort of at an angle out to the back/side. those really burn for me. i really need to do more glute work ! thanks for the post.

    • 22
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 3:52 pm

      Yes, I do standing leg lifts with my clients sometimes too! They’re good. You’re so welcome for the post!

  • 23
    Remi June 2, 2016, 4:04 pm

    I get so much excellent information out of your blog! I’ve started incorporating many more unilateral movements due to your thorough post on the benefits of them, and now that I’ve seen this one, I think I’ll start adding these movements to my routine! Thank you for the thorough descriptions and demonstrations… they are very helpful. (:

    • 24
      Jen DeCurtins June 7, 2016, 3:51 pm

      Hey Remi – it makes me super happy to hear that you get useful info from my blog! So glad you like the posts and the demos!

  • 25
    Patricia July 11, 2016, 3:02 pm

    I just ordered these bands – are there other exercises you would recommend to do with them?

  • 26
    Susan September 11, 2016, 5:09 pm

    I was very consistent for many years and I’ve become a little lax lately:( I have maintained a nutritious diet:) Any tips on getting started up again on a fitness regime? I really enjoy dance classes, walking/running, weight training and yoga/pilates. Thanks!

    • 27
      Jen DeCurtins September 12, 2016, 3:18 pm

      Hi Susan!

      RE: getting started again…you just have to do it. Stick to the things that you enjoy doing like dance classes, yoga, walking, etc and just try to move your body every day. Don’t overdo it but try to do something every day…whether it’s a class or a walk or to the gym to lift. You just need to get back into the swing of it and make it a habit. You’ll remember how good it feels to be working out consistently and want to keep doing it once you start feeling better and seeing results. Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day…just pick back up!

  • 28
    Erin October 17, 2016, 6:50 am

    This look great and I just purchased a set of bands. Are these exercises ok to do on their own? For example, doing several sets and perhaps including some upper body and core moves? Or are they only intended to be warm ups?

    Thank you!

    • 29
      Jen DeCurtins October 18, 2016, 3:41 pm

      Hey Erin!

      You can definitely incorporate them intermittently into your workout and they can be done solo. I do the side shuffle two steps all the time before squats and deadlifts!

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