Looking good in a stylish pair of jeans is a goal of many who go to the gym regularly. But the importance of having strong, functional glutes extends beyond the round, shapeliness that accentuates your silhouette. Gluteal strength and stability has shown to improve both power and posture and reduces injuries.
Your gluteus maximus (“glutes”) primarily extend and externally rotate your leg away from your hip. The upper muscle fibers bring your thigh and calf in a straight leg position away from the center of your body (“abduction”) and the lower muscle fibers assist in bringing your leg closer to the center of your body (“adduction”).
Most importantly, your gluteus maximus is what’s called a phasic muscle. Phasic muscles consist of fast twitch muscle fibers and are predominantly used for faster body movements. The glutes’ ability to work more efficiently puts less strain on your back extensors (the muscles largely responsible for posture) and subsequently lead to less pain in your back.
Many of the exercises that target the butt are simple and easy to either integrate into a workout program or be used as part of a warm up. These are some of my favorites:
Glute Bridge Perhaps the easiest exercise to learn. Lie down on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the ground roughly 6″-8” from your hips. Thrust your hips upward into a “bridge” and squeeze your butt together. Try to push your knees outward gently to gain maximal external femur (your thigh bone) rotation and glute contraction. Do 4 sets of 10 reps in a controlled fashion and hold for 2-3 seconds at the peak of the contraction (i.e. when your hips are at their highest point).
Hip Thrust Arguably the most proficient exercise in the world of glute strengthening . Rest your upper shoulders and back on a bench with your feet flat on the ground. Follow the same move as the glute bridge. If you are able to do 4 controlled sets of 10 reps, start adding weight to your lap (begin with 5 lbs and do increments of 5 lbs each week only if 10 reps is achieved on each set. You can use anything from sand bags/sand bells, to barbells as you get stronger). The hip thrust is designed for a greater range of motion and for higher loading (adding more weight). It can also be performed uni-laterally (one leg) to increase the difficulty.
Bird-Dog Yet another fantastic exercise. Begin by getting in a quadraped position (on your hands and knees). Extend opposing arm and leg (i.e. your right shoulder and elbow extend while your left hip and knee extend). The most challenging thing is to keep your body still: try “sealing your pelvic floor” (pretend activating your kegel muscles, or “holding it” rather than go the bathroom) and engage your rectus abdominus (commonly known as “abs”). Just be careful to keep your back flat: resist trying to round it during your abdominal engagement. Alternate sides for each repetition and do 3 sets of 8 reps per side. If 8 reps becomes easier over the course of time, try adding resistance bands around your hands and feet.
Now you’re on you way to a stronger and less painful life (not to mention more aesthetically pleasing to all around you!). If girls and guys can’t twist themselves into a pretzel to look at you when you pass them by, you’ve done a great job!