Got Glutes? (Part 2 – strengthening exercises)

Hopefully prior to reading this, you’ll have performed the three quick “glute assessment” tests from Got Glutes (Part 1).   If you’ve got test-passing buns of steel, awesome!  (But still do these exercises – work them into your regular program for maintenance). However, if you had trouble “passing” any of the three glute tests, now we have to get the junk in your trunk working properly.  This blog will get into my favorite glute strengthening exercises that I utilize with both rehab and performance training clients.  And no, “twerking” is not one of my recommended exercises.  But here’s my butt-blasting routine.  

Exercise 1 – Bird Dog Series (30 to 60 total reps):  A staple of my core programs, and many times used in warm up.  In the kneeling leg, glutes are working as stabilizers.  in the extending hip, we are working on firing the glutes through a functional pattern.  When extending back, imagine pushing something away from you.  For a great overview of progression of bird dog exercises, check out this video.  My hair in the video is nowhere near as awesome as this guy’s helmet though…

Exercise 2 – Bridging Series (30-60 total reps):  After some bird dogs, now we want to load the glutes against gravity.  Time to bridge!  Tips:  a) keep your heel on the floor almost directly underneath your knee and b)  By pushing through your heel (toes up), you can better isolate your glutes and cut down on quad and/or calf compensation.  Lots of variations to try here (such as the marching single leg bridge below).  I especially love the leg lock bridge to activate the glutes and improve hip mobility!

Exercise 3 – Deadlifts (2-4 sets of 6-12):  Don’t be intimidated by deadlifts.  When using proper technique, it’s an excellent strength and stability-building exercise!  At the top of your pull, focus on “getting tall” and imagine pinching a quarter between your buns (figuratively, not literally!)  Start light and only add weight when your technique is sound.  Here’s a great deadlift instructional video.

Exercise 4 – High Box Step Ups (2-3 sets of 8-12):  A variation of the traditional step up, the high box step up places more focus on concentric hip extension (a primary movement of the glutes).  Key here is to have the box height at knee level or slightly higher, and “push the box down” through the back of your shoe, getting tall at the top.

Exercise 5 – Lateral Band Walking (30-45 steps each direction): Do this correctly, and you’ll love the way this one feels.  Key here is to keep your shoes parallel, never let the band go completely slack, and imagine “pushing the floor away from you” with your back shoe (i.e. if you are going to the right, you push away through the left).  Also, don’t let your knees buckle inward (valgus) and keep good posture.

Exercise 6 – Standing hip hikes (30-60 total reps):  A hidden gem of an exercise in my opinion.  This is great for the glutes from a “stabilizer” perspective.  Many times the people I give this one to call it “the Shakira”.  You can do these whenever, wherever!  To perform, stand on your right leg on a step (avoid locking knee out), letting your other leg hang. Lower your “hanging” hip without squating as if you were a puppet and strings were attached to the right and left sides of your pants at your hip. Next, sinch your “hanging” hip up as high as you can. On a side note, it’s doubtful that Shakira has dysfunctional glutes.

Exercise 7 –   Hip Abduction Wall Slide (30-60 total reps):  Finish off your glute workout with these bad boys (or girls).  Bottom hip is flexed to 90 deg, and entire length of your back is against the wall.  Place a wash cloth b/t your heel and the wall, and slide your straight leg up and down keeping your shoe pointing forward.  Keep just enough pressure into the wall to keep the washcloth there, but not so much that you punch a hole in the drywall.  A great way to clean your walls as well.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to touch base on how I would guide someone to address some of the additional positive findings that I noted in Part 1 which may show up in my evaluation prior to performing heavy strength training.

  • Pelvic malalignment (i.e. rotations, upslips, torsions, flares):  This is something that I always evaluate when there is some sort of unexplained onset of pain or chronic, recurrent pain in the back, hips, or lower extremities.  You might be all out of whack (and here you thought that crazy hip-hiking sexy walk of yours was all “natural”!)  If any misalignment is found, I typically use properly positioned manually-resisted contract/relax muscle energy techniques and teach self mobilizations in an attempt to bring the person’s hips back into proper alignment.  After correcting this, proper core stability and hip strengthening exercises can be helpful in maintaining proper alignment.  (I smell a future blog post…)
  • Muscle spasms, fascial adhesions, or trigger points in the glutes:  Manual trigger point release therapy and myofascial release are great tools that I have in my toolbox.  For any rehab professionals, I highly recommend taking continuing education courses to fine-tune these skill sets.  BUT, a) these manual interventions can be time consuming and challenging to utilize in a high volume environment, and b) my fingers get tired!  Solution?  FOAM ROLLERS.  Love them.  Have lots of them in my AT room.  A simple YouTube search can lead you to lots of foam roller uses, but this picture shows my favorite one for the butt.  And yes, it can make you hate yourself for the self-torturous feeling you may initially have while doing it – but it will get better!  20 slow passes back and forth with occasional stops on the “tender points” will get you on the right path to a better functioning booty.
  • Hip and lower extremity mobility/flexibility deficits:  To get the most out of the strength training, you have to make sure that you have the right amount of range of motion available in your hips and lower extremities to utilize during your exercises.  Yes, performing the glute-strengthening exercises can also improve your hip mobility, however there are times when you’ll need some targeted mobility exercises, stretches, or manual adjustments to get there.
  • Breakdowns in functional movement patterns:  It’s important that your squat (single/double leg), lunge, gait (walking/running), and jumping/landing mechanics are proper, as symmetrical as possible, and are without compensation or breakdown.  These patterns will be built into many strength exercises you perform, so you strengthen while reinforcing proper functional movement patterns.  Patterns can break down because of isolated weaknesses, but also can stem from problems with the above noted bullets, each of which can indirectly improve your movement quality when addressed.

Now go out and get rid of that “glute amnesia”, and fire up that fanny!

Questions?  Hit me up at  Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Got Glutes? (Part 2 – strengthening exercises)”

  1. Ryan, Long time…. Hope you are well. I’ve read quite a few of the posts and watched a few of the instructional videos from your facility – looking good! I was actually just about to write an article on hip mobility and glute strength for the members at my gym when your article showed up on my news feed! So you saved me a bit of time there! Il refer them to your blog post. Keep up the good work, I hope business is going well

    1. Thanks Greg, good to hear from you! I appreciate the feedback. I would love to have you guest blog on SMFTM one week if you’re interested, always enjoy getting other pros’ perspectives. I’ll be in touch.
      Hope your clients enjoy some sports med for them assess! 🙂

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