Glute muscles (also known as the “butt”) are all the rage on instagram. If you follow any fitness topic on social media you’ve probably seen scantily-clad “stars” facing away from the camera on sandy beaches. The problem is that their goals are primarily vanity-focused, and that fact takes away from the vital importance of developing real glute strength.
The health and strength of your primary glute muscles, those being the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, and gluteus minimus, impact your posture, performance, and your propensity for injury.
Due to our highly sedentary daily lives, most of the time you’re simply sitting on them! This leads to muscular degeneration, a weakening on the surrounding major muscle groups, and a decrease in the functionality of major joints (namely the hips, back, and knees).
Here are just a few of the reasons why glute strength is important for everyone, and how you can start getting stronger using a few simple techniques.
Strong Glutes Improve Your Posture
If you’re sitting in a chair right now, start thinking about your posture. What are your glutes doing? What are your abs doing? What’s happening with your thighs and upper back?
Even if you have a good sitting posture, you’ll probably be acknowledging the following:
- Your glutes are completely inactive (at rest)
- Your abs are not engaged and probably folded forward
- Your upper back is slouched and inactive
- Your hamstrings and quads are also inactive
The fact is, all of these muscle groups and body parts impact your posture. If you don’t counter this common practice (sitting) with exercises that make all of these groups active (especially your glutes), you can count on your standing posture being degraded.
High Performance and Functionality Requires Strong Glutes
We’ve all heard that “core strength” is important to sports performance and full body functionality. The problem is that most people think of their “core” as their abdominals and obliques.
This is incorrect! Your “core” is the trunk of your body, encompassing your chest, back, glutes, quads, and hamstrings (AND your abs, of course).
The focal point of all of these muscle groups is your glutes. When sprinting, jumping, climbing, and lifting, the primary motion is a hinge at the hips, a motion that heavily involves the glutes. If you don’t have strong glutes, your hamstringing your performance (pun intended).
Weak Glutes Lead to an Overall Decrease of Your Functionality
You won’t be surprised to hear that the most common workplace injury involves the back (Source). Sprains, strains, and tears account for 38% of injuries requiring days off of work. Of those injuries, the majority were back, shoulder, knee, and ankle problems, accounting for 69% of the total.
What do all of those joints have to do with glute strength? The most common action that caused the injuries was “overexertion in lifting or lowering.” What giant muscle group supports proper movement and posture, and whose activation involves proper lifting? The glutes!
Combine that fact with the first point we made about sitting and you have one of the biggest causes of injury… weak glutes.
How Do You Fix Weak Glutes?
Hopefully you’re convinced that glute strength is important, and you may have even acknowledged that your own glutes may be inadequate (you are not alone). So! What do you do about it?
Here are a few techniques you can use to rapidly increase your glute strength before it’s too late (it’s really never too late, but saying that is more dramatic so I’m going with it):
#1: Stand More
This seems obvious, but you’d be shocked at how little you stand if you’re an office worker. I suggest setting an hourly timer. Each hour, simply stand up for one minute. If you can afford it, get the new Apple watch and use the activity tracker… you’ll get the added bonus of a “stand” reward if you stand for a minute each hour for at least 10 hours a day.
#2: Do Some Squats
The squat exercise activates the glutes and improves core strength. You don’t even need a weight to do it! Simply stand up straight with your legs shoulder width apart, bend at the hips while pushing your butt behind you, and drop your hips to towards the ground while keeping your back straight. Try to get your hips below the level of your knees, then rise back up.
Do this with your bodyweight only and make sure a fitness professional approves your form before adding weight. Do 50 of these a day and you’ll be well on your way to improving your glute strength.
#3: Exercise Your Entire Body Using Full-Body Exercises
Like I said before, core strength starts at the glutes. If you’re already doing the first two tips, you can get serious with your glute strength by doing the following drills using barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells:
Each one of these drills requires glute activation, and the explosive exercises (the Snatches and Cleans) involve both glute mass and power development. Each drill has specific form requirements, so I’ll cover them in their own articles in the near future. Stay tuned!
About the Author
Mark de Grasse is the owner of MegaMad Industries. Mark has written and edited thousands of fitness articles, videos, tutorials, and workout dvds. He has authored or co-authored three fitness certifications and and helped build over 50 fitness brands. He is also the former owner of My Mad Methods Magazine and Chief Fitness Officer of Onnit. Learn more at www.MarkdeGrasse.com