Understanding Glute Activation

Glute activation is one of the most important factors that helps determine athletic performance. So how do we achieve peak glute activation to be able to perform at the highest level? It’s important to first understand the anatomy and function of the entire posterior chain.

The posterior chain is the group of muscles that includes the erector spinae (lower back muscles), gluteus maximus and minimus, the biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus (hamstrings), and the gastrocnemius and soleus (your calf muscles). The hamstrings are important because they are a muscle group that is biarticular, i.e. crosses two joints – the hip and the knee. The semimembranosus and semitendinosus assist in hip extension and knee flexion while the biceps femoris not only assists in hip extension and knee flexion but rotates the lower half of the leg when the knee is in flexion. Practically speaking for athletes, the hamstrings are extremely important for deceleration and stopping quickly to be able to make cuts.

So what makes your glutes stand out? The glutes allow for hip extension and hyperextension, hip abduction (lateral movement of the leg), external rotation (giving you the ability to turn your feet out), help to prevent valgus collapse, and help to stop the spine from too much extension or flexion. The problem is, for most athletes, the glutes are inactive or underactive. This is most often due to tight hip flexors and tight hamstrings. How do we alleviate this issue? Through a well thought-out, dynamic warm-up that focuses on activating the glutes and opening up the hips and hamstrings. Glute bridges, single-leg bridges, standing RDLs, walking lunges, step throughs with bands, and side lunges are some great exercises to incorporate in your dynamic warm-up to help with this.

Our next post will go into some more detail about what a great dynamic warm-up consists of, so stay tuned!