If you've got a (literal) pain in your butt, you might have injured your gluteus maximus — the largest and most powerful muscle in the body. Glute pain exercises can help reduce your symptoms.
Gluteus Maximus Pain
According to an article published in the July-August 2015 issue of Revista Brasileira de Ortopedia, glute pain is common in athletes. But, as the authors point out, the source of the pain can be difficult to discern.
In addition to injury to the gluteus muscles, glute pain can be caused by other issues with your spine or hip joints.
Gluteus maximus pain can sometimes be caused by compression of the nerves in your lower back or compression of your sciatic nerve — a large nerve that runs from your lower back down your leg.
These conditions can also cause numbness, tingling or weakness in your leg. See your doctor for an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your pain.
Gluteus maximus rehabilitation exercises target the injured muscle. If your condition is related to nerve compression or injury to your spine or hips, your exercise program will differ. For the best results, perform glute pain exercises under the supervision of a physical therapist.
Glute Pain Exercises
Glute pain exercises include stretching tight structures and strengthening weak muscles. According to an article published by the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy in July 2019, the gluteus maximus muscle is frequently weak and underactive, leading to a condition called "sleepy glutes." This can lead to the development of chronic pain in your glutes and other areas of your body.
Weakness in your glute max can increase risk of injury to other joints, including your knees and ankles. It also has a negative effect on athletic performance.
Along with gluteus maximus stretches, glute pain exercises focus on strengthening this muscle in a variety of positions. Perform five to 10 minutes of painfree dynamic warm-up activities, such as stationary cycling or walking prior to these exercises to increase blood flow prior to your glute exercises.
1. Gluteus Maximus Stretches
Gluteus maximus stretches should be pain-free. Include stretches for the piriformis muscle underneath the glutes as part of your program, as recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Tightness or pain in this muscle can contribute to glute max pain.
Although some discomfort can be expected, sharp pain means you're stretching too far. In fact, you can damage muscle fibers further by overstretching.
Hold each stretch for at least 20 to 30 seconds, repeating two to three times for a cumulative 60 seconds, as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Move 1: Single Knee to Chest
- Lie on your back with your legs straight.
- Bend one knee and draw it in toward your chest.
- Place your hands behind your knee and gently pull your leg closer to your chest.
- Stop when you feel a stretch in your buttock.
Move 2: Seated Rotation
- Sit with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Bend the knee of your affected leg and cross your ankle over your opposite knee.
- Place the sole of your foot on the ground on the outside of your knee.
- Rotate your torso toward your bent knee.
- Place the back of your elbow against the outside of your bent knee and gently press to rotate farther.
- Stop and hold when you feel a stretch in your buttocks.
Move 3: Supine Figure-4 Stretch
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Cross the ankle of your affected leg over the opposite knee to form a figure-4.
- Use your hand to gently press forward on the knee of your crossed leg.
- Hold when you feel a stretch in your buttock.
- Increase the intensity of this stretch by lifting the opposite foot off the ground.
Move 4: Opposite Knee to Chest
- Lie on your back with your knees straight.
- Bend your knee on your affected leg.
- Reach across your body with the opposite hand and grab your knee.
- Pull your knee across your body toward the opposite shoulder. Keep your back flat on the ground to avoid rotating your spine.
- Stop and hold when you feel a stretch in your buttock.
2. Strengthen Your Glute Max
Glute pain exercises are aimed at strengthening the gluteus maximus muscle. Exercises targeting this muscle are performed while lying down as well as standing in a weight-bearing position, as recommended by Princeton University Athletic Medicine. Perform 10 repetitions of each exercise, working up to three sets in a row.
Move 1: Clamshells
- Lie on your unaffected side.
- Stack your legs on top of each other and bend your knees to approximately 90 degrees.
- Keeping your feet together, lift your top knee as high as possible.
- Hold for two to three second; then slowly lower back down.
Move 2: Bridges
- Lie on your back.
- Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.
- Squeeze your buttocks together and lift your hips off the ground.
- Hold at the top for two to three seconds; then slowly lower back down.
Move 3: Standing Hip Extension
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Shift your weight on to your unaffected leg.
- Keeping your knee straight, squeeze your affected glute max and lift your leg out behind you. Be careful not to lean forward.
- Hold for two to three seconds; then return to the starting position.
- Make this exercise harder by wearing an ankle weight or using a cable resistance machine.
Move 4: Single Leg Box Squat
- With the affected leg, stand on a small wooden box or sideways on the edge of a step.
- If needed, raise your arms out in front of you to assist your balance.
- Slowly bend your knee and squat down until your opposite foot lightly touches the ground. Keep both sides of your pelvis level throughout this movement.
- Straighten your knee and raise back up.
Move 5: Quadruped Hip Circles
- Position yourself on all fours with your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips.
- Lift your affected leg straight out behind you. Keep your back flat throughout this movement.
- With your leg straight, make small circles with your hip in one direction.
- Perform 10 repetitions and reverse direction.
- Revista Brasileira de Ortopedia: "Gluteal Pain in Athletes: How Should It Be Investigated and Treated?"
- International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: "Assessing and Treating Gluteus Maximus Weakness — A Clinical Commentary"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "A Road Map to Effective Muscle Recovery"
- Princeton University Athletic Medicine: "Pelvic Stabilization, Lateral Hip and Gluteal Strengthening Program"
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Hip Conditioning Program"