I’ll admit that it can often be quite difficult to know if you’re activating your glutes.
In fact, I can guarantee that you’re not the only one to ever train your glutes without actually being sure of the effectiveness of your workout.
I mean, you typically complete workouts for other muscle groups and find that you’re sore afterwards and as though you’ve pushed yourself hard.
Plus, of course, you don’t want your workouts to be a complete waste of time.
So, allow me to provide a few tips to ensure that you are activating your glutes correctly.
How Do I Know if I’m Activating My Glutes?
The most obvious way to know if you’re activating your glutes is if they are getting bigger and stronger. Additionally, stronger glutes will typically mean that you’re finding exercises such as squats and deadlifts easier to perform. If this isn’t the case then you should perform approximately 10 minutes of glute activation exercises prior to your main lifts. Furthermore, if you feel glute-related exercises more in your knees, quads, hamstrings, or lower back this will indicate that you’re not activating your glutes properly.
1. Are Your Glutes Getting Stronger & Bigger?
I guess this sounds fairly obvious, but if your glutes are getting bigger and stronger over time then you’re definitely activating them correctly during your workouts.
Additionally, if this is the case then you’ll find that a vast array of exercises actually feel easier.
So, as an example squats and deadlifts should feel easier to perform, and so you should find that you’re regularly progressing in terms of reps, sets, or weight lifted.
Admittedly, your glutes may not be growing as quickly as you would hope, but a mirror and a measuring tape can reveal a great deal.
In truth, most regular trainees may not notice much more than 2-3 inches of glute growth over the course of a year.
However, if you’re fairly new to training, or if you’re having a huge concentration on working your glutes, you may notice the same gains in just 2-3 months.
So, there is no better way of checking your progress than measuring your glutes on a monthly basis.
I will also say even half an inch of gains over the course of a month shows that you’re moving in the right direction.
So, this will definitely prove that you’re correctly activating your glutes during your workouts.
2. Soreness is Not a Sign of Glute Activation
I guess many of us view soreness as an indicator of a great workout.
Plus, this is often a good way to tell if you’ve correctly worked the target muscles.
With that being said, this isn’t always the case, and you’ll occasionally have a fantastic workout without feeling much afterwards.
This is especially true the more you perform certain exercises or hit certain body parts, such as the glutes.
Basically, your body will eventually adapt to the stresses and strains that you regularly place upon it.
This is also why it’s extremely important to progress in terms of weight, reps, and sets, regularly.
Think about it this way – the first time you perform an exercise or movement, or you come back to it after a long break, you pretty much feel it everywhere.
In fact, you may even feel the exercise in secondary muscle groups.
A fantastic example of this is the first time that you perform barbell back squats after a long break you’ll typically have really sore hamstrings afterwards.
And you may even feel those squats in your quads and glutes.
However, once you’re onto your third or fourth squat session a couple of weeks later, the soreness is nowhere near as bad, or it may have disappeared altogether.
This is why I always feel as though soreness does not indicate a great workout.
Once more, in terms of how well you’re progressing with your glute development, this will come down to the size and strength measuring and mirror test.
3. Are You Activating Your Glutes First?
One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting your glutes really fired up is to activate them prior to your workout.
In fact, there are various trainers and fitness experts who believe you should activate your glutes on a daily basis.
And this is whether you’re working out that day or not.
In truth, this actually makes a lot of sense to me.
The glutes happen to be the largest muscle in the human body, so regardless of your training goals, it makes sense to work the biggest muscles.
Additionally, the glutes are typically one of the most underused muscles in the body.
So, this can often lead to muscle imbalances, weak and tight glutes, which in turn can affect other areas of the body.
Possibly the best way to activate your glutes is with a 5-10 minute resistance band session.
Plus, I see nothing wrong with completing this type of activation workout on a daily basis.
Basically, you won’t actually be stressing the muscles or Central Nervous System to such an extent that you need “rest”.
Your glute activation workout could be as simple as lateral banded walks, clamshells, hip abductions, glute kickbacks or donkey kicks, etc.
The great thing about doing this prior to a main glute workout is that you’ll really feel the tension in your glutes.
Plus, it’s also more likely that your glutes will take over for the rest of your workout.
10-Minute Booty Activation
4. Are You Feeling Glute Exercises Elsewhere?
I previously mentioned feeling certain exercises in a secondary muscle group or simply somewhere apart from the target muscle group.
This can typically occur if an exercise is very new to you.
However, you should also be aware that this may also happen if you’re not performing an exercise correctly.
Then again, it could also mean that the target muscle is weak, tight, or not being activated correctly.
Let’s take potentially the greatest glute exercise there is as an example, namely hip thrusts.
Now, I know that many people will often complain that they feel hip thrusts in their hamstrings.
Plus, it’s also not unheard-of to feel hip thrusts in your knees, quads, and even your lower back.
In effect, you’re pretty much feeling the movement everywhere except the target muscle.
This will usually occur because the body part where you’re feeling it takes over during the exercise.
As I say, this could point to potential glute weakness and improper activation.
Then again, it may be something as simple as you’re trying to hip thrust with too much weight.
The best course of activation is to perform your 5-10 minutes of glute activation exercises first.
Then when you perform hip thrusts and if you feel it in any of the other muscle groups more, your glutes simply aren’t strong enough to thrust the weight on the bar.
As with all exercises, the aim is to first perfect your technique, before you eventually start progressing in terms of reps, sets, and weights.
Personally, I believe that everyone should be able to perform 20-25 reps of bodyweight single-leg hip thrusts with perfect form.
Once you’re able to do this with both legs you have then graduated to barbell hip thrusts.
So, make sure that you’re not either going through the motions or trying to rush progression.
You’ll see far greater glute development if you perfect your technique first.
So, as you can see, the most obvious way to know if you’re activating your glutes is if they’re getting bigger and stronger.
You may not see much of a size difference for a month or two, but you can definitely measure strength in a number of ways.
One way to do this is to see if squats and deadlifts are starting to feel easier.
And if so, are you able to progress in terms of weight on a regular basis?
You shouldn’t focus on soreness as being an indication of glute activation.
This is because your glutes will adapt more to exercise the more you perform certain movements.
It also makes a great deal of sense to perform glute activation exercises prior to your main glute workout.
In fact, there is nothing wrong with activating your glutes with various exercises on a daily basis.
Finally, a good indication that you’re not firing up your glutes, or that they may actually be weak, is if you feel glute-specific exercises in other muscle groups.
Here’s the ultimate in Glute workout programs. You’ll train twice a week, for four weeks, covering a total of 36 glute-specific exercises. Once completed you will have achieved a stronger, rounder, and firmer butt. To learn more check out my Unlock Your Glutes Review.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.