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Simple But Awesome Glute Activation Exercise


Image Source: EliteTrack.com

If you spend a lot of time seated, or if you travel a lot in vehicles or in airplanes, then this post is for you.

Also, if you are an athlete and your sport requires you to be able to perform powerful movements with the lower body, like jumping and bounding, then this post is for you.

In addition if you run, whether in sprinting fashion or distance, then this post is for you.

And if you participate in strength sports or feats of strength, then this post is for you as well because today I am going to show you how you can get more power out of your glutes which will lead to better striding power when running, better leaping and jumping power, and better executtion of posterior chain strength movements such as deadlifts, cleans, throws, and braced bends.

Importance of the Glute Muscles to Sport, Strength and Power Movements

Your Glutes are some of the most powerful muscles in your body.

They are heavily involved in Power Movements like jumping and sprinting as well as directional changes.

Unfortunately, if you spend a lot of time sitting down, then you might be making your Glute strength disappear.

You see, when you are seated, your hips remain in a flexed position. Over time this joint angle at the hip can cause the hip flexors to shorten and tighten.

The image above from Human Kinetics shows the relationship between the front of the body and the rear. With tight hip flexors, generally comes weak lower abdominals and conversely, the muscles on the opposite side, the lower lumbar muscles and the glutes get weakened and can’t do what they are meant to do.

When the hip flexors shorten like this and become tight, they can actually hinder the amount of power your glutes can generate because they will keep your hips from extending correctly in the movements we mentioned earlier, such as jumping, running and other unilateral and power movements.

To illustrate this a bit better, imagine trying to jump up in the air, but attached to your waistline is a chain on either side, connecting you to the floor, and just as you are about to really get some drive going, the chains hit their maximum length and won’t allow you to explode. That is kind of what is going on when you have tight hip flexors.

Two of the main reasons to address this issue are stretching the hip flexors and activating the glutes.

Understanding the Hip Flexors

In the image above, you can see where the hip flexors are located, and where they attach. A lot of people don’t realize the actual articulations of the hip flexors.

Per Wikipedia:

Origins: The Psoas major originates along the lateral surfaces of the vertebral bodies of T12 and L1-L5 and their associated intervertebral discs. The Psoas minor, which presents in only some 40 percent of the population, originates at the transverse processes of L1-L5. The Iliacus originates in the Iliac fossa of the pelvis

Insertions: Psoas major unites with iliacus at the level of the inguinal ligament and crosses the hip joint to insert on the lesser trochanter. The Psoas minor inserts at the iliopectineal arch, the thickened band at the iliac fascia which separates the muscular lacuna from the vascular lacuna. femoral nerve, L1, L2

Common Hip Flexor Stretches

For individuals who have tight hip flexors, one of the ways to correct the situation is with stretching. Below is a commonly used stretch and some slight variations in order to intensify it.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

One common Hip Flexor stretch is the kneeling hip flexor stretch. Just getting into a position like what is shown above is not good enough, however. You must keep the torso upright and as you move forward, keep the pressure directed into the hip flexor muscles themselves. Improper angling here can result in stretching the quad. The quad originates on the ilium so its path is similar to the hip flexors. Not that there’s anything wrong with stretching the quad, but the purpose of this stretch is the hip flexor.

With Arm Raised

This stretch can also be intensified by raising the arm on the same side as the leg being stretched.

With Foot Elevated

As your flexibility increases, the rear foot can also be elevated to increase the stretch on the hip flexor and the quad as well.

Again, this is just one stretch that you can do for the hip flexors, along with a few modifications. In a bit I am going to show you another exercise to try that actually stretches my hip flexor even better while activating the glutes at the same time.

How to Activate the Glutes

When tightness on one side of the body inhibits a muscle on the opposite side of the body, we often have to retrain the muscle to fire properly. In the case of Glutes that have been shut down, the athlete has probably learned to use the hamstrings and muscles of the lower back to provide the force needed for hip extension. We have to get the body back in tune by training the Glutes to fire when they are supposed to.

Glute Bridge

Perhaps the most common of Glute activation exercises is the glute bridge. This movement can be done with one or two legs, and can be modified by extending a leg or by adding resistance, such as chains.

Quadruped Hip Extension

Quadruped refers to being on all fours. One leg is then lifted upwards by means of the Glutes. Very simple to perform, but attention must be put forth not to cheat or use momentum.

Fire Hydrant

Named after a dog lifting its leg to mark a fire hydrant, I learned this movement from Joe Defranco, and in particular, I learned that you don’t half-ass this movement (sorry for the pun, but I had to). The way I heard Joe describe this movement is to imagine you’re sneaking into a house through a very large window. Perform the exercise by carefully pulling the hip around the full range of motion, slowly and deliberately. Doing the exercise like this REALLY helps you feel it. Don’t just go through the motions.

How to Do Both at the Same Time

There is absolutely plenty of value in performing the above exercises. I have done all of them and they have worked for me in varying degrees.

However, recently, when shooting footage for a DVD on Braced Bending, I stumbled onto an exercise that actually is highly effective at stretching the hip flexors while getting an extremely intense contraction from the glutes. In fact, of all the Glute exercises I’ve ever tried, none of them can compare to the heightened contraction of this maneuver.

I call this move the Knee Driver, because I was using it to demonstrate the initial kink used when braced bending things like steel bars, wrenches and other odd objects. In the initial kink, you use the strength of your glute to drive your knee into the bar to get it to bend, thus the Knee Driver.

Knee Driver




My apologies for the poor quality video. I had changed the settings
by accident and did not realize it was so grainy until I uploaded it.


For me, I have never felt a Glute Exercise that caused such a deep and hard contraction of my Glute Muscles. I mean, this exercise balled my glute up so tightly when I first tried it that I could not believe it, plus it stretched my hip flexors at the same time, and I have done it just about every workout since then in order to get my Glutes ready to go.

I like to perform this exercise for two sets with each leg and to do at least 6 to 8 good solid contractions per set. I don’t even bother with a lot of the other glutes exercises I used to do, because the contractions pale in comparison to what I get out of the Knee Driver.

I encourage you to give this a try and report back what you have found and how it compares to other exercises you have tried.

All the best in your training.

Jedd


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20 Responses to “Simple But Awesome Glute Activation Exercise”

  1. Kevin Knapp Says:

    Jedd, Excellent Article! Just tried it tonight after my workout…got some fantastic glute activation! Best thing about it is it feels much more natural then some of the traditional glute drills + a hip flexor stretch. Looking forward to using it in class and with clients.

    One thing I can see is if your quads are super sore/tight(lots of squatting or sitting in your life) then just roll them out with a stick/foam roller for a few mins then hit the Knee driver. I tried this and got a bit more extension with a harder contraction

    Very cool man, thanks for sharing.

  2. Marcie Whalen Says:

    I love this Jedd! Great information! Thanks for posting!

  3. Mike Rinderle Says:

    Best glute exercise in the world. Doing so much of that movement bending steel is one of the reasons my deadlift is where it’s at today. Great post buddy!

  4. Jedd Johnson Says:

    @Marcie – Thanks, glad you like the post / video. Thanks for posting a comment.

  5. Jedd Johnson Says:

    Awesome man. Thanks Kevin! Glad you liked it brother.

  6. Mike C Says:

    Hey Jedd- Great looking drill. But I can’t seem to hit my glute hard. I feel a a good, strong stretch in the hip flexor primarily and quad secondarily. I wonder if it’s because my hip flexors are super tight that I can’t get lots of glute activation. I’ll try it out for a few days.

    Will also try rolling out the hip flexor as posted above by Kevin to see if that helps.

    Thanks for the drill! Appreciate any input on position, etc to hit the glute harder.

  7. Anthony Says:

    Thanks Jedd,

    Just tried it. I don’t feel a lot on the glute but I do really feel it in the hip flexor. Perhaps my flexors are too tight or perhaps I need a bit more practice pushing with the glute?

    Regardless, I have to say, that I am very excited by this. I am not sure why but just looking at this drill makes me feel that this is what I have been needing. I am going to be doing this every day from now on.

    Thanks very much for this.

    Much respect

    Anthony

  8. Jerry Shreck Says:

    Jedd,

    Awesome brother! I have never seen this before-crazy activation! My athletes are going to hate you!

  9. Jedd Johnson Says:

    Mike,

    I have to believe that if you are not feeling this drill then you you must either be extremely hung up in the hip flexor, or possibly doing the exercise wrong. What i suggest is to have someone you are comfortable with perform some raking on your glute. Essentially they will be grabbing your ass hard trying to cause you to stimulate the glute to fire. It sounds crazy but it works bro.

    Thanks,

    Jedd

  10. Jedd Johnson Says:

    Sounds great. Keep working it and maybe try what I told Mike C below and I think you will get a lot of benefit from this exercise.

    Thanks,

    Jedd

  11. Jedd Johnson Says:

    Jerry,

    Thanks man. I am sure it will help them generate more power. Use at will bro!

    Jedd

  12. Jedd Johnson Says:

    Thanks Mike!

  13. Mike C Says:

    Jedd- Thanks for the idea! I’ll get someone to queue me by raking, punching, grabbing :]

    It’s an interesting coincidence for me that I’m also doing the Convict Conditioning body weight drills and working on Bridging. I’m having problems with Bridge Step 2, Straight Bridge that require a very strong glute contraction.

    Something is going on here. Thanks again for the drill.

  14. nunh Says:

    This is a just a brilliant article – thank you!

  15. Walter Says:

    Jedd,

    Awesome!

    Just tried it after walking the dogs and it works great. I will definitely be using this one. Might even try doing a few reps in-between some sets of swings and dead lifts just to see how it feels. I’ve used a lot of the other stretches and this one just feels a lot better.

    Thanks!

    Walter

  16. Kate Says:

    Hi Jedd

    Thank you – this is great – the best hip flexor stretch I have come across! Could you please just clarify for me – is the glute activation on the same side as the knee I am driving forward or the oppposite side? I am new at this and having difficulty isolating and activating my glutes – so thank you for a great article and your advice.
    sincerely

    kate

  17. Jedd Johnson Says:

    When I do it, I get the glute on the same side as the stretched hip flexor. Hope this helps.

    Jedd

  18. becca Says:

    having a lot of discomfort in the knee that is getting the stretch on the hip flexor, and the that is supposed to be feeling the glute activation. any advice on set up or thought on what might be causing it. if i lay my foot flat on the ground like you do behind me, it makes the pain worse. but if im up on my toes it makes it a little better

  19. saz Says:

    thnx bro! very helpful :)

  20. Frank DiMeo Says:

    Very good info, Jedd, thanks!

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