Most people are familiar with the gluteus maximus muscle.
It's the biggest muscle of the gluteal group and commonly referred to as your butt. I've had many clients who wished their glute wasn't quite so maximus, but more important than its size is how well it works.
The other two glute muscles are the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, which are found on the sides of your hips stacked on top of each other.
Function and Dysfunction of the Glutes
The gluteal group is part of your core musculature and serves many important functions in movement and posture. It is crucial for running, and also allows you to squat, walk up steps, walk uphill, lunge, balance on one leg and support your lower back. Plus it makes you look great in your designer jeans.
We've become a society of slack-asses and I mean that literally. Having assessed more than 600 sets of glutes over the years, I can say that with confidence. We spend so much time sitting on our butts that many people have dysfunctional gluteal muscles.
The muscles become too loose in some spots while other areas become overly tight. And many people have weak glute muscles.
Weak or tight glutes can be a causal factor in developing low back pain or knee pain. Since they are such a large muscle, glutes are designed to handle large loads. But if they are dysfunctional then the load they are supposed to carry is dispersed to other less-able muscles, putting inappropriate stress on the joints.
Keeping Your Glutes Strong
To keep your glutes from becoming dysfunctional, try to minimize the amount of time you spend seated. Get up and walk around every 45 minutes.
You should also include glute exercises in your workout. A great basic exercise to engage your glutes is the hip bridge. It is done as follows:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
- Squeeze your butt and push your hips toward the ceiling
- Hold at the top for five seconds and slowly lower
- Keep the pelvis stable throughout the motion (i.e. no side to side movement or rotating of the hips)
- Repeat 10-15 times
Squats, lunges, deadlifts and step-ups are all excellent glute strengthening exercises. The key to engaging your glutes is to make sure you are applying pressure through your heels as you perform the movement. Doing exercises while standing on one leg is another great way to work your glutes.
Keeping your glutes strong will not only make you look good, it will improve your posture and help you avoid injuries to your back and knees.