Experienced Lifters Don't Need Glute Activation

Key Points

  • A glute activation warm-up may increase glute efficacy and improve hip mobility

  • The benefits of a glute activation warm-up may be short lived and not carry over to the next workout

  • Experienced lifters don’t need to perform glute activation in a warm-up, unless you enjoy it

Glute Activation Research

In a previous blog post, I wrote how beginners need to learn how to activate their glutes to their full potential (read here).  However, once the skill is learned, should glute activation still be recommended? And if it is,  is it worth the time? A study by Parr and others sought out to find the answer. Rugby players performed an explosive weightlifting exercise (high hang pull) at 80 percent of their one rep max after a dynamic or glute activation focused warm-up. Electromyography (EMG) was used during the exercise to see which protocol was more effective ( see jacked dude below) (1) .

Screenshot 2019-05-29 at 8.36.00 AM.png
These photos were taken from the study: Effect of a gluteal activation warm-up on explosive exercise performance ( 1 )

These photos were taken from the study: Effect of a gluteal activation warm-up on explosive exercise performance (1)

A twenty-minute rest was given before the procedure was repeated. The two warm-ups can be found below:

*(2x8) = 2 sets by 8 reps

Dynamic Warm-up

  • Stationary bike 3 min

  • Inchworm 2 x 8

  • Bodyweight squat 2 x 8

  • Leg Swing 2 x 5 each leg

  • Lunge 2 x 4 each leg

  • Push up 2 x 8

Glute Activation Warm-up

* The planks involved a 2-second hold at the top of each repetition

Results

The glute group experienced lower levels of glute activity after completing the warm-up versus the control group. But, there was a trend for the estimated muscle forces to increase, especially in the glutes and hamstrings (1). Which is odd. How can you have a decrease in muscle activity, but an increase in force? The authors theorized that the glute activation protocol may have increased muscle efficiency…

"This study suggests that a gluteal activation warm-up may facilitate recruitment of the gluteal musculature by potentiating the glutes in such a way that a smaller neural drive evokes the same or greater force production during movement (1)."

Put simply, the glute warm-up gave the participants more bang for their buck. By training the glutes in the warm-up they were able to use them more effectively in testing. However, this is just a theory and is not proven.

Overall, there were non-significant improvements in exercise performance, but an increase in muscle efficiency and hip mobility (1). The subjects were able to express a greater range of motion in the external rotators of the hips. I believe the increase in efficiency and mobility led the authors to recommend the following:

“The results of this study provide support for the employment of gluteal activation exercises as a strategy to acutely facilitate the recruitment of the gluteal and hamstring musculature and that this may result in improved movement quality (1).”

Devil's Advocate

So it seems glute activation is the bees-knees. But I am still cautious about recommending their advice due to the shortness of the study. What would have happened if the study lasted a month or longer? Would we even have seen the same results? I am not sure, but there is research that can help figure it out.

Six Weeks Of Glute Activation

Does short-term gluteal activation enhance muscle performance? The study looked at the effects of a gluteal activation warm-up on muscular activation and performance over six weeks. The study involved twenty-four semi-professional rugby players. They were split into a control group (no glute warm-up) and a glute activation group. The glute group performed a seven exercise warm-up (see below) three times a week for six weeks. Both groups performed the same workout routine for six weeks.

Glute Activation Warm-Up

*The exercise routine above was taken from: Does short term gluteal activation enhance muscular performance? (2)

  • (1) Hip airplane with a hip thrust, (2 sets, 20 reps for each leg)

  • (2) Hip leg airplane with trunk rotation, (2 sets, 20 reps for each leg)

  • (3) Hip leg airplane with a black Thera band resistance applied to the knee that included trunk rotation with DB held in the hand (2 sets, 10 reps for each leg)

  • (4) Monster walk (3 m) with black Thera band resistance secured around the forefoot (forward and back 3x)

  • (5) Monster walk side to side (3 m) with black Thera band secured around the forefoot (3x)

  • (6) Supine bridge with glute squeeze–lying on back, with flexed knees and toes touching the wall the GM is then contracted, the hips are then raised without the hamstrings contracting. Five reps of 5-s contractions of each leg

  • (7) Single-leg stance with head nod–standing on one leg with eyes closed, gently nod the head up and down for 3 min; repeat on other leg

Results

As you can see from the warm-up, this was no cakewalk. The researchers did an excellent job of selecting quality glute exercises. After the six week program, both groups were tested on a series of tasks without any warm-up. So what do you think happened? It turns out, both groups experienced similar results...

The results revealed that 18 sessions (3x/week for 6 weeks) that targeted gluteal activation, in addition to the players’ conventional training, was unable to enhance unilateral hip extension force (2).”


Conclusion

According to the research above, glute activation doesn't improve exercise performance or hip extension strength, but it could enhance muscle efficiency and hip mobility. However, I hesitate to buy these conclusions due to the lack of results from the six-week study. If muscle efficiency did improve, then why didn't we see an increase in glute strength over the six weeks?

It seems that the benefits of glute activation are short-lived and don't carry over to the next workout. Thus, if you can feel your glutes working, then use the warm-up to practice the exercises in the upcoming workout. Anecdotally, I haven't seen much difference in my workouts when I do glute activation versus a dynamic warm-up. Regardless, I don't think it will do any harm, except take more time. But if you have the extra time available and enjoy a longer warm-up, then go for it. Just remember, you don't have to do a  specific warm-up to build a booty. Barbell hip thrusts, split squats, and dead lifts build glutes, not the warm-up.

Just In Case You Love Glute Activation Warm-ups

"In order to maximally challenge a patient's gluteus maximus and medius, the authors recommend using a front plank with hip extension, a single limb squat, and a side plank on either extremity with hip abduction. (3)"

* The planks involved a 2-second hold at the top of each repetition

*These warm-ups are advanced and intended for experienced lifters

Glute Activation Warm-up #2

* The planks involved a 2-second hold at the top of each repetition



erik rokiskyComment