The Ultimate Guide to Glute Activation for Back Pain Relief

The Ultimate Guide to Glute Activation for Back Pain Relief


The gluteal muscles are essential for hip extension, abduction, rotation, and stability. Sadly, they’re often not used enough by those with back pain. This can cause decreased flexibility, range of motion, and even muscle imbalance.

Good news! Correctly activating the glutes can help with posture and correct muscle imbalances that cause back pain. It can also reduce numbness and “tingling” in the limbs, and improve movement.

This guide covers all the basics of glute activation for back pain relief. It includes exercises and stretches you can do right away, to start easing your discomfort. We’ll also look at common causes of weak glutes, like weak glutes or overdeveloped antagonist muscles. Moreover, we’ll discuss the importance of correctly and consistently doing glut activation exercises, to get lasting results.

Anatomy of the Glutes

Your glutes are a group of three muscles located at your back. They are very important for good posture, strong core and pain relief. Let’s learn more about each of these muscles and how they can help with back pain.

The glutes consist of three different muscles. Each has its own function to help with back pain. They are:

  • Gluteus maximus helps with hip extension and external rotation.
  • Gluteus medius gives stability to the hip and keeps the pelvis level when walking.
  • Gluteus minimus helps with hip abduction and internal rotation.

Understanding the anatomy and role of the glutes can help you figure out the best way to use them to relieve back pain.

Gluteus Maximus

The gluteus maximus is the biggest and strongest of the gluteal muscles. It is vital for walking, running, jumping, climbing stairs, and other everyday movements. This muscle has a triangular shape, and stretches from the lower spine to the top of the femur.

It has two distinct parts: ‘the butt‘, which helps other locomotion muscles, like the adductors, rotators, and hamstrings; and a larger upper portion connected to long-term back issues. Weakness or stiffness in this area can cause misalignment of vertebrae, resulting in chronic pain.

To reduce this pain, it is important to stretch and do exercises that target the gluteus maximus. Strengthening this muscle can improve your athletic performance, reduce aches/pains from poor posture, and provide stability during dynamic movements. This is much more effective than static stretches alone.

Gluteus Medius

The gluteus medius is one of the three main muscles that form the glutes. It sits on the outside of the pelvis and helps with abduction, medial rotation, and stabilizing the hips when standing on one foot. It’s also key for proper back support and posture.

When weak or stretched, it can cause lower back pain, tightness and pain in other parts of the body. To ease this, strengthening the gluteus medius is key. Exercises for this are often used in physical therapy to reduce back pain.

Examples of these exercises include:

  • Side-lying leg lifts
  • Single-leg squats
  • Step-ups
  • Donkey kicks
  • Clamshells

These can be done at home with or without equipment. Plus, if combined with stretching and aerobic activity, it’ll make a big difference to back pain relief.

Gluteus Minimus

The gluteus minimus is a small triangle shaped muscle in the buttocks. It starts on the lateral side of the ilium bone and attaches to the front of the femur’s greater trochanter. It helps with abduction, internal and external rotation, as well as downward rotation when standing or walking. It also strengthens lateral stability for activities like running or jumping.

Exercises targeting this muscle include:

  • Prone hip abduction
  • Clam shell exercise
  • Lateral step-ups
  • Side stretching

These use bands or weights, and can be combined with other core exercises to improve movement patterns, which can lessen pain over time.

Glute Activation Exercises

Strengthen your glutes! This is one of the top solutions for relieving lower back pain. Glute activation exercises can help you improve posture, and gain control of hip, knee and spine movements. These exercises aid in stabilising and supporting the spine, reducing back pain. Here are some of the best glute activation exercises for back pain relief!

Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are great for activating glute muscles and relieving lower back pain. They can be done standing or lying down.

For the lying variation, lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Press through your heels to raise your hips off the ground. Keep your torso still. Push your pelvis up so you can look straight ahead in a mirror. Contract your glutes at the peak, then lower.

This variation makes sure you’re not using momentum or other body parts. Try single-leg variations for an extra challenge. Do 3-4 sets of 8 reps per variation, with 1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Hip Thrusts

Hip Thrusts are a great exercise! They help engage and strengthen your glutes, plus combat lower back pain. It’s a multi-muscle move that targets the core, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and back extensors. This activates lots of muscle groups to give maximum relief from back pain caused by weak glutes.

Doing Hip Thrusts is simple:

  • Lie down with your upper back on a bench, feet flat on the floor, knees bent at 90-degrees. Have your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold two dumbbells in each hand, 20-30 pounds (Q1 adjust as needed).
  • Brace your core and get ready to thrust.
  • Drive through both feet, lifting your hips so they form a straight line with your face and shoulders. Don’t hyperextend the hip flexors.
  • Hold the peak for two seconds, then release slowly.
  • Aim for 8-10 reps per set, with rest intervals of 30-45 seconds. Do three sets, though the number can vary depending on your individual strength.


Clamshell exercises are a great way to activate your glutes and ease lower back pain. They involve movements that target multiple major muscles in the glute region. This contracts the muscles, and stretches and strengthens the lower back muscles too.

To do a clamshell:

  • Lie on one side with your leg bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your feet together and arms either by your side or away from your body, with elbows bent.
  • Use your core muscles to bring the upper knee upwards. This should press against a resistance band or weight plate.
  • Return to the starting position as you exhale. Do 10-15 reps per leg. Increase the difficulty by looping more resistance bands or holding heavier weight plates in place.

Lateral Band Walks

Lateral Band Walks are great for glute-activation and back pain relief. Get an elastic band that fits around your ankles. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Place the bands around each ankle. Outward pressure should be maintained throughout the exercise.

  1. Step out laterally for 1-2 steps with one leg, then return.
  2. Repeat 10 times. Then switch legs and do another 10 repetitions.
  3. Do up to 3 sets of 10 per side.
  4. Avoid forward lean to keep proper form. This protects from potential back injury.


Squats are an awesome exercise for your glutes. They increase strength in your hips, groin and buttocks. Plus, they make you more flexible, mobile and balanced. This can help with back pain too!

Here’s how to do a basic squat:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms stretched out in front.
  2. Lower your hips back like you’re sitting in a chair. Put weight on the heels of your feet, keep trunk upright.
  3. Breathe as you do this 8-12 times.
  4. Now raise up and repeat 8-12 times.

Focus on feeling a deep squeeze in your glutes while doing squats. Feel free to make it harder too, by doing jumping squats or pulses.


Lunges are great for glute activation and back pain relief. Feet should be hip-width apart with slightly bent knees. Take a big step forward with one foot. Bend both knees to lower your body until the rear knee nearly touches the ground. Your front thigh should be parallel to the ground, and your front knee should be over your ankle. Keep your torso upright and abs engaged, to avoid rounding out in the lower back. Push off from that leg, pressing through the floor’s heel, as you stand back up. Alternate legs for each lunge rep.

Lunges can also be done in reverse. Or with sideways or curtsy steps. Plus, you can add other movements such as twists, jumps, or arm raises for difficulty.

Benefits of Glute Activation

Engaging the glutes is essential for relieving back pain. Glutes are a big muscle group, connecting the torso to the legs. They provide stabilization in the pelvis, hips and lower back. Strengthening the glutes can have lots of advantages. These include better posture, improved performance, and relief from pain.

In this guide, we’ll look at the advantages of glute activation and how it can help with back pain:

Improved Posture

Activating your glutes can give you improved posture. This helps with back pain. Strengthening your gluteal muscles and using them in daily activities reduces tension on your lower back. Poor posture often causes more discomfort.

Strengthening your glutes and hip muscles helps your posture. A strong foundation decreases strain on your lower back, giving relief. Keeping your spine in alignment eases tension in the lower back. With correct form and regular exercise, a dedicated glute program can improve stability and prevent issues.

Strengthened Core

Strengthening your core during glute activation exercises can support the lower back, stopping injury and stress. The core consists of abdominal, pelvic floor and lower back muscles. They work together to move energy through the body and keep the spine steady during dynamic movements.

By strengthening these core muscles with glute activation exercises, you can keep your posture more easily, reduce pain, improve balance and avoid wear-and-tear on your back.

A stronger core will make it easier to do things like climbing stairs or carrying groceries. It increases coordination, power output and reduces stiffness, aiding athletes and those with chronic pain. It allows them to move without making their condition worse.

Improved Hip Stability

Glutes that are activated and firing properly strengthen and stabilize the hip joint. This increases range of motion, strength, and power in daily activities. It also reduces strain on joints from activities such as walking and standing. Plus, increased hip stability lessens the risk of muscle pulls in other areas like the back or knees because feet and ankles stay more stable.

Glute activation boosts overall mobility, flexibility, and posture. These can all help with back pain relief.


Glute activation is only part of the solution. Many cases of back pain are due to a combination of issues. Treatment should include mobility, core strengthening, and lifestyle changes.

Exercises that suit your body can help reduce back pain. Also, get rest and avoid tension-causing stress. A mindful approach of self-care and goal-oriented exercises can be very effective in gaining long-term relief from weak glute muscles causing back pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is glute activation?

A: Glute activation is the process of waking up and engaging the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus muscles in order to improve their strength and function.

Q: How does glute activation help with back pain relief?

A: The glute muscles play a key role in stabilizing the pelvis and supporting the lower back. Weak or inactive glutes can lead to poor posture and increased stress on the spine, which can contribute to back pain. By activating and strengthening the glutes, you can improve your posture and reduce your risk of back pain.

Q: What exercises can I do to activate my glutes?

A: Some effective glute activation exercises include hip thrusts, glute bridges, donkey kicks, and clamshells.

Q: How often should I do glute activation exercises?

A: It’s recommended to do glute activation exercises at least 2-3 times per week, but you can also incorporate them into your warmup routine before other workouts.

Q: How can I tell if my glutes are activated during exercise?

A: You should feel a contraction or “squeeze” in the glute muscles as you perform glute activation exercises. It’s also important to focus on maintaining good posture and preventing other muscles from compensating.

Q: Can glute activation exercises also help with other types of pain or injuries?

A: Yes, glute activation exercises can improve overall lower body function and may also help with knee, hip, and IT band pain.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

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