These days an appealing backside continues to be extremely popular as evidenced on social media and supported by celebrities and fitness models. It is like an era of big, well-shaped glutes. But we should keep in mind our glutes muscles exist for better reasons than just looking fit or sexy. Strong glutes are essential for proper posture, injury prevention, and athletic performance. In addition, firm and sculpted gluteal muscles will surely catch everyone’s attention.
These muscles are the powerhouse of the human body and the keystone muscles that keep the structure of the spinal curves in the neutral position.
The gluteal muscles are also called the posterior muscle group of the hip joint. They consist of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
Together with other three main groups of muscles (adductor group, iliopsoas group and lateral rotator group), they participate in the movements of the hip. They also play a role in maintaining the standing posture. Proper balance in these muscle groups sustains the neutral position of the pelvis and neutral position of the pelvis provides proper weight distribution and balance.
Some physiologists say the gluteus maximus, the largest and most superficial of the three gluteal muscles, is the strongest muscle in the body. But this is not easy to determine simply because one muscle never works alone. The gluteus maximus muscle helps us to maintain the balance as we walk or run. The gluteus maximus works every time we rise our thigh out to the side, we rotate our leg so the foot is pointing forward or thrust the hips forward. So whenever we perform a squat our gluteus maximus help us stand up. It is also very active when we climb, run or step onto a step. Two other glutes muscles, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, assist gluteus maximus in rising the tight out to the side and rotate our thigh outward and inward.
So it’s obvious strong glutes are important for a properly functioning body. Weak glutes can lead to injuries and pain in hips, knee and lower back. And because of today’s sedentary lifestyle people can develop a condition called “gluteal amnesia”. In a sitting position, the hip flexor muscles (the hip muscles that bring the thighs close to the abdomen) are contracted while gluteal muscles rest and with time gluteal muscles can become weak. Undeveloped glutes can become so atrophied and uncoordinated that they fail to work properly during functional movement. Another name for this condition is “dead butt syndrome”. It may sound funny, but it represents a health risk. Since one of the three gluteal muscles stop firing correctly, the body tries to compensate the imbalance which can lead to pain in hips, knee and lower back. But what is interesting, even highly active people can develop this condition. If the quads or hamstrings are strong and gluteal muscles weak, a muscle imbalance occurs. And it is quite common among runners. Because of the repetitive nature of running or cycling with time some muscle groups can become overactive which makes them tight and short. This will cause an imbalance in the muscles that support the whole movement (think of biceps and triceps muscles; when biceps contracts, a nerve signal is sent to triceps to relax). These muscles usually become weak, prolonged and underactive.
Because of this muscle imbalance and inactive gluteus muscles, a neutral position of the pelvis can be compromised. If glutes, the hip ﬂexors muscles, muscles of the lower back or abdominal muscles become short and tight (which means overactive) or prolonged and weak (which means underactive), the pelvis will be pulled into an excessive anterior (forward) or posterior (backward) tilt. Both conditions represent a posture deficiency. In anterior a pelvis tilt, abdominal muscles and hamstrings are lengthened, the lumbar spine is arching forward while quadriceps and lower back muscles are shortened. In a posterior tilt, abdominal muscles and hamstrings are shortened and the muscles of the back and the quadriceps are lengthened, while the base of the spine moves downwards and pulls the lower back with it. Both tilts, if not corrected can lead to injury, spinal pain and movement dysfunction.
So proper strengthening of the gluteal muscles can save you a lot of trouble. It can also be a cure for hip pain, tight hamstring muscles, lower back pain and knee pain.
Here are a few exercises that can build and strengthen your glutes.
- Glute bridge
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips up off the ground as you draw your abs in and keep your gluts tight. Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down
2. Single leg bridge
This is a variation of the previous exercise, but with increased difficulty. Lie on your back with one leg raised in the air. Raise your hips off the ground as high as you can. Slowly lower yourself to the floor.
A lunge is a common and great exercise to strength and tone your lower body. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward with your right leg and slowly lower your body. Bend the knee of your back leg until it almost touches the ground. Pause and then push yourself to the starting position. Repeat 8-10 times switching between each leg. To increase the difficulty of this exercise you can add a pair of dumbbells.
4. Lateral band walks
This exercise targets your outer thighs and glutes. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder with a resistance band down around your ankles. Slightly bent your knees and take 10 steps to your right side and then 10 steps back to your left.