Low back pain? It’s probably your glutes.

Your glutes (or butt muscles) are the strongest muscles in our body, but one of the most overlooked. The glutes consist of three major muscle groups: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. We need them for standing up from a sitting position, walking, bending forward, moving our leg up toward the torso, and squatting.

Here’s the problem: our glutes stop working when we sit, restricting blood flow and weakening the muscle. Even if you work out every day, if you spend the rest of the day sitting, you’re contributing to weak glutes.

After sitting all day, many people are unable to properly use their glutes when they get to the gym, relying too much on their quads or lower back muscles.

If you’ve been struggling with low back or knee pain, the cause is probably weak glutes. To make sure your glutes are fired up and ready for the workout — especially if you’re coming to the gym after sitting all day at work — here’s how to activate them before you work out.

1. Donkey kick

  • Start on all fours, making sure your hands are directly below your shoulders and your knees are below your hips.
  • Lift one leg behind you, keeping your knee bent, until your leg is in line with your body and the bottom of your flexed foot is parallel to the ceiling.
  • Repeat 15 times one leg before switching sides and complete another 15 repetitions.

Don’t arch your back! Instead, focus on your glutes doing all the work.

2. Single-leg Glute Bridge

  • Lie on your back with your hands by your sides, legs bent, with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift one leg off the floor, then squeeze your glutes and slowly raise your hips off the floor. Your upper back stays on the floor while you lift your hips and keep one leg straight.
  • Complete 15 reps on one leg before switching legs and completing 15 reps on the other side.

3. Clamshells

  • Lie on your side with your knees slightly bent, knees and hips resting on top of each other. Rest your head on your arm or prop up your head on your hand.
  • While you keep your feet together, raise the knee on top, opening your hips. When you can’t lift your knee further, slowly lower it and bring your knees together.
  • Repeat for 15 repetitions on one side before switching sides.

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