The Real Reason to Strengthen Your Glutesdate: March 16, 2015
We’ve all had those moments when we don’t love the fit of our jeans, or when we’d rather keep our swimsuit cover-up on than go for a dip. But when it comes to getting your behind into shape, it’s about more than liking how you look in your clothes. Your backside supports other parts of your body and keeping it fit helps those areas stay healthy as well.
Think about it: Our glutes help us stand, walk, bend, get on and off the couch and in and out of the car. They help us function and move each day. Because your gluteal muscles are attached to muscles in your hips and back, strong, lifted glutes help strengthen those areas. This improves stability and prevents injury, which can be especially key for runners who experience pain in the lower back or hip flexors that often stems from the backside. A strong, toned rear can also keep your pelvis aligned, helping you maintain correct posture.
Exercising your behind doesn’t require a lot of time—or even any equipment—but consistency does count. Try incorporating these backside-minded bodyweight moves into your workout two to three times a week:
What It Does: Targets the glutes, hips, abdominal and thigh muscles
How to Do It: Stand with your feet together and hands on your hips, and engage your core. Lift your left foot and place it on the floor about two feet in front of you, shifting your weight onto that foot as you bend your left knee and lunge your hips downward until your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Then push off with your left leg to lift yourself back up to your starting position. Switch legs. Perform 10 reps on each side. Complete two sets. Work up to holding weights in each hand during this exercise.
Be careful not to…lean too far forward when you’re in the lunge. Take care of your knees by ensuring the knee does not go past the toes.
What It Does: Isolates and lifts your gluteal muscles
How to Do It: Start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Imagine a long line starting at the crown of your head and extending out through your tailbone. Lift one leg off the floor, bend the knee and flex the foot so your sole is parallel with the ceiling. Press up through your heel and lift the thigh bone toward the sky until you feel a contraction in your gluteal fold. Perform 15 reps on each side. Complete two sets.
Be careful not to…move your pelvis or spine. Keep your abdominals engaged to support your back throughout the exercise.
Side Leg Lift
What It Does: Strengthens your gluteal muscles, quads and hamstrings
How to Do It: You’ll need a small step; the bottom of a staircase or a step stool will do. The higher the step, the harder the exercise will be. Standing with the step to your right side, place your right foot up onto it and press down into that foot, simultaneously lifting your left leg up and out to the side. Then lower back to your starting position. Perform two to three sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
Be careful not to…move the knee of the leg that’s on the step. Keeping your knee pointed forward gives you control of the entire movement and helps you avoid injury.
What It Does: Strengthens your gluteal muscles and quads
How to Do It: You’ll need a small step for this exercise, just like the Side Leg Lift. With one foot, step up onto the step (which should be in front of you), placing your weight in that heel. Lift your other leg so that its foot is suspended above the step and your knee is hip height. Slowly lower your suspended foot back down to the floor, and then step your other foot down. Alternate your feet as you step up and balance. Perform 15 repetitions on each foot.
Be careful not to…land too quickly. As you lower your foot back to the ground from your balanced position, control the movement to work your gluteal muscles during the entire exercise.
What It Does: Strengthens your gluteal muscles, lower back, quads and hamstrings
How to Do It: Start with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart, making sure both feet are parallel and your knees are pointing forward. Place your hands on your hips. Bend your knees and sink your way back into your hips so you feel your weight in the heels of your feet. Press down into the whole foot to rise. Perform two to three sets of 15 repetitions.
Be careful not to…put your weight over your toes, which can strain your knee joints. Make sure your heels are grounded, your shin bones and spine are parallel as you squat and your knees stay behind your toes. Your chest and face must remain in an upright and forward-facing direction.
Finish off your routine with some stretches that address the muscles you just worked:
What It Does: Releases tension in the glutes and improves posture
How to Do It: Stand with a chair to your left side and hold the top of the chair with your left hand. Lift your right foot and place your right ankle across your left thigh just above your knee with your right knee out to the side. Then lower your bottom as if you’re sitting down. Stay here and breathe, holding the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Switch sides.
Be careful not to…let your hips lift or sag to one side. Keep your pelvis level for an even stretch.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch
What It Does: Loosens quadriceps so that the glutes can work properly
How to Do It: Reach one hand behind you. Bend your same-side leg, bringing your foot up toward your buttocks, and grab the front of your ankle. Gently pull your heel toward your glutes. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and return to your starting position. Repeat with the other leg.
Be careful not to…lose your balance. If you need help, place your other hand against a wall.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
What It Does: Keeps hamstring muscles limber, allowing the glutes to work as they should
How to Do It: Standing with your feet together, raise one leg and rest your heel on a chair, keeping your toes pointing upward. (Your hands can rest on top of your thigh or on the sides of your raised leg.) When in position, slowly bend forward at the hips, keeping your back straight. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
Be careful not to…stretch too far. Stop when you feel it in the back of your thigh.