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Thread: Glute Exercises

  1. #1
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    Glute Exercises

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    Need recommendations for the best glute strengthening exercises. Particularly those that allow you to really isolate and feel your glutes firing.

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  2. #2
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    Plank from your knees with your feet in the air (and on your elbows but hands apart so you don't have the stabilizing effect of clasped hands). Put a dumbbell behind one knee and lift up.
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  3. #3
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    I do a moderated bird dog that I can really feel in my glutes when I focus on doing this properly.

    Place one knee on the edge of a pad or pillow, something a couple of inches tall. You are on your hands, take the leg that isn't on the pad/pillow and keeping your knee bent draw your foot up to the ceiling. Focus on tight core and the glute. Repeat on the other side, I do this for a minute on each side and typically hold the position once my leg is up for a couple of seconds - generally about 15-20x on each side (2 rounds).

    I've gluteal amnesia on one side and this, among other exercises, appears to be helping. At least I can finally feel my glutes fire Can't find a video of this move though.

  4. #4
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    Glutes are attached to the rest of you, so I would recommend finding a good Pilates instructor and working on your glutes and everything else, too. There's something to the "Pilates butt" other than aesthetics. There are several very good Pilates studios near you.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Selkie View Post
    Need recommendations for the best glute strengthening exercises. Particularly those that allow you to really isolate and feel your glutes firing.
    Why do you want to isolate your glutes? What is your goal?

    I ask because like Tulip says, there's a lot more to working a muscle that just getting it to contract. If you've got an injury and your glutes aren't firing well at all, isolating them to restart the system can be helpful in the short term but in the long term you want to be doing exercises that are function specific to the activity/sport you are trying to get better at and they should also involve multiple muscle groups.

    If you want a firmer, lifted tush for looks, that's a good goal but I would approach that in a very different way than if you told me you wanted stronger glutes for climbing on a road bike.
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  6. #6
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    To follow up with what Wahine and Tulip have said, like Selkie, I have suffered/maybe still suffer from some form of gluteal amnesia. My PT also focused on gluteal activation exercises, but almost two years on, I wonder about that approach. I've since developed hamstring issues (where the hamstring meets the glute) that are probably related. Some additional reading I've done on the subject suggests that the glute issues are often symptomatic of other issues (posture, weak abs, weak hip flexors, overly strong leg muscles, tight quads to name a few). Now I have to wonder if gluteal activation exercises, if not used in conjunction with other exercises, are at best just a temporary fix. If you don't learn to engage the glutes as you're moving around in ordinary life and during your regular forms of exercise, it just seems like the problems will persist. At least that's been my experience.

    That said, I got almost immediate pain relief when I first started working with my PT. My pain mostly manifested itself in my hip and groin. Here's a link that includes a number of the exercises I did at the time, but included therein is a discussion on weak glutes and the number of things that should be considered when attempting to resolve the issue and why it happens in the first place. I am not a PT so I really can't say for certain that the discussion is credible, but a lot of it made sense to me in light of my own own imbalances and issues.

    Tulip, remind me: Do you go to a Pilates studio and, if so, do you do mat or reformer classes?
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wahine View Post
    Why do you want to isolate your glutes? What is your goal?

    I ask because like Tulip says, there's a lot more to working a muscle that just getting it to contract. If you've got an injury and your glutes aren't firing well at all, isolating them to restart the system can be helpful in the short term but in the long term you want to be doing exercises that are function specific to the activity/sport you are trying to get better at and they should also involve multiple muscle groups.

    If you want a firmer, lifted tush for looks, that's a good goal but I would approach that in a very different way than if you told me you wanted stronger glutes for climbing on a road bike.
    My Physical Therapist gave me a bunch of glute exercises but I find myself engaging my hamstrings more than my glutes. Strengthening my glutes, particularly those on my right side that are atrophied, is part of my recovery. I just wanted to see if anyone had something else to offer up that I could throw into the mix and perhaps, something that would result in more obvious firing of those muscles.

    I want those muscles to regain strength and to remember to engage like they are supposed to, so I don't end up with another foot injury.

    Indy, that's interesting because I have suffered on and off from high hamstring tendonitis and a lot of the glute exercises the PT had me doing made it come back. I attribute this mostly to difficulty in isolating my glute muscles. She gave me a few exercises that really zone in on the glutes but the ones that require engaging other muscles (i.e., one legged squats and a lot of the balance-required standing exercises) are hard for me to "find" the glute, if you know what I mean.

    My posture is the issue, as is not engaging my core. The PT taught me the correct way to walk, so that's helping. Also, she released the bound up muscles in my back, so my scoliosis is nearly gone now. That alone has improved my posture.

    Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions.
    Last edited by Selkie; 08-22-2012 at 12:38 PM.

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  8. #8
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    Good luck Selkie, I've also had hip flexors/hamstring/quad/etc issues as well. Glad you are working with a PT to help resolve your issues. Interestingly enough I am having more positive results in that area with the group training I currently do at my gym - and that includes two long bouts of physical therapy. As intense as the workouts are, he won't allow us to do anything without proper form. Considering how intense things are this is a good thing...

    I've posture issues as well, just too many hours/days/years hunched over a computer. Working on this...

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by indysteel View Post
    Tulip, remind me: Do you go to a Pilates studio and, if so, do you do mat or reformer classes?
    At the moment, I do mat exercises at home and have for the last few years. I took two years of really high-quality classical Pilates training when I lived in DC, which gave me the basis for doing the mat exercises at home now. I considered a two-year course of study (classes and instructor-training) to become a classical Pilates instructor, but did not pursue it because of Life Issues. Last year, I joined a very small, very high-quality classical Pilates studio in my city, but my schedule did not allow me to continue. I would like to supplement my mat work with reformer, but it's too expensive for me at the moment. As I understand it, however, the mat series is very effective if you do them correctly, and the reformer and other apparati are bonus. That has been my experience.

    Pilates has really helped me overcome IT band issues, hip problems that were so bad I could barely sit down and had trouble walking and was rarely pain-free (I couldn't even get comfortable to sleep), and all sorts of shoulder and back problems (because it's all connected). Those problems stemmed from a lifetime of poor posture and bad habits that led to a weak core and improper form in my everyday activities. I credit classical Pilates for helping me overcome some potentially debilitating issues with my hips and back. The Pilates butt is a bonus, but it does get back to the glutes that Selkie mentioned wanting to work on in the original post.

    I think it's relevant that at 44, I'm in much better physical condition than when I was in my mid-late 30s and in near constant pain with no relief in sight except for cortisone shots. I have no back pain, no hip pain, and am very pleased with my strong core. I think the best combo would be a PT who was also trained in Pilates, but I'm no expert on the topic. I'm just offering my experience.
    Last edited by tulip; 08-23-2012 at 08:03 AM.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the additonal information, Tulip. I already go to yoga classes as a studio that offers both, and while I have had a few reformer sessions, I've not gone to any mat classes. I'll have to give it some thought. I've been working with a trainer, doing mostly resistance work but sometimes I sometimes tweak my lower body issues working with him. It doesn't take much to aggravate my hamstrings. I often feel like I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't. And I only have so much time and money to throw at this. I've had two rounds of PT--first for the hip/glute issues and the second for the hamstring and while I enjoyed a fair amount of relief from both, the problems linger. Sigh...

    Selkie, I would focus exclusively for the time being on the exercise you've been assigned that don't engage your hamstrings as much. Perhaps in time, your glutes will get strong enough and you'll get adept enough at activating them that you can move onto the other exercises.

    What, if anything, are you doing to treat the hamstring injury? My PT first started me on some hamstring strengthening work, but that just made things worse. What helped the most was some deep tissue massage work. The biggest issue I had with that it's a pretty awkward area to massage. I'm not usually overy shy or modest, but I found it embarrassing for a male PT to work on me like that. After about six weeks, he referred me to a female PT for some Graston work. At about that same time, I'd noticed a really big improvement from just using a massage ball at home regularly. It didn't eliminate all my pain, but it brought it well under control. So, I skipped the Graston work.

    Teh pain has just recently flared again, however.
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  11. #11
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    Thanks, again, everyone!

    Indy, I'm using a foam roller and a massage ball, and it's helping. I'm going to take your advice. After about six weeks of PT and working on the issue, my glutes are have gotten stronger, thank goodness.

    I'm sorry to hear that your pain has flared again. The condition has been chronic for me, off and on, as well, and for years, I thought it was piriformis syndrome! I wonder if being desk-bound at work has something to do with it. I'm starting to consider getting an ergo review by one of our nurses and requesting one of those "standing desk" configurations.

    I plan to see the Licensed Massage Therapist who works at the PT place every five-six weeks, now that I'm through with the PT. I don't want my torso muscles to get bound up like that again, I like being 5'6" instead of 5'5" :-)

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  12. #12
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    Along the lines of everything is connected, I find that it's a lot harder to cheat when the foundation is aligned.

    So just for instance, when I do shoulder bridges, I make sure my second toes are pointing in the same direction as my tailbone and that I'm lifting all three arches of my feet. Then add an extra glute max squeeze during the hold at the top.

    On the one-legged squats, I like to do little quarter squats from Warrior III. Those really target the glutes without stressing my knees. I think they're called "gymnast's scale."


    Indy, sorry yours is flaring up again. What is Graston work?
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by OakLeaf View Post
    Indy, sorry yours is flaring up again. What is Graston work?
    Thanks, Oak. Here's a short explanation of the Graston Technique. Using the massage ball and roller is sort of based on the same theory, but it's far less painful from what I understand. Heck, the ball is painful enough. Honesty, I didn't do a whole lot of reading on it because I never took any steps to get the thumb's up from my doctor to pursue it.

    I have only myself to blame for it flaring up. I got lazy about using my massage ball and what started as just a little twinge here and there has gotten a little more chronic (although certainly not as bad as it was before) and now the other leg is a little cranky, too. I've been using my spin bike here and there when I can't get out for a ride, and I've been doing too much climbing work. Plus, I just need to put my foot town with my trainer about some things. For instance, I've concluded that I simply can't do leg presses. It's too much for my hamstring. But I sometimes feel like a big baby when I whine to him. I need to change my reality. I'm paying him to help, not hurt, me and while I understand some tough love is needed in training, I know my body enough to tell the difference between wimping out and being smart about my limitations.
    Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

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  14. #14
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    Very interesting thread. Reminds me I need to see if my gym has Pilates mat classes this fall. I need the boost of having a class, I think (but don't have the budget to do a separate class).

    I've had some graston work. The foam roller is more painful for me than graston. I think it's highly person-specific. DH had a rough time with it when he injured his IT band. It actually felt pretty good to me (in the same way as deep massage).
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  15. #15
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    Here is a link to a stability exercise that works your glutes (med and min but also some max).

    This is a good summary of the exercises that produce the most activation of glute max but they do not necessarily avoid activation of the hamstrings. The good thing though is that they are very functional exercises so the strength you gain with these exercises will translate into strength on your feet during funtional activity.

    This video shows the Bird Dog and Bridging. When doing the bird dog, if you turn your thigh outward, it will help to take the hamstings out of the picture, but you have to remember to keep the leg stretched out behind you, not drifting out to the side. With the bridge, the more you bend your knees such that your heels come towards your bum, the less your hamstrings can do and the more you can do with your glutes.

    This is also a great exercise.

    Hope that helps.
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