How To Activate Your Glutes And Strengthen Your Butt

Video demo included!


Amy Hopkins |

When you’re able to activate your glutes, you will see an improvement in your running, cycling, yoga practise, Pilates… And you’ll prevent all kinds of injuries.

“It’s hard not to overemphasise how important a strong core and strong glutes are,” says Kirsty Marshall, Pilates and yoga instructor and personal trainer. “A strong butt can help improve your running and increase your power on the bike. The stronger these muscles are, the more efficiently you can move,” she explains.

What’s the best way to strengthen your butt and core?

“When it comes to working both the glutes and core, Pilates is a great option. The low-intensity workout focuses on small, controlled movements that target specific muscles. Focusing on that control helps isolate the muscles being targeted and lets you work them deeper, which is what makes Pilates so effective,” says Kirsty.

Pilates helps you to connect your breath with the movement. “The moves are meant to be done in a precise, slow, focused manner. Imagine the air surrounding you is thick and sticky like honey. When you’re thinking about the muscles you’re working, it can help you better engage them,” explains Kirsty.

TRY THIS: Core-Strengthening Pilates Class with Kirsty Marshall

8 Exercises to activate your glutes

… And fire up that core! Kirsty created these this routine of 8 exercises to activate your glutes and strengthen your butt and core. Remember the “honey”! Move slowly and with intention. Follow Kirsty’s explanations thoroughly to make sure you really activate your glutes. And check out the video below where Kirsty demonstrates all the moves.

Basic Squat Warm-Up

  • Stand in front of a chair.
  • Feet hip distant apart, tuck and scoop your tailbone towards you and draw belly button to spine.
  • Keeping shoulders back and down and chest open, glide your glutes back like you are just about to sit down into the chair. Make sure you can see your toes; knees must not be over your toes.
  • Pause just before you touch the chair.
  • Squeeze your glutes and abs and, as you exhale, push through your heels as you lift back to standing
  • Do 10 reps.

READ MORE: 3 Beginner Movements To Try If You Can’t Do Squats, Lunges Or Push-ups Yet

Standing Glute Kickback

“This is not a big movement. If you feel your lower back arching when you kick, make the movement smaller. Try not to put any weight in the leg that’s kicking as it comes back down to the ground,” explains Kirsty.

  • Loop a mini band (or make your winter stockings into a loop) around your ankles and stand with your feet hip-width apart and your core engaged.
  • With your hands at your chest or on your hips, shift all your weight onto your left leg and place your right toes on the floor about 3cm diagonally behind your left heel, so there is tension in the band.
  • Squeeze your core and tuck your pelvis under as you kick your right leg back – flex your foot and push with power from your heel about 15cm. Keep your knee straight and resist the hips’ natural urge to rotate open to the side. Keep hips straight and facing the front.
  • Return your right foot to tap your toes to the floor, keeping tension in the band, for 1 rep.
  • Complete 10 reps, then repeat on the other side.

Basic Bridge

  • Lie on your back with your hands at your sides (fingers can just touch the back of your heels), knees bent, and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Tuck and scoop and imprint your lower back into the mat.
  • Squeeze your glutes and abs and push through your heels as you lift your hips a few inches off the floor, starting with your pelvis, then lower back, and then mid-back.
  • Pause and squeeze your glutes at the top. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Slowly lower down in the reverse order — mid-back, lower back, pelvis — to return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
  • Do 10 reps.

Single-Leg Bridge And Pulse

  • Lie on your back with your hands at your sides (fingers can just touch the back of your heels), knees bent, and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Tuck and scoop and imprint your lower back into the mat.
  • Lift your left leg straight up, pointing your toes towards the ceiling.
  • Squeeze your glutes and abs and push through your heels to lift your hips a few inches off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. (You may not be able to lift as high as you can in the Basic Bridge, and that’s totally okay.)
  • Pause and squeeze your glutes at the top; focus on keeping your hips square to the mat, not allowing the left hip to drop, then slowly lower your hips to return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
  • Do 5 reps.
  • Hold on the 6th rep.
  • Pause for a moment at the top of the move, inhale and slowly lower your hips about 3cm, then exhale and slowly raise them back up by 3cm.
  • Repeat the slow, 3cm lowering and lifting movements for 10 reps.
  • Once lowered back onto the mat, gently rock the knees from side to side as you massage out your lower back and glutes. Then start over on the right side.

READ MORE: How Many Calories Can I Burn While Walking Versus Running?

Banded Clam Shell

  • Lie on your left side with your hips, knees and ankles stacked on top of each other. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and wrap the band around your thighs just above your knees.
  • Keeping your feet together, lift your right knee open (resist the band), then slowly lower it back to meet your left – slow and controlled.
  • Focus on keeping your core engaged and your back straight as you do these moves. Try not to lean forward or tip back.
  • Do 10 slow, controlled reps and on your 10th rep, keep your knee lifted and do 10 slow, controlled pulses.
  • Do all of the reps on one side, then switch to the other side.

Donkey Kick

  • Wrap the resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees. Then come to an all-fours position with your wrists directly below your shoulders and your knees on the floor below your hips.
  • With your right foot flexed, kick your right foot up towards the ceiling, engaging your glutes and using your core to keep the rest of your body stable. Try to focus on keeping your leg in line with your hip (so you’re not opening your hip wide to the right as you lift), and watch that you don’t arch your back too much as you kick towards the ceiling – focus on the tuck and scoop of the tailbone for lower back support.
  • Draw your knee back to the floor to return to your starting position. Do 10 reps on one side, then repeat on the other.

Fire Hydrant

  • This move is similar to the Donkey Kick, except now you will open your hip. Wrap the resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees. Come to an all-fours position with your wrists below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
  • Lift your right knee to the right while engaging your core to keep the rest of your body stable and your spine in a neutral position.
  • Bring your knee back to the floor (resisting the urge to use momentum) to return to your starting position. Do 10 reps on one side, then repeat on the other side.

Kneeling Leg Lift

  • Kneel on the floor with the band wrapped around both of your thighs just above your knees.
  • Extend your right leg to the right, keeping the toes on your right foot pointed and on the floor. Place your left hand on the floor. Your right hand can rest on your hip or behind your head. You may want to wrap the resistance band under your left knee to help hold it in place, as they do tend to move.
  • From this starting position, lift your right toes off the floor, extending your leg to be even with your hip, or as high as your flexibility allows.
  • With control, lower your toes back to tap the floor to complete the rep.
  • Do 10 reps on one side, then repeat on the other side.

Watch this workout series below, as Kirsty demonstrates the moves:

Know your trainer!

Owner of Fitness Fuzion, Kirsty has a CV jam-packed with qualifications! She qualified as a personal trainer back in 2010. Since then, she obtained her Pilates and Yoga teacher training certificates. She is also a Virgin Active Group Instructor and teaches Grid, ZenPilates, Active Bands, Shape and spinning! While in the UK, she qualified as a specialist TRX and Kettlebell instructor too. Kirsty also teaches pre- and post-natal classes as well as physical training for the elderly.

Outside of fitness, Kirsty is also a Weight Management coach. Plus, she specialises in Neuro-Development training (from 18 months). You can book a one-on-one session with her, join one of her online zoom classes or check-in for a consultation on how to get started here: kirstenlee.marshall@gmail.com. And check out her site here.

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