The truth is, when most people think about working on their glutes, their main goal is a pert bottom. But our butts are much more important than eye-candy or just a nice comfy cushion. Our derrières determine posture, pelvic alignment and are vital for our everyday movement.
There are three gluteal muscles (gluteus maximus, glues medius, gluteus minimus) & together these muscles are responsible for hip extension, internal rotation, and abduction of the hip. Gluteal muscles are used mostly when we are walking, running, lifting and balancing on one leg, by controlling the movement of the pelvis on the femur. They also support the lower back through pelvic stability & trunk mobility when lifting things, and prevent knee and ankle injury when walking or running.
Weak glutes can lead to poor posture, back pain & hip problems. When instability in the pelvis occurs this can lead to over-compensation of alternative muscles like the quadriceps, hamstrings or quadratus lumborum (lower back muscles.)
If we sit for long periods of time the antagonistic partner to the glutes; the hip flexors can become shortened & tightened, leading to inhibition and lengthening of the glutes which can make them desensitised & slow to “fire-up.” The accompanying reduction of blood flow from prolonged sitting on these large muscles can further add to reduced function.
Exercises primarily target the gluteus medius & the gluteus maximus and can offer low, moderate or high activation. Quadriped exercises (on all fours) with contralateral arm / leg extension often found in Pilates classes can result in up to 56% gluteus maximus activation, highlighting its role as the hip mobiliser & stabiliser.
Unilateral bridge can add a further 25% gluteus maximus activation over the traditional bridge and side planks or side lying series including leg abduction movements, can stimulate high levels of activation of the gluteus medius for participants.
So next time you hear me banging on about buttocks- you know why!
Reiman, Michael & Bolgla, Lori & Loudon, Janice. (2011). A literature review of studies evaluating gluteus maximus and gluteus medius activation during rehabilitation exercises. Physiotherapy theory and practice. 28. 257-68. 10.3109/09593985.2011.604981.