10 Glute Strengthening Exercises to Help You Sidestep Injury

Target your power muscles to keep you strong through each step.

Trevor Raab

Convincing runners to strength train comes down to two main arguments. The first, a regular, well-rounded strength routine can keep you from getting side-lined with an injury. And the second is that weight training can improve your speed, power, and efficiency. That’s all especially true when we’re talking about glute strengthening exercises.

The glutes play a major role in running, so incorporating these exercises into your workouts will improve your running in a few effective ways.

Why Runners Need These Glute Strengthening Exercises in Their Regular Routine

When we run, our glutes hold our pelvis level and steady, extend our hips, propel us forward, and keep our legs, pelvis, and torso aligned. So when our glutes are faulty, our entire kinetic chain is disrupted. That’s why it’s important to work glute strengthening exercises into your routine.

If you need more convincing, studies also link glute weakness to common running injuries including Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, runner’s knee, and iliotibial band syndrome. One recent review highlights the important role of the glutes in knee alignment, particularly during running. Without strong glutes to keep the knee pointing forward on the run, you can end up with a slew of injuries—even an increased risk of non-contact ACL injuries, according to the study.

Part of the problem is that glutes aren’t as active as other running muscles during routine activities, which can make your quadriceps and calves disproportionately stronger. Another issue is that most strength-training routines don’t isolate the glutes or they don’t fully activate when doing specific moves.

Also, tight muscles, specifically the hip flexors, can inhibit the glutes from fully doing their job as it limits the range of motion of hip extension—an action in which your glutes are the prime movers.

You don’t have to give in to weak glutes, though. Here, 10 glute strengthening exercises to add to your regular workout routine, so you can lower your risk of injury and enhance the power of your stride.

How to use this list: First, perform the single-leg stance test to identify a glute weakness. Then, perform the glute exercises below. Do 2 or 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps twice per week. You will need a step or box, a resistance band, and an exercise mat. Adding dumbbells or a medicine ball to some moves is optional.

1. Single-Leg Stance Test

Stand with hands over head, palms facing each other. Lift right foot off the ground and balance. Watch the left side of hips to see if it dips down. If it does, it’s a sign of glute weakness. Try it on the right side. Next, while in the same position, lean to the right of body, checking to see if left hip dips. Then lean to the left and see if right hip dips. If hips dip, it’s another sign that your glutes need work. Try this test also after a long or hard run to see how glutes perform when fatigued.

2. Lunge Stretch

Tight hip flexors can inhibit the firing of glute muscles. Do this stretch after every run or before your glute exercises to encourage glute activation. Start standing then take a big step forward with left leg. Bend left knee so that hip, knee, and ankle form 90-degree angles and lower right knee to floor. Keep left knee over your ankle. Hold for 30 seconds. Then repeat on right side.

3. Hip Hike

Stand with left foot on a step, box, or bench at least four inches high with right foot hanging off the edge. Keep both hips squared forward and shoulders level. Place hands on hips for an extra visual aid and balance. This is your starting position. Keeping left leg straight, no bend in knee, raise right hip directly upward and then use hip and core to lower right foot below the step. Return to starting position and repeat slowly and with control for reps. Then repeat on the other leg.

4. Single-Leg Deadlift

Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Shift weight to right leg, then keeping shoulders back and back straight, hinge at the hips and reach hands toward the ground as left leg lifts back behind you. Drive right foot into floor and extend hips to stand back up. Repeat for reps. Then repeat on the other leg. As you build strength, hold weights or a medicine ball for an added challenge.

5. Three-Way Leg Raise

Start standing with a microbend in knees and place a resistance band just above both knees. Place hands on hips for balance and shift weight to left leg by bending right knee. This is your starting position. In a slow, controlled motion, draw right knee toward chest against the band’s resistance, then back to the starting position. Without placing right foot back down, move it out to the side, then back to starting position. Kick right foot back behind you, then back to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Repeat for reps. Then repeat on other leg.

6. Single-Leg Squat

Stand on right leg and lift left leg out in front of you. Stand tall (don’t round shoulders), and extend arms straight out so they are parallel to left leg. Keep right knee over right ankle as you send hips back and down and lower down into a squat. Your hands can extend out for balance. Push into right foot to stand back up. Repeat for reps. Then repeat on the other leg. Start with shallow squats, then go deeper as it becomes easier.

7. Side-Lying Leg Lift

Lie on left side with legs extended out straight. Prop yourself up on left forearm and rest right hand in front of you on floor. Lift right leg up while keeping hips steady and facing forward (do not rotate backward). Lower down and repeat for reps. For an added challenge, wear an ankle weight or place a resistance band around ankles. Repeat on other leg.

8. Side Skater

Stand with feet together and push hips back, keeping back flat and abs engaged. Jump as far as you can to the right, landing lightly on the ball of right foot as left leg swings back behind you. Now jump as far as you can to the left, engaging glutes to push off, and land lightly on left foot as right leg swings behind you. That’s one rep. Continue alternating.

9. Single-Leg Glute Bridge

Lie faceup on the mat with knees bent, feet flat on floor, arms resting at sides. Lift right foot off floor, bending knee and lining it up with left knee. Press through left foot to lift hips up toward ceiling, then slowly lower back down. Repeat for reps. Then repeat on the other leg.

10. Power Skip

Start in a lunge position, with left foot in front and right foot behind, and a 90-degree bend in both knees. Position arms as if you are sprinting. Press into right heel to rise up as you draw left foot forward and jump straight up, while drawing left knee toward chest. Use arms to help propel you up. Land lightly on on left foot. Repeat for reps. Then repeat on the other leg.

Related Articles