Glute Exercises for Runners: Avoid Runner’s Butt Syndrome

Takeaway: A weak backside is one of the main reasons why runners get hurt and develop Runner’s Butt Syndrome. Glute-building exercises are vital to optimizing your running capability. The stronger your back and glutes are, the lower your risk of injury.

Before we dive into a wide range of glute exercises for runners, we want to provide some helpful information so that you better understand and improve your relationship with your glutes.

Let’s start with a rundown on some gluteal muscles basics, walk you through a detailed explanation of Runner’s Butt Syndrome, and provide you with a list of glute exercises to address your specific workout needs.

What Are Glutes?

Your gluteal muscles or “glutes” are made up of three different muscles that are grouped together form your buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.

The functions of these muscles include extension, abduction, external rotation and internal rotation of the hip joint. Each gluteal muscle moves your thigh in different directions. They work together to allow you to stand from a squatted position, climb stairs, and walk uphill. The gluteal muscles also play an important role in maintaining your balance.

Your glutes are made up of three different muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.

Gluteus Maximus: Helps maintain your balance when you walk or run. When walking, this muscle tightens to slow down the forward movement of your leg and keep you balanced. When running, this muscle tightens on the leg you are standing on to control the forward momentum of your trunk.

Gluteus Medius: The medius tightens on the stationary side to prevent your pelvis from dropping down when you pick your foot up. The upper body leans over the leg you are standing on to shift your center of gravity over that leg to keep you balanced.

Gluteus Minimus: The smallest of your gluteal muscles; it can move your thigh forward or to the side, and it can also rotate it inward or outward. The gluteus minimus helps keep your hip in place as you move.

What Is Runner’s Butt?

To help you understand the complexity of Runner’s Butt Syndrome, think about it this way–Imagine you’re at the gym. You pick up a 15 lb dumbbell and begin doing overhead tricep extensions. You complete three sets of 20 reps for a total of 60 overhead tricep extensions.

Now instead of just 60, imagine doing 2000 of these same overhead tricep extensions. How would your triceps feel then? I would imagine pretty sore. That’s exactly what we are doing to our Gluteus Medius muscle when we run.

Runner's Butt Syndrome can cause serious pain.

When we run, we are putting all of our body weight on each leg as we alternate from side to side. Each time we switch sides our Gluteus Medius contracts on the weight-bearing hip. Because most runners’ feet will come in contact with the ground 2000 times per mile, the Gluteus Medius muscle will also be contracting 2000 times per mile.

Now, multiply that number by the 2-4 miles that the average active person should run. That’s about 4,000-8,000 contractions per workout session. Can you even begin to imagine what your arms would feel like if you completed 8,000 overhead tricep extensions in one workout session?

But that’s not all. The impact of landing on your feet multiplies your body weight by three times when you run. If you weigh about 160 lbs, your Gluteus Medius muscle is contracting 2000 times per mile with 480 lbs each time.

Circling back to the tricep example, can you imagine doing 8,000 overhead tricep extensions with a 480 lb dumbbell? It’s no wonder that sometimes our Gluteus Medius can get overworked and spasm.

The striking and uncomfortable pain we feel in our butt area when our Gluteus Medius is overworked is what is known as “Runner’s Butt Syndrome.”

Glute Exercises for Runners: Top 10

A weak backside is one of the main reasons why runners get hurt and develop Runner’s Butt Syndrome. Nirav Pandya, M.D., assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, says that underutilized gluteal muscles make up for a large percentage of injuries in active runners.

The solution? Use them or lose them! Your glutes help center your pelvis to ensure your center of gravity is in line with your ankles, knees, and hips. This gives your body the optimal position it needs to generate speed and improve your running.

Glute Exercises for Runners: Top 10

Glute-building exercises are vital to optimizing your running capability. The following glute exercises for runners will not only improve your glutes but also improve the strength in your stride:

1. Single-Leg Deadlift

  • Stand on your right foot, keep your knee slightly bent.
  • The left foot should be hovering next to right.
  • With back flat, hinge forward reaching arms straight toward the floor.
  • Raise left leg straight behind you.
  • Return to start, remaining on one foot.
  • Switch legs and repeat.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

2. V-Lift With Stability Ball

  • Lie facedown on a stability ball.
  • Position your pelvis in the middle of the ball with hands resting lightly on the floor.
  • Keep your legs straight and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your back flat, extend your legs upward in a “V” position.
  • Squeeze your glutes to lift legs as high as you can.
  • Lower and repeat.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

3. Monster Walk

  • Place a resistance band right above your ankles.
  • Keep your legs far enough apart to keep tension in the band.
  • Walk 20 steps to the right (make sure to pick up your back foot, and don’t allow knees to collapse inward).
  • Stop, and now take 20 steps to the left.
  • Repeat.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

4. Single-Leg Hip Abduction

  • Place a resistance band around your thighs, a few inches above your knees.
  • Lower into a squat.
  • Keeping torso still and step one foot back at a 45-degree angle.
  • Return to start; quickly switch feet—that’s one rep.
  • Repeat and alternate legs.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

5. Donkey Kick

Glute Exercises for Runners: Donkey Kick

  • Position your body in tabletop position
  • Hands should be aligned with your shoulders, knees under hips, feet flexed.
  • Pick your right leg up off the ground, keeping your knee bent, and push back as if kicking someone with your foot flexed.
  • Lower your knee back down, without touching the ground.
  • Repeat.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

6. Bulgarian Split Squat With Stability Ball

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, a few feet in front of a stability ball.
  • Keep hands clasped at your chest.
  • Place right foot (shoelaces down) on top of the ball.
  • With the weight in your left foot, lower into a deep lunge.
  • Push into the left heel to stand.
  • Do a few reps; switch sides.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

7. Hamstring Press With Stability Ball

  • Lie facedown, arms bent so hands are folded in front of you, elbows out.
  • Hold a stability ball in-between your shins and ankles.
  • Legs should be bent to a 90-degree angle.
  • Squeeze glutes and lift the ball straight up and a few inches off the floor.
  • Lower and repeat.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

8. Single-Leg Sit-to-Stand

  • Stand in front of a bench or chair, hands on hips.
  • Lift your left leg a few inches off the ground, balancing on your right leg.
  • Shifting your weight into your right heel and engaging your glutes, slowly lower your body until seated.
  • Still balancing on your right leg, rise back into standing position.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

9. Glute Bridge

Glute Exercises for Runners: Glute Bridge

  • Lie on your back on a mat.
  • Knees bent at 45 degrees, arms crossed against your chest.
  • Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the ground, until your torso is in a straight line from knees to chest.
  • Lower your hips and butt back to the ground.
  • Repeat.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

10. Air Squat

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, hands on hips.
  • Keeping your knees behind your toes, shift your weight into your heels and engage your glutes to lower your butt back and down toward the ground.
  • As you lower your butt, bring your hands forward into prayer position in front of your chest.
  • Squeeze your glutes to return to standing position, bringing hands back to hips.
  • Repeat.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Glute Exercises for Runners: Build Strength

Implement the following glute strengthening exercises for runners to get the most out of your next workout and avoid possible running injuries:

1. Squats

Glute Exercises for Runners: Squats

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.  *You can hold weights for added intensity.
  • Bend your knees and lower into a squat, keeping your knees behind your toes.
  • Imagine that you’re sticking your butt out behind you, but keep the torso upright and contracted.
  • Press into your heels to stand up.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

2. Lunges

Glute Exercises for Runners: Lunges

  • Stand with your feet staggered, one foot forward and one foot back, about 3 feet apart.
  • Bend both knees and lunge straight down, sending your back knee towards the floor.
  • Try not to lunge forward over your front knee.
  • Press into your heel to stand.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps. *You can hold weights for added intensity.

3. Step-ups

  • Stand in front of the step or platform and place your right foot on the step. *You can hold weights for added intensity.
  • Pressing into your heel, step up, touching your left toes to the step.
  • Keeping your right foot on the step, take your left foot down to the floor.
  • Bend the knee into a lunge for more intensity.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

4. Hiking

There are also cardio activities to engage our backside and provide glute strengthening for runners. Hiking is one of those activities.

Aside from burning tons of calories, walking in incline gets your glutes that much more involved.

If hiking isn’t really your thing, try inclining your treadmill at the gym. This will mimic the act of trekking up a hill.

5. Kickboxing

Glute Exercises for Runners: Kickbocking

Kickboxing is a great glute exercise for runners. It strengthens the glutes, hips, and thighs. Combo moves will also target your upper body and abs!

Glute Exercises for Runners: Sculpt and Tone

If you’re a runner and your primary fitness goal is to sculpt and tone your backside, then the following list of exercises have your name written all over them:

1. Landmine Squat Press

  • Stand facing the landmine with your feet a little wider than hip-distance apart.
  • Hold the barbell with both hands so your arms are extended out in front of you (about shoulder height).
  • Sit into a squat with your weight on your heels as you bring the barbell down to chest height.
  • Make sure your knees aren’t going past your feet. Holding onto the landmine should help keep your chest upright while squatting.
  • Drive from your heels and pull your navel in as you press back up to standing and bring the barbell back up to shoulder height.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

2. Lateral Lunges to Clean

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold a kettlebell in each hand at your chest, elbows bent.
  • Push your hips back and lunge to your left, as you drop and swing both kettlebells between your legs
  • Thrust your hips forward, as you push off your left leg to return to the starting position.
  • As you stand, thrust the kettlebells forward and bring them up to your chest, letting the weight slide over your hand to your wrist. That’s one rep.
  • Repeat, alternating sides.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

3. Plank Leg Lift

Glute Exercises for Runners: Plank Leg Lift

  • Get into a high plank position on the floor, hands planted under your shoulders, and butt down.
  • Engage your abs by pulling your belly button in towards your spine.
  • Squeeze your left glute to lift your left leg two inches off the ground, keeping your leg straight.
  • Tap your left leg out to the side, then back to starting position.
  • Repeat, then switch legs.
  • Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.

4. Butterfly Booty Booster

  • Lie on the floor with the soles of your feet together, knees pointed outwards, and arms crossed above your chest.
  • Squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips off the ground, stabilizing the body by engaging your core and pressing your upper back into the floor.
  • Hold for two counts, then lower back to the ground.
  • Repeat move for 60 seconds.

5. The Clam

  • Lay on your right side and press up so your forearm anchors you to the floor and raises your upper body.
  • Straighten your hips and align them with your back.
  • Place your left hand on your waist.
  • Keep your knees bent in front of you and feet slightly raised off the floor.
  • Using your thigh muscles and glutes pulse your legs open and closed, while keeping your feet off the ground. Your hips shouldn’t be moving.
  • Do 12 reps before switching sides.
  • Do three to five sets.

Brazilian Butt Lift Workout for Avoiding Runner’s Butt

Brazilian native Leandro Carvalho has created a five-minute Brazilian Butt Lift Workout routine to help you sculpt a strong, firm, and toned backside. Try these five exercises from the comfort of your own home to shift your rear into high gear:

Brazilian Butt Lift Workout for Avoiding Runner's Butt

1. Brazilian Butt Lift Plie

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, arms at sides, toes turned out.
  • Tuck your tailbone under and contract glutes.
  • Lower body into a plie squat as low as you can go without allowing knees to creep past toes.
  • Simultaneously raise arms to shoulder height in front of the body, palms down. Hold for 2 seconds, then return to starting position.
  • After 20 reps, pulse at the bottom for 20 seconds.

2. Brazilian Butt Lift Touchdown

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart; toes pointed forward.
  • Squat down until your knees are bent 90 degrees.
  • Step your left leg back into a deep reverse lunge, placing your right hand along outside of your right thigh or touching the floor.
  • Raise your left hand in front of your face, palm facing out.
  • Return to starting position and repeat, alternating sides.

3. Brazilian Butt Lift Explosive Lunge

  • Lunge forward with your left leg until knee is bent 90 degrees, directly over your ankle, your right knee pointing toward the floor.
  • Jump up, pushing off the floor with both feet. Switch your legs in midair, landing with your right foot forward in a lunge.
  • Continue, alternating sides.

4. Brazilian Butt Lift Lateral Sliding Squat with Towel

  • Stand with your feet together; toes pointed forward, arms at sides with right foot on top of a small folded towel.
  • Shifting your weight to your left leg, bend your left knee 45 to 90 degrees while sliding your right leg and towel slowly out to the side as far as is comfortable for a count of 4.
  • Slowly draw your right leg back to start for a count of 4 while straightening left leg.
  • Repeat for 30 seconds; switch sides.

5. Brazilian Butt Lift Squat with Kick-Back

  • Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, arms at sides.
  • Sit back into a squat keeping weight on your heels, then lift right leg straight behind you, keeping hips pointing forward while extending arms.
  • Return to start and switch sides.


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