Over the past year or so I have come to learn that I have a never-ending line of postural dysfunctions that need correcting. One of the latest and weirder ones I’ve noticed, is that one of my glute muscles is bigger than the other. As I began to pay attention to my …ass cheeks… I noticed that my right glute wasn’t activating or doing any work during exercise.
In other words, I was suffering from what is known as a glute imbalance where the brunt of the work was being done by a dominant glute.
As I hopped onto the web to do my research I found out that it is, in fact, a very common problem that affects many people and is something that should be addressed as soon as possible. Having one glute noticeably stronger than the other can cause many problems especially postural dysfunctions as a result of the asymmetry. Hips and knees can be pulled out of alignment increasing the chances of serious injury.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the best ways to activate the weak glute and strengthen it. The result will be balanced looking ass cheeks you can be proud of.
How do you know if you have a Glute Imbalance?
Glute imbalances are not always something that are easily identifiable or obvious. Usually it takes some form of bodily awareness to notice it.
In my own case, I now know that I have had a glute imbalance that has flown under the radar since childhood. It was only until I was sitting on the floor flexing my glute one at a time (for no apparent reason) and I noticed that my left hip would raise up much higher off the ground than my right side. In fact, I had difficulty even trying to flex my right glute.
It was as if the signal from my brain to the muscle connection didn’t work.
There are other ways you can notice a glute imbalance. Perhaps after working out your glutes, only one of them seems to be sore the next day. Or maybe you happen to be looking at your own butt and notice one glute is bigger than the other.
When you squat do you feel both glutes firing? If you feel only one firing then it’s likely you have a glute imbalance.
However, if you feel that neither of your glutes are firing you may have a slightly different issue known as glute amnesia or dead butt syndrome. In this case, you may want to read our post on how to fix glute amnesia first.
It’s also important to draw attention to the fact that you can still perform a squat if one glute isn’t firing because the stronger glute will do most of the work for you.
You Aren’t Weird for Having a Glute Imbalance
Having one glute stronger than the other is common. It’s common for us to have a favourite leg we lead off with, or one we tend to lean more on when we stand. If you play a sport, you may favour one leg over the other for performing all the hard work without you being conscious of it.
The important thing is to correct it, especially if the differentials between the glute strengths are particularly large. As discussed this can cause a lot of problems with your posture as everything shifts out of alignment.
In this post, I’ve compiled an easy to follow step-by-step process on how to activate the weak glute and strengthen it as well.
1. Roll out The Hip Flexors
The first thing you’ll want to do is to roll out tight hip flexor muscles particularly on the side with the weak glute. When the hip flexors are tight they can make it harder for the weak glute to fire.
Spend some time foam rolling out the tight hip flexor and doing some hip flexor stretches to lengthen the muscles of the hip. By doing this step we are attempting to help make it easier to switch on that lazy glute.
The video above shows you how to foam roll your hip flexors. You’ll want to make this part of your daily routine.
2. Increase Hip Extension and Range of Motion
This point expands on the first step, whereby if we can increase the range of motion that our hips can extend, it allows the glutes to activate and contract more. The theory here is that the side where you have a weak glute, may be lacking in its ability to extend. If we can increase its mobility, we can get the weak glute to begin to contract more and hence become stronger.
I recommend watching the video above where the concept is explained better than I ever could. There is also an added exercise to try to fix this issue. Do this exercise to train your weak glute to activate.
3. Modified Single Leg Glute Bridges
To strengthen a weak glute the obvious solution to us would be to simply do glute exercises that work only the side of the weak glute. The problem with this is that many times the lazy glute has become lazy because other muscles have become overactive and taken over the work it should be doing.
In the case of a glute imbalance, the weak glute will often shift the brunt of the work to the hamstrings (I know this is true because the hamstring on the side of my weak glute seems to be stronger than my other leg).
The exercise described above, again by Guerilla Zen Fitness, shows you how to do a single leg glute bridge in such a way to make sure that the hamstrings do not take on the work of the weak glute. This ensures that the weak glute is getting stronger and not the hamstrings. For people with a weak glute, it is often very difficult to try to relax the hamstrings during squats. This modified glute bridge will help those who struggle to let their weak glute do the work.
To do this exercise:
- You will need to be near a wall. Lay down on your back in front of the wall.
- Pull your heels in as much towards your butt as possible. This keeps the hamstrings shortened and should prevent them from firing.
- Next push your arms into the wall as you prepare to do your glute bridge. By pushing your arms into the wall, your butt will stay on the heels.
- Lift one leg up, so the weaker glute is doing the hip thrust. Focus on getting the weak glute to fire.
4. Unilateral Pillow Squeeze
I love corrective exercises that take little or no effort as they are perfect for times when you are watching TV or even listening to an audiobook. The unilateral pillow squeeze is one such exercise.
The idea here is to lie on your front with a block between your feet. Raise your feet in the air and squeeze your ankles together trying to compress the block together. Push harder on the side with the weak glute and focus on making that glute contract.
5. Other Single Leg Exercises
Once the weak glute is firing you can move onto single leg glute exercises. There are many exercises that will work such as clamshells, donkey kicks, fire hydrants, abductor exercises, glute medius exercises, single leg lunges and single leg squats.
What is crucial, however, is that you are conscious whether your weak glute is working during these exercises and the work isn’t being done by another muscle.
Paying attention to the weak glute and being present is vital. Is your weak glute doing the work? Is it activating properly? Because it has been switched off for so long, you need to relearn the mind-muscle connection. A good way to do this is to contract the weak glute every now and again during your day.
Long-Term Plan for Fixing your Glute Imbalance
So there it is a simple plan to fix your glute imbalance. You’ll want to follow the plan until you can at least feel the weak glute switch on again. Once it has, it’s a conscious effort to make sure that it is working during all of the exercises where it should be activated.
For example, if you are in a regular squat, make sure that the work is equal between both glutes, rather than your weight being shifted to your stronger side.
At the same time, it would be a good idea to do slightly more reps on the weak glute until a more appropriate balance is reached.
And lastly, pay attention to any habits you may have that may have caused the glute imbalance in the first place. From my own case, I know that my glute imbalance is primarily caused by me having a severely collapsed arch on my right foot.
What happened is that I learnt to place my weight on my left leg, which became my main supportive leg as I didn’t want to put weight on my painful side. Since my flatter foot has been remedied, I now try to make a more conscious decision to spread my weight equally across both legs.
Perhaps you tend to lean on one side more than the other when you are standing?
Look for the cause and address that problem too, it will only help speed up the process of fixing your glute imbalance.