Left glute not firing like right glute - advice?

So i'm 51 and had 'runners knee' in my left leg last year, and i got a heap of physio exercises to do. As a result i figured that my left glute just never quite felt the same as my right one. So when i'm doing lunges and similar glutey things (to a lesser extent squats), my right one feels to be doing all the work, but my left leg feels like it's a bunch of other muscles not quite in the middle of my glute that are doing all the working.

I'm thinking i've probably been wonky like this maybe all my life, so now i'm trying to make the left one work. (I love trekking, so my main mission in life is to be able to carry heavy backpacks up and down mountains - and not get injured (had ITB in same leg too historically).

I can make the muscle work with very low lunges and leaning forward a bit and concentrating quite hard (and can do this going up the stairs). I have brief missions to practice every day, but then the motivation drops off and i notice that i'm back to old habits.

Has anyone else had experience like this? Can i retrain myself i.e. is it worth me trying to do these low lunges with the hope that i can get the glute working automatically? Or am i imagining it all? Any other exercises to recommend?


  • ElizabethKalmbach
    ElizabethKalmbach Posts: 1,416 Member
    The entire left side of my body is less well muscled than my right, so I get where you're coming from. Bret Contreras has a lot of very solid programming for activating glutes, so one or more of his books may be worth investigating.

    I'm focusing a lot of attention on single leg and single arm work and starting on my weak side. I do slightly less than the max number of reps on the weak side and then do the same number of reps on the dominant side. I do my single leg and arm work FIRST so that I can feel the activation and motion I need working, and then go on to the two leg and two arm work - which I do in front of a mirror so that I can visually confirm and correct in places where I am getting lazy or being uneven. If my form starts to break down and revert to favoring the dominant side I stop the exercise and rest until I can perform the motion properly.

    I've only been at this for about two months, so I can't honestly tell you if it's going to fix me up 100%, but my "weak" side has definitely been more sore than my dominant side... So... I like to think it's having an effect. :) I'll have another DEXA scan, NEXT NOVEMBER, and I'll have confirmation then on whether or not my hard work has paid off. The scans are scheduled a year apart, though, because I anticipate this being a rather slow process. Building muscle takes time, and breaking bad habits can take even MORE time.

    Be patient yet well disciplined with yourself!
  • kenthepainter2
    kenthepainter2 Posts: 58 Member
    My right glute is weak after hip surgery / recovery. I am currently just doing glue exercises on the right side, single leg bridge, glute machine and laying on side leg raise. I think I might find a few more to do, hope I'm not being too simplistic , I have TFL, quad and low back pain on the same side.
  • SlayLikeAWarrior
    SlayLikeAWarrior Posts: 89 Member
    Looks like you may need to focus on iso or single leg workouts using leg Press machine and stationary lunges. I suggest doing light weight, but go up on reps to feel the burn and pump. Slowly build and add weights as get stronger in that leg. At first you may feel week and that’s ok. The goal is to strengthen that leg/activate that glute. I hope this is helpful. I would also suggest talking to a physical therapist about your concerns and they may be able to explain things to you in a way that makes sense and what’s needed to mitigate your condition. Good luck!
  • heybales
    heybales Posts: 18,842 Member
    Suggest a single leg routine using weight/reps that is difficult for the weak side and progressing as it becomes stronger, using same sets/reps/weight for the stronger side until they match.
    Reference to Bret is great above.

    Catch-up time.

    If you go back to physio - might ask them to confirm leg length is equal.
    Up to 1/8 IIRC is rather expected and normal in most folks, but above that can start causing body to handle itself differently in the way you walk and what muscles are used and compensation, ect.

    PT discovered after ankle break a 1/4" difference, and on researching the side effects of that - oh my goodness all the things I've dealt with since teenager to varying degrees was laid right out as side effect of that fact.
    And every single chiropractor that did the ole "oh your legs are uneven let's adjust the hips" totally missed it and made it worse.

    And weaker / stronger glute difference was an effect. At least for me and all the running I did compounded it - and caused other effects on up the chain.
  • ang82much
    ang82much Posts: 30 Member
    heybales wrote: »
    If you go back to physio - might ask them to confirm leg length is equal.
    Yep, i do have one leg longer than the other apparently!

    Thanks everyone for the encouragement. Love this resource for getting some good positive info :)

    Yes, some one-legged focus sounds the way to go - as well as teaching myself a bit more about my muscles there and how they work (i don't know much, clearly!!).

    The thing is that i don't actually feel much weaker on the left - it's just that a combination of different muscles seem to kick in when i do natural lunges there and it's hard to stop that happening - but i'm worried that the strongest one isn't doing what it should, so i'll put a bit more effort in to this because i want to start upping the weights more seriously this year.
  • DevonKaroline
    DevonKaroline Posts: 19 Member
    @ang82much I would start with some super basic unilateral activation exercises like a single leg bridge going slowly, pausing at the top of each rep and exaggerating the posterior pelvic tilt (really tucking the tailbone under) and see if that allows you to fire each glute individually.

    You might also want to look into foam rolling for your quads and IT bands as tightness in those areas can sometimes inhibit glute engagement in squats, lunges, hip thrusts, etc.
  • darreneatschicken
    darreneatschicken Posts: 669 Member
    edited March 2020
    I have the exact same problem as you. Struggled with an inactive left glute for several years. No physiotherapist or chiropractor was able to help me. My left leg was also shorter than my right by about half an inch. Then I saw an osteopath who told me that the reason my left leg was shorter than my right was because my pelvis was rotated. He gave me some exercises to do and the left leg pain that I got from exercising eventually went away. However, my left glute still doesn't fire as hard as my right. This is something that I'll have to probably live for for the rest of my life.
  • Chieflrg
    Chieflrg Posts: 9,097 Member
    edited March 2020
    Nothing to focus on. Usually this "feeling" has more to do with being novel and strength & skill isn't there just yet.

    Believe me both muscles are working. If not you wouldn't be able to stand up out of a chair.

    Just train.