A nice set of glutes — firm, round, lifted—as we head into bathing suit season may be one of your goals right now. Ours too, if we’re being honest.
But strong glutes aren’t just a great aesthetic, they’re super important for injury prevention, athletic performance, and good posture. And they should be a regular part of your training program. If a good rear view is motivation to work on your glute strength, we’re, um, totally behind it.
But first, a (simple) anatomy primer.
Which muscles make up your glutes?
Your glutes are made up of three muscles:
- Gluteus maximus The strongest and biggest muscle in your body, the gluteus maximus is the most superficial of the glute muscles, and basically is what gives your butt its shape. It helps keep us upright and balanced when we walk, and is used for explosive, lower body movements like jumping, running, rising from a squat, climbing stairs, or lifting something heavy.
- Gluteus medius This fan-shaped muscle makes up the lateral top part of your tush, and is two-thirds covered by the gluteus maximus. It’s the prime mover of abduction at the hip joint and is important for stabilizing the pelvis.
- Gluteus minimus The smallest and deepest of the glute muscles, the gluteus minimus has a similar function as the medius. It’s important for all rotation movements of the thigh, and helps keep the hip joint stable when we move.
What strong glutes will do for you
Everyone—from MYX workout warriors to leisurely strollers—needs strong glutes. Why? MYX trainer Jesse Barton will tell you.
1. Strong glutes help prevent pain and injury
Strong glutes will decrease your risk for injury in the knees, lower back, hamstrings and groin. “Weak glutes can cause instability in the spine and lead to imbalances in the hips and pelvis,” says Jesse. And put you at higher risk for common issues like knee and lower back pain, according to the American Council on Exercise.
2. Strong glutes boost endurance and performance
“Whether you’re lifting, jumping, or sprinting, your glutes are key to tapping into that explosive push-off strength that comes from extending your hips,” Dr. Jordan Metzl, MD, a sports medicine physician in New York City, told Men’s Health. “That extra juice can also give you more endurance for a hike or run or even when shoveling snow. Think of your backside like an engine,” Dr. Metzl said. “Doing your favorite activities on a weak, underdeveloped rear is like trying to run your car with a lawnmower engine.”
3. Strong glutes improve posture…
Because strong glutes stabilize your pelvis and better support your spine, they’re essential to good posture. Which is especially important if you’re sitting at a computer for long stretches. Hours of deskwork are a big contributor to “sleepy” glutes, as well as shortened hip flexors and weak upper back muscles. “Weak glutes can cause postural issues, which then can lead to pain in the low back, hips, and even up into the thoracic spine,” says Jesse. “Having weak glutes can impact your entire kinetic chain.”
4. …and balance
Falling may not be your concern right now (unless you’re a bit of a klutz like we are), but as we get older a strong base of core and glute muscles is essential for good balance. Whether it’s getting in and out of the shower when you’re older, or carrying your sleeping kiddo from the car tonight, better glute strength means better balance, which means improved quality of life, especially into old age.
Jesse’s 3 great glute exercises
To strengthen your glute muscles, try these exercises. Do them two to three times a week on non-consecutive days.
Hip thrusts work the gluteus maximus and medius. You can do them resting your shoulder blades on a bench, chair, couch, or ottoman. Make sure your support prop is either up against a wall or on a mat so it doesn’t slip.
- With your upper back resting on the edge of your seat or couch, bring your feet in as close to your butt as you can, then move them about 5 inches forward. Toes are pointing straight out in front.
- Push into your upper back to lift the hips up (adjusting your feet if necessary). As you press your hips up squeeze the glutes. Draw the naval toward the spine to avoid arching the back, and focus on using the glutes to lift up and down. You can use just your bodyweight or add a dumbbell, barbell, or weight plate right at the hips.
- Aim for 10 to 15 reps.
Clamshells are great for strengthening the gluteus medius and helping to stabilize the pelvis. “I like to do them with a medium-weight resistance band/loop placed right above the knees,” Jesse says.
- Lay on your mat on one side, hips and shoulders stacked, knees bent at roughly a 90 degree angle. Feet are stacked as well.
- Pushing your heels together, lift your top knee up, hold for a count, then slowly lower down. Aim for 12 to 15 reps on each side.
The tried-and-true squat works all the glute muscles—max, medius, and minimus.
- Start by standing with feet hip distance apart.
- Hinge forward from the waist as you shift your hips and butt down and back as though you were lowering yourself into a chair. Try to get to 90 degrees with the legs.
- Squeeze the glutes to come back up to stand. Do 12 to 15 reps.
You can increase the intensity of the exercise by adding a kettlebell or dumbell, holding it at chest height (goblet squat), or rack a set of dumbbells at the shoulders. You can also add a resistance band above the knees to make the position more challenging, plus ensure good form. The options for the squat are endless!