5 Signs You Have Weak Glutes and What to Do About It

Taking action sooner rather than later can keep you injury-free and help you run farther and faster.


The number one thing that Dr Samantha Stuek, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery, recommends to all of her patients who run: strengthening the glutes. “It’s hugely important,” she says. “If they have weak glutes, potentially it’s causing strain in other areas of their bodies,” including knee pain and Achilles pain.

Colleen M. Brough, director of Columbia RunLab, agrees: “Regardless of which injury my runner is presenting with, there is a common clinical presentation that appears to be a precursor to all of them — inhibition, poor recruitment, and weakness of the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, and the deep muscles of the core.”

Specifically, the running injuries she sees most often that are likely tied to glute weakness include hamstring strains or tears, stress fractures, patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee), plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendinosis, and IT band syndrome.

There’s even research to support this. A 2014 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found a link between delayed activation of the glutes and Achilles tendinopathy, for example. Researchers have also observed a connection between weak glutes and hamstring injuries, Brough says. “Therefore, strengthening glutes may help mitigate the onset of injury or may help manage those runners who are injured,” she concludes.

It’s also important to note that while the gluteus maximus (one of the three muscles of the backside) tends to get all the glory — and is important, especially for power and propelling you forward! — the smaller gluteus medius and minimus are perhaps even more consequential when it comes to preventing and treating running injuries, Stuek says.

Now, you may be able to “get away” with running on weak glutes for a while if your runs are relatively infrequent and/or short, but when you start increasing intensity or mileage, that’s when weak glutes will strain other areas of the body, Stuek adds. Plus, even if you don’t have pain or injuries (lucky you!) strong glutes can help you become a more efficient and faster runner, she adds.

So, keep reading for signs you have weak glutes and exactly how to get started on strengthening them today!

5 Signs You Have Weak Glutes

1. You Often Have an Injury
As mentioned, weak glutes can lead to injuries elsewhere in the kinetic chain: Other prime movers like the hamstrings and the back muscles will kick in to compensate for glute weakness,” says Brough, which can lead to overuse injuries like high hamstring strains, gastroc strains, patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee), and gluteal tendinosis.

Stuek adds that the latter can turn into hip bursitis due to inflammation of the tendon.

2. Your Form Feels Off
It can be tough to observe this yourself — and having a pro analyse your form can be helpful — but there are a few mechanical red flags to look out for that can indicate glute weakness. For example: a pelvic drop, or the hip of the elevated leg dropping lower than the one of the leg on the ground if you’re watching a video of yourself running toward the camera, Brough says.

Other signs include excessive trunk rotation (you should not have a lot of side-to-side motion in your upper body unless you’re running at a very fast pace) and knee valgus (or the caving in of your knees).

3. You Overpronate
In addition to the above, runners with weak glutes also may be more likely to overpronate, per Brough, because the glute max actually helps control rotation of the leg and therefore, pronation of the foot. When the glutes properly activate, they help keep your thigh, knee, and ultimately foot, in proper alignment.

“A lot of times people with weak glutes also have weak ankles and then the two kind of interplay upon each other and then they have that pronation of their foot,” adds Stuek. You can get a clue as to whether this is you by checking the bottoms of your running shoes: “Abnormal wear patterns in the runner’s shoe [due to increased pronation] would be seen on the inside part of the heel,” per Brough.

4. You Fail the Single-Leg Squat Test
“I like to say that running is a bunch of single-leg exercises over and over again,” says Stuek.

Her favourite glute weakness test for her patients is to have them do a single-leg squat, which you can try at home in front of a mirror.

Simply lift one leg up and squat down on the other — even if a mini squat position — observing what happens with your knee. “If that gluteus muscle is weak, the knee kind of wobbles and caves inward,” says Stuek.

Brough has patients do a similar test but standing on one leg on a step. Send hips back into a shallow squat and slowly lower the lifted foot down to “kiss” the ground in front of you. If your standing knee drifts in toward the other, you lose your balance, or your “belt line” becomes very uneven, you may have glute weakness.

5. You’re Unsteady on Your Feet
Another test recommended by Stuek involves a well-known exercise: the glute bridge. You simply perform a glute bridge and begin “marching” one leg in the air at a time while maintaining stability in your hips.

“If you find that you’re wobbling back and forth and one hip drops and then the other hip drops, that’s a sign that you have weak hip and glute muscles,” says Stuek, adding that you should be able to maintain a flat tabletop position while you lift one leg up and then the other.

How to Strengthen Your Weak Glutes
Convinced to dedicate some time to building those glutes to become a stronger runner? First, it’s important to note that if you’re experiencing pain, getting evaluated by a physical therapist or doctor is always a good idea. That said, below are some exercises from Stuek and Brough that can help shore up your glute strength, ward off injuries, and improve your running.

In terms of how often to work these moves into your routine, Stuek says that two to three times a week should suffice, although if you’re coming back from an injury, it may help to do them closer to four or five times a week. Her pro tip? Use them as a warm-up before a run. Not only will it help you actually fit them into your schedule, they can function as “activation” drills to turn on the glutes for your run, too.

Lateral Band Walk

  1. Place a resistance band around ankles. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Squat down, and walk laterally in one direction for a few feet, keeping tension on the band.
  3. Then go in the opposite direction. (Stuek says you should feel a “burn” in the glutes, though any sharp pain is an indication to stop.)
  4. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

Monster Walk

  1. Place a resistance band around ankles. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Keeping tension on the band, step one foot forward, then the other. Walk forward to the top of the mat.
  3. Then, step one foot back, then the other. Walk backward to the back of the mat.
  4. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

Glute Bridge

  1. Place resistance band above knees. Lie faceup, knees bent and feet planted, arms down by sides.
  2. Drive feet into floor and lift hips up toward ceiling. Engage core; avoid lifting with low back.
  3. Slowly lower back down.
  4. Repeat for 30-60 seconds. (You can also do this one leg at a time, or hold at the top and march one foot at a time, alternating sides.)


  1. Lie on left side, hips, knees, and feet stacked with hips and knees bent 90 degrees.
  2. Rotate right hip to lift top knee, feet staying together.
  3. Slowly lower back down.
  4. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

Bird Dog

  1. Start on all fours, with shoulders directly over wrists and knees directly under hips.
  2. Keeping back flat and core engaged, hips and shoulders squared to the floor, extend right arm and left leg straight out, lifting to hip/shoulder height.
  3. Slowly lower back down.
  4. Repeat on other side.
  5. Continue alternating for 30-60 seconds.

Also, the key is overall strength training, not just of the glutes — ultimately with moves like heavy deadlifts in addition to the ones listed above — but of all the other major muscle groups including the quads, hamstrings, and calves, Brough says. After all, it’s all connected!

How Glute Activation Drills Can Make Your Runs Stronger, Faster and Pain-Free

3 Glute Moves to Try on the Run
Brough underscores that it’s important to incorporate the strength you build with dedicated moves like the ones above into your actual runs, too. Try these cues:

Lean Slightly Forward
Think about leaning forward from the ankles while lifting your chest as you run, says Brough, which will help you automatically get the proper glute activation.

Incorporate Glute Push-Offs
Brough suggests trying this activation drill, literally thinking about pushing off with the left glute every time that foot hits the ground, for a few metres (or between lamp posts or mail boxes) at a time. Rest, then repeat on the other side. Do it at the start of any run or midway through, especially if you start to get tired or feel a niggling injury bugging you.

Cue Up Your Core
Similar to the above, you can work in this drill at the start or midway through your run. It’s especially helpful for runners who notice a pelvic drop when they run. To try it, think about pulling your naval up and in, and/or lifting upward from the pelvic floor as you run.

READ MORE ON: glutes injuries strength-training strong glutes strong hips weak glutes WEAKNESS

Copyright © 2024 Hearst