In my last post, I made the case for 2 muscles in your hips being integral for optimal health and performance. The first post focused on the gluteus medius, but now it’s time to take a look at the gluteus maximus. Our 2 gluteus maximus muscles (glutes for short) make up a majority of our rear and are probably the most famous muscles in the body. It has been focused on in the famous “Buns of Steel” workout and has inspired more than its fair share of songs. The glutes’ main action is extending our legs backwards, which is incredibly useful for anything from walking and standing up to sprinting and lifting. The problem is that since most of us spend a majority of the day sitting, our glutes are rarely used and are often weak.
Strengthening your glutes is well worth your time as stronger glutes will make your legs more explosive in competition and will help prevent injuries by helping to equalize a near-ubiquitous front/back leg strength imbalance. Teaching the glutes to pull their fair share in your legs will help take a portion of the load off of your knees. Stronger hips will also help protect your back by allowing you to lift properly using your legs instead of relying on your back muscles.
Strengthening the glutes usually requires learning how to fire them again. I know it sounds weird that you have to re-learn how to use a muscle, but sitting and laying down for a majority of the day makes the brain to glute connection inefficient. The first two exercises listed below are hip extensions and bridging. These are great, safe exercises you can do to help reinforce that brain to glute connection. The final exercise, lunges, will help to develop your glute strength while using your other leg muscles. Learning how to fire all of your muscles together will make you a stronger, more powerful, and less injury-prone person. For all of the exercises, make sure to concentrate on firing your glutes through the end of the exercise. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you feel the muscles in your rear tighten.
Standing straight up, extend one leg straight back. At the end, focus on squeezing the muscles in your rear. Take care to not lean forward as your leg extends backwards. Make sure your glutes are doing the work, not the momentum of your body.
Lay on your back with your knees bent. Lift your hips up off of the ground, focusing on squeezing the muscles in your rear. Slowly lower your hips to the ground. Repeat this 30 times.
Take a step forward, and slowly bend both knees until your back knee touches the ground. Take care to make sure that your front knee doesn’t extend past your toes. Push off through your front heel to return to a standing position. Repeat that 30 times, alternating legs each time.
These 3 simple exercises should be a good starting point to activating and strengthening your glutes. As they strengthen, you’ll notice your body using them during everyday activities like going up stairs, standing up from your desk, and even while walking.