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Glute Activation Test & Screens

by | May 29, 2019

These are a couple screens or tests to evaluate for glute activation that you can do to see if you have proper function of the glute muscles (specifically gluteus maximus) in the video below.

The glute activation tests in the video are as follows:

  • Supine Glute Squeeze on Table
  • Standing Glute Squeeze
  • Sitting Glute Squeeze
  • Prone Hip Extension Test

Many of you will see the tests in the video above and think that the first three are too easy. And they probably are. This is testing to see if you have any control of your glutes. Some people just can’t fire the glutes at all and these glute activation tests are to see if you can control them. Think of the ability to activate the glutes as a dimmer switch where there are multiple different levels of contraction. People that cannot activate them sitting or supine will most likely not be able to activate them while seated. Each test gets progressively harder. If you cannot activate the glutes voluntarily during these tests, then you should learn how to do glute activation exercises as you probably have gluteal amnesia

Prone Hip Extension Test is more to determine the quality of glute activation. As stated in the video, the gluteus maximus muscle should contract before the hamstring muscle. If the order is reversed, then the person would have some degree of glute dysfunction. The other part is the quality of the contraction. The muscle should squeeze hard becuase the person should be lifting up toward the end of their range of motion for hip extension with arching the back. That means that glute should eventually engage enough and tighten up. Someone with experience with the Prone Hip Extension Test will tell you that the glute activates in different stages the further that you get in hip extension. In some cases, some people’s glutes will not even fire until the hip gets to 10 degrees of hip extension.

Doing the Prone Hip Extension Test on yourself will most likely mean the you will not pickup on some of these nuances. This is where you should probably get some help from a qualified individual. If you are in pain, you should see a healthcare provider like a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician to be properly evaluated. If you are not in pain, a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician will certainly be able to help you perform at your best, but it would also be beneficial to find an experienced personal trainer. A personal trainer may or may not be able to assess the Prone Hip Extension Test as the training of trainer will obviously vary. Trainers certified as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) are can be hard to find, but will most likely have the knowledge to help. Individuals certified as personal trainers (NASM-CPT) or Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) will also have expertise. These individuals may not know how to specifically do glute activation tests, but they should be able to give you a head start.

Video Transcript

Hello. My name is Dr. Bryan Royer, and I’m here with some healthy hints for harmony. Today, we’re gonna be talking about glute activation. And basically how to do a couple of different screenings or a couple different tests to see whether or not you actually can activate your glutes properly.

So the first one that we’re gonna talk about here is this supine glute squeeze. Where you are laying against something that’s a little bit harder, like maybe against the floor. And you would basically squeeze your glutes together in order to see whether or not you can actually activate them because many people can’t. So again, you would lay on the floor and then go ahead and try to squeeze them together. Good and relax.

And because of the firmness of the floor, again, that’s gonna lift you up when you do it and it gives your brain an idea of what’s going on. And it actually helps you to actually activate them, which is why this one’s a little bit easier. You should be able to squeeze them both at the same time. And relax. And then not only should you be able to squeeze them together, but you should also be able to squeeze each side separately.

So go ahead and squeeze one side and relax and then go ahead and activate the other side. Good and relax. Again, this one is a little bit easier to do than the other ones, but let’s take a look at the other screens to see whether or not you can actually activate those glutes properly or not.

So after we do the other one and now we do it standing. So in a standing position, basically you should be able to engage both your glutes fairly easily. So you can reach back and you can actually touch with your hands on the back, which can help you actually engage it a little bit more. But first thing, go ahead and squeeze both of them together and then go and relax. And then you should be able to squeeze one side, and then you should be able to squeeze the other side.

Okay. So after you’ve done the other two tests, this next test is a little bit harder. It’s a little bit more typical for people to do. So if you’re able to do the first two tests that we’ve done, this one might be a little bit more challenging for you to do. So basically, what you’re gonna do in this position is the exact same thing as the other two, you should be able to actually squeeze both glutes at the same time. So go ahead and do that. Again, lift you up a little bit when you do and then go ahead and relax. And then when you should be able to squeeze one side and then relax, and then squeeze the other side. And relax. Again, this something that’s gonna be a little bit harder for people to actually get a hold of.

Okay. So now you’ve seen a couple of the other screening tests. Let’s go ahead and talk about the tests that I actually do in my office in order to see whether or not people have proper glute activation or not, when they’re doing certain activities. So this test is basically a pro hip extension test. And what you’re gonna do when you do this test is that you’re actually gonna keep your legs straight. Again, you lay on a surface that’s flat. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the floor. It could be the bed if you want it to or on a couch, if you want it to. But basically you don’t want to sink into it when you do it. But the idea is that you’re gonna keep the leg straight when you do it. And you’re gonna lift the whole leg up and off the table and keeping that leg straight. So let’s go ahead and watch her do it.

So go ahead and keep the leg straight and go ahead and lift it up. And go ahead and relax it back down and then go ahead and do the other side. Good and back down. Excellent. So there’s a couple of things that if you just do that and you watch it, there’s a couple of things. You don’t have to go up super high. That’s one thing. But the other thing that you’ll notice is is that when she did it, she had her legs straight. She didn’t bend her knee and that’s one thing that you look for when you do this test to see whether or not people have too much activation of the hamstring. If you have too much activation of the hamstring and not enough of the glute, then people will just involuntarily bend their knee as they’re lifting it up. So that’s one thing for you to look for.

The other thing for you to look for is to see the actual contraction that you have in the muscles. And the issue with this is that this isn’t something that you can see as well. And this is hard for people to actually like feel on their own sometimes. So that’s why sometimes it’s better to have somebody that knows what they’re doing, do this test with you, to make sure that you’re actually activating your glutes correctly.

So let me show you how I do it in my office when it comes to the actual activation and feeling for what’s going on. So the first thing is that you actually are gonna feel, and you’re gonna poke into the hamstring and then you’re gonna poke into the glute that’s here. And you also poke into the back as well, and you’re gonna palpate all of these muscles and you’re gonna see what muscle fires first, when you do this.

So go ahead and lift up the leg and keep it straight. And go ahead and relax. Good, and relax all the way. And this is the, the part where people have a problem where they’ll continue to keep the glute contracted in this position, but then won’t relax all the way in between different lifts. So go ahead and lift it again. Good. And drop back down. And then you’re gonna go ahead and lift on this side. Good and relax back down. Good.

So that’s gonna be the way that I would test it in my office. And there’s a very specific pattern of the way that things are supposed to fire. The first thing that’s supposed to fire is not supposed to be the hamstring. The first thing to fire is supposed to be the glute. The glue contracts first, it doesn’t necessarily have to lift everything off, but you’re supposed to feel the contraction in the glute first and then the hamstring.

Sometimes you can feel it doing both at the same time, but you should never feel it in the hamstring first. Okay. So that’s the first thing that you do. Then there’s muscles that are gonna fire up into the back here as well. But that’s not what we’re looking at as much right now. So in order for you to feel this on yourself, again, you have to make sure that you’re completely relaxed before you actually do the move.

So we’re gonna have you actually reach back and I’ll show you how to do it. So go ahead and reach back with your arms. And you’re gonna reach back on one side and you’re gonna go ahead and palpate the glute on your own glute. And then to go ahead and reach back with the hand and you’re gonna push in and you’re gonna palpate the hamstring. So you’re pushing in on both of these and you’re relaxed all the way. You don’t want the glute to be contracted or the hamstring to be contracted. You want everything to be as relaxed as possible.

Now what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna do the same thing again, where you’re gonna go ahead and keep the legs straight and you’re gonna lift up the leg. Good and relax back down. And sometimes you have to again, relax it all the way. And then go ahead and do it again. And relax back down. Now, when you do that, you should feel one muscle contract before the other typically. Now, which one did you feel contract more? Hamstring.

Your hamstring, right? So again, that’s something that shouldn’t be there. When the hamstring is contracting first, that means that you’re gonna end up having too much activation of the hamstring and not enough activation of the glute. So this is especially an issue that people have had, chronic hamstring strains. Or if you have problems doing with deadlifting and not moving enough weight, or if you have problems with squats and activating the glute in multiple different sports.

So there’s a couple of different exercises that you can do in order to actually help to fix this problem. And we’ll go over those in another video. So hopefully that you’ve enjoyed this. Hopefully you can see what’s going on with how to actually test to see whether or not you have proper activation of the glutes. And we will go ahead and see you in the next video. Thanks for watching. Bye.


Dr. Bryan D. Royer has been practicing chiropractic medicine in the Toledo area since 2005. He has a specialty in Sports Medicine and is a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician® (CCSP®). Dr. Royer is certified as a Graston Technique® Specialist (GTS), a Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (CKTP) and a Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES). He is also a Board-Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and he has been voted “Best in Toledo” by readers of the Toledo City Paper five times. 

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