Regular ol’ walking does work your glutes (along with your hamstrings, quads, calves, and core), but certain tweaks to your form or technique can give your glutes muscles some extra love. “As one of the biggest muscles in your body, you want to keep your glutes strong in order to keep your overall body in alignment,” says Rebecca Louise, mindset and fitness coach and author of It Takes Grit. “They support your lower back, especially when you’re lifting or keeping your pelvis and core stabilized.”
If you don’t work on your glutes in your exercise routine, the surrounding muscles have to step in to compensate. “This puts a lot of stress on the knees, hips, and lower back,” says Peloton instructor Jess Sims, who notes that your glutes are part of your core. “Your glutes allow the upper and lower extremities [of your body] to function properly.” She points to the example of running: To have proper form, it’s important to tuck your pelvis forward (or, as she likes to say, “take your butt with you”). “If you don’t do this, you might feel pain in your lower back, hips, or knees,” says Sims.
You don’t have to do anything particularly excessive in order to turn your walk into a glutes workout, either. Keep scrolling for trainer-approved tweaks that make your steps especially beneficial for your all-important bum muscles.
1. Hit up an incline
One tried-and-true glute-burning upgrade to a walk is to get your steps on an incline. "Walking on an incline, either on the treadmill or on a hill, is a great way to switch up regular walking and target your glute muscles," says Louise. Start with a smaller incline and work your way up to increase the intensity.
2. Hold a high knee
For this exercise, you're taking four to six steps before balancing on one foot as you bring the opposite leg into a high knee pause. Squeeze the glute of the leg that's still on the ground, push your hips forward, and draw your navel in towards your spine. "It's so important to work our bodies unilaterally," says Sims. "This helps to eliminate overcompensation and also helps your body neurologically practice balancing so that when you miss a curb or you trip, your body can minimize injury risk because you've introduced these balancing movement patterns."
Practice the high-knee squeeze in this sanding glute series:
3. Do some 'butt zaps'
For this walking tweak—which Sims calls a "butt zap"—simply bring awareness to your glutes by squeezing the glute of the foot that's still on the ground. "What you're doing is pushing your pelvis forward as you squeeze the glute," she says. So, basically, you're giving an extra squeeze to the side of your glutes that's powering your base foot, and alternating as you step forward. For an added challenge, Sims recommends exaggerating your walk by putting your heel down first, rolling through the center of your foot, and as you go onto the ball of the foot, do a calf raise, and add the butt zap.
4. Take it sideways
Sims also recommends lateral step-outs, which fire up your glute medius, aka the part of your glutes that help with hip movement. "Turn to the side, bend your knees a bit extra, and do sets of 10 to 20," she suggests. Break into these after you reach certain minute or mile marks to switch up your steps.
While you're focusing on your glutes, try this glute workout for runners:
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