Glute strengthening exercises for runners

How to improve your gluteal activation and strength to avoid injury and improve your running technique


We all possess a muscle powerhouse for running, but sadly this workhorse is under performing or completely on holiday in most people.  Your gluteals (your butt muscles) should be the superstar of your running action.  Unfortunately our sitting lifestyle leads to tight hip flexors and weak, dysfunctional glutes that shirk on their responsibilities leaving us at risk of poor technique and injury.

There’s now growing evidence of a strong relationship between weak/dysfunctional glutes and knee pain in runners.  It’s important to know that it has nothing to do with how your gluteals look or how muscular looking they are – it’s all about function!  Below I share with you a simple outline of what our glutes do, what glute dysfunction is, the risks and lastly the exercises we can do to strengthen these important muscles.



What are our glutes responsible for?


Glute maximus (the large main muscles of your butt cheeks

  • Hip extension, moving the leg behind us , which drives us forward when running
  • Involved in forward/backward tilting pelvis


Glute medius (a smaller muscle at the very top of your butt)

  • Hip abduction, moving the leg out to the side
  • Involved in sideways tilting of the pelvis


What is Glute Dysfunction?

You may encounter one or more of these issues…

  • Weakness (due to other muscles taking over and being significantly stronger eg quads)
  • Inhibition (due to position of pelvis, excessive activation and tightness of hip flexors = This is why it is important to avoid prolonged sitting where possible and to incorporate flexibility and mobility work into your routine)
  • Incorrect muscle firing pattern (A healthy pattern consists of our Gluteus Maximus contracting first, followed by the Hamstrings, then the lumbar extensors on the opposite side to the hip extending, followed by those on the same side.)  Dysfunctional glutes will fire after the hamstrings or back muscles.


Effects of Glute Dysfunction

A trained eye will see glute dysfunction in runners who display a hip drop, knee drift, excessive pronation of foot, and other technique issues.  Over time this poor technique can lead to:

  • ITB syndrome
  • Knee pain
  • Shin pain
  • Achilles pain
  • Back pain
  • Chronic ankle instability
  • Hip pain


What can we do to improve our glute function?

Firstly see a physiotherapist who specialises in runners!  Contact us and we can recommend some awesome Melbourne physios who will analyse your running on a treadmill and prescribe the exact strengthening and stretching you need.  It’s important that you’re actually activating your glutes when you do the following exercises – not just going through the motions and letting your back or hamstrings take over.  Otherwise you’ll be compounding the issue!


With these glute exercises it’s quality over quantity.  Do them slowly and with supreme attention to technique.  Practice them regularly and you won’t need to do hundreds of them!  Choose 2 or 3 of the exercises below and concentrate on doing the ones you really feel working.


Of course check in with your physio first!


Glute exercises for runners


Hip hike


Glute walks  (Resistance band squats, Single leg bridge & Clams are also in this video)


Side lying abduction & clams


Bridge (progressions)


Are you in Melbourne?  We operate running classes for all levels, which include: technique education and correction, glute exercises, fun training and a homework program.

Have you been doing a regular glute strengthening program?  What results have you noticed?  We’d love to hear from you!



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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Rhonda

    These are great Jodie. I have been doing a Bands workout weekly using these exercises and combined with a weekly Pilates class it has made an enormous difference to my dodgy hip and hamstrings.

    1. healthy

      Awesome, Rhonda! Love how conscientious you always are. Your body will love you for it.

  2. Mart

    I have just opened an account with Pinterest and this is my first viewing. I’m thrilled to see these excercises as I am recovering from hip replacement surgery and am currently doing these at PT at a beginner level. Seeing these will give me reinforcement on my techniques at home! Its a long haul to get the gluts strong again after hip surgery!

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