Your gluteal muscles consist of the gluteus maximus, which is the main muscle, and then the two supporting muscles, the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. In common speech, these are the butt muscles that allow you to bend over, lift your legs, push against the ground, and all sorts of other basic movements.
Whether you have an aesthetic goal and want to have a more shapely rear, or you are strength training, strong glutes can make all the difference, and weak glutes can lead to physical issues and injuries.
Your glutes are a key component of any full-body kinetic chain. Like any chain, a weak link weakens the entire system. Underdeveloped or inactive glutes effectively force the effort for any squat, lunge, or similar movement to your knees, hamstrings, and back.
In short, this means your body is having to correct for a muscle imbalance. Weak glute muscles aren’t just about appearances. The consequences of ignoring them can be costly.
The importance of warm-ups largely lies with muscle activation. This is where your neurons carve a path from the muscle to the brain. With lesser-used muscles, these paths are less-reliable. Furthermore, when you, say, spend your entire day seated with your hips forward and in flexion, it takes more effort to activate these muscles prior to a workout.
Why does this matter? Well, when you perform a repetition of a squat, you should be engaging your gluteal muscles to their fullest. Normally, the effort is spread proportionally to the body’s need for the effort. When you have poorly activated glutes, you end up putting additional strain on the other supporting muscles as well as your joints.
Basically, without activation, your muscles get lazy and rely on other muscles and joint structures to compensate, creating a muscle imbalance. This also means that the muscles don’t get the fullest benefit from the workout.
Sometimes, athletes who trained in the past but haven’t in a long time will think they can do more than they can sooner. Unfortunately, gluteal amnesia is a concern. This is where the muscles in your glutes have lost some of the neuron paths that used to exist. As such, they might require more focus on activation.
As such, it’s really important to activate these muscles prior to a glute exercise. When you learn to start activating muscles that have been ignored in the past, you gain the benefits of better performance, better muscle engagement, and better results.
Some of these will be similar to the movements of your main exercises. Bodyweight is often sufficient to engage these muscles, so it isn’t important to add load to this process. Save that for the workout when your glutes are fully activated. These drills will work well for activation.
If you haven't really ever exercised, you could even start compiling a glute activation workout program with these drills, especially if they spend most of their time sitting.Resistance Band Hip Hinge
Stand straight up in a normal posture with your feet together and the band looped around your feet, standing inside it. Bend over keeping your legs straight, knees slightly built, and take hold of the band with your hands. Then, as you would a deadlift, keep your back straight and rise back to your standing position.Glute Bridge
Lie on your back, knees bent (like for a sit-up) with your elbows on the ground. Push your bottom off the ground, pushing your hips into the air so your feet and elbows are the only parts touching the ground.
You can increase difficulty as your clients improve by adding a resistance band to the thighs, just above the knee.Lateral Band Walk
For this, place the resistance band just above your knees. Drop into a quarter squat, feet spread, and keep your core tight and upright.
Step to one side five steps. Then, step to the other side five steps. Repeat a few times for each set.Resistance Band Squats
With your legs together, put the resistance band on your legs at the level of your thighs (so you have to push outward against the band with your legs to spread them. Step out into a squat position, and perform bodyweight squats. With your legs pushing out against the resistance band, it will more fully engage your glutes and prepare them for a more effective workout.
All the exercises listed previously can also be put to use anywhere someone has room to do a squat. So, the living room, behind your desk, wherever your clients spend time sitting—they can do several of these gluteal activation exercises throughout the day to combat the effects of long periods of hip flexion.
It would also be very simple to add this to a food log. Look for ways to make this a serious part of their day, and you will see results faster while preventing potential injury. It’s a win-win!
Check out this article if you would like to know more about glute activation.