The largest and most important muscle group in your body is the glutes. These muscles are key players in mobility, being essential for movements such as walking and climbing stairs. The gluteus maximus, the largest of the gluteal muscles, helps propel you forward when you walk or run. The gluteus medius and minimus stabilize the pelvis and promote hip abduction and thigh rotation.
Our current culture leads many of us to have chronically tight and weak glutes due to excessive sitting and a sedentary lifestyle. Prolonged sitting in the car, on the sofa, at work, etc. led to the gluteal muscles becoming more dormant than they should be. Our glutes have become weak, “inactive” and “turned off” due to overreliance on other muscles during the daily movements that should be performed by the glutes.
Having strong and active glutes is extremely important and vital for the health of your entire body. Weak glutes also mean flat buttocks, and who wants flat buttocks, whether you’re male or female? But it’s not about looks. Weak glutes can contribute to a range of health issues including poor posture, lower back pain, reduced mobility, balance issues, lack of strength, muscle pain, and can potentially increase the risk of injury.
Four reasons to strengthen your glutes:
Why do physiotherapists recommend core and glute strengthening exercises above all other exercises, for both young and old? Here are the reasons:
1) Better posture:
Strong gluteal muscles provide your spine with the support it needs and the stabilization your pelvis needs for healthy posture.
2) Improved mobility and balance:
It may sound surprising, but your rear end is capable of generating an incredible amount of power. It drives your body’s mobility and is essential for walking and running. You also need strong glutes to stabilize yourself. Strengthening your glutes can increase your mobility and balance.
3) Reduced risk of injury:
Strong glutes protect vulnerable areas of the body such as the hamstrings, knees, and lower back. It is essential that these areas function in a healthy way in order to perform simple daily activities properly. Having a strong rear can also help you avoid tears and sprains of your back muscles. Weak glutes negatively affect lower back alignment, putting back muscles at increased risk of injury.
4) Prevent back pain:
If the glutes aren’t doing their job, the rest of the body, including the spine, has to take over and can be overworked and injured. A common cause of back pain is that the psoas muscle, not the glutes, acts as the body’s central stabilizer. When the psoas is overactive, compression occurs in the lower back, leading to one of the most common causes of back pain.
Glute activation exercises.
The bridge lift works your glutes and lower back. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your hips until they are in a straight line with your knees and chest. Keep your center of gravity tight and don’t arch your back. Slowly lower your hips back down after three seconds. Repeat for 60 seconds, or about 12 reps at the suggested pace. After a pause, repeat for an additional minute. If you want a challenge, keep your hips high for 20-30 seconds at a time!
Lie on your right side with your legs over each other and your knees bent at a 45 degree angle. Bend your right arm so that you can rest your head on your right hand. Raise your right knee as much as possible without putting your body weight on your hips. Keep your left leg on the ground and make sure your feet are touching all the time. If your heels can’t stay connected, then don’t raise your knee that high. Do this exercise for 60 seconds on one side before switching sides.
For more difficulty, you can place a resistance band above your knees and hold a light weight in your upper hand, but this is not necessary for the beginner version.
Bends and lunges:
There are many different versions of squats and lunges. Keep in mind that proper form is paramount in squats and lunges: the knees should be strictly over the feet without sagging. Improper squat/lunge form leads to knee injury.