Your glutes can generate an enormous amount of power to enhance your running, but many runners have weak glutes or don’t properly activate their glutes while running. In this newsletter, Coach Sandi Nypaver will explain how to activate your glutes and help you become a faster runner.

“Today, we’re going to talk about your glutes. Now, saying “glutes” is simplifying things. You actually have your gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, and gluteus minimus. But, to simplify things, I’m just going to say “your glutes” today. The reason your glutes are so important is that they can generate a lot of power when working together.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t take full advantage of their glutes. One of the most common problems we see today with running form is people having weak glutes or not being able to activate them while running. So, I want to talk a little bit about how to address that.

The first step is to ensure your glutes are actually strong! I’ve already covered this in an older video, which is how to strengthen your glutes. However, one thing I didn’t mention in that video is that you could actually do some heavier strength training exercises, like deadlifts or certain types of squats, to help strengthen your glutes. I won’t go much further into this for the purpose of this newsletter.

So, why do most people have weak glutes or not activate them when they’re running? Well, a lot of it is because of sitting. If you’re sitting at a desk for hours a day, your glutes are doing nothing and kind of learning not to work. It could also be due to other life circumstances, but I would say sitting is the number one reason for most people.

Signs Your Glutes Aren’t Activating Before we get into how to activate your glutes when running, let’s talk about the signs that show your glutes might not be activating currently. The biggest indicator is probably hamstring tightness. It could also be lower back pain or even IT band pain. Additionally, you might experience tightness showing up in your calves.

Your body tries to generate more power from your calves since you’re not getting the power you need from your glutes. Another significant sign is having a hip drop. So, if you’ve ever seen a running picture of yourself, and it looks something like the photo below, that’s probably a strong indication that your glutes aren’t activating properly.
What should you be thinking about instead? Here are three ways to activate your glutes:
🥇 Stand with your feet hip-width apart and try to do the “hip drop” test. Squeeze your glutes on one side, and you’ll feel it activate. Repeat this a couple of times before going out for a run.
🥈 Try a really awkward walk to engage your glutes. Squeeze one glute while pulling the opposite leg through using your lower abs. Keep squeezing your glutes as you walk and transition into a run. This will also help prevent a crossover gait, where your knees come too close together, reducing glute engagement and power.
🥉 March forward while focusing on squeezing the glute on your standing leg. Practice this proper form before your run, emphasizing glute activation and using your lower abs as you bring the other leg up.
By incorporating these techniques into your routine, you can improve glute activation and enhance your running performance.

One other thing you can do to activate your glutes is to perform single-leg bridges, as shown in my other core video. Do these exercises with just your body weight and focus on your glutes activating. Incorporate this into your pre-run routine and then continue thinking about engaging your glutes while running. Remember, it will take time for your body to learn this new pattern, so simply thinking about using your glutes will be helpful too.

Additionally, there’s one more simple way to practice activating your glutes, and that’s while walking. Many people tend to have bad form even while walking, but you can consciously use your glutes during this activity.
It’s also beneficial to avoid wearing flip flops, especially in the summertime, as they can alter your form by causing your toes to grip the front of the shoe and affect how your ankle works. So, wearing appropriate footwear can contribute to better glute activation and overall form.

Now that we’ve discussed how to activate your glutes, here’s what you can do to ensure you maintain this progress:
🥇 Continue doing the glute activation exercises regularly.
🥈 While running, consistently remind yourself to engage your glutes using the techniques we’ve discussed.
🥉 Film yourself running periodically. This is crucial because you might think you’re using your glutes and correcting your form, but your body may naturally revert to old patterns. By recording yourself every few weeks, you can spot any form issues and correct them promptly.

Here’s an additional tip: Occasionally, deliberately go back to using bad form during a short part of your run for a couple of weeks. While this may seem counterintuitive, it can be a valuable learning experience.

By comparing how it feels to run with weak glutes versus activated glutes, you’ll notice the difference and reinforce the importance of maintaining good form.If you follow these strategies, you’ll be more likely to sustain proper glute activation and running form, leading to improved performance and reduced risk of injuries.”