As one of the largest and strongest muscles in your body, your glutes can get pretty tight. And that can make your hips and back feel stiff and sore. Not to mention, messing up the kinetic chain of your entire lower body.
"If you sit for more than four hours per day, there is a strong likelihood that your glutes are weak," says Holly Perkins, CSCS, founder of Women's Strength Nation and creator of The GLUTES Project ACTIVATE. "This can lead to hip problems, knee issues like patellofemoral syndrome, back pain and even foot and toe problems."
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If you find yourself with these kinds of aches and pains or you want to be proactive and try to prevent them, it can be helpful to stretch out your glutes, especially if you've just finished a grueling lower-body workout.
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How to Stretch Your Glutes — the Right Way
Your glutes (technically, your gluteus medius, medius and minimus) are responsible for extending your legs back and rotating them externally (to the outside). In order to stretch these muscles, you have to do the opposite motion. That means flexing your legs and rotating them the opposite way to get a full stretch.
Using both a flexing and rotating motion at the same time is much better for your flexibility. That's why you can't simply do a toe touch stretch and call it a day; you need to add another layer by rotating the leg to stretch your glutes from all angles.
That's why the six stretches below are so effective. Generally, you'll want to hold each one for at least 10 seconds, if not closer to 30, as the muscle gradually relaxes. When you start stretching, keep going until you feel slight discomfort and hold the stretch there. Don't push the stretch too hard, as you can end up pulling or otherwise damaging the muscle.
Make sure you always stretch after your workouts and dedicate at least one day a week to active recovery.
"Short bouts of low intensity cardio (like walking or stationary cycling), stretching and foam rolling are all great ways to speed recovery," Perkins says. "I generally program 10 to 20 minutes of gentle cardio-based activity, followed by 20 to 30 minutes of gentle foam rolling and or stretching."
1. Thread the Needle
- Lie on your back on the floor with both knees bent and feet planted flat.
- Pick your right leg up and cross your ankle over the knee of the other leg.
- Take your right arm and slide it through the space between your right and left leg. Grab the front of your left knee with that hand.
- Reach around your left leg with your left hand and grab the front of the left knee.
- Slowly lean your upper body back and pull your left knee in toward your chest. You should feel this stretch along the side of your right leg and in your right glute.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
2. Knee Grab
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. You can also extend both legs straight out if your flexibility allows.
- Grab one knee and pull it into your chest.
- Hold it there for for 30 seconds; then switch sides.
3. Pigeon Pose
- Start on all fours. Bend your left knee and pull it up underneath you.
- Plant your left knee under your left wrist and your left foot under your right hip so that your left leg is rotated to the side.
- Extend your right leg out behind you so that it's mostly flat on the ground with the knee straight.
- Slowly lean onto the left leg, feeling a stretch in the glute. You can lean forward with your torso so that your chest is touching your left knee and reach your arms forward to get even more of a stretch.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
4. Seated Spinal Twist
- Sit with your legs extended out in front of you.
- Bend your right knee up toward the ceiling and cross your right foot over so that it rests outside your left knee.
- Cross your left arm over and use it as leverage to twist to the right. Your left forearm should press into your right thigh.
- Hold for 30 seconds before untwisting and repeating on the other side.
5. Seated Glute Stretch
- Sit with both knees bent and feet close to your butt.
- Cross your left foot over your right knee.
- Lean forward to feel the stretch in your left glute.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
6. Standing Glute Stretch
- Stand tall and cross your left foot over your right knee.
- Sit your hips back and use your left elbow to press your left knee down slightly to deepen the stretch.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds before doing the same on the other leg.
This stretch requires a lot of balance! If you find yourself toppling over, you may want to hold onto a chair or other study object.
Bonus: Foam Rolling Your Glutes
If your glutes are feeling especially tight, you may also want to break out your foam roller for some self myofascial release. That's a fancy name for essentially massaging your muscles.
- Sit with your legs bent slightly and place the foam roller under your right glute muscle.
- Brace yourself with your hands behind your back and cross your left foot over your right knee.
- Roll back and forth from the top of your thigh to the bottom of your lower back a few inches at a time, stopping and pausing on any point that feels particularly tense.
- Do the same on the other side.