Besides the aesthetics of having great glutes, these muscles serve a critical role in our athletic performance. There is a reason why everyone finds strong glutes so attractive, strong glutes are a clear sign of strength, power and speed.
There are three muscles that we refer to when talking about glutes. Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. These three muscles are oriented vertically and obliquely from the iliac bones down to the greater trochanter of the hip bone. There is also the piriformis muscle, the gemelli muscles, quadratus femorus and obturator internus which function in one way or another with the glute group.
Glutes are one of the strongest muscle groups in our body. Together, the muscles of the glutes perform hip extension (that is pull the leg behind the body) and internal and external hip rotation. If the muscles of the glutes are too tight, you may experience hip or lower back pain. The bigger picture is that the glutes keep us upright. The standing, upright position is unique to humans, and we happen to have the largest pelvis’ and glute muscles to support that! Running and walking are the most basic ways we use the glute muscles. Since we spend so much time sitting, glutes tend to be underdeveloped compared to what they should be.
Exercises for Strong Glutes
The Squat is called king of all exercises. It is a classic compound movement, which target a variety of muscle groups including your glutes. Regular barbell back squat is great for building strong glutes if you drop at least to thigh parallel to the floor position. The lower you go higher is the glutes activation.
Perform a back squat using a barbell set on your traps. Take a deep breath and activate the motion by dipping from the hips and the knees. To target the glutes you must at least go as low as to have your thighs parallel to the floor. Hold your breath through out the descent. Once your hips have dipped below your knee height, push back up and return to the neutral start position. Exhale through out the process of standing up.
Lunges are a classic exercise for building strong glutes. The lunging motion requires the use of all the muscles of the hip and thigh as a unit. Starting with feet shoulder width apart, take a large step forwards and dip, bringing your back knee to the floor. Return to standing in one smooth motion and repeat. You can put more focus on your quads or your glutes depending on your step size. Smaller step size targets more of your quads, while a larger step targets your glutes.
This is a great hip exercise to develop powerful and strong glutes. With a bench behind your back, and leg extended in front, roll over the bar at the level of your crotch. Bend your knees and bring your foot closer to your glutes. With your middle back resting on the edge of the bench, thrust your hips upwards to make your back parallel to the floor. Pause for a second at the top and then bring the weight down. To avoid discomfort wrap the bar with a towel to perform this exercise.
This is a targeted and slightly more advanced exercise. Use a light barbell to master the correct positioning and techniques as bad form can really injure your back. Place the bar on the back of the neck, on the upper traps at the level of the spine of scapula. Place your feet in squat stance position; turned slightly out for comfort and shoulder-width apart. Pushing your hips backwards, start to descend your chest down, while maintaining a very straight back. Stop only when the hamstrings are stretched to their max capacity. Squeeze your glutes to push your hips forwards again to return to the start position.
This deadlift is performed with the legs almost straight with knees slightly bent at the start of the movement. Starting position for this lift is upright. Now move your hips slightly back while the shins are always kept perpendicular to the floor. The bar is brought down to just below knees and then lifted back up. By not bending at your knees, you’ll be focusing more on the hamstrings and glutes and eliminate the action of the quadriceps.
There are many variations of a glute bridge, but we will start with the basics for now. This is a good way to warm up and activate the glutes before a back or leg workout. Lying face-up on the floor, bend both knees to plant your feet flat on the floor. Activate the bridge motion by lifting your hips off the floor, bringing them as high as possible. Try to create a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause for 2 seconds at the top, then return to neutral. Focus on using your glutes by pushing through your heels rather than your toes. This version is very easy, so you may want to try using one leg at a time, lifting the other foot towards the ceiling.