It’s Leg Day  - Love it or hate it, but regardless of your feelings we hope you do the right thing and don't just skip it. Low load glute activation drills during the general warm-up have become increasingly popular in strength & conditioning, and they’re heavily used in the physical therapy setting as well. 

There are many ways to set up your body for heavy load workouts, whether you use squats or deadlifts in your warm-up routines, adding powerbands to your glute activation will benefit you in many ways. Regardless of your exercise of choice, you can always benefit from better glute and hamstring activation. Before we get into how you can properly activate your glutes, let’s talk about why Glute Activation? and why this matters. 

Most of us spend way too much time sitting down, while working, driving or watching TV on your sofa. Today general population just sit too much for too long. As a side effect of this sitting, it’s very common to develop tight hip flexors and glutes that don’t fire correctly or at all. 

Sitting is the new smoking - makes kind of sense as you are sitting on your glutes all day long - tight hips can definitely have a negative impact on your leg training, causing your hip flexors and quads to do most of the work. Imagine having a huge chest muscles and no back muscles. You want balance, especially in your lower body. 

When you squat, deadlift, use a leg press, lunge, or any other compound movement, you want to be using your quads, hamstrings, and glutes together. Every muscle has its role. However, if you’ve been sitting all day, and your glutes and hamstrings, which are your main hip extensors, aren’t working properly, chances are your quads will pick up the slack and handle most of the heavy load. By properly warming up your hip extension muscles before a leg day, they will do their job in compound movements. Your glutes will fire, you’ll be stronger, feel better, and have an easier time performing the movement properly, without the risk of injuries.

The Best Glute Activation Exercises
Before any leg day, doing the following exercises will allow you to properly warm-up your glutes and hamstrings. Activated glutes will make you stronger, and can protect your lower back, and fired up hamstrings can help protect your knees through your movements. You can do all of the exercises, or just pick one or two, but be sure to spend some time doing something for your hips before your leg day. By the way… walking or running on treadmills does not count as adequate activation or proper warm-up.

Hip abduction: 3 sets of 15
Start in the quadruped position with a powerband MINI just above the knees. Pull your shoulders downwards away from your ears and tense your core muscles. Raise one leg upwards against the resistance of the band and return it to the start position.

Hiplift: 3 sets of 15
Start by lying on your back with your feet pulled towards your buttocks and a powerband MINI positioned above your knees. Stretch your arms out to the sides with your palms and toes facing the ceiling. Pull your belly towards your spine and lift your hips up as far as you can. Hold this position briefly. Then lower your hips without your buttocks touching the floor.

powerbands Squats: 3 sets of 10
Stand on the powerband MAX with your feet at shoulder width. Grip the band with your palms face up. Push both elbows outwards. Move slowly into the squat position whilst maintaining the tension in your core muscles. Then return to an upright position and tension your buttock muscles.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts: 3 sets of 10/leg
Stretch the powerband max between your right shoulder and the middle of your right foot. Start the exercise standing upright with your weight resting on your left foot. Bend forwards and stretch your arms out in front of you. Stretch your right heel away from your hands so that your body forms a straight line from your finger tips to your toes.

Lying Leg Curls: 3 sets of 15
Do this with a light powerband MAX; the goal is to pump blood into your hamstrings, not exhaust them completely. Lie on the ground in a prone position with the band placed around your ankles. Drive your heel back towards your glute. Squeeze the hamstring and slowly lower back to start position.

We’d suggest doing exercises 1-3 as a mini-circuit, 3 times through, and then start your leg workout with number 4, the lying leg curls. Try this out, train harder and more efficiently, and enjoy the gains!

Some researchers and coaches have questioned their legitimacy, claiming that the glutes function optimally without any targeted training. A new study was just published showing that only six days of intensive targeted glute training elicited some exciting corticomotor adaptations. It’s the first study of its kind. Here’s the PubMed link:

"It has been proposed that strengthening and skill training of gluteus maximus (GM) may be beneficial in treating various knee injuries. Given the redundancy of the hip musculature and the small representational area of GM in the primary motor cortex (M1), learning to activate this muscle before prescribing strength exercises and modifying movement strategy would appear to be important. This study aimed to determine whether a short-term activation training program targeting the GM results in neuroplastic changes in M1. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation, motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were obtained in 12 healthy individuals at different stimulation intensities while they performed a double-leg bridge. Participants then completed a home exercise program for ∼1 h/day for 6 days that consisted of a single exercise designed to selectively target the GM. Baseline and post-training input-output curves (IOCs) were generated by graphing average MEP amplitudes and cortical silent period durations against corresponding stimulation intensities. Following the GM activation training, the linear slope of both the MEP IOC and cortical silent period IOC increased significantly. Short-term GM activation training resulted in a significant increase in corticomotor excitability as well as changes in inhibitory processes of the GM. We propose that the observed corticomotor plasticity will enable better utilization of the GM in the more advanced stages of a rehabilitation/training program.

Since the exercise used during the training period (dirty dog) was more isolating of the glute than the exercise used during testing (glute bridge uses glutes and hamstrings), the changes in corticomotor excitability and inhibition suggest that targeted glute training enhances gluteal recruitment efficiency during tasks that are more integrative in nature. This could be especially beneficial in athletes who may experience less stress on the patellofemoral joint, the ACL, the ITB, the SIJ, the anterior hip, the hamstrings, and the adductors by better recruiting the gluteals during forceful and explosive sporting actions."

In this sense, we wish you a great warm-up session and glute activation!