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Pre-Ride Glute Activation - Monthly Yoga with Abi

Feb 26, 2018
by Abi Carver  
Yoga glute activation. Photo credit Graham Mattock

Let’s just call a spade a spade: yoga isn’t deadlifting. We’re not shooting for swole gains here. Instead, our objectives are to activate the glutes, bring awareness to muscular imbalances in the pelvic area and train better movement patterns. Your glutes tend to disengage if you sit for long periods of time, so it’s important that you activate them, especially before you go for a ride. And as the glutes are involved in both movement and stabilisation, strengthening them will maximise your sprinting power and give you greater control on the bike.

In the process of researching this article, I asked Dr Euan Speritis – an Orthopaedic Surgeon, currently completing his PhD in Orthopaedic Biomechanics at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital and Research Institute – if he would be happy to add some of his own personal and professional insights. As well as racing the 4X Pro Tour and running 4X Wednesdays, Dr Euan works with mountain bikers to optimize their training and reduce injuries.

bigquotesI know from professional and personal experience how important hips are to your riding. Neglecting your glutes can lead to a catalogue of movement and strength issues that will massively impact your enjoyment and performance on the bike. After a procedure on my left hip for a mechanical impingement and cartilage treatment, I was left with a poor range of movement and instability. When this happens, recruiting the glutes is our first target in rehabilitation to restore function and performance.Dr Euan Speritis

What are the glutes?

The gluteus maximus, medius and minimus make up the butt muscles. They are involved in:

- Hip extension, abduction and rotation.
- Moving from squatting to standing.
- Stabilising the knee (via the IT band).
- Stabilising the hips, pelvis and lower back.

Pedal power

Your gluteus maximus, alongside the quadriceps, are your most powerful pedalling muscles. Therefore, for optimal performance, you need them to be strong, balanced and firing effectively. Unfortunately, too much sitting – leading to gluteal amnesia – and an imbalanced exercise program –
mostly riding your bike – can lead to problems.

When your glutes aren’t pulling their weight, the synergistic muscles – the hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors, TFL, quadriceps and lower back – have to work overtime, and this inevitably leads to fatigue. This will not only impede your performance but can result in:

- Lower back pain.
- Knee pain.
- Tight hamstrings and/or IT band.

bigquotesControl of rotational movement is essential on the bike. An attacking riding position puts your hips at 90 degrees flexion or more, where stability of internal and external rotation relies heavily on strength in the glutes. Without it, your core and legs can’t function as a unit, and you'll find yourself unstable, especially on off-camber traverses. Imagine traversing a camber that falls away to the riders left. You will be bracing to find grip and weighting your left leg, and whether consciously or not, shifting the weight of your pelvis side-to-side to find grip and keep you centered, dipping your knee inwards towards your frame. These movements are performed by subtle adjustments of internal/external hip rotation and abduction/adduction, and small muscles such as tensor fascia lata (TFL). And short external rotators (piriformis, obturators, gemelli and quadratus femoris) are only truly effective when big, “clumsy” muscles like the gluteus medius are optimally engaged. No matter how many fancy cross-core exercises you have incorporated from Instagram, if your glutes aren’t connecting you to your lower limbs effectively, you won’t see the results you are aiming for.Dr Euan Speritis

Glute-activating poses

bigquotesOur muscles rely upon instruction from nerves to operate. This occurs at the neuromuscular junction. Under-development of this interface is why throwing with your non-dominant hand can produce hilarious results. Coordination and effective use is only earned through training. It’s also why you feel stronger at an exercise despite having no time for actual muscular development. You are simply firing the neuromuscular junction more effectively. Much like envisioning toward success, actively recruiting muscles and preparing this junction for an activity can yield a marked increase in performance.Dr Euan Speritis

Here are 5 poses to activate and strengthen all 3 gluteal muscles. You can practice them, or some variation of them, before a ride or at any time of day to train your brain not to let your glutes go AWOL.

Warrior 3

Warrior 3 glute activation.

- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead. Take a moment to check that your feet don't roll in or out. Try to balance your weight evenly between the balls of your big and little toes and the middle of your heels.
- Carefully shift your weight into your right foot and hug your left knee into your chest.
- Take a deep breath in. Exhale, lean forward, press your left foot back into Warrior 3 and bring your arms back by your sides.
- Flex your left foot, point your toes straight down and press back through your left heel.
- Keeping your hips level—bend and straighten your standing leg 6-8 times to activate your right glute. Keep pressing down through the middle of your right heel. You can use a wall for support.
- Come back up to standing and switch to the left foot.
- Repeat this pose twice through on each side.

Side Plank (with hip abduction)

Side Plank with Hip Abduction glute med activation.

- From Plank, shift your weight onto your right hand and come to the outside edge of your right foot. Open your body to the left, stacking your left foot on top of the right. Flex both feet and straighten your left arm up to the sky.
- Your ankles, hips and shoulders should all be in a straight line. Engage your core.
- Hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths or if you can, lift your top leg to work your gluteus minimus.
- In the most advanced version, lift and lower your top leg 6-8 times.
- Come back to Plank and switch to the other side.
- Repeat this pose twice through on each side.


Chair Pose strengthens the glutes.

- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead. Again, take a moment to check that your weight is balanced evenly between the balls of your big and little toes and the middle of your heels.
- Inhale, lift your arms up by your ears – palms face each other. Exhale, bend your knees and sit back in Chair pose.
- Engage your lower abs and lower back muscles to support you lower back.
- Shift your weight back into the centre of your heels and drop your hips.
- To engage your glutes, try to tear the mat apart with your feet.
- Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths, in and out through your nose.
- Take a break for a few seconds and repeat.


Locust Pose Glute strengthener

- Lie face down on the mat with your feet hip-width apart and your arms resting by your sides, palms facing down.
- Engage your abs and lower back.
- Lift your chest, hands and arms. Outwardly rotate your shoulders and turn your thumbs up to the sky. Draw your shoulders back, lengthen your neck and look down at the mat.
- Then lift your legs, press back firmly through the balls of your feet and draw your shoulders back.
- Squeeze your glutes and hold the pose for 5 deep breaths.
- Take a deep breath in. Exhale, come down to the mat and rest your right cheek on the mat.
- Repeat the pose.
- Take a deep breath in. Exhale, come down to the mat and rest your left cheek on the mat. Rock your hips from side to side to release your lower back. Bring your hands underneath your shoulders and push back to Child's pose.


Bridge Pose

- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the mat, hip-width apart. Check that your toes point straight ahead.
- Rest your arms by your sides, palms facing down and walk your feet back until your fingertips graze your heels.
- Press your feet into the mat, squeeze your glutes and lift your hips up into full extension, creating a diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Check that your knees point straight ahead and do not fall out to the sides or in towards each other – good alignment is crucial here. Your thighs should be parallel to each other. Hold for a few seconds.
- Slowly lower down.
- Lift and lower 6-8 times holding for a few seconds at the top.
- Try to isolate your glutes so that your lower back and quads don’t kick in.
- Take a break for a few seconds and repeat.
- Hug your knees into your chest and rock gently from side to side.

Now, get on your bike!

I'd love to hear what is working for you guys, especially pre-ride. And feel free to fire questions at both of us.

Author Info:
yoga15app avatar

Member since Feb 18, 2015
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  • 90 3
 I've noticed that thw average putter MTBer and MXer rarly warm up or warm down. And definatly don't stretch. Compare that to Martial Arts and fightsport where warming up and stretching is common place. So everyone start warming up and stretching trackside or in the pits so I don't look like such a knob doing it by myself.
  • 31 4
 Some believe stretching is harmful before your activity. It weakens tendons slightly making them more prone to failure and not guiding your joint path as precisely. No one knows, one study says one thing and the next says the opposite. I warmup ever single ride. By simply doing the fist mile or two at an easy pace. I then stretch quite a bit after the ride. Seems like a sensible path to me...
  • 4 9
flag rustyhorse (Feb 26, 2018 at 5:45) (Below Threshold)
 @Rasterman: It depends - I think Stretching your shoulders and neck is key to keep from having injury - If you don't stretch your neck or shoulders you're more prone to serious injury if you fall or if you pull too hard. The legs are a whole different ball game - slow pace and good extension should naturally stretch your muscles. Go too hard too quickly and you will pull something. Doing light stretches before and after a ride goes a long way and helps promote blood flow where it tends to build up with lactic acid. If you're not stretching your upper body before you ride you're not doing yourself any favors in a sport that demands shoulder and arm strength for skilled riders. If you just float on to of the bike and you don't use any body English then sure - you don't need to stretch and you're called a Joey from hence forth with 0 style points...
  • 5 4
Static stretching yes- dynamic no.
Doing 50 bodyweight squats atg and warming up your wrists/ellbows/ shoulders is enough and takes 5min max
  • 16 0
 There’s stretching, then there’s muscle activation. Glute activation is important as the glute-med is a lazy-ass muscle. A deactivated glute-med can cause IT band and lower back issues. Then people “roll it out” fckng up the IT band further while not fixing the root cause.

Exercises like the above have saved my ass.
  • 3 0
 @Rasterman: in most sport that I've been exposed to, a dynamic stretching warm up is always done. Never sitting around and touching your toes, instead it's mobility exercises like lunges, high knees, ect.
  • 2 0
 @mungbean: been having knee issues for the last year. Pain came back and I started physio exercises again and it kept getting worse. Buddy on the chairlift suggested trying rolling out my leg by laying on my side and rolling waist to knee to work my IT band. Been feeling great! Why are you saying rolling messes up your IT band??
  • 5 0
 @dglass: Because it can cause micro-tears at it's insertion point, which can be good to get the blood flow for healing, however a deactivated/weak glute medius is where the IT issue comes from. The IT will continue to get tighter during the acute inflammatory stage, and is more likely to become a chronic injury at that point from continuing the stress on it without fixing the glute medius issue.
  • 1 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: Right on thanks for sharing. Any literature on this to share? Sounds like time to work the medius...
  • 8 3
 I wonder what bike does Abi rides. C'mon PB ,do bike check.
  • 5 10
flag jordache-keepers (Feb 26, 2018 at 9:01) (Below Threshold)
 @chyu: She doesn't date mountain bikers. She thinks they're all douche bags who spend the little money they earn on overpriced bikes and backpack to other countries all on credit, then end up in debt and then when they hit their 50's, have no prospects and end up on the verge of homelessness.
  • 2 17
flag Sontator (Feb 26, 2018 at 9:05) (Below Threshold)
 @chyu: i wonder what bike rides abi. Seeing myself out.
  • 4 5
 @Rasterman: if you do a good warmup and then stretch yourself before you hit the trail head it’s going to be fine. I’d say it’s rather unhealthy to hit the downhill without stretching. And to stretch, do a warm up first...
  • 3 0
 @dglass: There's a ton of them out there. If you do a search for it, many will come up as it's one of the most common injuries and weak spots for runners and cyclists. The glutes are abductors, so you'll see that commonly mentioned. Evidence based articles can be found with pubmed and the NIH.
  • 6 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: I had ITBS last year and it had nothing to do with glute medius which I take quite big care of, one of proofs being able to do 12 pistol squats each leg. I exercise them a lot in various ways and generally try to keep my body conditioned in all planes, not just pedalling/ deadlifting/ squatting workign in fore aft plane. For me ITBS is almost always related to exercise in cold weather without knee warmers. Then it often occurs for cyclists who suddenly decide to pick up running. Like I did last year. FWIW my physiotherapist said it happens because cyclists have rather strong muscles but weak muscle attachments. According to him, when we start to run, we deliver some damn nice power down but the shocks are quickly wearing out the ligaments unused to such work, which results in inflamed ITB attachment tearing against "overbuilt" quad. One of the most common mistakes is to stomp hard with the heels (like I did) - he recommended me attending a class in running and possibly starting right away with "barefoot shoes" (what a fkng dumb name) to get forced to use proper technique - very short distances in the beginning.

Anyhoo, anyone above 30, doing cycling, (particularly weekend warrioring) without conditioning on the gym, unwilling to stretch to basic levels (like touch your toes), plays with fire. 15 min of basic exercises each day, even every second day, is better than nothing.
  • 3 0
 A dynamic warm-up is key, leave the stretch to post ride. I don't do it for day-to-day riding but definitely for racing.
  • 5 0
 hahaha I'm with you there, all my riding buddies leave me because I look like a knob warming up and stretching before a ride. Well I think its because I'm stretching???? Could be 'cause I am just a knob
  • 2 0
 @mungbean: awesome post. so right.
  • 4 0
 @WAKIdesigns: That's awesome that you can pistol squat like that. The thing is, they don't work glute medius. They work glute maximus, quads, and the hamstrings. Glute medius is a hip abductor as you see abi working with the side plank leg lifts. Squats of any kind don't target glute medius. The only way to work them while squatting is by essentially pressing the knees out (abducting) while coming up from a dual leg squat. ITBS starts with runners because they don't work glute medius and they have weak knee stabilizers while also experiencing heavy impact. Running form is part of it, but most runners will experience it in their lifetime. That's really odd that your P.T. said that, as it's the fundamentals of rehabilitation for ITBS in any situation. As a whole, there is no getting stronger muscles without creating strong tendons and ligaments. That's what proper programming is for with strength training. Riding the waves of the adaptation cycle.
  • 1 1
 I normally do the "morning stretch" as a warm up.

  • 2 0
 @Bigwig15: Try not stretching one day, see what happens. Actually, maybe don't.
  • 1 1
 I’ve learned for my own personal body, If I don’t stretch pre-ride I’m 100% going to have lower back pain within 7 to 8 miles of my ride, suffer cramps, and suffer from plantar fasciitis.. getting old sucks!!@Rasterman:
  • 1 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: Great info. I have noticed less IT band issues since routinely doing hip addiction and abduction. I never realized how it related to the IT band. Can you recommend any articles discussing IT band issues and relieving the cause? I love how you say f*ck rolling since it’s only the symptom, and holy nuts its actually causing more damage to the IT band!
  • 3 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: I work glute medius quite a lot, with targeted exercises, like those that abi does but also including additional load, be it stretch band or attaching my ankle to a rig. I also work inners of thighs a bit. I love the stretch band monster walks though, people on the gym look at you like they want to call fashion police. So I am 100% sure mu hip stability is prime

Pistol squat requires good hip stability. If you are wobbly you waste quite a lot of energy trying to keep your posture, knee from falling inwards. Stable hip allows you to just go up and down. You can sometimes see it on the gym. A dude can deadlift 350lbs, then he tries bulgarian split squat and he can barely do 10 reps with no weight as his knee is fipping around.
  • 1 0
 @dglass: @dglass: Scroll down to the please quit trying to roll you IT band entry. www.revoptboulder.com/blog
  • 1 0
 @aquanut: interesting. Which basically means no La Crosse ball either? I hope massage is fine?
  • 1 0
 I ran x-country in college and we never warmed up cold. We'd run slowly for as long as it took to get a light sweat on your brow, and then stretch. I do the same on my bike. I get on, ride slowly for about 10 minutes, then get off and stretch. My method has been validated by me, as I have every KOM on Strava.
  • 1 0
 @aquanut: @dualsuspensiondave on the side note, it’s actually quite funny and ironic to see Revo site being posted here since I took my glute medius “regime”from Dane Delozier when I paid for month of his coaching. Still suffer from IT after running. And my pelvis is not dropping when running. Well, I feel sooo special
  • 1 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: I would argue if you are using external rotation as part of your deep squat, the medius is involved. To stabilize in that position without your knees caving is activation of that area.
  • 1 0
 @cyrways: it is activated in most movements but needs to be conditioned additionaly to provide effective movement and avoid overuse injuries. That’s why I mentioned pistol or bulgarian squats as good checks because if your knee starts dancing sideways on the way down it’s a sign to beef up the medius. Once you stabilize it, many single leg exercises get easier. Same principle as with floor press when holding kettlebell upside down vs hanging. If you have good grip strength you should do almost as many reps with it upside down as hanging. But with poor grip you will waste plenty of energy trying to stabilize it so it doesn’t turn to hanging position
  • 53 1
 I did a Locusts, Scorpion with a reverse Turtle landing the other day....down the rock garden....
  • 4 0
 @AntN Good trail yoga session sounds like haha!
  • 1 0
 Haha, the good old reverse turtle.
  • 8 2
 I love this article, poses I can do and it answers a lot of issues I’ve had with fatigue and poor pre ride practices. Too often my rides are spontaneous with work and the kids taking he priority so I simply jump on the bike and go, a little warm up like this will serve me well. Thanks Abi
  • 1 0
 Thank you. It's too easy isn't it? A short glute activation and dynamic warm up can really help with preventing injuries and helping you to feel more supple.
  • 4 0
 Love these articles. Im a physical therapist assistant, and i appreciate how technically sound everything in the article is. These exercises are great, very accurate for the muscles theyre trying to target. I dont have much yoga experience, so theres a couple great new ideas for me too, both personally and professionally! Thumbs up!
  • 1 0
 Thanks! That's awesome. Yoga has some interesting poses for issues like this.
  • 3 1
 Hi Abby, great as always. i have a question, or better, a request for suggestions. 5 years ago i incurred in the evergreen injury of the rider: the AC joint separation. I have BIG difficulties keeping a static load (my fat ass, namely) on it, while with dynamic loads (i.e push ups, pecs machine) i've got no problems. any suggestions on how i should tackle some of the positions you showed today?
  • 2 0
 Bruccio: I separated my ac but didn't know it, after a few years lots of shoulder pain, getting worse, whole shoulder becoming inflamed. Was getting pretty painful. Found right doctor and he diagnosed it: joint didn't heal and collarbone had grown to fill the gap which displaced my arm in shoulder. Solution was 'Mumford procedure' five minutes angle grinding my collarbone and joint has room. Everything perfect again. Far from yoga on the yoga-trepanning scale...
  • 1 0
 @captaingrumpy: yeah i also have something similar....collar bone popping up slightly before the joint, nothing i can do right now (except, maybe, operation?). shoulders are bitches to heal, more often than not, you get a bundle of post inflammations (rotator cuffs anyone) that takes ages to go away. Anyway thanks for the suggestion bud, will try it out.
  • 1 0
 @Bruccio: The nfl surgeon said I was lucky that this acute break was my issue, if anything else was wrong with me or i'd waited a few more years then he wouldn't operate, anything but Mumford has low chance of success and very long healing. He scoped the socket after surgery (while you're in there), says I have the labrum of a 15 year old boy (his way of saying looked good). He said any soft tissue repair in shoulder is for NFL players whose career is on the line (aka not me).

I was doing pain free pushups after a month. Pain free sleeping on that side after 3 months. No pt required, just don't do anything that makes it hurt. Pretty amazing what stone age thinking can achieve.
  • 1 0
 You could try coming down onto the elbow in Side Plank to take some pressure off the shoulder. How does that feel?
  • 2 0
 @yoga15app: gonna try it out 2nite Wink shorter leverage should relieve some pressure for sure
  • 2 0
 Thanks for this Abi. I work on computer all day, though I try to stand for an hour or two. You dont know how frustrating it is to go for a ride on weekend and not fully enjoy it. It's either I get lower back pains, or my balance is not where it used to be, ending up riding slower than I used to be. Will try this next weekend, and the rest of your exercises. Cheers
  • 1 0
 Strengthening your glutes will definitely help with that lower back pain. Strengthening the core too, stretching the hamstrings and getting some movements into the hips.
  • 4 0
 What I want to know is how you develop the willpower to do this more than just sporadically... My body hurts and my brain doesn't care that much.
  • 4 0
 A competitive personality and getting older where you have to start dealing with joint issues is where Ive found my motivation. Its still difficult to keep at it week after week but if you're riding or even active +200 days/year even short(5-30min) yoga sessions will keep your body more balanced and less prone to injury over time.
  • 4 0
 Excellent question. What helps me keep at it is when I notice the difference on the trail, more power to the pedals, more balance and control, and I can ride longer and harder with less pain/soreness after the ride. Since I want to continue riding into old age and knowing that the only way my body will allow that is if I take care of it now is what motivates me to get on it regularly.
  • 2 0
 @tfriesenftr: I think that'll be the tipping point. I felt lower back pain intruding a little during rides last season, but it was easy to ignore. I'm sure a winter of skiing like I've forgotten my age will trigger my urge to be more diligent. Just a few more slams and I'll be yogaing like a mofo every night.
  • 2 0
 So timely for me. Been suffering tight glutes, ITB and sore lower back. You just saved me a trip to the physio. Cheers! These exercises seem simple but when done right and not rushed are challenging but deliver huge gains. I had a similar groin strain that persisted for ages but when I focused on structural exercises like this delivered great results really quickly.
  • 4 0
 Get some dumb bells, kettlebells, stretch bands and work it. Get in touch with a coach like Dee Tidwell or James Wilson for a well structured program. Just riding is just good for your cardiovascular system but possibly quite bad for your muscles and joints. Turn MTB into a motivator to keep healthy body through off bike exercise. It's very hard to get it, takes a leap of faith, but biggest gains happen off trail and turning junk miles on trails into quality conditioning, skills practice can turn your MTB life around.
  • 1 0
 So true. Subtle movements like this can make all the difference.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Do yoga before, during and after your workout. You are an RLC disciple Waki, You know this to be true. Once you develop your yoga practice, Flexibility will be the least of the benefit you receive.
  • 1 1
 @oneplanka: I have basic mobility covered, I do stretching after warm up, then after the workout/ ride. I’m too mobile and to young for yoga Big Grin but my stretching and warm up practices resemble it a lot.
  • 4 0
 I like these these yoga articles as they re-enforce how well thought out the Ryan Leech yoga dvd is. Thanks Ryan.
  • 2 0
 Perfect timing to read this. I work at a desk 8+ hours a day and never been a "flexible" person as it is. Love these poses, knowledge, and looking forward to adding this to my daily routine. Thank you Abi!
  • 1 0
 Nice one! Let me know if you have any questions or feedback on the poses.
  • 1 0
 While Abi has great info on these types of movements, both static and dynamic stretching. I find mobilitywod does a much better job, specifically his books, in addressing the many aspects of movement dysfunction. And movement dysfunction needs to be addressed as a whole to combat long term issues. For those that are truly interested in staying injury and pain free long term should seek a whole solution, with myofascial release, range of motion assessment in all planes, posture throughout the day, etc. Then learn to identify, listen, and address what their body is telling them.
  • 2 0
 great addition with the doc perspective, abi. i learn two things from yoga practice, to know pain and to know gain. all is positive. thnx, abi.
  • 1 0
 Nicely put!
  • 4 0
 I simply hit the Loo for my pre-ride glute-activation.
  • 2 0
 The analogy of trying to throw with your opposite arm really drives it home. Well put.
  • 2 0
 As always, great content and great Yoga Postures to improve our riding skills. Best!
  • 1 0
 Thank you. Love to hear how you get on with them.
  • 1 0
 Got any ideas for pain at the upper inside (1 o'clock if viewing the knee from the front) of the patella? I've been doing PT off and on for years with no luck.
  • 2 0
 Thanks Abi, really useful article.
  • 1 0
 i want to get to where I can put the back of my left knee on my right shoulder blade
  • 2 0
 Thank you for another great set!
  • 1 0
 I'm trying to make a bicycle super power, this pleases me.
  • 1 2
 Nobody took the bait. Impressive, gentlemen.
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