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11 Effective Glute Stretches & Activations

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11 Effective Glute Stretches & Activations
Glute Stretches

When you start working out, it is common to experience muscle tightness or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMs), as your muscles begin to adapt to being used in different ways. 

The glutes are the largest muscle in the body, and play an integral role in many functional movements like squatting, walking, or climbing stairs. 

This is why it’s so important to activate the glutes during your warm up and to do glute stretches during your cool down after completing your workouts. 

Having tight glutes can be the result of a tough leg workout, but can also be a sign that you are sitting too much. 

If you sit at a desk all day, try to stand and walk every 30-60 minutes to help prevent your glutes from becoming tight. Adding glute exercises to your workouts can also help these muscles to stay active and strong. 

Why do glute stretches?

Stretching regularly is another way to prevent inactive, tight glutes. Glute stretches can improve hip rotation, and help with walking, running and descending stairs. 

If you have soreness or tightness in the buttocks, pain or soreness in the hips, tight hip flexors, low-back pain, tight hamstrings, knee pain or pelvic discomfort, stretching your glutes can help. 

How to stretch your glutes before a workout

Warming up before a workout is important as it can help to prepare the body for exercise and minimise the risk of injury. Warm ups typically involve dynamic stretches to help improve blood flow and increase your range of motion for the target area. 

Here are some of the best ways to stretch and warm up your glutes before starting a workout: 

Foam rolling

Foam rolling is often included in recovery, but it can also help to warm up your glutes before exercise by increasing blood flow to the area and loosening the connective tissue around the muscles to enable smooth movement. 

1. Position the foam roller horizontally behind you. Carefully sit on top of the foam roller and place both hands on the floor behind you.

2. Lift and turn out your right leg so that your ankle is resting on your left leg just above your knee, as shown. Gently tilt your hips to the right to allow the foam roller to press into your right gluteal.

3. Slowly roll the foam roller along the length of your gluteal. Once you reach a point of tenderness (called a trigger point), pause and hold that position for ~60 seconds or until the pressure/pain is significantly reduced. You can choose to perform small strokes over the point of tenderness if you prefer.

4. Continue to roll down the length of your gluteal, pausing on trigger points as needed.

Repeat on your left side.

Leg swings

Leg swings warm up your glutes and hips. You can use them before a workout, or to warm up the muscles for deep stretching. 

1. With your left hand resting on the back of a chair, plant both feet on the floor, hip-width apart.

2. While keeping your left foot firmly planted on the floor and your right leg straight, swing your right leg back behind your body, ensuring that your torso remains upright.

3. Swing your right leg forwards, directly in front of your body and once again ensure your torso remains upright.

4. Continue swinging the leg backwards and forwards before switching sides.

Lateral walk

This exercise fully engages your glutes and hips, strengthening the major muscles in your hips, thighs and legs. The lateral walk improves stability and helps prevent injury.

1. With a resistance band looped around your ankles, plant both feet on the floor hip-width apart. Ensure that your knees remain in line with your toes and stand upright. This is your starting position.

2. Keeping your right foot on the floor, step your left foot outwards so that your feet are slightly further than hip-width apart.

3. Keeping your left foot on the floor, step your right foot inwards to return to the starting position.

Repeat, ensuring that you complete the same number of repetitions on each side.

Single-leg Romanian deadlift & knee hug

The single-leg Romanian deadlift strengthens the muscles used for balance, including the glutes. It is a unilateral exercise, so can help to improve any imbalances between your legs. 

1. With your left foot firmly planted on the floor, release your right leg and draw your right knee into your chest. This is your starting position.

2. Bend your left knee slightly and set this as a fixed angle. Without changing the angle of your left knee, hinge forwards from your hips until your torso is parallel to the floor, extending your right leg behind you. At the same time, extend your arms towards the floor. Ensure that you keep your hips level, maintain a proud chest and that your head is an extension of your spine. You should feel tension in your left hamstring (back of your leg).

3. Push through your left heel and, using your glute and hamstring, extend your hips and draw your right knee into a hug to return to the starting position. 

Repeat, ensuring that you complete the same number of repetitions on each side.

Once you are comfortable with this exercise, you might progress to the Romanian kettlebell deadlift

Glute bridge

The glute bridge works the hamstrings, lower back and abs, in addition to the glutes. The pose can be done using just a mat, or you can place a looped resistance band just above your knees to increase the intensity. 

1. Start by lying flat on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your knees and position your feet firmly on the mat, ensuring that they are hip-width apart. Ensure your spine is in a neutral position and allow your arms to rest by your sides on the mat. This is your starting position.

2. Press your heels into the mat, activate your glutes and raise your pelvis off the floor until your body forms one straight line from chin to knee, resting on your shoulders.

3. Lower your pelvis to return to the starting position.

Seated hip abduction

The hip abductors work alongside the glutes to assist with standing, walking, and rotating the leg. When you work the glutes, it’s important that these muscles are also active and working to stabilise the hips. 

1. With a resistance band looped around your lower thighs, sit on a bench with your feet on the floor slightly closer than hip-width apart. Lean back and place your hands on the bench behind you. This is your starting position.

2. Using the muscles in your glutes and hips, separate your knees and feet until they are slightly further than shoulder-width apart.

3. Draw your knees and feet inwards to return to the starting position.

Best glute stretches for recovery

Once your workout is complete, take five minutes to cool down and stretch to minimise tightness later on. The following stretches can be used in your cool down or in a dedicated recovery session. 

Half pigeon

This pose stretches the hip rotators and hip flexors, as well as the glutes. 

1. Place both hands on the floor, slightly further than shoulder-width apart and both legs together behind you, resting on the balls of your feet.

2. Release your left leg, bend your knee and place it behind you and to the left of your left wrist. Rest your left shin on the mat, ensuring that your foot remains flexed. At the same time, place your right knee on the mat, untuck your toes and lower your hips towards the floor. Maintain an upright position.

3. Hold this position for 30 seconds (or five slow breaths). Each time that you exhale, sink further into your hips to increase the stretch, ensuring that your hips remain level.

Repeat this stretch on the other side.

Standing glute stretch

This stretch targets the largest gluteus muscle to release tension. 

1. Plant both feet on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

2. Lift and turn out your left leg. Rest the outside of your left ankle just above your right knee.

3. Bend your right knee so that you are in a single leg squat position and gently push down on your left knee using your left elbow.

4. Hold this position for 30 seconds (or five slow breaths) breathing deeply throughout.* 

5. Repeat this stretch on the other side.

*If you are struggling to balance, try to focus on a spot directly in front of you. You can also find a bench or ledge at hip height to rest your leg on to perform the stretch to make it easier to balance. 

The seated version of this standing glute stretch can be done by placing your left ankle on your right knee and leaning forward through your chest.

Supine glute stretch 

This stretch helps increase the flexibility of your hip by stretching the glutes. 

1. Start by lying flat on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your knees and position your feet firmly on the mat, ensuring that they are hip-width apart and your spine is in a neutral position. 

2. Release and turn out your right leg so that your ankle is resting on your left leg, just above your knee. 

3. Draw your left knee in towards your torso, resting both hands on the back of your left thigh. 

4. Hold this position for 30 seconds (or five slow breaths), breathing deeply throughout.

5. Each time that you exhale, draw your knee further into your chest and press your right elbow into your right knee to increase the stretch, ensuring that your spine remains in a neutral position and your tailbone on the floor. 

Repeat this stretch on the other side.

Seated glute stretch

Similar to the previous stretch, this stretch helps to improve flexibility and release tension in the gluteus muscles. 

1. Begin in a seated position on a yoga mat with your legs out in front of you, with your feet planted on the mat. Press your hands and feet into the floor to elevate your hips. Lift your right leg and turn out your right knee to place your ankle on your left leg just above your knee.

2. Slowly lower your hips to return to a seated position.

3. Hold this position for 30 seconds (or five slow breaths), breathing deeply throughout.

Repeat this stretch on the other side.

Seated twist

The seated twist stretches your hip rotators and gluteus muscles. 

1. Begin in a seated position on a yoga mat with your legs extended out in front of you and feet flexed. Lift your left leg and place your foot on the mat on the outside of your right knee. 

2. Wrap your right arm around your left knee and place your left hand on the mat behind your hip, gently pulling your knee in towards your chest.

3. Hold this position for 30 seconds (or five slow breaths), breathing deeply throughout. 

Repeat this stretch on the other side.
 

Why so many different glute stretches?

The glutes are made up of more than one muscle. The biggest, and the one that provides the buttocks shape, is the gluteus maximus. 

The next largest is the gluteus medius, which helps you lift your leg to the side and rotate the leg. It also stabilises the leg as you walk and run, so it’s important to keep it strong and in good condition.

The gluteus minimus stabilises the pelvis and rotates the leg. Finally, the piriformis, located under the gluteus medius, connects the tail bone to the thigh bone, helping with hip rotation and flexion. 

Combining a few different stretches ensures that you increase flexibility in all four glute muscles.

Use these stretches to relieve tight glutes

Regular stretching is an essential part of a complete health and fitness routine. Not only does it help to enhance recovery after a workout, it can also be a great stress relief and an opportunity to calm your mind. 

You can find active recovery sessions to follow in the SWEAT app, ranging from 10 minutes to half an hour to suit the amount of time you have. The video guidance and written explanations for each position can help you to complete the stretches safely and with correct form. 

Do you make time to stretch regularly? Let us know how you fit stretching into your fitness routine in the comments below. 

* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.

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