One of the largest and most powerful groups of muscles in the human body is located in the buttocks. Consisting of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus -- collectively known as "the glutes" for short -- these muscles are important to most of the body's active movements. If they are weak or underdeveloped, bad posture and numerous health problems can result.
Trainers and physiotherapists often refer to the "core muscles." These are muscle groups located in the abdomen and lower back, as well as the hip muscles and gluteal muscles. The core is a primary focus for many fitness professionals and therapists because these muscles are involved in almost all of the human body's movements. If any of these groups is weak or disproportionately developed, the imbalance can have notable effects on overall fitness and posture. This, in turn, can lead to long-term problems with pain or injury.
An Antagonist for Every Agonist
Muscle groups are designed to work in pairs. When you bend your arm at the elbow, for example, your biceps contracts to create the movement and your triceps relaxes. When you straighten it, the opposite happens. The muscle that's contracting is referred to as the agonist, while the one that relaxes is the antagonist. It's important that the two be balanced, or the body will have to compensate. In the case of your glutes, the antagonist muscles are your hip flexors. If they're stronger than your glutes they can pull your pelvis into an unnatural alignment, causing pain and posture problems.
The word posture might conjure up a mental picture of long-ago schoolgirls standing and walking with books balanced on their heads. Correct posture is more than standing straight, though that's a large part of it. When you are standing, an observer should be able to draw a mental line vertically from your earlobe through your shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. Your abdominal muscles should be tight, your shoulders square and your chin up, whether you are standing or sitting. If this isn't the case, you can regain proper posture by conscious effort and strengthening the gluteal group.
Regaining Proper Posture
Locate a three-way mirror and look at your side image. If it is slumped and curved, draw yourself up to your full height. Straighten your back, tighten your abs and look at your reflection again. This is how you should hold yourself at all times, sitting or standing. It's easier if you have a partner to watch you and remind you to straighten when you slump. It becomes easier as you improve your gluteal strength with targeted exercises. Staff at your local gym can guide you in the use of squats, lunges and other exercises to tone and develop your glutes.