The Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises for Runners

These moves will help you build a strong backside for a more stable and powerful stride.


BY MONIQUE LEBRUN |

There’s no doubt about it, stronger glutes can make a stronger runner. And all runners need strong glutes — not just sprinters. By building up this key muscle, distance runners can gain improved stability, power, and overall better performance. This is one of the reasons why leg day is so important.

“Weak glutes not only place more strain on your quads, but also lead to hip misalignment and an anterior pelvic tilt, often resulting in knee, hip, and IT band injuries,” says Raj Hathiramani, certified running coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City, and the creator of this workout. “Stronger glutes help generate more power and speed and prevent common injuries.”

That’s why you need these dumbbell glute exercises that zero in on the muscles of your backside, with moves like squats, lunges, kickbacks, and glute bridges, which allow you to reap the benefits of better form when you run, Hathiramani says.

The Benefits of Dumbbell Glute Exercises for Runners
Your glutes are the largest muscle group in the body and consist of your gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus, Hathiramani explains. Research shows that all of these muscles light up when you run, especially during the stance and swing phases of your gait. So you want them strong and stable to withstand that impact and help power you forward.

“Your gluteal muscle’s — centered around the pelvis — enable a more stable foundation, which is critical for how you move, especially when running turns and hills,” says Hathiramani. “For runners, glute strength can also help improve mobility of your posterior chain to open up your stride and run faster.”

The dumbbell glute exercises listed here help you gain all these benefits of stronger glutes. And because you get a mix of single-leg exercises, which research shows is one of the best ways to strengthen the backside, and bilateral moves, you target these muscles in a range of ways that pay off on the road or trails.

How to use this list: Do the exercises in the order listed below. Do 10 reps of each exercise; for the single-leg exercises, do 10 reps per side. Complete 3 sets of each exercise, resting 30 seconds between exercises and 1 minute between sets.

You will need a one heavy dumbbell, two medium dumbbells, a light dumbbell, and an exercise mat is optional.


1. Goblet Squat

Raj Hathiramani

Why it works: As a runner you need to know how to activate your glutes, this exercise will help you learn to do just that, and improve the mobility of your quads, says Hathiramani.

How to do it: Hold a single heavy dumbbell vertically with both hands underneath chin, in front of chest. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly out. Send hips back and down, bending knees to lower into a squat. Keep chest lifted. Drive feet into ground to stand back up. Repeat.


2. Sumo Squat

Raj Hathiramani

Why it works: This move will strengthen your hip adductors, along with the glutes, says Hathiramani. By practicing it, you’ll improve your stability and flexibility.

How to do it: Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes turned out 45 degrees. Hold a heavy dumbbell with both hands down in front of you. With pelvis in a neutral position, send hips back and down, and bend at knees until thighs are parallel with the ground. Keep knees and toes in line and chest lifted as you squat. When dumbbells are just above ground, pause for a second then press through feet to stand back up. Repeat.


3. Reverse Lunge

Raj Hathiramani

Why it works: This move recruits your hamstrings and will help reduce muscle imbalances, as you work one side at a time, says Hathiramani.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand, down by sides. Step back with right foot, bending both knees about 90 degrees so back right knee hovers just off the ground and front thigh is parallel to the floor, left knee over toes. Drive through feet to stand up, stepping right foot forward. Repeat with left foot stepping back. Continue alternating.


4. Kickback

Raj Hathiramani

Why it works: This move isolates the gluteal muscles through single-leg hip extension to improve balance and range of motion, says Hathiramani.

How to do it: Start on all fours, with shoulders over wrists, knees under hips, hands shoulder-width apart, and one light dumbbell wedged in between thigh and calf muscle. Engage glute while lifting left knee off the ground to kick heel up toward the ceiling. Keep right leg and arm stable, and back flat — avoid arching in the low spine. Pause for a second and then lower knee back down. Keep squeezing the dumbbell. Repeat.


5. Glute Bridge

Raj Hathiramani

Why it works: This move will also help strengthen your core and hips to help prevent common back or lower-body injuries, says Hathiramani.

How to do it: Lie face up, knees bent, and feet planted on the floor. Hold a heavy dumbbell across your hips. Drive through heels, contracting the glutes to lift hips up toward the ceiling. Lift with glutes, not low back. Form a straight line with the body from shoulders to knees. Lower back down slowly. Repeat.

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