Learn how to activate your glutes during lower body exercises
Glute activation can be just what you need in the pursuit to stronger glutes and better lifting technique. When you have strong glutes the compound lifts become much easier to train. The glutes hold on to the hips and work with the quads and hamstrings in most leg exercises. Stronger glutes will allow the hips to handle more weight, which can take some load of the hamstrings and low back. Weak glutes will keep you from improving on the compound leg exercises. This is because the body will rely on the hamstrings and low back instead of your glute muscles. Glute activation in the warm up can help you engage the proper muscles to keep the hips and spine safe.
Teach your body to fire the glute muscles by isolating them in the warm up. Glute activation in the warm up can increase motor control of the glute muscles. Repeating repetitions on a specific muscle improves the mind muscle connection to the trained muscle group. This can also be explained by your bodies ability to better activate the neuromuscular junction at the desired muscle group (the motor neuron telling the muscle fiber to contract). Basically you need to learn how to fire the glutes in isolation before activating them more in a compound lift like the squat, deadlift, or lunge.
Lateral Banded X Walks
Pushing the band out to the side activates the gluteus medius muscles on the lateral side of each hip. These muscles help externally rotate the femur which can prevent the knees from caving inward too much. They also help with extension of the hip when standing up from a squat or deadlift. 2-3 sets of 20 steps (10 to the right, 10 to the left) will get you to feel the gluteus medius muscles at work. Your knees should be slightly bent in a quarter squat. Don’t be in a rush to get through these (Even though they can start to BURN). Perform them slow with deliberate steps to the side. Keep band tension at all times. No slack.
Banded Glute Bridge
When performed correctly, the glute bridge teaches the glutes to extend the hips. However, this exercise is easy to screw up simply because people rush through the reps without attempting to activate the desired muscles. As you lay on your back, with your heels and big toe firmly pushed into the ground, engage your core to make sure your back doesn’t round. With your core engaged begin to push your hips upward. Push your knees outward on the band and squeeze the glutes at the top for a 3 second hold. Perform 2-3 sets of 15 reps and feel your glutes light up.
There are so many more exercises that can be used to activate the glutes. I believe these two are a great place to start. Glute activation combined with proper strength training will help you move safer and grow stronger.
If you have any questions and/or found this useful let me know in the comments!