Strong gluteal muscles help stabilize the pelvis and prevent unneeded stress on the knees while you’re running. The glutes also help control stride length and maintain good biomechanics as you start to fatigue during longer runs.
Since a distance runner’s stride doesn’t build the glutes, focusing on specific exercises to improve glute strength is a good idea for any runner looking to improve their efficiency, get faster and prevent lower extremity injuries.
Give these seven basic glute exercises a try:
KETTLEBELL SINGLE-LEG DEADLIFT
What it helps: Balance, pelvic stability
The move: Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand. Keep the same side foot on the ground, and lift your opposite foot. Keep a slight bend in the knee. Bend at the hip, extending the free leg behind your body as you lean forward. Lower the kettlebell until your upper body and free leg are parallel to the ground. Return to the upright position and repeat. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
BRIDGES WITH LEG EXTENSION
What it helps: Builds glute max and hip strength to prevent pelvic drop
The move: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, shoulder’s width apart. With a neutral pelvis, squeeze your butt and lift your hips off the ground, keeping your head and neck flat. Raise your hips into full hip extension so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders through the hips to the knees. Maintain this position and extend one leg from the knee until it’s straight. Avoid letting the hips drop. Hold for 2–3 seconds before lowering back to the ground and repeating with the opposite leg. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
What it helps: Builds glute max power to prevent fatigue on long runs
The move: Start on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Maintaining your knee flexion at 90 degrees, flex your left foot and raise your knee behind you until it reaches the height of your hip. Lower your knee without letting it touch the ground and repeat 15 times before switching sides. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
What it helps: Strengthens the gluteus medius, a muscle on the side of the hip necessary for stabilization
The move: Lie on your side with both knees bent to 90 degrees and your hips stacked. Rest your head on your arm for comfort. Bring your knees up toward your chest until your feet are in line with the glutes. Your free hand should be on your hip, to ensure you don’t rock back during the exercise, or in front of your body on the ground. Keeping your abs tight and your feet together, raise the top knee without letting your hips rotate backward, keeping the bottom leg on the ground. Hold for 2–3 seconds before repeating 15 times. Complete on both sides. Once the exercise becomes easier, you can make it more difficult by tying an exercise band around your knees. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
What it helps: Leg extension during your stride, power for improved speed
The move: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your knees behind your toes, shift your weight to your heels and lower your body to 90 degrees of knee flexion. Concentrate on keeping the lower back flat instead of rounded. Squeeze the glutes as you rise back up to your starting position. To make the exercises more difficult, tie an exercise band around your knees and squat with a kettlebell in your hands, held at chest height. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
STANDING SIDE LEG RAISE
What it helps: Glute medius strength, which can help prevent common running injuries like ITBS.
The move: Stand sideways with either a cable or a resistance band tied to your outside ankle. With the hip in extension and the outside leg slightly behind the body, abduct the leg to about 45 degrees. Hold at the end range of motion for 2–3 seconds before slowly letting the leg with the resistance band return to the starting point. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
WEIGHTED HIP THRUSTS
What it helps: In addition to the glutes, this exercise also builds strength in the hamstrings and lower back to improve running speed and turnover.
The move: Choose a weight that will make it difficult to complete the last set of 10 repetitions. With your shoulders on the edge of a weight bench and your feet on the ground, place a weighted barbell across your hips. To complete the movement, drive your hips up into extension while rotating back onto your shoulders, always keeping your head in line with your body. Lower your hips and let your shoulders return to the edge of the bench. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side.