Your glutes are an extremely important muscle group for so many reasons. They help prevent injury, improve performance, and also make it possible for you to fit nicely in those tight jeans. But because of our modern sedentary lifestyles, as well as long hours in the office seated at our desks, majority of adults now have weak and flat glutes.
The gluteal muscles are a bit complex, consisting of three parts: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus is what creates the shape of your buttocks, working whenever you raise your thigh to the side, rotate your leg, or thrust your hips forward. The gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus, on the other hand, work together to help the gluteus maximus in raising your leg to the side. Moreover, these two smaller glute muscles help rotate your thigh outwards when your leg is straight, and inwards when the hips are bent.
A Closer Look at the Gluteus Maximus
The gluteus maximus is actually a very important part of your body, working all day to keep you upright and balanced, making sure that you do not experience shock from heal strikes that travels through the spine. This muscle also serves to cushion your sacro-iliac joint. Because of its vital role in our body, the gluteus maximus requires constant strengthening.
The Best Exercise for Your Glutes
The Bird Dog is a great exercise for those who want to strengthen their glutes, especially physiotherapy patients who are suffering from acute episodes of back pain. Here are the steps:
- Begin on all fours, with your knees hip-width apart and under the hips. Your hands should be flat and shoulder-width apart.
- Squeeze your abs by pulling the belly towards the spine. Keep the spine neutral, do not arch the back or rotate your hips.
- Extend your right leg back and your left arm straight ahead. Hold for two to three seconds or as long as you can maintain form.
- Repeat Steps 1-3 five to six times on each side.
Most physios also recommend the Bridge as strength exercise the gluteus maximus. There are a few variations for this exercise, but you might want to start with the simple one first. Here are the steps:
- Lie down on your back, push your heals down, and gently contract the glutes.
- Push up and hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat this three times.
Just like any new exercise, starting off with these can be a bit challenging but you will feel the effects on your back muscles. These exercises are simple yet very effective, especially when you perform them two to three times a week. The key is consistency and repetition. When it comes to strength and resilience, keeping the glutes and hip muscles in great shape helps prevent back pains and injuries. Eventually, you can add more back strengthening exercises like the Side Plank and the Slow Curl Up. And, of course, it is best to consult your physio about which exercises are appropriate for your specific needs and condition.
Tim Ellis is the Principal Physiotherapist at Excel Physiotherapy and Wellness in Mascot, New South Wales, Australia. He specialises in treating complex necks and backs and developing highly effective exercise programs for his patients. Tim is committed to integrative health, healthy eating, exercise, and life long learning which he shares through his blogs.