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  • Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

Shape Up Your Glutes: Strengthening Your Backside to Prevent Pain and Injury

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

By Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

The gluteal muscles, also known as glutes, are the largest and most powerful muscles in the human body. They are responsible for a variety of important movements such as hip extension, abduction, and rotation. This group of muscles is particularly special because it is responsible for movements such as walking, running, climbing stairs and rising from a seated position. However, these muscles may lose strength over time if they are not used regularly, which can increase the risk of injuries and chronic pain. In this article, we will explore the importance of gluteal strength and how to effectively strengthen these muscles to prevent injuries and improve overall fitness.

The glutes are made up of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. The gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful of the three, mainly responsible for hip extension and external rotation. The gluteus medius and minimus are mainly responsible for hip abduction and internal rotation. Together, these muscles work to stabilize the hip and knee joints and provide power and stability during movement.

When the glutes are weak, other muscles are forced to compensate, leading to overuse and injury. Common injuries that can occur due to weakness of the glutes include low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, hamstring strains, sciatica, lumbar herniated disc, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction. The good news is that all these injuries and conditions can be prevented by strengthening the glutes.

Incorporating exercises that target the glutes, such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, glute bridges, and step-ups into your workout routine can help improve their strength and stability. These exercises are effective because they mimic the movements that the glutes are responsible for in everyday life. To effectively strengthen the glutes, a variety of exercises that target all three muscles must be included in your routine.

Here is an effective workout routine to strengthen the glutes:

  • Squats: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. Slowly lower your body as if you were sitting back into a chair. Keep your chest up and your knees behind your toes. Push through your heels to return to the starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

  • Deadlifts: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing forward. Hold a barbell or dumbbells in front of your thighs with an overhand grip. Keep your back straight and your core tight as you bend your hips and lower your torso. Make sure to keep the bar close to your legs as you lower it. Push through your heels to return to the starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

  • Lunges: Start with your feet together and step forward with one foot. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your back knee is almost touching the ground. Push through the front heel to return to the starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg.

  • Glute bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips off the ground. Hold for a moment at the top before lowering your hips back to the ground. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

  • Step-ups: Stand in front of a bench or step and place one foot firmly on the bench. Push through the heel of the foot on the bench to raise your body up, driving the knee of the other leg up to hip level. Lower yourself back down and repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg.

  • Clamshells - Lie on your side with your knees bent and feet together. Slowly lift your top knee as high as you can without moving your pelvis. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg.

Additionally, to stretch the glutes you can do:

  • Pigeon Pose: Start on your hands and knees. Bring your right knee to your right hand and slide your left leg back behind you. Lower your body to the ground and rest your forehead on the ground. Repeat on the other side.

  • Seated Forward Bend: Sit on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Reach forward and try to touch your toes.

  • Downward-Facing Dog: Start on your hands and knees. Push your hips back up and straighten your arms and legs.

  • Figure Four: Lie on your back and cross your right ankle over your left knee. Gently pull your left knee toward your chest. Repeat on the other side.

Hold each stretch/position for up to 30 seconds, breathe throughout, and repeat for 3 sets. You should feel tension, not pain!

Keep in mind that you should start with bodyweight and progress to a weight that is comfortable for you and increase the weight as you become stronger. Also, stretching the muscles before and after your workout is needed to prevent injuries and help you recover faster. Remember to focus on consistency and proper form to ensure maximum benefits. So, make sure to include glutes exercises in your workout routine, and you will be able to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle.

If you are injured, consult a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise routine.


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