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I just stumbled across a study that examines glute activation of exercises in an extremely detailed manner.

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It’s titled: Which Exercises Target the Gluteal Muscles While Minimizing Activation of the Tensor Fascia Lata? Electromyographic Assessment Using Fine-Wire Electrodes

This study is superior to any similar study I’ve seen for two reasons.

  1. Most studies use surface electrodes which are inaccurate because nearby muscles can contaminate the data. This one uses fine wire electrodes inserted into the muscles.
  2. Other studies don’t separate out TFL activity.

TFL is short for Tensor Fascia Lata

Here’s where it is located in relation to the gluteus maximus.

If your TFL is overactive you will have a tough time activating the glutes when doing “booty exercises”.

This is actually a common problem.

You will have an easier time shaping your glutes if you limit exercises where TFL contributes to the exercise too much.

This study came up with a way of measuring the best glute activation exercises, called…

“The Gluteal-to-TFL Index”

The researchers examined how hard the glutes fire in relation to the TFL.

They examined and ranked 11 popular glute exercises.

Lunges came in 11th place.

Here are the top 10 along with short video demonstrations I found on Youtube.

*I tried to find variations as close as possible to the exercise descriptions in the study.

10. Hip Hike

I’ve never even seen this exercise performed before. This is a slightly¬†grainy video but a good explanation of how to do this exercise and what to focus on, etc.

9. Squat

The “she squats” memes are a huge pet peeve of mine, but squats are a decent butt exercise nonetheless. This ranked ahead of lunges, but not as high as I would have guessed.

8. Bilateral Bridge

I just call these hip bridges¬†using both legs, “bi lateral” sounds like a bad 80’s haircut. “I want a bilateral with frosted tips, but not too short on top”.

7. Step-Up

This video really explains the nuances well. After watching this video I’m 100% positive I’ve never done these properly.

6. Side-Lying Hip Abduction

In the study, they did these against a wall to make it slightly more strict. I’m guessing you wouldn’t have to use the wall if you use the form demonstrated in this video.

5. Quadruped Hip Extension Knee Flexed

In the study, they specified doing these on your elbows not hands. Here’s a video is showing proper form and done on the elbows. This video is helpful but is slightly terrifying (press play at your own risk).

4. Quadruped Hip Extension Knee Extending

This is the straight leg version which works better than with the bent leg variation. She covers both, but just pay attention to the straight leg version.

3. Unilateral Bridge

Looks like using one leg works a lot better than hip bridges with two legs.

2. Sidestep With Resistance Bands

In the study, they used a resistance band put slightly above the knee… everything else is the same as described in the video. Stay in a squat position as you take 2-4 steps left, then 2-4 steps right, etc.

1. Clam

In my opinion, this one seems like the perfect glute activation exercise. Maybe a few sets before doing lower body work.

What to do with this info?

You aren’t going to be burning a ton of calories doing exercises like clams or hip bridges.

I would simply use some these as “activation exercises”

Pick a few of these and do them BEFORE some of the more intense lower body exercises or if you are going to run stairs etc.

Like clams before squats.

The clam exercise that is.

Eating clams before squats can’t be a good idea.

Note: In my article How to Fix “Dead Butt Syndrome”, I discuss hip bridges. It looks like there are a few exercises that rank higher for awakening the glutes.

Hope this helps.


-Rusty Moore

As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.

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I just found a study using a superior method of measuring glute activation in various lower body exercises. Here are the top 10 glute exercises according to this study.