Q+A: Activating the Glute–Hamstring Complex: What are the Best Exercises?

Activating the Glute–Hamstring Complex: What are the Best Exercises?


Many clients want to know which exercises most effectively target the gluteus maximus (GM) and hamstring group (HG). Researchers decided to investigate.

Eighteen women (aged 21 ± 1) performed three exercises targeting the GM and HG: bilateral squat (BS), rear-foot elevated squat (RFES) and stiff-legged deadlift (SLDL). Participants performed each move three times using an 8-repetition maximal load in a randomized order on separate days (≥48 hours apart). The results: RFES elicited significantly greater GM and HG activation than either BS or SLDL. Furthermore, HG activation was significantly greater during SLDL than during BS.

Single-leg exercises similar to RFES appear to be superior ways to activate both the GM and the hamstrings. If targeting the latter, trainers might try SLDL variations, which are better for this purpose than BS variations.

REFERENCE: McCurdy, K., Walker, J., & Yuen, D. 2018. Gluteus maximus and ­hamstring activation during selected weight-bearing resistance exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 32 (3), 594–601.

Meet our experts

AFM_Author_Nunez TONY P. NUÑEZ, PHD, is an assistant professor in exercise science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He is an active researcher and presenter in the exercise physiology and fitness field.

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