The gluteal muscles are an important part of the body and critical to keep strong for optimal function and movement. They are the buttock muscles and the main muscle group involved in extending your hip. Strong gluteal muscles help your balance and are one of the primary muscle groups used during walking, running and other activities such as standing up from a chair. Strong gluteal muscles are central to maintaining stability of the hip, knee and ankle joints as well as the lower back. Stretching the gluteal muscles is equally valuable and will allow the hip and lower back to move more freely as opposed to when they are tight.
Weak or tight gluteal muscles can lead to problems that manifest over several years and then require a prolonged course of rehabilitation. Weakness of the gluteal muscles often occurs after trauma or injury to an ankle or knee. The altered walking patterns that can result after twisting and injuring your knee or spraining your ankle can lead to gluteal weakness, typically on the same side of the body as the injury. The weakness can occur from something as simple as not fully weightbearing on the injured side and thus not walking properly for several months. You can also experience gluteal weakness from prolonged sitting and not using the gluteal muscles sufficiently! People who work at a desk or drive for many hours at a time can be susceptible to weak gluteal muscles. If unchecked, gluteal weakness can be the precursor to hip (trochanteric) bursitis.
Conversely, tightness of the gluteal muscles can be a problem. If the gluteal muscles are tight, the hip becomes stiff and the function of the lower back is affected, often leading to lower back pain.
What exercises improve the strength and function of your gluteal muscles?
Here are three exercises that will help:
A. Gluteal stretch in sitting
Summary: Sitting on a chair, place one ankle on the thigh above the other knee and lean your trunk forward from the hips.
- Start in a seated position.
- Lift one leg so the ankle is resting on the thigh just above the opposite knee.
- Lean your trunk forward from the hip, keeping your back straight to feel the stretch in the buttock on the side of the bent knee.
- Hold this position for 20–30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Try this before and after you exercise. An alternative is to do this stretch in a standing position.
Summary: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your buttock muscles and lift your hips high off the floor.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart and your arms by your sides.
- Tighten your buttock muscles and lift your hips up off the floor. Push through your heels and keep your hips high and level throughout the movement.
- Hold this position then lower your hips and buttocks onto the floor, back to the starting position.
- Repeat x 10.
Summary: Standing with feet hip-width apart and arms stretched out in front, bend at the hips and knees into a squat position so your thighs are horizontal to the floor. Return to standing.
- Stand upright, feet hip-width apart and arms outstretched in front of you.
- Bend your knees and hips, leaning your chest forward as though you are about to sit, and lower your thighs to be horizontal with the floor. Bend from the hips, not the back.
- Keep the knees in line with your feet, your weight on your heels, your back straight and look ahead.
- Do not allow your knees to travel in front of your toes. At the bottom of the squat, tense your buttocks, and return to standing upright.
- Repeat x 10.