The gluteal muscles are the biggest muscle group in the body. These muscles often become weak and inactive due to the majority of the population sitting at a desk for work. When sat down the glutes are in a lengthened position, whilst the hip flexors are shortened; if you get pain when you stand up after a long period of sitting this could be your cause.
What are the glutes?
You have three muscles in the gluteal group. One of these everyone knows of and that is the gluteus maximus. The role of this muscle is to extend the hip whilst also operating in the external rotation of the hip. The other two gluteal muscles are the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. The role of these two is to assist with abduction of the leg, internal rotation of the hip and for stability when standing.
Why should we exercise our bum muscles?
Ultimately having weak glutes will mean that other muscles will have to pick up the strain. When there is a weakness in the glutes this can often be seen in people with lower back pain; whilst it can often cause pain in the hip when running. When walking or running, your glutes off stabilisation to the pelvis and hips. By having these muscles active and strong, you will be able to walk and run more pain free. A simple test to see if there is a weakness present is to stand on one leg and observe how the pelvis reacts to this. Exercising the glutes will help to reduce the risk of lower back pain, whilst increasing the stability in your hips.
Exercises to improve your glutes function
How can I make my glute exercises harder?
There are many ways to increase the difficulty of an exercise. Firstly, if the exercise is starting on two legs then you can move to a one leg exercise; for example, a two leg squat can progress initially from holding a wall into two leg with no support into 1 leg.
Other than changing the number of limbs in contact with the ground, you can slow down the rate at which you perform the repetition. So, instead of working at a 1-1 ratio you can change to 3 seconds up 3 seconds down. Then you have the resistance you are working with.
Ultimately, most exercises start with body weight exercises and you may not have any weights available to you. Grab yourself a bag or rucksack and fill it will heavy books, food items from the cupboard or pots and pans. This will increase resistance with items you already have!
How often should I do my glute exercises?
This all depends on what you are looking to achieve. If you are looking to work for muscular endurance, then you would look to perform a slower action for around 12-15 reps with the use of a fairly light weight. Muscular strength you would speed up the action for around 8-12 reps working at 70-80% of your 1 rep max. Power work is a short sharp movement, working at a fairly high weight of around 80-90% of your 1 rep max. You would aim to complete 4-6 reps for this. As training for power is exhaustive on your muscles you need to make sure that you allow a decent rest period in-between sessions.
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