Not Feeling Your Glutes? Why Lunges Aren’t Hitting Your Butt (& How to Fix It)

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If you’re lunging with more weight that you can handle with good form your other lower body muscles will take over rather than you using your glutes. You should also really concentrate on squeezing your glutes at the bottom of the lunge. Then push through the heel of your front foot as you come back up.

You’re Using Too Much Weight

A Man Performing Dumbbell Lunges

I want to take lunges and glutes out of the equation for just a moment.

Without doubt, the main reason that you’re not benefiting from a specific exercise is because you’re using too much weight.

Plus, this is also the reason why you’re probably not feeling the exercise in the target muscles.

And I would say this is the case for every single possible exercise there is.

Yes, the name of the game is to typically progress by adding more weight.

However, I often feel ego comes into this as well.

I would rather perform an exercise with perfect form, and perhaps even a higher number of reps, than perform it poorly.

If you have more weight on the bar, or a heavier dumbbell, this doesn’t automatically equate to “better”.

Okay, back to lunges and glutes once more.

If you’re going too heavy with lunges you’ll typically find that other muscles start to take over.

You’ll generally feel more glute activation in a lunge when you push back to the starting position off the front foot (in the case of the conventional forward lunge).

To activate the glutes more you should focus on pushing off the front heel.

“Lunges are a fantastic exercise for building strong, sculpted glutes. Focus on pushing through your entire foot, especially your heel, to ensure glute activation.”

Bret Contreras, Strength Coach

However, if your glutes aren’t able to handle the weight you’re more likely to push off your toes, which can actually be uncomfortable, as opposed to your heel.

And this will use a combination of your quads, hamstrings, and momentum to return to the starting position.

So, if you’re not feeling lunges in your glutes, put your ego in check, and reduce the weight that you’re using.

Focus on the Mind-Muscle Connection

I find that using the mind-muscle connection is a fantastic way to hit the target muscles with any exercise.

And this is certainly true when you’re performing lunges.

If you’d like to feel lunges in your glutes more then really focus your mind on this area of your body.

Perhaps the best way to achieve this is to pause once you have lunged forward.

Hold the forward lunge position for a count of two and really squeeze your glutes.

As I’ve mentioned, you should then “push back up” through your heel.

You’ll find that through the combination of a pause, contracting your glutes, and then pushing through your heel, you’ll bring your butt muscles far more into play.

In fact, you will typically find that you may not be able to perform as many reps because your glutes fatigue earlier.

However, I view this as a good thing.

As I say, I would rather perform an exercise well and with good form than simply powering through the reps with sloppy technique.

So, really focus your mind on your glutes, especially just before you return to the standing position.

Elevate Your Front Foot

There are a few lunge variations that will focus more heavily on the glutes.

The first one of these is the front-foot elevated lunge.

Now some may view front-foot elevated lunges as a way to reduce the range of motion.

Therefore, you may feel that it isn’t as effective.

However, in truth you are creating a greater stretch in the muscles of the lower body.

And this includes the quads, hamstrings, and of course, the glutes.

I would also add that if you have the required flexibility and mobility you can actually drop much deeper into the lunge.

In effect, you can actually increase your overall range of motion.

You can perform this exercise as a conventional lunge, or simply as a stationary split squat.

With that being said, you should still conform to the “glute technique” I mentioned above.

So, once your front foot is placed on an elevated surface, take a short pause, contract the glutes, and then push back through the heel of your front foot.

Try Curtsy Lunges

Another variation that will activate the glutes more is the curtsy lunge.

Well, actually the curtsy lunge will stimulate both the quads and glutes more.

“Curtsy lunges are a great way to target your glutes and inner thighs. The sideways leg movement works different muscles than a standard lunge.”

Jillian Michaels, Trainer

However, there are additional muscles that are called into action.

Firstly, when you lunge your leg back and across you’ll fire up the gluteus medius to far greater effect.

Okay, this isn’t the gluteus maximus that most of us are looking to stimulate during lunges, but the medius is a highly active muscle anyway.

You’ll also feel curtsy lunges in your adductors (inner thighs) much more.

Once again, this is especially true of the stationary front leg.

I also feel the curtsy lunge is fantastic for lower body stability and will even help to improve your posture.

Both of these things can actually help you to lift more weight in the big compound lower body lifts.

So, not only will curtsy lunges activate your glutes more, they can also help you to improve your squat and deadlift.

You Have “Dead Butt Syndrome”

The final reason you may not feel your glutes when you lunge is because you suffer from “dead butt syndrome”.

In fact, this is prevalent in the modern-day-and-age.

An extremely high percentage of the population typically spend many hours a day sitting.

This is especially true if you work in an office-based job or at your desk in front of a computer screen.

You’ll generally spend the majority of your day sitting down.

Plus, you’re probably not getting up at regular intervals simply to stand or walk around.

Basically, your glutes, which happen to be the largest muscle in the human body, are receiving no real stimulation throughout the day.

Your glutes aren’t activated in “normal” life and this transfers into your physical life.

So, whether it’s lunges, squats, or deadlifts, you’re probably not feeling your glutes working the way they should.

I would recommend activating your glutes prior to lunges.

This could involve performing hip thrusts, cable pull-throughs, donkey kicks, kettlebell swings, etc.

Basically, do what you can to fire up your glutes, and perhaps even pre-exhaust them, before you start lunging.

Key Learning Points

  • If you’re using too much weight when you lunge it’s likely that other lower body muscles (apart from your glutes) will take over to support the additonal weight. Try lunging with less weight.
  • Focus on the mind-muscle connection.
  • Perform lunges by pausing after the initial step forward, then contract your glutes, and push back through the heel on the front foot.
  • Try lunge variations that focus more heavily on glute stimulation.
  • The curtsy lunge is ideal for working your glutes.
  • Try activating your glutes before you perform lunges if you suffer from the dreaded “Dead Butt Syndrome”.

If you want a bigger, stronger, rounder butt you have to check out my favourite glute-related workout program, Unlock Your Glutes.

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