Strength Training 101- Glutes

08/23/2011 - Wellness

The gluteus maximus is the largest of a group of three gluteal muscles, including the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. These three gluteal muscles stabilize and mobilize the trunk and the legs, therefore acting together to enable the functional movement of the body.

One of the most common problems associated with the gluteal muscle structure is lower back and hip pain. This could be the result of inactivity of gluteal muscles which render them powerless to carry out their stabilizing function. As a result, the hip flexor muscles which run from the pelvis to the lower back bear the burden of stabilizing the body instead. When the hip flexor muscles place stress on the vertebrae in the lower spine, it results in pain in the lower back.

In some cases, the hip flexor muscles are either too tight or weakened and delegate their function to the muscles of the hamstring instead, which has a detrimental effect on posture and also results in hip pain. If the pain in the lower back and hips is not assessed and corrected in a timely manner, then it may evolve into chronic low back pain.

Your need to strengthen your glutes is important if you have experienced any type of discomfort or pain in the hips or lower back due to inactivity, or because your gluteal muscles are not as well developed as the muscles in your thigh. Although you may be able to participate in athletic activities, building additional strength in the glutes will enable them to stabilize the upper and lower body at ease while allowing the hip flexors to do their job and help move the body. Eventually, a correct application of muscle structure mechanics will likely help reduce and perhaps eliminate lower back pain and discomfort in the hip muscles.

 

Beginner

 

Bodyweight Squat

Step 1

Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width and your toes turned out slightly. Your hands are by your sides with your palms facing inward. Pull the shoulders down your back toward your hips.

Step 2

Keep your chest lifted and your chin parallel to the floor. Shift your weight back into your heels as your hips begin to push toward the wall behind you. 

Step 3

Begin by hinging at the hips, shifting them back and down. Your hips and knees bend simultaneously. As you lower your hips the knees bend and will start to shift forward slowly. Try to prevent your knees from traveling too far forward past the toes. Keep the abdominals/core muscles engaged and try to keep your back flat (do not tuck the tail or arch the low back).

Step 4

Continue to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor. If your heels begin to lift off the floor or your torso begins to round, return to start position. Be aware of any movement that may occur at your feet, ankles and knees. Work to ensure that the feet do not move, the ankles do not collapse in or out and the knees remain lined up with the second toe.

Step 5

Upward Phase: While maintaining the position of your back, chest and head and with the abdominals engaged, exhale and return to start position by pushing your feet into the floor through your heels. The hips and torso should rise together. Keep the heels flat on the floor and knees aligned with the second toe.



 Intermediate

 

Forward Lunge

Step 1

Stand with your feet together. Pull your shoulder blades toward your hips. Engage your abdominal/core muscles ("brace") to stabilize your spine.

Step 2

In preparation to step forward, slowly lift one foot off the floor and find your balance on the standing leg. Try not to move the standing foot and maintain balance without wobbling. Pause. Hold this position briefly before stepping forward. The raised foot should land on the heel first. Slowly shift your body weight onto the lead foot, placing it firmly on the floor. As you shift your body weight to the lead foot/leg, avoid the tendency to tilt or sway the upper body and try not to move the forward foot.

Step 3

As you step forward into the lunge, focus on a downward movement of your hips toward the floor. Avoid driving your hips forward. This will help control the forward movement of your shinbone over your foot. Continue lowering your body to a comfortable position or until your front thigh becomes parallel with the floor and your shinbone is in a slight forward lean. During the movement, slightly bend forward at your hips. Keep the back straight.

Step 4

Firmly push off with the front leg, activating both your thighs and butt muscles to return to your upright, starting position.
 

Once you master the forward lunge, you can progress to doing a lunge using arm drivers and multi-directional glute activation lunges.

 

Advanced

 

Mountain Climbers

Step 1

Come to a hands and knees position on the floor with your toes pointed toward the floor. Your hands should be slightly ahead of your shoulders and your fingers pointing forward. Bring your left foot forward and place it on the floor under your chest. Your knee and hip are bent and your thigh is in toward your chest. Lift your right knee off the ground, making your right leg straight and strong. Your right toes are tucked under, heel up. Brace your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine. Pull your shoulder blades down and back.

Step 2

Keeping your hands firmly on the ground, your abdominals engaged and shoulders strong, jump to switch leg positions. Both feet leave the ground as your drive your right knee forward and reach your left leg back. Now your left leg is fully extended behind you and your right knee and hip are bent with your right foot on the floor.

Step 3

Exercise Variation: If you have limited range of motion in the hips, place hands on a step or platform.

Keep your weight evenly distributed on both legs. Do not shift all your weight forward into your front foot.

 

 

Glute and Hip Flexor Stretches

 

Supine 90-90 Hip Rotator Stretch

Step 1

Starting Position: Lie on your back on a mat, placing the backs of your lower legs and heels on the top of a bench so that the knees are at a ninety-degree bend. Gently contract your abdominal/core muscles to flatten your low back into the floor. Try to maintain this gentle muscle engagement throughout the exercise. Rest your arms on the floor along your sides with palms up and breathe deeply for 30 seconds to allow your hips to relax into this position.

Step 2

Cross your left leg over the right; resting your left foot on your right knee. Try to maintain the ninety-degree bend in the left knee while in this position.

Step 3

With both hands, reach down and grab the back of the right thigh. Pull your right thigh and knee toward your chest. The right foot should remain on top of the right leg back along the top of the bench. Repeat the stretch 2-5 times; Change legs placing the right foot on the left knee and repeat.

Step 4

Exercise Variation: Use a bench (or stability ball), which will allow your hip and knee to remain at ninety-degree angles. Instead of a bench, use a stability ball, which will allow you to roll your right knee towards your chest and use the leverage of the ball to increase the intensity of the stretch.

 

Leg Crossover Stretch

 Step 1

Starting Position: Lie flat on your back on the floor / mat in a bent-knee position, arms outstretched in a "T" position, with palms facing upwards. Engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine. Pull your shoulder blades down and back. Keep these engagements throughout the exercise. Cross your left ankle over the right knee, resting the ankle on the knee.

Step 2

Gently exhale and slowly open the left knee away from your body (illustrated) without moving your hips or trunk. This will increase the stretch in the outer thigh and hip muscles. Continue this stretch until you reach the point of tension. Do not bounce or push. You should not feel pain. You may also use your hand to push the left knee away from you.

Step 3

Hold this position for a few breaths and slowly release the stretch. Gently exhale and slowly relax, bringing the right knee toward the floor. Place the sole of the left foot on the floor. Try to keep both shoulders flat to the floor. Do not allow your back to arch.

Step 4

Hold this position for 15 - 30 seconds. Relax and return to your starting position. Perform 2 - 4 repetitions then repeat on the opposite side.

Step 5

Exercise Variation: This stretch can become more dynamic by performing slow, controlled movements to complete 1 set of 5 - 10 repetitions with each leg, holding the stretched position for 1 - 2 seconds.


To maximize the benefits of a stretch and reduce the potential for injury, it is important to stretch only to the point of tension, avoid bouncing and control movement at other segments of the body. During this stretch, attempt to avoid any rotation or arching in your low back

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