When teaching yoga and Pilates, it is evident how common gluteal (glute) weakness is. The glute (buttock) muscles are the big ‘powerhouse’ muscles, which hold your pelvis level and steady and also generate power when extending the hip – taking the leg behind the mid line of the body. Lack of glute strength can cause back pain and overuse injuries in other muscles such as the quadriceps and hamstrings, which is common in runners.

These muscles can become weak for a variety of reasons. If you sit down a lot the glutes become elongated and weak and the hip flexors and hamstrings become tight. Through inactivity these muscles can also become weak. Certain posture types can also cause weak glutes. An anterior pelvic tilt, where the bottom tends to stick out, can results in tight lower back muscles and hip flexors, and weak abdominal muscles and glutes.

Recently in my Yoga and Pilates classes I have been adding some focused glute strengthening asanas and exercises. Here are some simple exercises to improve glute strength.
Glute activation

It is important to activate the glutes before performing any of these exercises. Get to know how it feels to activate the glutes by practicing this throughout the day. The mind-muscle connection is important to ‘wake up’ and ‘switch on’ inactive muscles. 

Get the mind-muscle connection by lifting the gluteal fold (the creases under the buttocks) and gently squeezing the glutes. Imagine you are holding a 10p between you buttocks. Gently sending the tailbone to the floor will also help activate the gluteus. 

Aim to maintain ‘GOOD POSTURE’ throughout the following exercises

 An anterior pelvic tilt can be corrected by contracting the abs (keep the space between the ribs and the hips short without changing the neutral position of the spine) and sending the tailbone to the floor. You should feel the glutes activate.

Tight hip flexors may inhibit the activation of the glutes, so hip flexor lengthening is also important. 

Single leg squats/Uktanasana

Maintain a neutral posture throughout the movement. Gently tuck the tailbone under and activate the abdominal muscles. Not so far that you take the spine into a posterior tilt (excessively rounding the lower back).

Until your balance can be maintained you can perform this exercise with both feet on the ground or doing single leg squats using the wall for support. 

Single leg lifts

Gently send the pubic bone to the floor and lift the area between the pubic bone and the belly button away from the floor to activate the abdominal muscles. This will also help activate the glutes and support the spine. Exhale and lift and extend one leg. If you feel this more in your hamstrings, you are overusing these muscles and not the glutes. Don’t lift as high and focus in engaging the glutes before you lift the leg. This is also the case if you feel it in the lower back. 

As strength in the gluteus develops, gradually progress on to double leg lift 

Virabadrasana 3 (Warrior 3) 

From a standing position, start to extend one leg behind and shift your weight forward. Maintain glute connection and neutral pelvis throughout the movement. Try to focus on dropping the hip on the extended leg and lifting the hip of the supporting leg. This will help maintain a neutral pelvis. If this posture is too challenging for balance, adopt a more supported position by holding onto the back of a chair. 

Add controlled squats when your strength develops.
Shoulder bridge
Activate the glutes before you lift the hips from the floor. Keep pelvis neutral throughout the movement. Gently tuck the pubic bone towards the belly button and lengthen the tailbone to activate the abdominal muscles and glutes.
Where do you feel it activated? If you feel it more in the lower back, imprint the spine by tucking the pubic bone towards the belly button and keep the space between the hips and the ribs short.
Push the feet to floor and extend into the hips to activate glutes. Don’t over activate the hamstrings or you will experience cramp in these muscles which can be very painful. Focus on maintaining a glute connection throughout the movement by gently lifting the gluteal fold and squeezing the gluteus. 
Kneeling leg lifts

Start in a kneeling position. Maintain control and stability of the pelvis throughout the movement. Lift and extend one leg by activating the glutes. Try to complete 8-10 lifts on each leg. 

Progress the exercise by adding little circles with the extended leg. Imagine you have a pencil sticking out of the heel and draw circles on the wall behind you. 

Alternatively you can keep the leg extended and gently raise the heel to the ceiling. Focus on squeezing the glutes each time you raise the heel. Try to complete 10 reps on each leg. 


Start in a neutral pelvis position. Tuck the tailbone under and shorten the pace between the ribs and the hips to activate the abs and glutes, and lengthen the hip flexors.

With control, lower the back knee to the floor maintaining the glute connection throughout. If you have tight hip flexors, try not to arch the lower back as you return to a standing position. 

Runners you may also want to check out this this link for glute strengthening tests.