The fitness industry has gone wild for glutes. Social media is blown up by influencers flaunting their perfectly rounded Kimmy K derriéres. There are resistance-band booty workouts lurking around every corner and we are squatting like never before. I have collated a Physiotherapist’s perspective on what glutes actually do and how we can optimally train them for performance and health.
What are Glutes?
In a nutshell our ‘glutes’ are a combination of three muscles which perform a variety of movements and movement control of our hips and pelvis. They form part of your bottom, and stretch from your hips to your upper thigh bone. The main movements they direct are to extend your hip (think bridge pose), rotating your hip, and abducting your leg to the side. Furthermore, they are involved in creating overall hip and pelvic stability.
Why do Glutes Matter?
If you are a keen athlete or weekend warrior with inefficient glutes you are more prone to develop injuries over time. However, weak glutes also play an important role in various musculoskeletal issues outside of the athletic world. Weakness of glutes can results in problems such as patellofemoral pain syndrome, lower back pain, gluteal tendinopathy, hip osteoarthritis and plantar fasciitis/plantar tendinopathy to name a few.
How Good are my Glutes?
So how do I know if I have good gluteal control? A quick test is to stand on one leg and try to keep your hips in line. If you find the non-weightbearing hip tipping, it suggest that the glutes on the standing leg need a bit of TLC. You can find an excellent video of this test by PhysioTutors here. Additionally, you can try a single leg squat to see if you can keep your knee pointing forward and avoid it dropping inwards.
If you find yourself often ‘hanging’ into one hip, this is a habit which you want to avoid. In this position your glutes are switched off and you are putting a lot of force through the ITB, which leads to compression of the structures underneath and weakening of the glutes.
How can I Train my Glutes?
The gluteal muscles need a combination of movements to be trained efficiently. How you train them will also depend on your goals. If your goal is long distance running, you would look at the endurance aspect of around 15-30 repetions for anywhere between 1-3 sets. In contrast, if you are a sprinter, you would focus on building up power and strength using less reps, more sets, higher loads and more dynamic exercises.
If you have an actual injury relating to your glutes, I would advice you to see a professional for an assessment to establish what exercise are suitable for you.
Here are a few examples of some exercises that you can do at home or in the gym. How many repetitions you complete for each exercise depends on your goal and how challenging they are for you. Make sure to listen to your own body.
A clam is a great beginners exercise to start building strength and pelvic stability. From here you can work towards progressing to weight bearing exercises such as single leg squats/deadlifts/reaches etc.
These bridge variations are a good way of starting to recruit the muscle group in a weight bearing condition. Especially the single leg versions are valuable to train the extensor mechanism of your hip and build pelvic control.
This is where I come in with a shameless plug… Head over to my YouTube channel for some structured glute training. You can find a beginners pilates video here, a beginners/intermediate yoga one here and a body weight workout one here. My credentials include a MSc in Physiotherapy, Personal Training level 2 and 3, as well as Yoga and Pilates Instructor certificates.
Remember to always make sure that you’re fit to exercise first, and stop if you find any of these causes you discomfort.
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If you find this topic interesting I would recommend taking a look at Alison Grimaldi’s website which has lots of resources.
Let me know in the comments if you found this interesting and if you would like more of these posts!