Glutes, badonkadonk, booty, butt, bottom, derriere; whatever name it is that you wish to use, having a behind that does its job is not only aesthetically pleasing but also advantageous to anyone competing in just about every sport, whether it be golf or powerlifting as it not only assists in a range of movements but it’s ability to do its job properly can help prevent knee, lower back and hamstring injuries just to name a few (1).
Your glutes comprise of 3 main muscles, Glute Maximus, Glute Medius and Glute Minimus. There are other deep hip muscles that also work to stabilise the pelvis and hips but I won’t go into those this time.
The glute muscles have several fairly important roles to play in the stabilisation and movement of our pelvis (2), lower back (3), and legs (4) with their main role being to help us stand upright, as well as assisting with performing other movements like walking and running, and movements in the gym like lunges, squats and deadlifts. More specifically, each muscle is involved in some way with the internal and external rotation and abduction of the actual hip joint.
So where do the problems occur? Well most commonly, issues arise from individuals who engage in a sedentary job, like office workers, truck or taxi drivers, courier drivers etc. Why? Well, when we are required to stay in a seated position for long periods of time our gluteal muscles begin to weaken and lose their tone and sensitivity, then developing an inhibition or delayed activation which is known as gluteal amnesia (5).
So, let me ask a question, how many people reading this article suffer from knee issues, hip issues, hamstring injuries or niggles, lower back problems, and even so far as to say upper back or shoulder problems? More times than not we can trace these issues back to the pelvis and core instability from you guessed it, weak glutes which can throw out the rest of the body both up and down (6) .
Now how do we fix this? The first thing we must do is work on learning how to brace our deep core muscles as well as bracing our glute muscles as this is the first step in stabilising our lower back (7).
Some really good exercises to use for learning how to activate your deep core muscles are:
The Deadbug / Bird Dog / Side Planks / Glute Bridges
From here learning to activate and engage the glute muscles is really important, I personally love using a band around the knees to provide some external resistance to the muscles so you can learn firsthand what it feels like, kind of like riding a bike with training wheels.
Single Leg Deadlift
Otherwise, these exercises are quite helpful too:
- Single leg deadlifts
- Single leg squats
- Split squats
- Glute bridges
- Glute bridges with leg pedalling
- Banded lateral raises
Just to name a few. Although a lot of people will recommend exercises like squats and deadlifts for glute activation, unless you know how to use your glutes well under load it is far too easy in these lifts for other muscles to kick in like your lower back, quads or hamstrings.
Once you have gone through some good, consistent work learning how to activate, strengthen and build your glutes you can work on moving to the compound lifts. You can either try these with a hip circle or, work on your cueing to see if you can switch your glutes on. Some cues that I find work really well are:
- Pulling the floor apart
- Stuck in the mud
- Feet are super glued to the floor and you're trying to spin them
Most importantly with all of this is seek help if you are unsure. Not only can you fit a lot of junk in a good trunk, glutes will help keep you moving well and lifting for longer without having to take time off for injury.
Shirley Sahrmann, Diagnosis and treatment of movement impairment syndromes, Mosby, 2002
Lafond D, Normand MC and Gosselin G, Rapport force, Journal of Canadian Chiropractor Association 42(2), 90-100, 1998
A, Pool-Goudzwaad AJ, Stoeckart R, et al: The posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia: its function in load transfer from spine to legs. Spine 20: 753-758, 1995
Distefano LJ, Blackburn JT, Marshall SW, Padua DA, Gluteal muscle activation during common therapeutic exercises. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. Jul;39(7):532-40, 2009Shirley Sahrmann, Diagnosis and treatment of movement impairment syndromes, Mosby, 2002
Leinonen V, Kankaapää M, Airaksinen O and Hanninen O (2000): Back and hip extensor activities during trunk flexion/extension: effects of low back pain and rehabilitation. Archives of Physical Medical Rehabilitation 81, 32-37
Vleeming A, Van Wingerden JP, Snijders CJ, Stoeckart R and Stijnen T (1989): Load application to the sacrotuberous ligament; influences on sacroiliac joint mechanics. Clinical Biomechanics, 4(4), 204-209