Besides having a nice, shapely bum, there are actually some important health benefits in having strong glutes. The glutes are comprised of three muscles – medius, minimus, and maximus, and they work to stabilize the hips, abduct and adduct the legs. Strong glutes are also imperative for proper pelvic alignment (which helps prevent back pain).
Boost Power and Athleticism: Your glutes are what propel you forward when you walk or run, and they work to extend the hips. If you have weak glutes, you will not be as powerful when lifting a heavy object or when running or jumping and you will be more likely to hurt your back or your knees. Strong glutes are what help create explosive power when you jump – so it’s especially important for athletes to train their glutes regularly.
Avoid injury: Weak glutes contribute to instability in the hips which can cause all kinds of problems including back, knee, and hip pain. Women, especially, should prioritize glute training because we tend to be more quad dominant (do you ever wonder why you mostly feel the quadriceps muscle burn when you do squats and lunges? Yeah, I thought so! It’s because your glutes are not firing.)
Improve Posture and Balance: Our glutes are the largest muscle of the body, so can you imagine how detrimental it can be if that muscle is weak? Strong glutes protect your spine and act as a buffer when lifting – whether it’s weights or furniture at home or your grandchild. Good alignment of the pelvis relies on strong glutes! Remember: the more aligned we are, the better we feel and less likely we are to injure ourselves whether in sport, gym, or simple daily activities.
Now for the fun stuff! My favorite glute activating exercises: Hip bridges with resistance band above the knees, fire hydrant with resistance band, donkey kick and advanced fire hydrant.
The advanced fire hydrant is a new favorite of mine, To perform, come to a yoga mat or soft floor (such as carpeted area) on your hands and knees, dropping down to your forearms. Now, to perform reps with the right leg place your right hand on the ground to stabilize while opening your chest slightly to face the right side as you begin to abduct (lift) the right leg (keep 90 degree angle at the knee) as wide as you can towards the ceiling, and then lower down to starting position without touching the leg to the floor. Repeat 20-30 times and focus on squeezing and feeling both sides of the glutes working (the stabilizing leg will also feel a burn!). Do all reps on the right leg before switching sides. Perform 2-3 sets.
My favorite intermediate-advanced glute exercises: Bulgarian split squat, hip thrust with barbell, single-leg sit-to-stand, single leg deadlift, and backward stepping lunges. I like to do a handful of these after I have warmed up my glutes with the primer exercises listed above. I get them burning and firing so that I can really connect my mind to the muscle during these larger, usually heavier lifts. I do this so I get more out of the exercises.
I recommend training your glutes twice weekly, minimum, with at least 3 different moves. If you are training to build your glutes, shoot for two days a week of training and incorporate 12-20 working sets for the week. Remember to apply progressive overload: where you are either adding more reps or more weight each week as you get stronger.