If you run, jump, swing a racket/club/bat, or punch or kick – your glutes need to be maximus. When you powerfully shift your weight – your glutes are providing that power. Read on to learn how to squeeze the crap out of your glutes (metaphorically)!
First, when is glute max active? Basically anytime you’re straightening your hip. This can be done without weight bearing like kicking your leg backwards, but obviously in sports (and life in general), it’s mostly done while weight bearing. Straightening the hip in weight bearing is shifting your weight forward which is used with pretty much most standing movement. Additionally, anytime you’re swinging your arm (golf, racket sports, baseball, combat), you generate power in the hips by shifting your weight which once again comes from the glutes.
To activate your glutes, start with a shoulder-width stance and turn your feet slightly outwards. It can help to put your hands on your butt so that your fingers can feel the muscle activating. Now lean very slightly forward, just so that your head is an inch forward. From here, roll your hips/pelvis under like you’re tucking your tail. You will feel your glutes kicking on. Just follow this contraction by squeezing your butt as hard as you can, to the point it almost feels like it will cramp. Hold for a few seconds then relax. That is activating your glutes.
Now, for training. You’ll want to both get your glutes stronger as well as learn to activate them powerfully. To do this, simply perform this glute activation drill at the end of each rep of your standing exercises. After each squat, each deadlift, each kettlebell swing/clean/snatch, after each bridge – squeeze until your glutes feel like they will cramp. At first, it will likely take a few seconds to reach this amount of force because your glutes aren’t used to fully activating. After a few reps though, you will be able to do this very quickly. This will not only strengthen your glutes but teach your body to contract them fully and faster. Warning: this will make your glutes very sore the next day. You’ve been warned…
That can be done with any exercise where the feet are symmetrical. However, it can and should be done with exercises where the feet are asymmetrical as well, such as lunges, step-ups, single leg deadlifts, kickbacks, and so on. Any exercise with a split stance with both feet on the ground, you’ll squeeze the back hip at the top of each rep.
It is crucial to understand that glute max really shines when the leg is behind the midline of the body/trunk. This is important for pretty much all sports movements. Whenever you run or strike something, the back leg needs to be behind the trunk. Many runners bounce up and down which wastes energy as well as loads the knee more. Instead, pushing the body forward or pushing the ground backwards (they accomplish the same thing) with an upright posture and the leg finishing behind the body, will ensure more efficient push-off.
For any striking motion during a sport (golf swing, racket swing, punch, etc.), you can practice squeezing the back leg’s glute. This will not only add power to your weight shift and rotation, but teach your body to make this automatic.
Once you have true mastery of activating your glutes powerfully and quickly, you should then work on pulsing your contraction at the moment just before, and through, impact. A pulse being a strong, but quick squeeze. You’ll want to pulse both your core and your back glute at the same time. Don’t be surprised by the amount of force and snap this adds to your strike!